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Archive for July, 2009

Here is the entire film that you watched part of in class this week. It is narrated by Suheir Hammad and it is called The Fourth World War. There are links on the right-hand column for you to learn more about the Zapatista movement.

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Here is a recent letter from political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who we talked about in class this week. If you click on the link below you can learn more about what people are doing to help as he has a possibility for parole or release on July 28th. See the films link above to watch a film about his case:

Greetings my friends and relatives,

I want to start off this statement or speech or whatever you want to call it by saying again as I’ve said before thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and for standing up for right wherever you are. I can’t express to you in words how extremely grateful I am not just to the people of America but to the people all over the world who have supported the cause of Indian people and myself.

I know a lot of you have given up a lot to help so many in my predicament. Daily I am made aware of political prisoners around the world. Many who have been killed or tortured or who knows what for trying to right the wrongs in their area, country or nation. I have been asked to make statements in support of other movement people around the world from time to time, South America, Europe and other places. People who love freedom, people who love the earth, people who love their family, people who love the freedom to make their own choice with their own resources, and all indigenous people- we share a common bond. The bond of brother and sister hood, the bond of believing there is a greater power than ourselves. And I don’t mean some government power; I mean the greatest power in all the universe the Creator Himself.

We also as human beings upon this earth have to recognize that there have always been those who suffer from an illness called greed. They have an appetite for gaining material wealth that is never satisfied. They have an appetite for land that is never satisfied. And the most common symptom of their illness is indifference to the suffering they cause with their quest. These people are the ones that have identified themselves as our common enemy. It is so terrible that under the guise of religion and shouting freedom they pit one people against another. This isn’t something new. All down through history it has taken place. All down through history there have been men, spiritual men, holy men, great thinkers and philosophers who have tried to unite us against this common enemy.

Today my brothers and sisters I want you to know that if nothing else if we don’t unite against the destruction against the Mother Earth we will have a common future that is void of clean air, clean water, and basic freedoms. We must reach our hands out to embrace others to the cause of life. We must do our best from where ever we are with whatever tools available to enhance and further our quality of life. We must find a way to break down the barriers that divide one people from another. We must find the things we have in common and find ways to solve our differences as basic humanity. We must evolve to a higher level of thinking or to as you might say a traditional level of thinking which obviously is superior to what they call progress today. Our traditional values taught us to live in harmony with Earth the greatest manifestation of the Creator that we have to relate to. Our traditions taught us to respect our bodies the greatest gift we have or possess as an individual. Our traditions taught us to preserve the environment for our children and all our future generations. As a member of the American Indian Movement these values are what we were about. Poverty isn’t solved by money poverty is solved by attitude. The problems we have today among all our people are caused by attitude. They are caused by an attitude that was given to us in boarding schools and on reservations that were nothing more than concentration camps in the past. They are attitudes by people who came to us talking to us about God and wanting us to embrace their version of religion and as one brother said once, “They told us to bow our heads, and when we looked up our land was gone, our culture was gone, our children was gone, our way of life was gone.” And now the air itself is dwindling.

I have been in this cage for some 34 years and though I have been caged I have sought the spirit in prayer of our brother the eagle, I have sought to have an overview of things for as anyone can see I don’t have the freedom to examine life from a close perspective. And from this distant view, abstract view, this detached view, at times I get to see the destruction and divisiveness that these political powers that have scattered us for so long have involved themselves in promoting among our people. I don’t know if it is because I am older now or because my future is so uncertain or if through some spiritual inspiration I deeply want to say so much. I deeply want to move you to do something to save our earth and our children and our children’s future. I didn’t get to raise my children; I haven’t got to really know them or my children’s children. I may never get to, but I
love them all just the same. And I love life as much as anyone on the outside. And I don’t know how long I will walk this cage. Some days I feel quite healthy and energized and some days I feel like the 64 year old man that I am. I’m always hopeful that I will be free at some point, perhaps in the latter part of July after my parole hearing, and perhaps I won’t. The people that hold me, the FBI and the conglomerate corporations that have for so long controlled the resources of this country and others and for so long have done their best to stifle, to denigrate, and to vilify the voice of the oppressed are some of the most formidable well funded political people on Earth. I was told that the FBI themselves are some 10,000 strong.

