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Today Indian Country Is Strong. I could not always ... tell you that"
February 14, 2013 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Only about 36 hours after the State Of the Union Address, National Congress Of American Indians president Jefferson Keel gave today the 2013 State Of The Indian Nations address before the NCAI. The address was followed by a response from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who was recently appointed the new Chairwoman for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The entire program runs for 1h13m. Text of the speech. NCAI's Securing Our Futures report [pdf].

Native America Calling provides an audio only version [mp3 link].
posted by hippybear (23 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pretty contradictory speech there. Indian country is strong, and yet tribal governments cannot adequately protect Indian women without the passage of a specific act of Congress.
posted by ocschwar at 7:27 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps I'm more aware of the status of Indian Nations under the US Government than some, but I don't see much contradiction in that. It's sad, but it's long been the status of the Native Americans that they are sovereign but captive.
posted by hippybear at 8:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


From my perspective, strength starts with the ability to ensure the basic safety of your people. It's a particularly tall order for tribes, since they can't arrest unenrolled people off-rez, I do realize.
posted by ocschwar at 8:51 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indian country is strong? I have never set foot there. But I spent the last year and a half wrapped up in a legal matter there on behalf of a victim. Every person with experience there continually told me that my assumptions that the world would turn to help my victim were in error. They were right.

Indian country is fucked up, flat out.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:54 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So take your outrage and mobilize yourself and others to lobby members of the House to take up the Senate-passed bill and get this turned from something which is hobbling Native governments to something which protects victims and allows prosecutions to be pursued.

It may take an act of Congress to allow the Native governments to act, but they are not passive because of a lack of will. They are passive because of a lack of legal permission.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


but they are not passive because of a lack of will. They are passive because of a lack of legal permission.

I wish this were the case, I really do. My direct experience is it is not.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cantwell's response (not in the post-SOTU argumentative sense, more just what she said after) here.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:33 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that, ThatFuzzyBastard. I couldn't find that, and I tried.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 PM on February 14, 2013


While I know firsthand that Indian Country varies as to its strength (and geez...there isn't really an "Indian Country") equating a few acts of egregious rights violations with "Indian Country is fucked up flat out" is well, fucked up flat out. Especially coming from someone who has never set foot there.

What IS strong these days is the generalizing and essentializing of indigenous communities. That seems to be at an all time high and is is very problematic for policy makers. We are either doing great, or flat out fucked up.

A little nuance in this conversation would be my wish. How for example would you care to compare the relative fortunes of Quinault and Swinomish with respect to the impact of casinos in one and not the other? What about Kutenai and Flathead language revitalization using a new gesture based fluency pedagogy? Isn't it great how the Native Public Media has doubled the number of public radio stations in recent years? What's it gonna take to address diabetes on the Navajo Nation?. And can you believe the decision that Bristol Bay has to make about gold mining? That is plain fucked up.

There is a lot to our communities, guys. Let's not generalize too much.
posted by salishsea at 11:22 PM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


If it weren't so late in the night I would post more, but I wanted to at least post this: NCAI is a representation of the colonized elite "leaders" of "Indian Country." NCAI is not an official representation of all the indigenous communities and territories across what's currently called North America. NCAI is designed to be a business lobby working as avatars of business councils, otherwise known as tribal governments. They're the ultimate results of the boarding school system.

Any organization that embraces the misnomer "Indian" in regards to indigenous/aboriginal people is founded on the misguided pursuit of colonial ideals.
posted by nataaniinez at 1:03 AM on February 15, 2013


I dunno, at least in Oklahoma and in the tribes supported Smithsonian museum in DC, "Indian" is a preferred naming device.
posted by Atreides at 6:16 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


We can argue that point forever.
posted by mkb at 6:34 AM on February 15, 2013


(and geez...there isn't really an "Indian Country")

There is. Indian reservations are areas where the usual hierarchy of federal-state-county-town governments and laws is replaced with federal-tribe, and the state has limited authority. That's why the federal laws have an entire chapter called "Indian Country" that fills all the gaps that the tribal governments haven't filled for themselves.

And a lot of what makes Indian Country weak is the legal catch 22s that pile up along the boundary of each and every Indian reservation, and those are just about the same for every tribe.
posted by ocschwar at 7:10 AM on February 15, 2013


Any organization that embraces the misnomer "Indian" in regards to indigenous/aboriginal people is founded on the misguided pursuit of colonial ideals.

Really?

Some people disagree quite strongly.

