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Archive for the ‘Oglala Sioux’ Category

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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The article below by Dahr Jamail may be a bit challenging for you to read, but it is an important article that shares some history of American Indians and the way Americans have treated indigenous people in what became the U.S. and in Iraq.

The Fort Laramie Treaty once guaranteed the Sioux Nation the right to a large area of their original land, which spanned several states and included their sacred Black Hills, where they were to have “the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of the land.

However, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, President Ulysses S. Grant told the army to look the other way in order to allow gold miners to enter the territory. After repeated violations of the exclusive rights to the land by gold prospectors and by migrant workers crossing the reservation borders, the US government seized the Black Hills land in 1877.

Charmaine White Face, an Oglala Tetuwan who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is the spokesperson for the Teton Sioux Nation Treaty Council (TSNTC), established in 1893 to uphold the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. She is also coordinator of the voluntary group, Defenders of the Black Hills, that works to preserve and protect the environment where they live.

“We call gold the metal which makes men crazy,” White Face told Truthout while in New York to attend the annual Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations in late May. “Knowing they could not conquer us like they wanted to … because when you are fighting for your life, or the life of your family, you will do anything you can … or fighting for someplace sacred like the Black Hills you will do whatever you can … so they had to put us in prisoner of war camps. I come from POW camp 344, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We want our treaties upheld, we want our land back.”

Most of the Sioux’s land has been taken, and what remains has been laid waste by radioactive pollution.

“Nothing grows in these areas – nothing can grow. They are too radioactive,” White Face said.

Although the Black Hills and adjoining areas are sacred to the indigenous peoples and nations of the region, their attempts at reclamation are not based on religious claims but on the provisions of the Constitution. The occupation of indigenous land by the US government is in direct violation of its own law, according to White Face.

She references Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The spokesperson for the TSNTC declares, “We need our treaty upheld. We want it back. Without it we are disappearing. They might have made us into brown Americans who speak the English language and eat a different kind of food, and are not able to live with the buffalo like we are supposed to, but that is like a lion in a cage. You can feed it and it will reproduce, but it is only a real lion when it gets its freedom and can be who it’s supposed to be. That’s how we are. We are like that lion in a cage. We are not free right now. We need to be able to govern ourselves the way we did before.”

Delegations from the TSNTC began their efforts in the United Nations in 1984 after exhausting all strategies for solution within the United States.

Homeland Contamination

There is uranium all around the Black Hills, South and North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Mining companies came in and dug large holes through these lands to extract uranium in the 1950’s and 1960’s prior to any prohibitive regulations. Abandoned uranium mines in southwestern South Dakota number 142. In the Cave Hills area, another sacred place in South Dakota used for vision quests and burial sites, there are 89 abandoned uranium mines.

In an essay called “Native North America: The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonialism,” political activists Ward Churchill and Winona LaDuke state that former US President Richard Nixon declared the 1868 Treaty Territory a “National Sacrifice Area,” implying that the territory, and its people, were being sacrificed to uranium and nuclear radiation.

The worst part, according to White Face, is that, “None of these abandoned mines have been marked. They never filled them up, they never capped them. There are no warning signs … nothing. The Forest Service even advertises the Picnic Springs Campground as a tourist place. It’s about a mile away from the Cave Hills uranium mines.”

The region is honeycombed with exploratory wells that have been dug as far down as six to eight hundred feet. In the southwestern Black Hills area, there are more than 4,000 uranium exploratory wells. On the Wyoming side of the Black Hills, there are 3,000 wells. Further north into North Dakota, there are more than a thousand wells.

The Black Hills and its surroundings are the recharge area for several major aquifers in the South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming regions. The crisis can be gauged from the simple description that White Face gives: “When the winds come, they pick up the [uranium] dust and carry it; when it rains or snows, it washes it down into the aquifers and groundwater. Much of this radioactive contamination then finds its way into the Missouri River.”