I am but a common man, I am not a speaker but I have spoken. I am not all that tall but I have stood up. I am not a philosopher or poet or a singer or any of those things that particularly inspire people but the one thing that I am is the evidence that this country lied when they said there was justice for all. I am the evidence that they lied when they extradited me from Canada. I am the evidence that they can lie at your trial, they can manufacture evidence at your trial, they can intimidate witnesses at your trial, they can have back room conversations and agreements with the judge at your trial. I am the evidence that the attitude, the powers that be still hold us in a grip. They hold us in an emotional grip. They hold us in a poverty grip. They hold us in a cultural deprivation grip. I could go on and on about the things that go on that weigh so heavily against our people but
the bottom line is my case is well documented by court after court after court, by hearing after hearing after hearing, by statement after statement after statement. And we as a people are the evidence that this country fails to keep its treaties, this country fails to keep its word. This country has failed to follow its own Constitution – the treaty between the people and the government. We are that evidence. I am nothing more than evidence. That is why people all over the world and here at home have supported the cause of justice in my case. In my particular situation I can’t say that there will ever be any level of justice.

They cannot give back the 34 years of life that have been taken from me. They can not give back the life of Joe Stuntz that they took June 26th 1975. They cannot give back the lives of the 60 something people that they directly or indirectly caused the death of. They cannot give back the thousand upon thousands of Indian people that were killed and abused since the inception of this government. But the one thing we can do, we must do, is find a way to change their attitude. My brother Leonard Crow Dog once said, “If you want to change the white man you have to change his religion.” And religion is a word that means how you do something on a regular basis; most generally it is associated with your spirituality. Perhaps with global warming as it is and the changes in the weather patterns and the questionable future that faces the earth, they will start to listen. Maybe they will reach back and embrace the words of our people foretold again and again. We must live the way that the Earth will renew itself every spring. We must help them reach back. We must speak to them at every opportunity. We must make an effort to reach back ourselves to our own cultural values. And in doing so we can start to solve the many destructive challenges we face. We must more than ever before find a way to heal the wounds of our children and prevent the social illnesses that are so prevalent across our reservations and communities. We have the tools, we have the teachings, we have the philosophies, we have the culture, we have the artists, we have the singers, we have the philosophers, I could go on and on but in essence what I am trying to say is it is imperative that we bring together all our resources to enhance the future for our children in a way that they themselves can further the healthy teachings of our culture and way of life; and in doing so I have no doubt that we can change the world.

If I am freed next month or if I die in prison remember my words and remember we are evidence that the Creator made a beautiful people a people that respected the Earth and nature and each other. We are evidence on every level of goodness that when the Creator made us He meant for us to be free. All our traditions have taught us this way. And even this very form of government that exists today was copied from our people. Our people with our foods, our medicines, belief in freedom and right to choose have influenced the world. Its too bad they didn’t adopt a healthy attitude that we had toward the Earth or an attitude of respect for us the first keepers of this portion of the Earth. If there is something about me that this government can point at and say is wrong or any person say is wrong I will by my own choice, if it proves to be fact, seek to fix it myself. But I also want to remind them the policies that have been in place for so long have made us what we are today. The policies that have been in place for so long, have created another reservation called Iraq and another reservation called Afghanistan, and the list goes on and on, you see what’s happening over there is what happened here and all down through North and South America.

I am just a common man and I am evidence that the powers that put me here would like to sweep under the carpet. The same way they did all of our past leaders, warriors and people they massacred. Just as at Wounded Knee the Fifth Cavalry sought its revenge for Custer’s loss and massacred some 300 Indian men women and children then gave out 23 Medals of Honor and swept the evidence of their wrongdoing aside. Perhaps this statement is somewhat more lengthy than the others I’ve made; perhaps it is some things I should have said before and perhaps more, if so I hope you will forgive me. I recently was thought to be having a heart attack because of pain in my chest. After having been beaten and kicked and stomped in the last year, I am not quite sure what was causing the pain. I had never been beaten, kicked and stomped like that before. And also I have never been 64 years old before. The one thing all this did for me is it really brought home my sense of mortality. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this prison. And I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life in some prison of the mind, heart or attitude. I want you to enjoy your life.

If nothing else give somebody a hug for me and say, “This is from Leonard.”

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

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In class tonight we are going to look at how American Indians use rap music and think about the themes they discuss as well as rap as a tool of resistance. We are going to listen to a rapper known as Quese IMC. Here is a brief biography of Quese IMC:

Born in Oklahoma City, Marcus Frejo, otherwise known as “Quese IMC” is Seminole, Pawnee, and Mexican-American. He is a Hip-Hop artist now living in Los Angeles, California. His musical influence was the “old school” rappers: RUN DMC and Public Enemy. Quese was performing his own lyrics by the time he was fourteen and he has shared his energy at MC Battles in the Midwest and Oklahoma. His music is a blend of traditional stories with a Hip-Hop beat. His latest CD is entitled: QUESE IMC, the Betty Lena Project.

