A case before a federal appeals court last week could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities. For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture. Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)
“This is about attacking Indian law and Indian sovereignty,” said Chrissi Nimmo, deputy attorney general for the Cherokee Nation. “This is just the first step.” The Cherokee, Navajo, Oneida and Quinault Indian Nations, as well as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, asked to be included as defendants in the lawsuit.
Part of the reason for why McCarthy’s scandal got little or no attention is because there isn’t an unspooled Democratic leader firing off out horrendously racist “Pocahontas” and Trail of Tears tweets as Trump keeps doing about Warren. (The troll-in-chief has to troll.)
Consequently, the television news media doesn’t pay any attention to the McCarthy story, which means voters don’t pay attention either. And when reporters notice that voters don’t care, the conventional wisdom calcifies.
The circle of crapola goes the other way, too: Trump says “Pocahontas” is a fraud; the news media picks up the tweets and runs them without debunking them; voter outrage grows; the Beltway reporters note the outrage and then tell Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that it’s a disqualifying scandal for Warren because voters are pissed.
But why are they pissed, if they actually are? Because the press told them to be.
And Trump wonders why Democrats are so angry.
As if that weren’t objectionable enough, there’s never any effort to put the Native American story in the proper context. How does Warren’s thing stack up to other scandals? Is this as bad or worse than Kevin McCarthy’s brother-in-law receiving millions in taxpayer funds because he claimed membership in a disputed tribe? Should we care about this as much as, say, the fact that literally every major organization linked to the Trump family is under state and federal investigation for rampant fraud?
Context be damned in the face of publishing more screamer headlines about — say it with me — Democrats in disarray.
Thanks to KC for letting me know about this… This is the playbook both sides use to control the mainstream media…
TOP PHOTO: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is presented with a shawl of thanks from Native American women.
Elizabeth Warren receives standing ovation at surprise visit to Native American conference: report
“The alarming number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls continues to grow,” the senator says
Warren spoke at the National Indian Women’s “Supporting Each Other” lunch, where she introduced Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, the chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah in Massachusetts, HuffPost first reported. The luncheon took place during an annual meeting of the National Congress of American Indians.
In her speech, Warren praised Native American women, specifically Reps. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) — the first two Native women elected to Congress. The progressive lawmaker, who reportedly received a standing ovation from tribal leaders and other Native attendees as she approached the stage, detailed several legislative priorities related to the Native American community.
“The alarming number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (#MMIWG) continues to grow,” she said, according to The Daily Beast. “But Congress failed to pass legislation to address this epidemic.”
“Every day, there’s a racist tweet, a hateful tweet – something really dark and ugly,” Warren said of Trump. “And what are we, as candidates, as activists, the press, going to do about it? Are we going to let him use those to divide us?”
The curators are a group of young, energetic curators from distinct backgrounds and points of views. The artistic director Neville Wakefield is an art star known for his work in performance, site installations, and partnerships with fashion brands such as Supreme, Nike, and Calvin Klein. The biennial’s executive director, Jenny Gil, who is from Spain, formerly worked for Faena. The curator Amanda Hunt recently worked at the Studio Museum before joining MOCA. The LA-based writer and curator Matthew Schum was informed by his doctoral research on site-specific happenings, including the Istanbul Biennial. They have selected a broad group of artists of diverse nationalities, ages, and practices, supporting the conception, construction, and installation of each of the works. A budget of $25,000 or (much) more per work was offered by donors such as the Coachella Music Festival (which donated over $100,000) and electric car company Evelozcity. On 55 miles spread between the Wildland Park in the northwest and the Salton Sea in the southeast, the installations take the visitor on a road trip on a circuitous path of highways, windmill farms, gas stations, hot spring spas, residential compounds, and Modernist homes. The works will be up until April 21 and are accessible free of charge, alongside a series of performances and events.
Land Art is no longer a romantic and heroic gesture in the vastness of nature. It is by essence a political act.
History’s largest Native American art fraud case will come through the courts this year after multiple family businesses manufactured, imported, and falsely distributed Native American-style jewelry as genuine between 2010 and 2015. The trade value reached nearly $12 million across 300 shipments in five years — now, five men and two businesses are charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, importation by false or fraudulent practice, and failure to mark goods with their country of origin as required by customs law.
Congress passed the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) of 1990, to include the importation of knock-offs which undercut Native American economies and cultural heritage.
During the court hearing, Native American artist Liz Wallace said, “I don’t think calling this cultural appropriation is adequate. It’s economic colonization.”
A poetic short by Detroit-based director Keenan Wetzel, “Yellowtail” tells the story of a young Native American cowboy (Stephen Yellowtail) searching for purpose amidst a chaotic lifestyle. (previously featured here). Shot in Wyoming and the Crow Reservation in Montana, “Yellowtail” tells the story of a young Native American cowboy (Stephen Yellowtail) searching for purpose as his chaotic lifestyle begins
You will recognize that narrator’s voice – it is John Trudell!
