Sunday, April 13, 2014

50 years : The Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act : What Happened to the Indians?

"Why am I treated so bad"?....Doctor King's favorite song (Staples Singers).

American Indians are never included in any of these so-called historical events. These days, and rightly so, we are commenting upon the 50th year since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. 

LBJ was an awesome figure. I sometimes wonder if some of the tribes down there in Texas had a name for him.Tribal drummers from a number of tribes did a memorial drumming for Nixon, down there as close to his funeral the government would let them get. About LBJ I never heard anything like that. And I have read the books written by Robert Cato on his life. A great work, an important work to consult for detailed information on this period. Like many others, I am waiting for the fourth volume. Keep going Mr. Cato.

The United States government is presented to us by a diverse media. What we see and read is prepared for us, like a meal on a plate. Some do a better job than others. In any event we are limited to their offerings, of which herein I add my own minor contribution.

How should we think about this issue right now?, for example. For American Indians, most of them feel left out and so have experienced some progress from within their status as “people of color”, yet remain dangerously at the edge of considered attention by anyone at all, much less the United States Government. Usually when people talk about “civil rights” it is always discussed in terms of “black people”, though “latino” people are more often included these days.

One could examine the portfolio of the extreme statistics that show how frequently American Indian women, children, elders, schools, medical clinics, police, food and jobs are an absolute disaster, far outside the bell curve in every detail. American Indian women, for example, are 80% more likely to face rape, domestic violence, or kidnapping into slavery, than all the other races combined. If so many white women were bing destroyed and victimized, the world would be at war levels of attention every day…the noise would be impossible to ignore. For American Indians, there is not much belief that their fate matters much. This view does not take into account the situation with the tribes that have casinos. Only about 5 per cent of tribes have a casino. Most of them signed terrible deals. Only a couple of them use the money made to actually help the tribes from this long list of problems. The casino groups are a strange subset dominated by a selfish, we only care about the money leadership that has never, to this point, showed much interest in their own tribes.

No one helps any of the American Indian tribes hold on to their sacred architecture, lands and materials, for example. The casinos give no money for this level of protection and advancement of their own sacred roots…which are really, in my view, the most important parts of the American Indian experience to be saved, salvaged, rescued, supported and praised. But they are not. No one.

In the face of such a fact is not easy to explain that for American Indians, the Civil Rights Act did not change much. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, most of the others in the leadership, never included American Indians in their arguments, in their staff or advisors. No blame exists for that. That is how it was. The only question is that it is still just like this? Yes.

One of the issues that always come up with any writing things down about the American Indians is that it is never very easy to find good news to share. The detailed picture, when each part is viewed in context with the other parts, is not good. Our sources may suggest there is some sense that the rate at which american Indians are disappearing from the world has slowed and appears to be less violent. Then again it is hard to say for sure. The American Indian world has gone quiet over the last few years. Not easy to get details.

Considering the fact that Mr. Obama is part American Indian by blood, as part of his “person of color” history, and that he allowed himself to be adopted by a Crow American Indian family, very little progress can be seen on the ground and in the lives of American Indians. At least so far. The opposition to almost every word out of his mouth by the GOP makes it likely that he has many ideas that he would act on if he felt these ideas had a chance. Most American Indians know that if Obama spoke out loud about some great new program for the “Indians”, all hell would break loose in this climate.

The Republicans (bastards to their bones) resisted, blocked, postured and raised money over the issue of adding protections for American Indian women to a popular Violence Against Women renewal legislation. This is what American Indians have come to accept whenever their problems come anywhere near the public forum. We can’t even get a professional sports team to stop using a racist insult as the name of the franchise. American Indians do not even have the right to arrest criminals in commission of felony offense on tribal lands…..and so this brings me back to the point about the nature of how American Indians probably view Civil Rights Progress Fifty Years Later.

As to the rest of society, there has been great progress in the advancement of the Rule of Law. This is commendable, very commendable.  Yet the toxic and hideous legacy and philosophy of the Southern Strategy is alive and well and deeply entrenched in the Republican Party of the United States. While the Rule of Law is never more clearly defined, the actual behavior of rich old white men is the same…and now it is Super-Sized by the most disturbingly activist Supreme Court in generations as the have opened the flood gates of the old white money to buy elections and suppress the vote in every corner of the land. As a strategy.

