Saturday, April 28, 2012

Preening, Pretending || While the Elders Fall Asleep

An Open Letter to Robert Mirabal of Taos Pueblo

Using Google search, I was a little surprised to learn that an American Indian Musician, Robert Mirabal, has now an extensive web site and blog presence. From his blog you learn about his travels all over the world. the tribulations of rainy airports and anecdotes about the cool mountain weather around Taos Pueblo, of New Mexico.

Mirabal is an American Indian musician. he is arguably one of the handful of American Indian names known to the general public. For most American Indians it is an on-going reflection, meditation and source of silent contemplation about what sticks in the American public's mind about American Indians.

Throughout the history of this blog, and my position as one who writes frequently about American Indian issues and people, I have looked with some suspicion about who these people might be and exactly why are they the ones who receive so much attention from the poorly-informed world audience.

Russell Means, Dennis Banks, Leonard Peltier, Carlos Nakai, Robert Mirabal, are a few names that come to mind as being names many people around the world have heard.

At Mirabal's blog I was surprised at how friendly and personal it is. It is somewhat seductive. He weaves a nice illusion around his life. I have known people of the tiny American Indian Tribe of northern Tiwa Taos Pueblo Reservation and World Heritage Foundation Celebrated World Treasure for more than thirty years. I lived in Taos about 4 years or so, from January First Two Thousand to November 2004. I watched it slide from a place of great mystery and polished characters to an ambling crowd of silent, confused, shy and passive people more or less herded by a much smaller group that has been dominant for the last 15 years or so. Taos sits like a tourism jewel and is visited by thens of thousands of people every year. Yet it remains invisible and its crises deepens and almost no one is paying attention.

Those American Indians who are focused upon by the main stream media are perceived from a carefully woven projection that does not see, and does not want to see, the long shadows of the problems leaking in every direction. I can understand that Mirabal is a striking young musician, some consider him quite talented and his music has a large following outside of American Indian culture...out in the world you could say. I noticed when Mirabal had a chance to say something to the world, i could not relate to it very well. I took the opportunity to leave a comment, which is posted below:

"I am a 64 year old Ojibwe American Indian man. I have friendships going back forty years to Taos Pueblo. I notice you never get any comments here by American Indians. We American Indians all call you “Mirabal The Pretender”. We have even spoken a few times, but have never been introduced by name.

My tribal people are people of the sacred pipe and we have all commented on the crime of you and your brother selling what you call “peace pipes” to the tourists in Taos. As you know very well, the sacred pipe is not in any way a part of your Kiva religion. The tribal elders of the sacred pipe have always been offended that you and your brother do this, but you could care less.

I was also around when RISE was organizing to try and get some basic human rights enacted at the Taos Pueblo. Most of your fans do not know that at Taos Pueblo the residents there have no basic human rights, no right to vote for their leadership. Most live in poverty and isolation and so have no blogs and web sites to post chatty comments to. The fans probably do not know about the corrupt leadership at Taos Pueblo where your family sits in wealth and privilege as part of the leadership that does nothing to help anyone there have a better life. You do not talk about the Spanish imposed system of changing the government every year and that only your friends ever get appointed to serve. I am sure you forget to talk about the fact that no one is allowed to vote at Taos Pueblo, as they endure the appointments every year of the same circle of uneducated, selfish and corrupt friends of yours to sit in the government offices refusing to answer the phones, open the mail or meet with any of the rights groups that ask for appointments. There are third world dictatorships that have more rights for their people than does the Taos Pueblo. And you and your family are always at the center when favors are passed out, money is given away or important visitors arrive hoping to see what is really going on there.

I notice you talk so much about your travels all over the world but never mention that so many of the young people at Taos Pueblo kill themselves with alcohol and drugs since the tribe does not have even one program for education or jobs to help them. I noticed also that you never talk about the several millions of US dollars that come from the little Casino and the tourist fees at the gate to your village. Perhaps this is because none of that money is ever seen by the people in the village who go hungry, have no heat in the winter, or jobs by which to take care of their families. Since it is all invisible money, I could understand why you don’t talk about it.

Yes, we call you Mirabal The Pretender because you want the uninformed citizens of the world to think you are an American Indian hero and musician, even though your music has nothing to do with the traditions of any American Indian tribe.

So, it is very nice that you have this fine blog here and agree to talk to everyone on earth except your own people. May the Great Mystery continue to guide you and bless you on your sacred journey as a representative of all American Indian people. Even though your tribe is pretty much the only one that does not allow its people to vote for its leadership and do not allow freedom of speech, gatherings or petitions to be presented to the invisible government, we all know you are in fact a Real Indian."


I posted it on his blog and signed it by may own name. I am the one who has said these things. It does not feel right to me that the Mirabal family sells pretend peace pipes. This is a sad and somewhat heart-breaking crime....a kind of proof that the story you are hearing is not the story that is being lived there. It is sort of like an African American selling black face dolls on the street corner....or as grandfather looks out the window one morning and sees only cardboard Indians that are printed with digital montages of the same romance story a rapist must feel when he violates his victims. And something is lost. Something that should not be lost. So I am the one who has said that is so. Knowing what I know, I could do no less. The Taos Pueblo people have no rights to ask the questions I have asked. That is not right. It is dangerous. Much is being lost every year.

There are some sweet and strong voices, quite a few really...voices never heard by the media which brodcasts out the video, music and stories of the world. Voices that are contained within what the Ahnishinabeg call the eight-sided character. People who have an eight-sided character are apparent.

At the end I realized that at this moment in my life, there are several colossal assholes on my mind that I feel I need to say or do something about. Realizing this took me aback I should say. Quite a bit. I had to question why this was so, and why now? because so much of my work is about the sacred ceremonies, the fires and the songs, and the dreaming I try never to be pre-occupied with the social politics of the Indians or the Waiting World (by which I mean the rest of all of you). It is never a pretty picture. Who likes being the cop on duty calling out the gangsters who make victims out of all of us? I was left with a real feeling, a strong emotion in my spirit that I felt I needed to take some time aside from the ceremony and say these things. I have a feeling that it is time to consult the ways and means of the coyote school of accountability. I do it every day when I awaken and stand on the morning earth and sing to the earth and sky.

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