She informs us that twelve residents out of about 600 of the sparsely populated county of Cave Hills have developed brain tumors. A nuclear physicist has declared one mine in the area to be as radioactively “hot” as ground zero of Hiroshima.

Red Shirt, a village along the Cheyenne River on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has had its water tested high for radiation and local animals have died after consuming fish from the river.

After three daughters of a family and their mother died of cancer, a family requested White Face to have the municipal water tested. The radiation levels were found to be equal to those inside an x-ray machine. Little wonder then that the surviving sons and their father are afflicted with the disease. People procuring their grain and cattle from the region are advised to be extra cautious.

One cannot but feel the desperation of her people when White Face bemoans, “It’s pure genocide for us. We are all dying from cancer. We are trying not to become extinct, not to let the Great Sioux Nation become extinct.”

The Ogala Sioux are engaged in ongoing legal battles with the pro-uranium state of South Dakota. They are aware of the unequal nature of their battle, but they cannot afford to give up. White Face explains how “… Our last court case was lost before learning that the judge was a former lawyer for one of the mining companies. Also, the governor’s sister and brother-in-law work for mining companies [Powertech] and a professor, hired by the Forest Service to test water run-off for contamination, is on contract with a company that works for the mining company. When I found out the judge was a lawyer for the mining company I knew we would lose, but we went ahead with the case for the publicity, because we have to keep waking people up.”

Other tribes, such as the Navajo and Hopi in New Mexico, have been exposed to radioactive material as well. Furthermore, the July 16, 1979, spill of 100 million gallons of radioactive water containing uranium tailings from a tailing pond into the north arm of the Rio Puerco, near the small town of Church Rock, New Mexico, also affected indigenous peoples in Arizona.

Her rage and grief are evident as White Face laments, “When we have our prayer gatherings we ask that no young people come to attend. If you want to have children don’t come to Cave Hills because it’s too radioactive.”

The exploitative approach to the planet’s resources and peoples that led to these environmental and health disasters collides with White Face’s values: “I always say that you have to learn to live with the earth, and not in domination of the earth.”

Nuking the Colonies

The US government practices another approach. In occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, the uranium that has caused genocide of sorts at home has proceeded to wreak new havoc.

Two Iraqi NGO’s, the Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) and the Conservation Center of Environment and Reserves in Fallujah (CCERF) have extensively documented the effects of restricted weapons, such as depleted uranium (DU) munitions, against the people of Fallujah during two massive US military assaults on the city in 2004.

In March 2008, the NGO’s were to present a report titled “Prohibited Weapons Crisis: The effects of pollution on the public health in Fallujah” to the 7th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Muhammad al-Darraji, director, MHRI and president, CCERF, was to present the report with an appeal, “We are kindly asking the High Commissioner for Human Rights to look at the content of the report in accordance with the General Assembly’s resolution 48/ 141 (paragraph 4) of 20 December 1993, to investigate the serious threat (to the) health right in Fallujah and Iraq, and to relay the results of this investigation to the Commission on Human Rights to take the suitable decisions.”

Attached to the aforementioned is another report co-authored by Dr. Najim Askouri, a nuclear physicist trained in Britain and a leading Iraqi nuclear researcher and Dr. Assad al-Janabi, director of the Pathology Department at the 400-bed public hospital in Najaf. Their report includes a section on the “Depleted Uranium Crisis” from Najaf, 180 miles from where DU was used in the First Gulf War.

Dr. Najim begins the report by noting that Coalition Forces, mostly US, used 350 tons of DU weapons in about 45 days in 1991, primarily in the stretch of Iraq northwest of Kuwait where Iraqi troops were on their retreat. Then, in 2003, during the Shock and Awe bombing of Baghdad, the US used another 150 tons of DU. He says that cancer is spreading from the conflict area as a health epidemic and will only get worse. The cancer rate has more than tripled over the last 16 years in Najaf.