I've known my share of folks who grew up on reservations. I've never known anyone from a native community that self-identified as anything other than American Indian or Indian. My understanding, based on the survey data that's out there and my own experiences is that a majority of folks prefer that term of self-identification, to the extent that they prefer any.
posted by snottydick at 8:20 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm NDN, and it's generally the term most of us prefer, nataaniinez.

Russell Means, in his essay I Am An American Indian, Not a Native American! has this to say:

"I abhor the term Native American. It is a generic government term used to describe all the indigenous prisoners of the United States. These are the American Samoans, the Micronesians, the Aleutes, the original Hawaiians and the erroneously termed Eskimos, who are actually Upiks and Inupiats. And, of course, the American Indian.

I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins. The word Indian is an English bastardization of two Spanish words, En Dio, which correctly translated means in with God. As an added distinction the American Indian is the only ethnic group in the United States with the American before our ethnicity.

At an international conference of Indians from the Americas held in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations in 1977 we unanimously decided we would go under the term American Indian. We were enslaved as American Indians, we were colonized as American Indians and we will gain our freedom as American Indians and then we will call ourselves any damn thing we choose.

Finally, I will not allow a government, any government, to define who I am. Besides anyone born in the Western hemisphere is a Native American."
posted by rainbowbullet at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


A couple of points, speaking as a mixed ancestry Anishinaabe-innini.

First the terminology "Indian" has legal standing here in Canada. A status Indian is a person who is treated in a certain way by the federal government, under the Indian Act. So sometimes the term is used here for that reason.

In the case of the NCAI, it may well be historical that they choose to use the term, as well as relevant to a huge number of indigenous folks from south of the border who use the term in daily parlance. in Canada the term is definitely waning but is used colloquially. We are definitely using the word "indigenous" a lot more these days, especially younger people.

But a few years ago, at a gathering of Anishinaabe chiefs and elders in Thunder Bay, the leaders insisted that we practice our own identity by referring to ourselves as Anishinaabe (meaning "original people").

And this is why there is no Indian country. We are many nations.

Yes there is a standard federal operating procedure for the states of Canada and the United States to deal with all indigenous communities in the same way, but saying there is a monolithic "Indian Country" just because everyone lives on a reservation is wrong. The indigenous nations of North America are as different from each other as they are in any other continent. You would be wrong to generalize about Africans or Europeans, and you are wrong to generalize about indigenous North Americans in the same way. For example, this action of last week, where Beau Dick broke a copper on the steps of the Legislatuire in Victoria BC is probably as meaingful to an Estonian as it is to a Miwok.

The term "Indian Country" isn't even accurate with respect to describing the living conditions of indigenous peoples either, because in Canada at least, most of us live off-reserve and the vast majority of us have been disenfranchised from our communities due to federal government legislation. It has taken decades to convince people that off-reserve non-status Indians (in the legal sense) are an actual group.

So it might look like I am debating a plate of beans (and corn and squash!), but insisting on there being an Indian Country that has meaningful implications for policy making is disrespectful to the diversity of our cultures at best, and at worst is the basis for very, very bad policy. Just look at the reservation system itself as a prime example.

I appreciate that there is a legal term in the US called "Indian Country" but I am saying that such a construction is not helpful to addressing needs or celebrating successes because it does not reflect the reality of our communities. Colloquially, no problem. But when it is the basis for policy...rats.

Does that make sense, or am I just being longwinded and picky? :-)
posted by salishsea at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins. The word Indian is an English bastardization of two Spanish words, En Dio, which correctly translated means in with God.
What?

As far as I am aware, its etymology is based on "India". Do you have any cite for your claim that it is from "en Dio"?
posted by Flunkie at 9:51 AM on February 15, 2013


Errr, Russell Means' claim, that is.
posted by Flunkie at 9:53 AM on February 15, 2013


Yeah, I can't speak for Russell Means. I was just making a point about self-identification.

Russell certainly professed this belief. I don't know the origin of this idea, but it doesn't seem to appear before he started disseminating it, and I've met a lot of people who just accept it at face value. He explains in a bit more detail towards the bottom of this interview.

The problem being, of course, that is not factually correct on almost every point.
posted by snottydick at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I appreciate that there is a legal term in the US called "Indian Country" but I am saying that such a construction is not helpful to addressing needs or celebrating successes because it does not reflect the reality of our communities. Colloquially, no problem. But when it is the basis for policy...rats.