One of the songs we will listen to is called “I Am My Ancestors” and here are the lyrics:

Like Christianity came in and the government more or less made a deal with them to Christianize the Indian people. The government decided when they started building the schools, more or less like a prison, because there were fences around the schools and guards so that the parents wouldn’t be able to see the children or the children were kept there as hostages.

When I sit pen and pad on cedar and sage
Dropping the world a mic to turn its page
Of life being a native, but a stranger in your own land
It’s something that I just don’t understand
We were forced from our homes when our population diminished
They wanted to exterminate the Indian and make the Indian finished
We used to roam the plains freely, the mountains and the canyon
The desert, swamps, coastline to the eastern man’s landing
The Bible in one hand, a rifle in the other
Saying, “thou shall believe like we do, or die like your brother”
Forced religion, forced ways, forced out of land
But not forced without a fight every woman and man
But then women, elders, and children were massacred
Protecting each other when the soldiers ambushed
While the warriors were away talking peace with the government
But that’s how they were, they always had the broken covenant
These are the tales of fears that you don’t learn in school
I felt for years these Trails of Tears
Run parallel to my dirt road
But it hurts though
Knowing the struggle of my people carried over to this 2,000 year sequel
But it’s okay, we survived
Our clans, nations, and tribes
And together we need to stand as one
‘Cause we last through oppression
And last stands we fought too long to die by our own hands
We once moved like the wind and walked a spiritual path
And as minorities of minorities we still know how to laugh
Inside boarding schools, Third World reservations
May those who don’t know start this reconciliation
Nation. Nation. Nation. Nation. Seventh Generation.

Hey, yo, in two thousand years things haven’t changed
It sucks that sometimes you’re still native and it feels kind of strange
Represent the population, the invisible people
I can honestly say in some places we’re not treated as an equal
And it pisses me off when I get on the stage in an MC battle
And I’m winning with punch lines and the guys just babble
Making fun of my origin, my being and my blood’s racing
of my culture, telling me to go back to the reservation
Calling me a drunk savage and everything that’s degrading
Dancing around like a cartoon Indian while the crowds are raying, cheering like idiots
And I’m tired of it being okay for you to make fun of my people

When I got there I had to take my clothes off, they issued clothes. It was in a military system. Everything we do is military. Then we cannot speak our language. They punish us. Sometimes we got a whipping. It was devastating. We could not wear long hair. We could not wear moccasins. They took that away from us.

From New York to LA and in the middle–Indian Country
Oklahoma to the four directions, this is my story
When I sit and meditate and think of my ancestors
The battles, the wars, the pain and pressure
So until the day the people have recognition
And acknowledgment of the native people of this land
And how it feels to be native then they’ll understand
Until then they’ll just have lack of knowledge
For every cry I’ll try a little harder
For every tear I never feared of being a martyr
For every woman on stage I’ll be the best
So ancestors, God bless, will now rest

We had to learn English. Speak English. We cannot speak but English inside the schools. Everything we do we have to ask. So we go into the office and get a pass. A whole bunch of us, we go way out into the hills, where nobody sees us or hears us. We take lunch with us, we sit in a circle, and we talk Indian. That’s how today I’m still talking Indian. I didn’t lose it. But my brother lost it all. My brother, he lost it all.

One of the allusions in this poem is to the boarding schools that American Indians were forced to go to. Zitkala-Sa, who was Lakota, wrote about this in the early twentieth-century. Here is Zitkala-Sa describing the forced removal of her braids:

But this eating by formula was not the hardest trial in that first day. Late in the morning, my friend Judewin gave me a terrible warning. Judewin knew a few words of English, and she had overheard the paleface woman talk about cutting our long, heavy hair. Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy. Among our people, short hair was worn by mourners, and shingled hair by cowards!

We discussed our fate some moments, and when Judewin said, “We have to submit, because they are strong,” I rebelled.

“No, I will not submit! I will struggle first!” I answered.

I watched my chance, and when no one noticed I disappeared. I crept up the stairs as quietly as I could in my squeaking shoes, — my moccasins had been exchanged for shoes. Along the hall I passed, without knowing whither I was going. Turning aside to an open door, I found a large room with three white beds in it. The windows were covered with dark green curtains, which made the room very dim. Thankful that no one was there, I directed my steps toward the corner farthest from the door. On my hands and knees I crawled under the bed, and cuddled myself in the dark corner.

From my hiding place I peered out, shuddering with fear whenever I heard footsteps near by. Though in the hall loud voices were calling my name, and I knew that even Judewin was searching for me, I did not open my mouth to answer. Then the steps were quickened and the voices became excited. The sounds came nearer and nearer. Women and girls entered the room. I held my breath, and watched them open closet doors and peep behind large trunks. Some one threw up the curtains, and the room was filled with sudden light. What caused them to stoop and look under the bed I do not know. I remember being dragged out, though I resisted by kicking and scratching wildly. In spite of myself, I was carried downstairs and tied fast in a chair.