According to Dr. Najim, “When DU hits a target, it aerosolizes and oxidizes, forming a uranium oxide that is two parts UO3 and one part UO2. The first is water soluble and filters down into the water aquifers and also becomes part of the food chain as plants take up the UO3 dissolved in water. The UO2 is insoluble and settles as dust on the surface of the earth and is blown by the winds to other locations. As aerosolized dust, it can enter the lungs and begin to cause problems as it can cross cell walls and even impact the genetic system.”

One of Dr. Najim’s grandsons was born with congenital heart problems, Down Syndrome, an underdeveloped liver and leukemia. He believes that the problems are related to the child’s parents having been exposed to DU.

Detailing a skyrocketing rate of cancer and other pollution-related illnesses among the population of Fallujah since the two sieges, the report states, “Starting in 2004 when the political situation and devastation of the health care infrastructure were at their worst, there were 251 reported cases of cancer. By 2006, when the numbers more accurately reflected the real situation, that figure had risen to 688. Already in 2007, 801 cancer cases have been reported. Those figures portray an incidence rate of 28.21 [per 100,000] by 2006, even after screening out cases that came into the Najaf Hospital from outside the governorate, a number which contrasts with the normal rate of 8-12 cases of cancer per 100,000 people.

“Two observations are striking. One, there has been a dramatic increase in the cancers that are related to radiation exposure, especially the very rare soft tissue sarcoma and leukemia. Two, the age at which cancer begins in an individual has been dropping rapidly, with incidents of breast cancer at 16 (years of age), colon cancer at 8 (years of age), and liposarcoma at 1.5 years (of age).” Dr. Assad noted that 6 percent of the cancers reported occurred in the 11-20 age range and another 18 percent in ages 21-30.

“The importance of this information confirms there is a big disaster in this city…. The main civilian victims of most illnesses were the children, and the rate of them represents 72 percent of total illness cases of 2006, most of them between the ages of 1 month and 12 years…. Many new types and terrible amounts of illnesses started to appear [from] 2006 until now, such as Congenital Spinal cord abnormalities, Congenital Renal abnormalities, Septicemia, Meningitis, Thalassemia, as well as a significant number of undiagnosed cases at different ages. The speed of the appearance these signals of pollution after one year of military operations refers to the use of a great amount of prohibited weapons used in 2004 battles. The continued pollution maybe will lead to a genetic drift, starting to appear with many abnormalities in children, because the problems were related to exposure of the child’s parents to pollution sources and this may lead to more new abnormalities in the f uture. According to the security situation with many checkpoints and irregular cards to allow the civilians to enter or exit the city until now, all this helps to continue the terrible situation for this time. Therefore, we think that all these data is only 50 percent of the real numbers of illnesses.”

The Sioux tell their youth to avoid their radioactive native lands if they wish to procreate and prosper. Those in Iraq have no option but to lead maimed lives in their native land.

On February 4, 2009, Muhammad al-Darraji sent President Barack Obama a letter, along with the aforementioned report. A few excerpts are presented here:

“We have the honor to submit with this letter our report on the effects on public health of prohibited weapons used by the United States during its military operations in Fallujah (March-November 2004). It was our intention to present the report to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on 4 March 2008, but both security and political reasons played a significant role in making this task impossible. The report, now in your hands, contains vast evidence and documentation on the catastrophic and continuous pollution in Iraq (to prevent) which nobody has taken any real action to help the victims or clean up polluted places. Some months ago, and in June 2008, I sent this report directly to some US congressmen. Two of them went to my town, Fallujah, and visited the general hospital to investigate the claims contained in our report. No substantial result came out of this visit. In February 2009 one of my colleagues, who worked in the hospital’s statistical office and helped gather information about the pollution, was killed by unknown individuals. The blood of my friend is the driving force that led me to write to you directly in order for you to release the facts for which my friend paid with his life. Therefore, we are kindly asking you to look at the content of the attached report and to investigate the serious threats to the right to life of the inhabitants of Fallujah and other polluted places in Iraq, as well as to publicly release the results of this investigation under right of information about what really happened in Iraq.”

The president has yet to respond.

———

Jason Coppola and Bhaswati Sengupta contributed to this article.

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