In the News
The Navajo Nation and Utah Governor signed an inter-governmental agreement Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, to strengthen and further protect the Indian Child Welfare Act for the benefit of Navajo children in the State of Utah. Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer met with Governor Gary Herbert to make it official at the Utah State Capitol during the annual American Indian Caucus Day.
Let’s take a quick look at the erratic history of federal Indian policy.
In the early republic, the federal government made treaties of friendship with Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. In the 1830s, it stopped feeling friendly and removed the eastern Indians to the West. It set up reservations for eastern and western tribes and solemnly promised in treaties that the land would be theirs forever. In 1871, Congress decided there would be no more treaties, because Indian nations were no longer sovereigns; the courts soon confirmed that Congress could void any treaty without the consent of the tribes that had signed it. Next, from the 1880s until the 1930s, came the “allotment era.” The government decided to break up the reservations and “allot” much of the land to individuals, who could sell them. By the 1930s tribes had lost 60 percent of their previous land base. The New Deal was a brief respite: Allotment ended and tribes were allowed to re-form their governments. Then in 1953 came the “termination era,” when Congress decided that the federal government would no longer provide services to tribes, or deal with their governments. It sold off some tribes’ reservation lands and proclaimed that those tribes no longer existed.
University College London researchers estimate that settlers killed 56 million indigenous people, causing farmland to be reforested. That increase in vegetation resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
I call this the (his)story “We’re Not Supposed to Know”
But they conceal another side of Columbus: the exploitation and repression of Native Americans, said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. It is a “darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge,” Jenkins said in a letter Sunday.
In December 2018, the Trump administration plotted to gut SNAP, the food assistance program more than 40 million Americans rely on to feed themselves. (I have friends and relatives on SNAP, what used to be food stamps). This attack on the poor would impose oppressive work requirements that will have a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable and the “food insecure.” This rule will drive 755,000 poor folks deeper into poverty across the country over the next three years. It’s a cruel and cynical attempt to chip away at our social safety net by defining who is and who isn’t suffering in our nation. Read about the Poor People’s Campaign.
Food insecurity is very real and a war on the poor. And when the climate fails and disaster hits, what new countries start a new land grab? Will they hit Third World Countries? Indian Country? Will they take children to accomplish this again? History repeats itself over and over until we get it right…and so we are entering a dangerous new age of food insecurity… and climate change.
If I were in charge, I’d have two priorities: ending poverty and improving the existing infrastructure.
“I called the album Blue Indians because there is a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide perpetrated on everyone that is poor in this country,” Trudell said. “The advance of technology has put all of us on a kind of reservation. These are the people who can’t educate their children, or afford health care. They’ve been robbed of life, which is what happened to Native people, so in that context, we’re all Indians.”
I follow up in a few weeks with my doctors… See you soon! xox
Guðrún Emilsdóttir, adopted shortly after birth, was 28 before she tracked down her birth mother.
Her birth mother gave Emilsdottir her birth certificate, which named her father, Henry Linwood Jackson.
“My nephew started looking for Henry,” she said.
Eventually, he contacted Native American genealogist Karen Vigneault, a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California who was profiled in an earlier VOA story. On Vigneault’s advice, Emilsdottir took a DNA blood test; they uploaded the results onto an online database and waited.
(PHOTO: Iceland covered the story too) (Karen Vigneault, an enrolled tribal member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and college and tribal librarian, has a face tattoo.)
Emilsdottir has returned to Iceland but is planning to return to Oklahoma in July 2019 for the “Encampment,” a pow wow the Otoe-Missouria tribe has held annually for more than 130 years. It’s an occasion for the tribe to sing, drum, dance and remember their history and traditions. And celebrate family, lost and found.
The reunion happened because of the tireless methodical work of librarian and tribal genealogist Karen Vigneault; she and I have worked together since 2013.
I learned yesterday that Karen has passed away in San Diego at her home.
She made miracles and reunions for adoptees, like these sisters.
It is impossible to put into words the impact she had on me and the lives of many adoptees she helped. She worked to find adoption records, tribal histories, family genealogy and find relatives that adoptees could contact and meet.
This loss is personal and devastating.
Not just to me but to readers of this blog who are still searching and hoping and waiting and wanting to find their families.
Just half of Wolf Point’s Native students graduate from high school, compared with about three-quarters of their white peers. In June 2017, the Tribal Executive Board of Fort Peck filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requesting a federal investigation into its contention that the Wolf Point school system discriminates against Native students.