The one thing I remember, was an old white man; a man who called black men “niggers” to their face, a man who built his fortunes on segregation, the King of the Southern Strategy, signing, with great satisfaction The Civil Rights and Voting Act fifty years ago. That was progress. A memorial lead by and narrated by “a person of color”, one Barack Obama, President of the United States.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Equinox of Spring Twenty Fourteen

©2014 Turtle Heart : Pantelleria Island Italy

equinox of spring
5:57 PM CET 
(Pantelleria Island)


flowers arrive in the spring
the yellows first
sometimes a few reds
they are the dream of the roots
waiting in the winter world
for their chance
to dance with the wind
their long silent waiting
rewarded at last

down the street the old people
carried a saint up and down the street
dressed in black
the old priest watched me without smiling
as I was standing beside my house
holding an eagle feather
I was looking at the earth
looking down at the open belly of the earth

i am a long way from home
I am a long way from the roots
of where I started, awakened at last from my dream
to where the great wind has carried me
as the old people dressed in black
carried their saint past my door
a four-legged lizard stopped on the edge of my shadow
and looked around
his tiny head looking up, then looking down


where I have been
where I am going
what I am feeling
what i remembered
when the great wind lifted me
when the light found me
why not awaken from my long dream
why was I all alone
how much farther down the down
how long will I follow
the shadows of time
with this song inside of me


the earth has a lot of secrets
perhaps only a baby with his eyes open can see them all

as times passes
our lives leave long shadows

the great wind carries those shadowed parts
we have forgotten deep into our dreams

our dreams become like stones
scattered along the path we have followed

forgotten unless we fall down
forgotten unless we pick them up
and carry them back into the light
and polish them into jewels

one by one

and open our eyes again


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Religious Freedom || Time to Go Home

Editorial Commentary
©2014 Turtle Heart
Posted from Pantelleria Italy

I lived in Arizona for just over one year. At the end I wanted to eat a bullet. It was the most depressing experience of my long life. I had never been to such a determinedly racist community before. Sedona. It was another tragedy, the heart-breaking death of my partner's father that unexpectedly saved us. He was an incredibly reasonable and lovely human being. in his estate he left my partner a considerable amount of money. That money saved my life. It gave me a way to get out. She was away with her father during the final six months I was in Sedona, adding to the loneliness and isolation, layered profoundly by the knowledge that her father was dying at a time certain. 

Sedona was first very attractive to so-called “new age” experimenters. It was known to be the site of a grand collection of magnetic vortexes, quite unique in the world they were. Sedona is a place of astonishing beauty. It was murdered. The magnetic vortexes were destroyed by the miles and miles of iron and copper pipes and electrical cables relentlessly buried in the earth. To a pristine desert, the well-healed new agers had brought their SUVs, big houses, swimming pools, golf courses, water treatement plants and all the fully loaded infrastructure of a dead world city. They did it very fast. All that construction killed off the subtle magnetic forces and introduced a flow of pollution to the ground water of a sacred desert by millions of gallons of golf course chemicals and city waste. It soon filled up with John McCain friends and collaborators. What remains is artificial, phony, and desperately arrogant. It was sad beyond measure. I opened an art gallery in one of the most beutiful spots in the whole city. The people who came in were so depressing. Empty, ugly bags of mostly water. It was impossible to sell them art or even get them to say hello when they came into my gallery. After nine months of this dark emptiness I seriously considered suicide. It was that bad. Instead, from tragedy, I found a new place to go. Loosing all of my investment, entirely. Starting over some place else. Taos, over in New Mexico, but that is another story.

I drove out with a big u-haul at sunset on December 31st 1999 and rolled into my new home in Taos in the early morning hours of 01 January, Two Thosand. It was a day where the earth was completely frozen. When I went inside, I understood that my real estate agent, knowing that I was to arrive that day, had turned on the heat. The house was toasty and welcoming. It was a healing and sweet moment. It started to snow as I opened the big door of the uhaul to move myself in.

