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.

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