In her essay “Alone in Company,” Chelsea Bayouth reflects on the role of an artist at the end of 2018: “For me, it is to fear that every word or image is a window into public, political, and social tumult. It means you have to be more vulnerable than you or anyone in times previous has ever been…. Social capital is the currency, and if you have none you are poor. ”
The Ivory Coast is demanding that France return 148 works once looted from the country. The Ivory Coast’s culture minister, Maurice Bandaman, confirmed that a list of works were sent to France and are set to be returned in 2019. Bandaman also told Agence-France Presse, “At least 50 museums around the world have Ivorian works, and this does not include private collection,” indicating that France is not the only country with looted works. [Agence France-Presse]
A new work by Banksy has appeared at the back of a car garage in Port Talbot, Wales last week. Since then, crowds have gathered at the scene, with local authorities having to manage and organize the groups of people. Banksy claimed responsibility for the work on his website and Instagram. The garage is owned by Ivan Lewis, a local steelworker. “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Lewis. “My phone is ringing, on my house phone there’s 1,000 messages on it.” [Art Daily]
Shan Goshorn, “a Cherokee artist and activist known for her contemporary approach to traditional basket-weaving,” died of cancer at the age of 61. [Tulsa World]
Under a cloud of scandal… the toxic Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is gone (fired) (top photo)
Can we call it a year now? 2017 and 2018 wore me out. Cancer didn’t help but I feel woke enough.
02019 – please, do us a favor? Be kind to us. We deserve better!
Indigenous people and supporters gathered despite sub-zero wind chills for the 49th National Day of Mourning at Plymouth, Mass. The undaunted crowd included Indigenous peoples whom the pilgrims menaced and murdered — Nipmuc; Mashpee, Aquinnah and other bands of the Wampanoag; Narragansett; Massachusett; Pequot and other Indigenous nations…
I mentioned that I would have liked to been in freezing Plymouth…
The commemoration known as Plymouth 400 will feature events throughout 2020, including a maritime salute in Plymouth Harbor in June, an embarkation festival in September, and a week of ceremonies around Thanksgiving.
After the residents of Malaga were pushed out, the state bought the land for $471, according to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and ordered the rest of the residents to leave by July 1. In 1913, the state sold the land to Everard A. Wilson, a friend of the doctor who had been the chair of a committee Plaisted had established to investigate the allegedly appalling conditions on Malaga. Malaga was for many years in private hands, but remained undeveloped. The hotel that had been planned for Bear Island, which Hamilton said was a key incentive for pushing the Malaga residents off the island, was never built.
A subsequent Associated Press article in The Los Angeles Times revealed that Ms. Thompson was not of European descent — as had been commonly assumed — but “a full-blooded Cherokee Indian” from Oklahoma. That detail, Ms. Meister said, raises the compelling question of whether “Migrant Mother” would have resonated so widely if viewers knew the subjects were Native American.
(another one of those “shake your head” stories, right?
☀️ I write something every. single. day.☀️
Is time speeding up?
I am still trying to figure out to talk about the twin books: Mental Midgets | Musqonocihte and why one book became two and how they happened so fast. (I have to thank my friend MariJo for telling me what I felt about urgency was to be trusted.) It’s a short book – 91 pages – but it feels MUCH longer.
I do think of this year 02018 as The Year I Had Cancer – this changed me mentally.
Was it five years ago when I started the Midgets book. I used to joke and say it might get done this century. Why? My goofy utter distrust, of course. Many of you are experiencing what I call wavy brain too. We don’t think about the future as much as before… and why is that? Read about the Long Now Foundation from earlier this year. Trump and electronics are both a BIGLY reason!
Back then I kept the book title under wraps. Mental Midgets, what does it mean? It’s absurd. It’s maybe kinda funny. It’s not about small people. But it is about our minds, the constant chaos, the news, Trump, cell phones, social media, and how it seems to me, at least, our brain capacity shrinks when memories go small. And then there is (hi)story to consider.
Here is a one sentence (short) book description:
This TWIN book is a collection of factoids, philosophy, quips, questions, code, quotes, photos, thought bombs, creative non-fiction, Native American history and prose. And it’s short. Musqonichte translates Blue Sky.
The code is a message. There are things in there you should know.
Happy 02019 – add that zero and I will be writing more soon!
Sending you all a big thanks for reading this news roundup and Happy Turkey “Big Food” Day tomorrow… Lara/Trace
An Exhibition Critically Explores the History of Missionaries in Hawai’i
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In August 1806, five students on the campus of Williams College took refuge from a sudden thunderstorm beside a haystack and vowed to commit themselves to spreading the Gospel around the world. This is Ground Zero of the American overseas missionary movement.
For many people, this moment marked the start of an outpouring of generosity and benevolence that saved souls and brought distant lands into the modern world. Only recently has another narrative been recognized — one of shameless spiritual imperialism that trampled native cultures and eventually devolved into explicit political and economic oppression.
The unexpectedly deep connection between the college in Williamstown and the Pacific islands, 5,000 miles away, is outlined with an extensive timeline along a wall, which highlights what was happening in each place. It mentions figures such as Sanford B. Dole, the son of missionaries who came to Williams in the 1860s, where he and other missionary descendants called themselves “the Cannibals,” and were active in the Lyceum. Dole and two others from that group would help draft the “Bayonet Constitution” of 1887, which accelerated the process of undermining native Hawaiian leadership. When the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Dole would serve as the Republic’s first president, until completing the handover to American power a few years later.
