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Friday, September 10, 2004

articles-september 10

The American Pathology
Understanding the roots of oppression

Posted: September 10, 2004 - 11:34am EST

Behold in these pages this week an interesting and perhaps uniquely Indian discussion: perspectives on the roots of the American conquest mythology - seeking to understand the origins of the particular American belief that continues to justify the destruction of Native cultures and the taking of Native peoples’ assets, particularly lands and political rights to independent cultural and economic self-governance.

This might be heresy to the "true believers" in America, but among Indian thinkers these days, as has been the case for many generations, the question of what drives the voracious American appetite to own the Indian world has always been an honorable one. As Indian cultures have their own creation stories and subsequent cultural and legal histories, so the fundamental culture of the American mainstream requires study and understanding. Every new Indian generation, believe it, will examine these questions in the ongoing search for understanding of the justifications for the theft of their lands, resources, freedoms and even identities, and in their continued quest for actual justice. The perspective of Oglala Chief Red Cloud, who said in the 1890s, "They made us many promises, but they only kept but one: They promised to take our land and they took it," remains a topic of discussion. (Consider, too, David Monongwe, Hopi elder, at the United Nations in 1977: "They say they took our land, but where did they take it?") full article

Newcomb: On America’s pathological behavior toward Native peoples

Posted: September 10, 2004 - 11:31am EST
by: Steven Newcomb / Columnist / Indian Country Today
According to Steven L. Winter, in his book "A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind" (2001), recent findings in cognitive science (study of the human mind) reveal that the mind functions largely by means of metaphors and other cognitive operations. Metaphor is thinking of one thing in terms of something else. As Winter explains, cognitive science has revealed that all thought is innately imaginative, and metaphor is one of the ways that human beings use the imaginative power of human thought.

But the question arises, are some metaphors and other mental processes more likely to lead to thoughts and behavior that are dehumanizing and pathological? For example, if one group of people thinks of and dehumanizes another group of people as "beasts," or sub-human, isn’t this likely to lead to negative, perhaps even heinous behavior towards the people being labeled? Is it correct to consider such negative thoughts and behavior to be pathological? full article

Mohawk: Mythological America is an unjust society

Posted: September 10, 2004 - 11:28am EST
by: John C. Mohawk / Columnist / Indian Country Today
The roots of America’s persistent injustices to its indigenous peoples, and to other peoples generally, are found in what can best be described as the peculiarly American version of Christianity. You could hear references to this phenomenon in recent political conventions, in references to President Ronald Reagan’s allusions to a "city upon a hill," which is a reference to John Winthrop’s sermon of 1830. In that work, Winthrop called upon the Puritans to act as though God was living among them and asserted that they were his chosen people, that the eyes of "all people are uponn us," and "... that the Lord our God may blesse us in the land whether wee goe to possess it ..." These Englishmen who were about to land in "New England" were claiming the God of Israel, that they were somehow modern Israelites, a "chosen people," chosen to possess the earth.

To the rest of the Christian world, such words must sound like heresy. You can tell you are a member of an irrational, potentially dangerous group when your beliefs are such that if you were the only person in the world who held such beliefs, you would be universally declared as mentally challenged. John Winthrop believed that God had blessed a small band of English religious misfits and political refugees with the right to all the riches in the world. It is an endless entitlement, not restricted to New England, not, apparently restricted to land or money. When God gives you an entitlement, you cannot do wrong, because everything you do is in pursuit of God’s will. And everything leads to paradise or utopia. Reason does not impact this argument. full article

McSloy: ‘Because the Bible tells me so’
Manifest Destiny and American Indians

Posted: September 10, 2004 - 11:23am EST
by: Steven Paul McSloy / Co-chair / Native American Practice / Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly fatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea - something you can set up, and bow down before.
- Joseph Conrad,
‘The Heart of Darkness’

Why were American Indian lands taken? The easy answer, of course, is that the Europeans wanted land and the Indians had it. But why did the Europeans think they could take it? We are told that the first settlers of America were moral and religious people. Why then did even the first poor and hungry Pilgrims, pious people with no military power whatsoever, believe that they were entitled to dominion over Indians and their lands? full article

Senecas lose cases in 2 land claims
Appeals court rejects Grand Island, Thruway sales lawsuits
 
By JOEL STASHENKO, Associated Press
First published: Friday, September 10, 2004

ALBANY -- A federal appeals court Thursday backed the state against claims by the Seneca Nation of Indians that New York's appropriation of Grand Island in 1815 and a portion of the route for the state Thruway in 1954 were invalid.

In separate rulings, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld federal judges' findings that the land transactions were proper

Lawyers for the Senecas had argued that an easement negotiated by the state Thruway Authority for land to build the state Thruway through the Senecas' Cattaraugus reserve about 30 miles south of Buffalo was improper. The Indian nation got $75,000 for the easement and individual landowners were also compensated for their property. full article

Summit set between S.D., tribal leaders
By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer

RAPID CITY - A meeting planned for Saturday, Sept. 25, of South Dakota's nine tribal presidents, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and most or all of South Dakota's other top elected leaders will make history, according to Tim Giago, longtime newspaper publisher and brief U.S. Senate candidate.
The five-hour invitation- only meeting, which Giago says should be dubbed the "Sioux Summit," will be at Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer. Members of the public and the media will not be allowed in, according to organizers.

"In my time here, 25 years as a reporter, editor and publisher, there has never been a meeting like this held," Giago said. "This goes back to the days of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. They are coming with open hearts to lay all the problems they think need to be solved on the table." full article

Extinction looms for Yukon languages: report
Last Updated Thu, 09 Sep 2004 15:38:31 EDT

WHITEHORSE - At least two First Nations languages in the Yukon are on the verge of extinction and more will follow unless something is done, according to a new study by Yukon's Aboriginal Language Services.

The report's conclusions, which come after years of work and fluency assessments, says the Han and Tagish languages are in the most dire state, with only a few true speakers remaining. At least eight languages are indigenous to the Yukon.

Two out of 10 aboriginal people are learning their native language, mostly through informal means such as on hunting trips in the bush and during traditional activities instead of in the classroom. full article

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