I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit. Since the day I was taken from my mother I had suffered extreme indignities. People had stared at me. I had been tossed about in the air like a wooden puppet. And now my long hair was shingled like a coward’s! In my anguish I moaned for my mother, but no one came to comfort me. Not a soul reasoned quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder.

Another important allusion in the song is about the Trail of Tears which American Indian tribes–the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole–were massacred and forcibly removed from their lands. Some of this is related to broken treaties that the U.S. government signed with tribal leaders; click here to read those treaties. Here is a brief timeline related to the Trail of Tears:

1812 – General Andrew Jackson wanted to drive out the Indians, but they were too strong for his army. He settled on a policy of divide and conquer. He started the French and Indian War of 1812 with the help of the Cherokees, they thought that by helping Andy Jackson drive out the Creek Indians, they would be given special treatment and left alone by the whites. Chief Tecumseh, of the Shawnee, tried to unify the remaining Indian Nations in a last ditch stand to resist the white invasion. In 1813, Chief Tecumseh died in battle and his dreams of a unified Indian Nation died with him.

1815 – The US government forced or tricked many Cherokees into signing treaties to trade their lands for land in Arkansas and Oklahoma. About half of the Cherokees left for the New Territories and became known as the Old Settlers.

1828 – Andrew Jackson was elected president, and Gold was discovered in Georgia. The US government was split as to protect the Cherokees land claims, or to let Georgia drive them out. Gold fever swept the south. Miners and get rich quick scam artists invaded Cherokee Territory murdering, raping, and burning. Chief James Vann, a district judge for the Cherokees, captured, tried and hung the criminals. Georgia threatened war over the outrage of Cherokees hanging white men. The Cherokees sent lawyers and statesmen to court to argue their case. The federal government had given them treaties for the land and they should be protected from the citizens and army of Georgia. Georgia governor, George Gilmore stated, “Treaties were a means by which ignorant, intractable, and savage people were induced to yield what Civilized Peoples had a right to possess.”

1830 – The US Supreme Court decided in favor of protecting the Cherokees land rights. President Andrew Jackson defied the Supreme Court and sent the army to Georgia to drive out the Cherokees. Jackson proclaimed, “Justice John Marshall has rendered his decision, now let him enforce it.” President Jackson signed the ‘Indian Removal Act’, which required the forced removal of all Indians east of the Mississippi River to the new ‘vacant’ land obtained in the “Louisiana Purchase, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes for as long as they shall occupy it”. Between 1830 and 1839, hundreds of Cherokee families fled the district, to Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina. Even while these cases were being argued in court, the state of Georgia organized a land lottery to divide up the Cherokee Nation into farms and gold claims.

1831 – The Choctaws were driven from their homes in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The federal government had agreed to pay to feed and clothe the Indians on their journey, but the money never came.

1836 – The Creeks were driven out at the point of a gun, put in chains and forced-marched by the US Army. Some 3,500 men women and children died of hunger and exposure along the way.

1837 – The Chickasaw loaded their belongings on wagons and headed west. The Seminoles chose to fight. After a long bloody war, the survivors were herded like cattle into any boat that would float and taken across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi.

1838 – Seven thousand federal troops, under the command of General Winfield Scott, were dispatched to the Cherokee Nation. Without warning, the troops broke down doors and drug people away to stockades. Those that moved too slowly were prodded with bayonets. In October, the Cherokees were herded into wooden stockades with no food, water, blankets, or sanitation. Most of them were barefoot and had no coats or blankets, yet they were forced to cross rivers in sub-zero weather.

They were forced-marched, with army guards, as far north as Indiana, on their way to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women, and children froze to death, died of starvation and disease. The soldiers forced the Cherokees to abandon their dead at the side of the road. What few pitiful possessions they owned, had to be dropped at the side of the road in order to carry the sick and dying. Soldiers and settlers plundered the ancient Cherokee burial grounds for buried treasure. Family possessions left behind were plundered and burned. Of the 22,000 Cherokees who started this death-march, some 5,500 died on the way. One thousand six hundred Freedmen walked the Trail of Tears along with the rest of Cherokee.

At the plantation of Spring Place, the Georgia Guard threw a burning log onto the stairs to smoke out the people that lived there. The man who had won the house in the Georgia state lottery was there, urging the soldiers on to get ‘those people’ out of ‘his’ house. The Georgia Guard drove the missionaries out of their homes and school nearby, and turned it into a brothel for the army.

Here are some videos of Quese IMC’s music you can watch:

“Mouse”:

“Them Country Roads”:

“The Indian Wars Never Ended”:

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