How can that be? In 1832, President Andrew Jackson pushed through the policy of “removal” of Indian nations from the eastern U.S., which destroyed the historic land base of the “civilized tribes.” He promised the tribes new land in the West to be theirs “as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty.” After the Trail of Tears, the U.S. signed a treaty that “solemnly guarantied” the new reservation lands in what is now Oklahoma. Many tribes elsewhere have found to their regret that Congress is permitted to decide that the grass ain’t growing any more. It can abrogate some or all treaty obligations—and even “terminate” a tribe altogether. But case law says there is a “clear statement” rule: If Congress wants to end a reservation, it has to say so.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) highlighted the report in a press event in Washington, DC, this week where she talked about the importance of addressing the MMIWG epidemic. Murkowski was joined by U.S. senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th District), and Juana Majel-Dixon (Pauma Band of Mission Indians), Executive Board Member and Recording Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). The UIHI report identified the state of Alaska as the fourth-leading state for number of cases of MMIWG. Also, in the top ten states are New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, Montana, California, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
“And Our Mothers Cried” vividly brings to life the Indian boarding school era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For several generations of Native American children, including some Chickasaws, attending boarding school meant separation from their families and indoctrination into a culture that wasn’t their own. The schools, which were guided by the infamous slogan, “Kill the Indian. Save the Man,” prohibited most students from speaking their own language and emphasized labor-intensive trades that would assimilate them into white culture through military-type institutions.
The documentary presents a stark contrast between these schools and schools established and operated by the Chickasaw Nation, which were designed to prepare Chickasaw children to compete in a rapidly changing world. “And Our Mothers Cried” presents compelling stories from some of the Chickasaw elders who lived through the boarding school era. Their experiences weave a complex story of sorrow and survival, but also one of hope and resilience from a time when tribal governments and culture were under attack.
On June 15, 2017, at its Mid‐Year Conference in Connecticut, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) adopted a resolution, sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation, encouraging American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations, families, and descendants to provide information on children who never returned home from Indian Boarding Schools.
The information will be used for a submission to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID). This UN submission will be jointly filed by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The submission will call on the United States to provide a full accounting of the children taken into government custody under the U.S. Indian Boarding School Policy whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. NCAI represents 250 American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes.
In the 1860s and 1870s, white settlers from the areas around Indian Territory — like Kansas and Texas — started to realize that there was vast piece of land in the middle of the United States that wasn’t claimed by anyone (ah, what?). They started agitating to to be allowed to seize this land for free. These white settlers even began a series of illegal raids into the territory, sneaking into Indian Territory at night to get to that little center portion of the Unassigned Lands.
Couch and his men had brought surveying equipment — and they quickly began laying out streets and lots as they had planned them in the months leading up to the Land Run. In the days following Oklahoma City’s rapid settlement, town leaders would have to reckon with all the cheating that had happened during the Land Run. Who cheated and who didn’t? Who deserve to keep their land and who didn’t?
Yep. First, I want to thank my friend and blogger KC for asking me to think about and share my thoughts on what it means to have Indigenous ancestry and the recent headlines about Elizabeth Warren. Next, I defend Sen. Warren’s right to claim her ancestry. It’s hers! Heck, many Americans do have some American Indian ancestry, too. But what you do with it is what truly matters.
We are all mixed, one way or the other. American, so heavily colonized, is very populated with mixed people. We have (hi)storians to blame for not explaining much about this stark truth and reality.
For me personally I was not raised in a tribal community setting, though I had many Native people around me when I was growing up. Being adopted out, I struggled until my 30s with identity and isolation, but no longer. I met my birth father and did a paternity DNA test with him when I was 38. The history he shared with me, that was what I needed, at that time. But words and blood tests DO NOT make me who I am or the direction of my life’s work. My Oglala Lakota relatives made sure of that. They were in my life years prior to my finding my father who is mixed Shawnee-Cherokee-Delaware-Euro).
What is required of us:
Once you attend ceremony, once you pray in your language, once you show humility to elders, and once you work for them, and when you learn it’s not “me” but “we” – it is then you are made a relative and accepted as family. Then you are in tribal community (which is American Indian tradition on Turtle Island). It may take many years, because it should.
As the following story by Nick Estes says, “Half a century ago, the Standing Rock Dakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr. wrote, “Whites claiming Indian blood tend to reinforce mythical beliefs about Indians.”
Falsely claiming Native American identity is a white American tradition, with a deeply racist past. – Nick Estes
Warren is not living her life as a member of any tribal community, yet like so many, she seems to romanticize the idea of her blood being Indian. She was raised with her family in Oklahoma, with her history, but she was not enrolled with the Cherokee Nation, who determines their citizenship based on Dawes Rolls, not DNA. If the Cherokee tribe wishes to change that, and enroll her, it’s completely up to them. (She’ll have years of unlearning and good history lessons ahead.)