Four years later I moved to Italy. America. Stop. Finished.

It was time to move on and fulfill my promise to the old Indians to carry Sacred Pipe in my bundle, the Four Directions Unity Bundle, out into the World.

During all my years as a grown man, I have followed the root teachings of Sacred Pipe. It does not feel like a religion to me. Sacred Pipe is a way of life. It has more silence than words to explain itself, to reveal itself. This ancient Sacred Practice is nearly as old as time. It has somehow survived in small, microscopic really, circles of old Indians scattered around North America.

American Indians, seemingly alone among all the peoples of the world, have found that people who have no connection, relationship, history or invitation have taken up these ancient objects of the American Indian. In Sedona, everyone is a pipe carrier. In the world of the old Indians, right now, there are less than 100 Pipe Keepers. You can buy “pipes” on the internet now. Anyone anywhere can get one. Made by a “real Indian”. In the world of the old Indians, not one dollar has ever been exchanged for Sacred Pipe.

There is a difference between these two pictures. An important difference.

I have written frequently about Sacred Pipe. Interested readers can look at the links on this page and they will direct you to my library of writings.

The GOP has attached “gay issues” to something they call “religious freedom exception”. This is a transparent ruse to bring out the most rabid of GOP voters. They used this technique to great advantage to get Bush in office two times. In battleground states the GOP made sure liberal rights for gay persons was on the ballot, ensuring all the pissed off manly men (rednecks) would get out and vote gainst any rights for the queers, and they did. It worked very well.

It seems the religions of the world are mostly instruments by which people in power can manipulate the general population. The major religions of the world are in fact large, very well organized and funded corporations.

The people holding Sacred Pipe are just a few people with the clothes on their back, standing in a circle in the forest. They have no money, no papers of incorporation. No budgets. Think about that for a moment. Think about how that Sacred Pipe has survived, with only the determination of a very small number of American Indians holding it all together. No money, no churches, no protection, no tax breaks, no bookstores or gift shops. There are in fact no Sacred Pipe events ever made in public.

The people who are “in charge”, the bosses of the major religions, are well paid and influential persons. They drive the agenda of their public presence. They have retirement plans, investment portfolios, paid vacations. The individual members of the religion may not know, not care, or ever have any interest to become informed on these things. Corporate religion seems to have two forms…one is public and managed by officials…the other is the private behavior of the “believer” inside his or her own life. The two parts are not always the same.

The people who legally and correctly hold Sacred Pipes receive no salaries, vacations or houses to live in. They are in fact criticized and the subject of invective hate groups that tell the world American Indians who seek money for doing sacred works and projects are evil, corrupt and violating the law. They believe there is a law that says all American Indians who hold sacred positions cannot receive payment, cannot build a meeting place, cannot have a portfolio or retirement plan or own an automobile or get help with an airline ticket to go to a conference. Every drop of their blood is examined to make sure they are "real" Indians. There is a terribly vocal and outraged faction of the American public that says American Indians work for free. Really. This is an entirely true fact that all American Indians who work with and carry responsibility for tribal religion have to deal with every single day. And it is the understanding by which American Indian children are raised to understand their own people, more and more.

Arizona contains one of the most ancient continuing cultures on earth, the Hopi (Tewa). The Hopi have an ancient, complex “religion” that has continued since its beginning. They have a sacred way of life that embraces Sacred Smoke, though very different from the Sacred Pipe of the north. They have held onto their sacred rights better than any other American Indian tribal group. They are a beautiful, talented and quiet people. They live right in the center of Arizona.

Until just a few decades ago it was in fact illegal for all American Indians to practice their ancient religions. An act of the United States Congress finally restored those rights, that “freedom of religion” to those people. Interesting yes? For decades, since the early 1500s, European invaders waged a relentless war on destroying, putting in prison and condemning all American Indian traditional beliefs. They did not do this politically, they did it armies and guns and blood. yet the Hopi are still there in the center of Arizona. They are still there. They have done a much better job of protecting their "Kiva Religion" than the tribes to the north have done in protecting Sacred Pipe. They have done the best job of all the tribes in protecting and continuing their sacred.

