Monday, May 23, 2011

The Arab Awakening and the American Indian Movement

©2011 AICAP Group. "The Dreamer
by Turtle Heart, Ojiwe Artist

I can see clearly how the recent so-called Arab Awakening has been driven by the awareness and frustrations of young people who can see the world around them. I see also how important communication, and in particular internet communications, have driven this great arousal in North Africa and the Middle East.
I find myself wondering when American Indians might choose to have such an awakening. It embrasses me that they have not. In the 1970s there was a fierce movement, called the American Indian Movement. It awakened a lot of American Indians, almost all of them at that time. The public attentions, money, and criminal nature of their leadership quickly destroyed in corruption and meaningless violence what could have been something great…it was not. The leadership of AIM revealed themselves as criminals, cry babies, and self-promoting wanna be cultural heroes. And the tribes again fell silent, for most of 20 years now we hear nothing from the American Indian such as we are hearing from the youth of Islam.
Curiously, the Arabic youth seem to have wide internet access, as well as mobile phones. On American Indian reservations there is none of this, not really…not like it is in most world communities now. Tribes still have almost no internet or mobile services on their remote communities. They cannot participate, in one way, because they are the least wired minority in the western world.
They do have lots of satellite television services, so I know they can see the world if they want to. They have satellite services in place where there are no toilets, water or electricity…running the TV from their pick-up truck battery at night.
During the 90s I traveled with a mac powerbook laptop and tried to show all the American Indians I could what you could do with these things. That was in the dial-up days. For a long time I was the only human being trying to do something like this…one guy. Now, many years later, the situation is no better. Tribes have no dsl lines, no servers, no computers for their members. The only American Indian in the news for computers in the last decade was an Ojibway girl who was fined $176,000 for downloading and sharing forty songs on the internet.
When I search in venues like You Tube on the subject of American Indians it is really sad what is found. Some charming pow-wow videos and here and there a few local protests. Nothing really. Nothing real. You cannot count the number of videos being upped by Middle East activists illustrating their situation and desires.
I wonder what it would take to get American Indians to actually talk to the world?
What is published, world-wide, about American Indians and what is really going on in the world of American Indians are two very different things. Most of the time it seems what is published about American Indians is just made up. What is real about American Indians is of no interest….it does not support the fantasy of the published information.
Perhaps the difference is urbanization. The Arab youth seem concentrated, at least the important uprisings, in large population centers with at least an infrastructure sustaining internet opportunities and cell phone towers. Most tribal communities are rather rustic and with highly limited infrastructure, no cell phone towers, and no installed infrastructure to run high speed internet to so many remote locations. The result is the same. A large number of American Indians go into cities for school and work and must have the same opportunities as other modern youth. The urban-dwelling American Indians is the group we hear from the least, almost nothing at all.
It seems to take a proliferation of business interests to gather internet resources for themselves, and this “accidentally” brings the technology to local people who know how. Five per cent of tribes have casino operations that bring in money and business interests, also high speed data lines….but very few (if any) tribes share this connection with the local population. Unlike the business interests of the rest of the world. If you are an American Indian kid on almost every “reservation” and you want to explore the internet, you can not.
So, it would seem tribes are at the top pf the list for fantasy writings, new age movements and death, but at the very bottom of every list for connecting to the rest of the world.
Detailed analysis of the so-called Arab Awakening reveals the critical role bloggers, tweeters and video unloaders affected change in their countries. In some countries very few of the citizens have access to these services, yet the few who do strike fear into the hearts of their repressive governments. Among the tribes the numbers of tribal citizens who have these technologies may be few but even so, they do nothing.
A tribe in Louisiana was contacted by Arabic internet activists and advised and advised how to create a powerful voice for the tribes, BiJou Healers, who use digital recorders, photography and live interviews to archive and post their problems and concerns. This is one of the  few tribes managing to understand this. Those Arabic activists showed at least one group of small tribes how to do it. The Louisiana tribe has seen that taking control over their own information and stories has really helped turn things around. A native American tribe was at ground zero in the BP oil spill. Their story at this point is “jaw-dropping”, and BP knows these people are poor, have no technology access and so forth….and step by step this is being turned around as a small group of activists publish the story of this tribe. Corporations, like dictators, thrive where communication is impossible. Every threat of exposure can bring real change as a possibility….dictators, and corporations fear open information. (The tribe was directly devastated by the spill yet to date no one has been compensated or the community helped in any way, by anyone.)
How To Control (A Living Being)
I heard a historian describe how elephants are “trained” to be controlled and so easy to manage. He says that the baby elephant is chained by one foot to massive, heavy chains, so that he can only move a tiny distance. The elephant baby continuously lifts its leg and try to move but cannot. By the time the elephant is an adult, it can be controlled with a tiny string tied to this foot.
That is how easy it is to control a free living being. With human beings the method is more subtle but the domesticated result is the same. In the Arab world, the young people are resisting the domestication offered by their rulers and pulling against the heavy chains of police state retribution and fear. American Indian tribes remain quite well domesticated for the most part. The few raging, sacred voices fall like whispers in a thunder storm, lost in the wind.
I live (and write) from a place less than fifty miles from Tunisia, in the emerald Mediterranean. In the night we hear high altitude bombers flying to Libya. Our little island how has around three hundred immigrants or escapees from North Africa, living in an old WW2 troop barracks.
I have been, and remain, a voice on the move around the world. It is quiet, intense, and some days, very lonely work. At other times it seems like the best job in the world. So I set myself free from being domesticated and wander the earth where the wind may direct me. This was the first thing I learned from the sacred teachings of the old Indians. At the time it seemed elementary. The number of American Indian persons who feel compelled to travel into the world with their ideas, songs, art and sacred hopes is small, but quite determined. We know that there are many great local people working inside their communities. The question is the world…the waiting world as it is called by the old Indians.
There is such a huge amount of money in the world. Very little, approaching zero, of the world’s resources go into tribal sacred and spiritual matters. The vampires and leeches of the new age have tricked otherwise reasonable American Indians into believing all the work they do must be unpaid work, free work, untainted by money. This idea is like the elephant on a string idea, where the victim becomes self-correcting. Some of the most visible of all the Indians talk like this, on their little “string”, performing for the waiting world. So the work goes slowly, so slowly I sometimes I have to check my pulse to confirm that I am still alive and in motion.
It is no longer a question of if or when or how American Indians can overcome the heavy chains of the modern society and their own poverty….it is a matter of when they will take a single step forward and learn that what is holding them back is…….nothing at all. The young people of the so-called Arab Awakening figured this much out.

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