To my knowledge, what Warren did with her “ancestry” all these years, was she helped herself. To my knowledge, she did not assist any tribal nation or community, and in fact, she has not even helped the tribes struggling right here in Massachusetts! What we are fighting for in this century, like Standing Rock, federal recognition, sovereignty, treaty rights, water rights, protecting Bear’s Ears, ending destruction by mining, pipelines, poverty, all of that – where is she?
This is a new hashtag campaign: #NativeTruth #WeAreStillHere
If Elizabeth was in her community, she’d know this: Blood quantum is an invention of the governments to widdle us down to “not enough Indian.” (Wiping us out on paper. Gone, erased.)
I actually know many lost Native adoptees who use the DNA test to get their family name, and slowly worked their way back to their tribal families. Some are back on the rez, while others join their urban Indian communities. (I do not recommend or trust the DNA testings or the data they collect and sell. Those TV ads are false and misleading. Very few Indians will submit to giving DNA though some scientists took it without their consent.)
When is a DNA test useful? My adoptee friend Rhonda did a DNA test with an uncle (her birth father’s brother) to determine if she was a family member, and she was – then she was enrolled in her tribal nation. DNA can connect you with a living tribal member, if you were adopted out, or fostered. That is very very helpful.
So, Sen. Warren, it’s not the amount of blood. DNA doesn’t make you Indian. If you belong to a community (urban or reservation), that makes you a member of that tribal community.
Native Americans are almost completely erased from pop culture, news and K-12 education. This invisibility–more than any other factor–undermines public support for Native American rights. Join our #WeAreStillHere tweet storm. Reclaiming #NativeTruth: https://t.co/vzL4SuF4P6
If you do have Indigenous blood, if it is loud, it won’t leave you alone. If this speaks to you, then find and join an urban or reservation community and work for them and work with them, and think a new way: “we” not me.
And ask them what you can do and please do what they ask respectfully.
The exhibition Community and Continuity: Native American Art of New York is culled from the New York State Museum’s collection of contemporary Native American art. NYSM is known for its historical and archeological Indigenous objects, which number in the millions and range in date from 13,000 years ago to the early 20th century. But in 1996, the museum began acquiring works by living Algonquin and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) artists to celebrate the continuing vibrancy of these communities.
This is the story of the courageous all-female Apache 8 firefighting unit which has protected their reservation and responded to wildfires around the nation for 30 years. This group, which recently became co-ed, earned the reputation of being fierce, loyal and dependable–and tougher than their male colleagues.Despite facing gender stereotypes and the problems that come with life on the impoverished reservation, the women became known as some of the country’s most elite firefighters. The film focuses on four women from different generations of Apache 8 crewmembers who speak tenderly and often humorously of hardship, loss, family, community and pride in being a firefighter.Official Selection at the American Indian Film Festival.
Thousands of Canada’s indigenous children died in church-run boarding schools
Armed with everything from school attendance records to drones, researchers across Canada are racing to shed light on a bleak part of the country’s history: How many indigenous children died at residential schools, and where are their unmarked graves? From 1883 to 1998, nearly 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families and sent to the government-funded, church-run boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. Once there, they were frequently neglected and abused. What happened at the schools was akin to “cultural genocide,” concluded a 2015 report from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also found that at least 3,200 students died at residential schools over those 115 years — a much higher rate than for students elsewhere in Canada — though the commission contended that the number was probably much higher and merited further investigation.
The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.
Most journalists also said we didn’t bother to cover Indigenous peoples because there was no journalistic payoff. We, reporters, preferred to do stories to improve situations and conditions, by pointing out things that didn’t work properly. We looked for bad guys, stories about corruption or inept business owners, government administrators, politicians, cops, for example. Yet similar stories about Indigenous communities never went anywhere. Things never changed. Also, by telling these stories, we faced accusations of concentrating on the negative. (See comment above about racism.)
The boundary lines for multiple land treaties cross the state of Michigan. The boundary lines for multiple land treaties with native tribes cross the state of Michigan.
It was 1823. The land of Michigan wasn’t yet a state. The indigenous people far outnumbered the white settlers. The Erie Canal hadn’t opened. The flood of European immigrants was yet to arrive.
But the groundwork for their arrival was set in 1823 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case about property rights. The case: Johnson v. M’Intosh.
On the fourth floor of the Michigan State University law school building, on a windowsill that overlooks the campus, Wenona Singel (top photo) keeps her family photos. Singel is a law professor here, and associate director of MSU’s Indigenous Law & Policy Center.
Family is the reason she went to law school, she says.
When she was young, she was separated from her sister in what she says was a coerced adoption. It’s a familiar story in many native families.
“And, in my mind, understanding the operation of our legal system and the development of federal Indian law and policy was absolutely critical,” she says.
So when she got older, she went to law school — at Harvard.
All first-year Harvard law students had to take a class on property law. That is where Singel first heard of the landmark case known as Johnson v M’Intosh.