If there was true freedom of religion, and communities could “refuse service” to anyone who offended that religion, you would all have to go back to Europe. Not one of the American Indians has agreed to your being here.

If the Muslims had freedom of religion, American cities with Muslim populations could not sell alcohol or tobacco or porn.

If Hindu people had freedom of religion, they should be allowed to bath in public fountains and make animal sacrifices at the public library.

What is freedom of religion? What license does it give a person to oppress and refuse another person? I have read and listened to and attended religious services of most of the world’s religions. Doing this was an important part of my education as a Keeper of Sacred Pipe. I cannot find any evidence that the teachings of any world religion encourage the oppression of anyone, anywhere. Everyone knows this of course. Anyone who knows anything at all about Jesus, for example, knows “He” would not tell anyone to refuse to feed someone who is gay because of his religion, not tell anyone to refuse medical treatment to a black man, not tell anyone to forbid a woman to show her face to the sun or drive an automobile or walk outside by herself.

Religions loose (fail) their religion when they allow operatives and officers to use the name of the religion to do harm, to promote violence, to sanction any kind of oppression. Religious arguments are the root cause of much trouble in the world, including death and blood. Yet major religions must also organize to contend with governments and politics which can and does affect their ability to function. American Indians have no organized body, groups, lawyers or agencies to advocate for their rights and protection. None. Not one. Compare this to the many agents, and billions of dollars corporate religions have at their disposal.

Some very reasonable people have come to believe that religion is toxic. So more and more people say they have no religion. They believe in nothing. That is protected also.

The political right seems to define “religious freedom” as the right to use their flawed interpretation of religion as a weapon to threaten, intimidate and punish anyone who is not like them. An argument they make with a straight face. Yes, we can impose our religious views on everyone who is a "real American".

The Gay and Lesbian Dog Whistle Movement: There is something about “homosexuality” that just terrifies and enrages certain people. Children going hungry? No. Casting a vote becoming more and more difficult? No. Soldiers killing themselves after serving in an Islamic war? No. The mother earth being destroyed by oil drilling? No.

So-called “religious freedom” bills suddenly showed up in many states, all with similar language, all about the same moment. We see upon examination, that “family policy networks” funded and managed by extreme right wing religious activists who know nothing at all about religion but everything about turning out hate as acceptable public policy. And they have lots of money. They are very well organized as well; and assured of national coverage from networks like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Hysterical paranoia has become the new national normal in politics. With no end in sight. Governor Jan Brewer’s (Arizona) veto not withstanding.

We pretty much live in a world where your religion is under suspicion if it is not christianity. As an American Indian follower of Sacred Pipe, I am never quite sure where I stand, never quite sure how safe I am. Nine years ago, when I married my wife in Italy, we wanted to be married in the church. In the USA you can rent a church space and hire your own religious minister to perform the ceremony. In Italy you must have the permission of the local priest. When the catholic priest understood I was not catholic, but was an American Indian, his head exploded and he made it quite clear that there was no way I could get married in any church in Italy. We ended up having a municipal marriage in the local administrator’s office…but at least we could go ahead and get married. (ps; Italy has plenty of freedom of religion if you are catholic. Otherwise, not so much.)

From way over here in Italy, the United States looks like it is losing its mind. It has allowed the "craziest people in the room" to make the rules. 

I still carry the memory of Arizona…of my brief experience trying to live in a severely conservative and openly racist christian community…one of the darkest experiences of my life. I also remember history lessons. For example the time when the catholic church cut off, severed, the right foot of 500 Tewa American Indians because they refused to build a catholic church on their land....or Jefferson's Trail of Tears...or Abraham Lincoln's murder of 18 California Indians.

Turtle Heart
Ojibwe Artist

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Pope, the UN And Syria: Ban Ki-Moon Filled With Thunder

Commentary. ©2014, Turtle Heart

From where I am looking, Syria seems like the heart of hell itself. And the world is just watching. While every kind of madman joins in the fight. Nearly everyone is fighting everyone. The 1 per cent eat hand made food flown in fresh from Russia. Faction of the so-called resistance are accused of terrible crimes as well. They all photograph very well. Perhaps the most direct, even blunt assessment of Syria has been made by the UN. In detail and with a very determined delivery.