Does that make sense, or am I just being longwinded and picky? :-)


Makes perfect sense to me; I think it's important to note and you did a great job hashing out why.

Based on the little I know, many of the reservations differ considerably in respect to whether the inhabitants are actually from the area, the land that was actually granted as reservation land, and the treaties that were written up defining those things and how much they've varied and been changed and/or violated over the years. According to some of what I've read at least, the portion of the USA that's legally Lakotah land looks like this. (previously)
posted by nTeleKy at 11:06 AM on February 15, 2013


salishsea: "I appreciate that there is a legal term in the US called "Indian Country" but I am saying that such a construction is not helpful to addressing needs or celebrating successes because it does not reflect the reality of our communities. Colloquially, no problem. But when it is the basis for policy...rats.

Does that make sense, or am I just being longwinded and picky? :-)
"

FWIW, the legal definition of "Indian country" at 18 USC 1151 (which is essentially a legislative codification of federal common law definitions) and subsequent bastardizations of the definition by SCOTUS have resulted in some pretty dire legal consequences for tribes, which in turn resulted in a lack of progress and backward progress in areas of social policy.

For example, one of the problems is that judges - especially at the appellate level - want to tie native jurisdictional boundaries to property rights but simultaneously have refused to develop frameworks for how tribes can expand their jurisdictional authority upon reacquisition in fee of lands over which the US trust responsibility was terminated. This has created a very difficult situation for tribes on a number of fronts, particularly those whose reservations have been disestablished and have no trust land base. For example, without a trust land base, a tribe would have no "Indian lands" under the IGRA definition which would be eligible for gaming. That slows down economic development. That's just scratching the surface: Think through how difficult it is to exercise fundamental aspects of governmental sovereignty (particularly regulatory powers and taxation) over your own people, much less those who may consent to jurisdiction* when you have no land base, or in situations in which you have a patchwork of trust and fee land without reservations like we do here in Oklahoma. And don't even get me started on the mess of policy that is PL280 and what tribes have endured in PL280 states.

tldr; It's hard for tribes and tribal members to make much social progress when the legal frameworks for working in Indian country are so wackadoodle, thanks to SCOTUS judicial activism.

*Thanks to Montana, any type of tribal civil personal jurisdiction over nonmembers akin to state long arm jurisdiction over citizens from other states is practically nonexistent, which makes things worse. To those who continually raise the horrors of having non-Indians subject to jurisdiction in the "kangaroo" courts of tribes, well, let's just say that there are a number of tribal courts in which I've practiced where I would prefer to try a case any day over some state courts in counties which have managed to elect ....less than qualified district judges.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:04 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I knew Russell Means and his family. I have talked to Russell several times regarding this very issue but I will keep those conversations private. Much like Geronimo, Russell was and apparently is the larger society's chosen icon to represent indigenous people today. I respect his work with indigenous societies, he definitely walked the walk and talked the talk according to his definitions of indigenous liberation. Russell and the American Indian Movement were great at publicizing human rights issues indigenous people were facing during the 1960s through today. However there are numerous other indigenous organizations who were working on a process that has been in action since 1492, and that is decolonization. Just like NCAI, Russell is not the official voice of indigenous people.

The results of these surveys is proof how colonized our people are today in that they choose to identify with a mislabeled term; one of the many results of forced relocation and reeducation towards colonial values.

The fact that tribal, state and federal governments still choose to continue to operate underneath this misnomer is also further proof of why indigenous people today view the colonial political systems forced upon us as invalid and with apathy. Internalized oppression has set in deeply and there are many of us working towards reversing the effects of settler ways and colonial actions.

So before you start quoting settler icons and statistics, I challenge you to study the decolonization movements growing in indigenous societies. We will not be defined by who the larger society chooses to be our spokesperson.

Here's a very basic reading list to get started if you're genuinely interested in becoming a better ally for indigenous people:

The Colonizer and the Colonized, Albert Memmi
Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing, MariJo Moore
What Does Justice Look Like?: The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland, Waziyatawin
Peace, Power, Righteousness, Taiaiake Alfred
Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, Taiaiake Alfred
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paolo Freire
The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, Gene Sharp
posted by nataaniinez at 7:26 PM on February 16, 2013


Russell is not the official voice of indigenous people.

Nobody's saying that he is. I would suspect that he is the official voice of himself, which was kind of the point I was trying to make.

We will not be defined by who the larger society chooses to be our spokesperson.

You don't have to be defined by anyone, and others don't have to be defined by your own view either.
posted by snottydick at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2013


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