“The original Johnson of the case was actually a former Supreme Court justice, and a wealthy shareholder in the Illinois and Wabash Land Company,” Singel says. “And this land company had speculated in the purchase of Indian lands.”
It purchased those lands directly from the tribes. At that same time, the U.S. federal government was out trying to get land from tribes. It negotiated treaties with the tribes. Once the government got the land, it would parcel it out to sell to settlers.
So along comes this settler named M’Intosh. He buys from the government. But the land he buys, well it’s already been bought, by the Illinois and Wabash Land Company.
Remember, that’s the group of wealthy investors that buys directly from the tribes. And Johnson is a part of that group. So Johnson bought from the tribe.
M’Intosh bought from the U.S. government.
The question before the Supreme Court: Who really owned the land now — Johnson or M’Intosh?
It’s an easy question if you think the tribe owned its land in the first place. Because if the tribe owned it, it could sell it to the Illinois and Wabash Land Company, Johnson’s group. Johnson wins.
But the real question was whether the tribe owned the land in the first place. Did they even have the power to sell it?
“And, to the surprise of the lawyers and shareholders in the Illinois and Wabash Land Company, Justice Marshall in the Johnson v. M’Intosh case declared that the tribes did not have this power.” Singel says. “And that they only had the power to transfer their property to the federal government.”
That was the official legal ruling for the United States government: that native people did not actually own the land they’d lived on for thousands of years.
M’Intosh won because he had bought from the federal government. Justice Marshall argued the federal government was the true owner of the land all along.
The indigenous people of the U.S. had some rights on their land. They had the right to use and occupy it. But they couldn’t sell it on the open market because they didn’t really own it. That was the official legal ruling for the United States government: that native people did not actually own the land they’d lived on for thousands of years.
And yes, this decision had a huge impact.
If and when native people ever did want to sell their land rights, there was only one buyer they could turn to. That meant the buyer had the upper hand in the negotiations over price.
It was a rigged deal.
Singel learned all of this as a busy, stressed, first-year law student.”In many ways, it’s almost like gaslighting,” Wenona Singel says of the Johnson v. M’Intosh case. “You’re learning about … certain rights that are associated with property rights … knowing all along that these rights have not been respected, and were not enforced for your own ancestors.”
“And then you move on to the next case,” she says. “And there’s no further discussion of the wrong that this perpetuates. And also the flawed reasoning. And also fundamentally misinformed and racist presumptions that our property legal system is based upon.”
And this isn’t some obscure case. It’s foundational in the U.S. legal system. Most law schools teach it to all their students in the first year.
“The tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country was to leave the country a wilderness.”
This language, and the precedent it established, has never been overturned in America’s legal system. It is valid law today.
“Imagine if Plessy v Ferguson was never overturned,” Singel says. “Imagine if Dred Scott was never overturned … We’ve never had any kind of accounting and justice that has restored those original property rights.”
After Johnson v. M’Intosh, the early white leaders of Michigan drafted a series of treaties with the native people of the area. These documents would have the tribes sign their land over to the federal government.
Lewis Cass was Michigan’s second governor. He negotiated a number of the treaties. In the late 1820s, he advocated the forced removal of the land’s native people. In his argument, he echoed the words of Justice Marshall. He claimed if white people didn’t rule the land, Michigan would be doomed:
“A tribe of wandering hunters, depending upon the chase for support, and deriving it from the forests, and rivers, and lakes, of an immense continent, have a very imperfect possession of the country over which they roam ,” Cass argued. “That they are entitled to such supplies as may be necessary for their subsistence, and as they can procure, no one can justly question. But this right cannot be exclusive, unless the forests which shelter them are doomed to perpetual unproductiveness.”
Cass didn’t get his wish for removal. But he did eventually get treaties.
And the white people did make the land productive, in their way.
The same as they had done in all of the Americas, says Willie Jennings of Yale Divinity School. They did what they believed their God wanted them to do.
“The way they looked at the land, from the very beginning, from Michigan to Maine, from Virginia to Florida, they looked at the land as the world-in-potential that needed development,” Jennings says. “And that development was always tied to what can be taken from the land.”
In Michigan, a land of dense, ancient forests, they could take a lot.
A small but powerful exhibit, shows intense commitment to the power of individual artists, within the broader context of communal history.
Finding individuals in the archaeology record is difficult, such logic goes, and is impossible to properly credit work to a particular artist. It would be easy to have these ceramic vessels begin to simply fill in as “types” and nothing more. However, in this instance, on every ancient piece of pottery, the exhibit displayed a tag “unrecorded Ancestral Pueblo artist(s).”
All the Indian children missing or buried in Pennsylvania are believed to be connected to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the nation’s first federal off-reservation boarding school, founded in 1879 by former cavalry officer Richard Henry Pratt. Carlisle — now the campus of the Army War College — was built to solve “the Indian problem” by forcing native children to become ersatz white people, erasing their names, languages, religions, and family ties. Where are the children now?
