Friday, June 17, 2011

Violence of Savages and Savage Violence || State of the Tribes 2011, Part Three Final

This poster is from an election campaign in Italy some years ago (2008). It was related to the issue of controlling immigration. A basic translation is that if we (Italians) do not do something about immigration, we (Italians) will end up on reservations like the Indians (who were not able to control immigration). This poster is from the pro Silvio Berlusconi group. Berlusconi is a butt-ugly empty bag of mostly water who is the long-ruling president of Italy.
Around the world the United States “reservation system” has been a model for ethnic and racial isolation/punishment. Adolf Hitler referred to the American Indian reservation system as an effective way to control a minority population.
Now many generations later, the inmates defend their reservations with a great passion, and perhaps rightfully so. The problems are not so much with the space as it is with the philosophy of the United States in regards to its minority American Indian population.
Many people believe American Indians get a lot of free money and other services. They do not. Tribes have congressionally ratified treaties with the Federal government which grants them certain entitlements. This is not the same thing as a hand out. Every American Indian bleeds a little for every Federal dollar that somehow finds its way onto an American Indian reservation. For every dollar that might reach an actual program, around fifty dollars is spent in administrative costs, overhead and BIA salaries. There is enough money in the federal budget for the American Indian situation to give every American Indian a million dollars a year and still have billions left over. A tiny trickle of that money actually arrives. No one in the actual world ever questions this.
Sometimes, quite often really, only the loudest voices are heard out in the world. Criminal money scams, such as the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund, have stolen millions of dollars over the years from all over the world. Peltier is a gangster and killer who murdered two FBI agents in a senseless act of violence many years ago. He is a punk with no standing among American Indians. His so-called supporters have been clever at feeding on people’s concern for justice to amass quite a lot of money over the years. This scam continues because they are clever enough to promote their agenda relentlessly. Only modern people who really know nothing at all about American Indians get taken in by this scam. Those who know the reality understand clearly the punk that is leonard Peltier. Fortunately there are only a few scams like in the American Indian world. What is more common are tribal officials pocketing money and anything that is not nailed down. Many tribal communities offer very few jobs. Among the few they do offer are jobs in the tribal government. These can be very well-paying jobs with benefits. There is a lot of jealousy and possessiveness around these jobs. Many tribal communities are plagued with this sort of selfish and desperation-inspired corruption. Because of these facts, corruption among tribal officials is a serious problem. It is not universal, but it is wide spread. 
There is yet another criminal element which exploits the worldwide interest in tribal spirituality. Among tribes like the Lakota, one of the loudest tribes, possibly the loudest talking tribe, there is a lot of opposition to what they call plastic medicine men. These are non-Indian people who make or pretend to make ceremonies like the sweat lodge, or pipe ceremony, to open groups around the world. They fail to mention the many enrolled “full-blood” tribal members who make all manner of faked ceremonies and faked ceremonial objects illegally available to modern people, in defiance of the clear instructions of the tribal elders. This activity of the “plastic shamans” on one hand and the “illegal ceremonies” of tribal members on the other, is a real mess. Another mess not very well understood outside in the so-called information driven society.
The quiet voices are the ones that have the great power among the real American Indians. Quiet voices are hard to promote in videos, blogs and television. Humility and sweetness cannot be marketed if they are real. Most American Indians live profoundly complicated, often isolated and generally difficult lives invisibly, in the heart of the United States of America. Many of them do it with grace, with a sense of humor. They do it with a determination to remain American Indians, whatever that might mean or might cost at any given moment.
The bad news is that the bad news is pretty bad, and abundant. The good news is that there is no good news, not really. Beyond the normal human capacity for hope and individual triumphs in the face of long odds, there is not so much in the way of good news when we look collectively at the American Indian situation right now. I have not managed to understand any way to make this story a positive one.
Custer last battle flag, recently sold at auction...
Getting any information out to the world at large is not so easy. Every year there is at least one American Indian Film Festival with lists of possibly very significant information from American Indian film makers. As to where and how you can see, buy, rent or download these films there is no information. For several years I sent one film festival web site this question…they never gave me an answer. There are some well made collaborative efforts among the tribes who share fishing rights, hunting issues and natural harvesting of things like wild rice and maple syrup. The five per cent of tribes that have gambling casinos have conferences and web sites but these are just about the casinos and offer zero information about any reality. There is a very nice publisher of American Indian books. You cannot email them, telephone them, you can only use a paper letter to order their great books…they don’t sell many books. These are just examples of the wide problem here. Thousands of web sites, blogs, face book profiles and so forth exist through internet connections. So many of them are making up their content, or babbling with good intentions about subjects in which they have been poorly informed…finding your way to any good information on these subjects is the last great frontier perhaps…it is not easy. One should always be skeptical. Yet being skeptical can lead to many false assumptions and mistakes. Being well informed really helps but being really well informed is very difficult; so there we are, between here and there.
I remember one of my old Indians told me, “The Eagle will not tell you where she has her nest. If you know how, you can find it.” This idea works very well in the Mystery Life, but not so well in the Information Age.

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