On another side of the Mediterranean, the Catholic Church was called out in the starkest, blistering, language for decades long abuse of and harboring of abusers of children. Relentless abuse. It was spelled out in historic detail by a special commission of the UN. The church responded by saying it is “not fair”. “Look at all we have done”. “Look at how much money we have paid everyone”. Yes, that was their response to this report. Made by the UN with a very determined delivery.

These are just the two most recent addresses of United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, speaking through the voices of special commissions in recent days. It has been a long time since there has been such a rather determined an plain language Secretary General. He started off quietly enough, but has steadily become more determined and central.

During the recent so-called talks with Syria and anti-Syria fighters and officials, there is Ban Ki-Moon in a widely circulated picture with Kerry from the USA, the official Syria guy, two other official Opposition guys…forcing them, sitting in chairs to be holding hands. Looking at that line of men holding hands, it was a very tense picture…the “hand and arm language” (body language) of that scene is well worth a study. That was Ban Ki-Moon’s move. The UN, under Ban Ki-Moon is clearly raising more hell than I can remember. Just now we know that he will be the most prominent guest at the Sochi Winter Olympics, as most of the world’s leadership has chosen to not attend at all.

Just recently the UN via Ban Ki-Moon went to the same bowl of thunder about the persecution of gay and other non heterosexual people around the world. In at least one country, today, you can be executed if found to be living while gay. The Pope of Rome has at least, once, publicly stated that people need to stop this kind of behavior. Yet, coming from a Pope it has gravitas.

Like Ban Ki-Moon, Pope Francis is raising the volume on issues of life and death, murder and looting, rape and torture, slavery and cash on demand corruption.The two of them are quite unpredictable,, and really quite independent of each other. I am not sure they would approve each of the other. Pope Francis still has a really long way to go to clean up the centuries old problem of sexual perverts that appear to populate the Church. In the recent UN blistering condemnation of this problem, all the Vatican has had to say refers to how “unfair” the report is, which is clearly an inadequate response. Pope Francis has said nothing so far. This is a problem.

Ban Ki-Moon is not getting much attention in the USA media. America has a long-standing contempt for the United Nations, which has always seemed unfortunate to me. 

This appears to be the first real notice of this new development in English, calling out the Honorable Secretary-General. In the mid 1980s I personally met and spent some time with the then Secretary-General. He was such a shallow man, a ghost. I was actually rather astonished that in meeting a “world leader”, I saw only an immature and shallow little man that no one could take seriously on any subject.

The world very rarely has any truly effective voices addressing our shared problems and aspirations. From where I sit, I see very few people with true international power that seem effective or even interesting. These new moves by Ban Ki-Moon are very welcome and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Turtle Heart. Pantelleria Island....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Free The Dixies Chicks 3 || Invective is the New Normal

Image © Weinstein Group

I am not a fan, at all, of country music. The Dixie Chicks have always been “marketed” in the country music genre. They have transcended their own marketing label. Those girls can play some acoustic instruments, their musical skills drive their music well into the range of pure excellence. The lead singer was born to sing, a voice of power, passion and independence. These ladies make really great music. 

They were in fact among the most popular, best selling women musicians in history.

Then the lead singer, in the UK, said on stage that she was “embarrassed” that George Bush was from Texas, being a good Texas citizen herself. The audience applauded, as well they should.

The American right went bat shit crazy. Country music radio stopped playing their music, right-wing religious fanatics burned their cd’s….and within a few months their public careers were more or less destroyed.

No one stepped up for them at the time, that I recall.

Fast forward to twenty fourteen.

I do not have enough pages or time to detail the vile, fundamentally enraged and insane words spoken against US President Obama. I will not repeat any of them here. Every reader has heard them or read them.

Just this week, the invective left me feeling I should apply for combat, hazardous duty pay for listening to and reading the portfolio of the GOP and its supporters. It is dark and dirty work.

I think we need to bring back the Dixie Chicks. Apologize to them. Maybe they could then reward us by releasing a new CD. 