HEY HEY! As promised I saved a few good stories for you.
How many weeks until the mid terms? I have been trying to be optimistic about everything politics but hope? Trumpism (like racism) is now a verb. Last Thurs. nite, I went to see the Rev. Barber (I cried when he came on stage) and learned about the Poor People’s Campaign.
For me, I feel so much better although I admit once you have “cancer” surgery, especially that diagnosis, “it” changes you. But I know it’s gone, I’m better and have good work ahead of me.
Before surgery I was asked to present my Lost Bird/adoption/book series research at the Univ. of MN and I agreed. Writing the paper took longer than I expected which is why I have not been blogging or reading your blogs.
I’m going to give you a small excerpt here:
Migration across Global Regimes of Childhood (Symposium) (9-21-18)
Thank you to Kelly and to all the organizers at the Univ. of MN for inviting me to present my paper Disappeared: Finding Survivors of the Indian Adoption Programs; we are indeed Healing The Hard Stuff.
First, some background… In 2004, I left my job as editor of the Pequot Times in Connecticut and adoption became my focus of research. Why? 1. I am an adoptee, a journalist, and growing up I had no clue I had American Indian ancestry on both sides of my family tree. 2. I was asked to write an article on American Indian adoptees for Talking Stick, a publication of the American Indian House in New York City. 3. In order for me to write the article, I had to find sources, first person narratives, even other adoptees like me. When I went online to do research in 2005, there was nothing, nothing about the Indian Adoption Projects or ARENA Programs, or any mentions of survivors or child victims. There were no books. I’d found one article in a Canadian newspaper about the 60s Scoop adoptees when I was staff writer at News From Indian Country in Wisconsin.
I realized the goal of Empire and colonizers is historical inaccuracy. By the time we know what they are really doing, it’s already too late. Empire (as in government) redirects our attention, or has us look at the fire in the front yard while they do their work in the back yard.
Today I define adoption as children who grew up isolated, without identity, without records, without knowledge of what happened, even why their parents could not keep them. This isolation often continues into adulthood. For me, adoption is a traumatizing word; as trauma-inducing as the images of the numerous residential boarding schools. This is but one reminder of Empire, a reminder of what the governments of the US and Canada could do and did do to Indigenous children.
As my friend Leland (a Navajo-San Domingo Pueblo adoptee) said recently in a phone call, “We are not supposed to be Indian anymore. We’re erased, disappeared on purpose.” He’s right. Empire’s colonization using adoption succeeded. Adoptees are assimilated, living as American or Canadian citizens.
Leland was adopted by a Mormon couple and shares his reunions in the book series Lost Children. He writes that seven siblings from one family were taken from the Shawanaga reservation in Ontario. In all there were 10 adoptees in the Kirk family and Leland found out that the Mormon church paid his adoptive parents a monthly stipend per child. Leland told a newspaper, in his words, he was a victim of trafficking at age four. He claims the BIA paid the Mormon parents $65 a month for his care. To this day, his Anishinabe siblings from Canada are not in reunion with their tribal family and still live in the US.
Empire governments have long controlled the stories of the American Indian and First Nations and peddled in fairy tales and western movies instead. Again, the goal of Empire is historical inaccuracy or no history at all.
What surprised me may surprise you. In the words and judgment of Lenore A. Stiffarm and Phil Lane, Jr. in the book The State of Native America, “There can be no more monumental example of sustained genocide—certainly none involving a ‘race’ of people as broad and complex as this—anywhere in the annals of human history.” From the book The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance. Jaimes, M. Annette, Boston: South End Press, 1992.
If you are wondering how this happened, let’s look at motive.
I wrote this Preface in the 2016 anthology Stolen Generations:
It’s about the land. It’s about taking the land. No matter how. No matter what. Our parents and grandparents (and their parents) lost territorial land and their children…*
*Boarding Schools removed three or more generations from their tribal families.
We adoptees, the stolen generation… We are all collateral damage.
We were never expected to survive.
I’m not sure we did.
A 60s Scoop Adoptee on Facebook asked recently, “How do I heal this?”
For me, and for other adoptees, we demand truth, historic accuracy, and reunion with our tribal nations. For me, I inhabited the world I grew up in and only dreamt the world and the people I lost.
In fact …Service to the American Empire means continuing to support more violence against Third World peoples, like what happened at Standing Rock. Empire is about conquest. For that very reason, we have a history problem.
Since I did that article in Talking Stick, and started the American Indian Adoptees blog [www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com], and produced three anthologies in the Lost Children Book Series, thousands of adoptees have come forward. There are 20,000 adoptees in Canada. Adoptees in Canada claim that figure is not accurate. It doesn’t include all the adoptees brought to the US from Canada and I will share a story about that later.
(If anyone wants to read my 24-page paper DISAPPEARED, leave me a comment and I can email the pdf.)
It’s been three years since I taught wordpress 101 and guess what? The local community college contacted me, and I will begin teaching again in Spring 2019. Now I have to refresh my brain to the blogging basics and add the changes to WP to my class notes. This job was an unexpected surprise – a sweet gift!
Autumn is here, my favorite season. I had a great birthday (9-9) and wedding anniversary (9-24).
How is everyone doing? Please leave me a comment. 🙂
“T.C. Cannon retrieved Native American people, as a subject, from cardboard-thin caricatures spawned by old photos, kitschy paintings, and western films. The men and women he painted are arresting and complicated.” — The Boston Globe
:::AT THE EDGE OF AMERICA::: One of the most influential, innovative, and talented Native American artists of the 20th-century, T.C. Cannon embodied the activism, cultural transition and creative expression that defined America in the 1960’s and ‘70s. Cannon’s work — as an artist, poet, and aspiring musician — is deeply personal yet undeniably political, reflecting his cultural heritage, experience as a Vietnam War veteran, and the turbulent social and political period during which he worked.
Cannon preferred bold color combinations, mash-ups between Native and non-Native elements and never shied away from the complexity and nuance of identity politics. Cannon interrogated American history and popular culture through his Native lens, and exercised a rigorous mastery of Western art historical tropes while creating an entirely fresh visual vocabulary. T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America celebrates Cannon’s creative range and artistic legacy through nearly 90 paintings and works on paper, as well as poetry and music. READ: pem.org | T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America
But as Scientific American reported at the time, the museum’s scientists did not consult modern tribes before extracting DNA from the remains because the museum deemed the bones impossible to link to any specific group. They should have invited input from tribes, both out of respect for their overarching concerns about ancestors and because collaboration might have enriched the study—through the addition of tribal knowledge about kinship systems, for example, or through comparative DNA samples from any modern tribes interested in providing them. Source: Indigenous Remains Do Not Belong to Science – Scientific American
When will all the Pilgrim graves be ripe for the picking – when will scientists start to dig them up and put their bones on display? Will we have weekend digs of their graves too? Just askin’ for a friend…
NO JOKE! Historically, immigrants were given special rights to take Native land. If Trump says we are no longer a nation of immigrants, that has consequences… (poor guy never thought about this!) The young American republic preserved this European doctrine. The US supreme court formalized the Doctrine of Discovery in three famous cases of 1823, 1831 and 1832. Chief Justice John Marshall took for granted the obvious fact that America was the homeland of the Native Americans, “the rightful occupants of the soil”. By the logic of “discovery”, Native Americans had no rights because America was their homeland: “Their power to dispose of the soil at their own will to whomsoever they pleased was denied by the original fundamental principle that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it.” (and don’t forget those Papal Bulls!)
(It should be: The theft of Art from numerous Tribes now on display and we interpret it for you!) Opening April 2018, the first exhibition, “Collecting Stories: Native American Art,” explores the range of perspectives, motives, and voices involved in building the early holdings of Native American art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including those of indigenous artists and communities. (big fancy words). See EXHIBIT
By LT (not feeling well)
I have been reading Injuns, Native Americans in The Movies, trying to figure out when most of us in North America were duped into believing that Indigenous First Nations, my people, my relatives were ignorant savages. MOVIES (and dime novels) were the perfect method to create a tidy version of America’s history that wasn’t factual. When exactly did Injuns become less than human and their entire tribal communities expendable? And remember it wasn’t murder. No. It was Massacre. (AH, take a deep breathe, a sigh of relief, all those Injuns are dead.) Was that a safe way to make the Pilgrim colonists feel less guilty and not portray them as serial killers?
As I was taking notes, I wrote:
How hard would YOU fight if this land was invaded in 2018? Would YOU fight to the death to protect your family and your nation?
Would you run or would you fight and risk death?
When this was all over, now all of us conquered, Empire writes about it, not you. Empire makes movies showing us as dumb ass people who couldn’t figure out how to fight back and win. Ah yes, some noble people tried diplomacy but the majority died in battle.
You see, we are ALL Indians. Depending on the Empire that invades us, everyone left alive will be forced to join their religion – whether you like it or not. That’s the missionary’s part of the plan. (though I’m sure murder isn’t condoned in this religion) (and of course, the Empire imposes new taxes and tithes…) Your old religion is illegal, too, so don’t even balk!
In order to build the new Empire, some of us become worker slaves. And if we don’t work fast enough or efficiently enough, well that’s simply not acceptable. There is punishment for that. Rebellion? Hell no, we get declared terrorists and off to prison we go… Or maybe this happens again: Ida B. Wells and the Lynching of Black Women
How should we react? Invaded, hunted, displaced, colonized? Yes, we are all Indians when this happens.
I did get some bad news on my health on May 2. It’s an aggressive cancer. That means I won’t be blogging for awhile. Keep good thoughts for me. My email: email@example.com. Be back as soon as I can.
Surgery is May 14 at noon in Springfield, MA. Send prayers.