I miss the Dixie Chicks. I was irritated by their name and the publicity they got for the things they said when they first showed up in the national media, some years ago. But then I listened to one of their concerts. I was riveted by the deep exploration they were doing of emotion and life’s experience. They don’t do love songs, they do songs about passing through hell and coming out whole on the other side. And they do it with music executed with real mastery, elevating their instruments into vessels of transformation.

Why the Dixie Chicks are gone and Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, FOX News and John Boeher are not only still standing, they are thriving and becoming quite wealthy. An insipid little man, one Mr. D’Souaza has actually made nearly fift million dollars in his books about how much of a socialist and Kenyan anti-colonialist Obama is….and he is just one minor example of the wealth and success spewing invective against women, veterans, minorities, gays, and the middle class….all have become suspects, takers, addicted to government handouts and blah, blah, blah…..

In my 65 years of life I have never seen anything like it. And these masters of invective are getting rich, getting elected, and writing policy that affects every American, everyday.

Writing about it, being offended by it; honestly it seems impotent. Invective is the new normal. Over the last year the World Journey of the Four Directions Unity Bundle itself was attacked and marked by a “new age” hate group in a fact free series of accusation and condemnations. It is comforting, in some measure, to realize that most reasonable people are not affected in their daily lives, in their choices and work, by hate speech. Reasonable people do not look to hate groups and trash-talking GOP actors for their information….yet the fact remains that this army of haters makes money and attracts supporters all over the world. They cannot be stopped. The internet has given them new power, new opportunities…and that will continue to be the case.

The question then become a challenge to spirit, to intellect, to daily expectations about what can a reasonable person actually do in the face of these dark clouds so integrated into public discourse.

We could bring back the Dixie Chicks. Somebody must know how to do that.

Turtle Heart
In the Cloud (not that one, the other one)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Remembering Jack Coler and Ron Williams || Two Human Beings Murdered by Leonard Peltier

In 1975, Rom Williams and Jack Coler, Special Agents of the FBI, and young men both, were ambushed and murdered by Leonard Peltier and other accomplices at Pine Ridge American Indian reservation.

The FBI, through its retired agents program, has created a moving video tribute to these two men. We find out how handsome and charismatic Ron was, how much Jack loved his family and nature. It is a moving and relevant portrait of their lives, narrated by friends and family members. Speaking for myself, it is very moving and relevant to see these tow men as the human beings they were. personalities in conflicted historical events are often lost, their lives and humanity eclipsed by arguments and details of the tragedy that took them from the human family.

As a representative of American Indian religious and spiritual values, I share with their families and colleagues the honorable lives they lived and share their sorrow in the murder and senseless behavior that took place on American Indian land.

The men who took their lives are criminals and cowards. On that day they disgraced the American Indian community by their thoughtless rage. Leonard Peltier has somehow managed to hijack society's interest and concern about American Indians. Over the years he has worked to create a mythology that he is somehow a hero to American Indians. He is not. We are all ashamed of him. I have never met another American Indian who believes his story or who respects him. He should never be, and will not be released from prison.

If you visit the Ed Woods project, the link is here, (No Parole Peltier Association) you can study the detailed history and facts about the circumstances of Peltier's crime, read about his many incriminating statements, follow all the legal arguments and appeals that keep him in prison for the crime of first degree murder. This is the best source right now for the facts of the case and real time updates about the legal arguments. Peltier has a web site of course, filled with pleads for money that no one knows what it is used for. It is the digital crying stone for a coward. Mr. Woods is a retired Special Agent In Charge of the FBI. He was the senior agent in charge of the investigations of the FBI in the region that includes Pine Ridge. Pine Ridge is a federal American Indian reservation housing members of the Lakota Sioux tribal nation.

About this video, Mr Woods said this, "The following video, prepared by the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI allows us now to know them as real people, as honorable human beings that left a void well beyond those who knew and loved them."

The link for the video is here. Please take a moment to find out about the lives of these two fine young men and share it with others.

Turtle Heart
Ojibwe Wabeeno Jessakid
Keeper of the Sacred Pipes of the Eastern Gate
Pantelleria Italy

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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