Tag Archives: Native People

400 years later, Natives who helped Pilgrims finally being heard

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP) – The seaside town where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620 is gearing up for a 400th birthday bash, and everyone’s invited — especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, whose European settlers have come to symbolize American liberty and grit, marks its quadricentennial in 2020 with a trans-Atlantic commemoration that will put Native Americans’ unvarnished side of the story on full display.

“It’s history. It happened,” said Michele Pecoraro, executive director of Plymouth 400, Inc., a nonprofit group organizing yearlong events. “We’re not going to solve every problem and make everyone feel better. We just need to move the needle.”

Organizers are understandably cautious this time around. When the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing was observed in 1970, state officials disinvited a leader of the Wampanoag Nation — the Native American tribe that helped the haggard newcomers survive their first bitter winter — after learning his speech would bemoan the disease, racism and oppression that followed the Pilgrims.

That triggered angry demonstrations from tribal members who staged a National Day of Mourning, a somber remembrance that indigenous New Englanders have observed on every Thanksgiving Day since.

This time, there’s pressure to get it right, said Jim Peters, a Wampanoag who directs the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs.

“We’ll be able to tell some stories of what happened to us — to delve back into our history and talk about it,” Peters said. “Hopefully it will give us a chance to re-educate people and have a national discussion about how we should be treating each other.”

The commemoration known as Plymouth 400 will feature events throughout 2020, including a maritime salute in Plymouth Harbor in June, an embarkation festival in September, and a week of ceremonies around Thanksgiving.

The Mayflower II , a replica of the ship that carried the settlers from Europe to the New World four centuries ago, will sail to Boston in the spring. That autumn, it will head to Provincetown, at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, where the Pilgrims initially landed before continuing on to Plymouth.

Events also are planned in Britain and in the Netherlands, where the Pilgrims spent 11 years in exile before making their perilous sea crossing.

But the emphasis is on highlighting the often-ignored history of the Wampanoag and poking holes in the false narrative that Pilgrims and Indians coexisted in peace and harmony.

An interactive exhibit now making the rounds describes how the Wampanoag were cheated and enslaved, and in August 2020 tribal members will guide visitors on a walk through Plymouth to point out and consecrate spots where their ancestors once trod.

There are also plans to invite relatives of the late Wampanoag elder Wamsutta “Frank” James to publicly read that speech he wasn’t allowed to deliver in 1970 — an address that includes this passage: “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end.”

Dusty Rhodes, who chairs a separate state commission working to ensure the commemoration has a global profile, said she hopes it all helps make amends for centuries of “mishandled and misrepresented” history.

“The Pilgrims were the first immigrants,” said Plymouth 400’s Pecoraro. “We’re in a place in this country where we need solidarity. We need to come together. We need to be talking about immigration and indigenous people.”

Plymouth, nicknamed “America’s Hometown,” is sure to draw a crush of 2020 presidential candidates who will use its monuments as campaign backdrops. With President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of state on the invitation list, state and federal authorities already are busy mapping out security plans.

Wampanoag tribal leader and activist Linda Coombs, who’s helped plan the commemoration, is skeptical that anything meaningful will change for her people.

“It’s a world stage, so we’ll have more visibility than we’ve had in the past,” she said. “We’ll see if it’s enough. It’ll be a measuring stick for all that has to come afterward.”

The Associated Press


Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy As US Holiday

Historic painting of Christopher Columbus. He and his sailors stand in triumph at least on San Salvador, the Bahamas, on Oct. 12, 1492.

Historic painting of Christopher Columbus. He and his sailors stand in triumph at least on San Salvador, the Bahamas, on Oct. 12, 1492.

In the United States, October 12 is significant as the date explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. The achievement, which is commemorated on the second Monday of October, is a source of pride, particularly within the Italian-American community because Columbus was Italian. But for some the holiday is marked by controversy.

John Viola, president of the National Italian-American Foundation, said the significance of the holiday is varied.

“It’s an opportunity and holiday that we are able to celebrate what we’ve contributed to this country, to celebrate our history of our ancestors,” he said. “I think for the rest of the country, Columbus Day is a vehicle to celebrate this nation of immigrants.”

To some, Columbus was a great explorer. But others are offended by his legacy.

Joe Genetin-Pilawa, history professor at George Mason University, said the explorer enslaved many of the natives he encountered. Hundreds of thousands more died of diseases introduced by the European visitors.

“Within 10 years in the initial of landfall in 1492, so by 1502, we estimated that the Taino, the native people who lived in the Bahamas, the population dropped from approximately a million to 500,” he said.

Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians, said the history of Columbus is distorted.

“It’s always been questionable in terms of native people’s tribe communities and how we look to what was written by non-native people for a non-native audience,” he said.

David Silverman, history professor at George Washington University, said the whole story should be told.

“I don’t think you need to focus on one aspect of his past and to neglect the other. You bring them both together and so that he becomes a three dimensional figure,” he said.

Indigenous People’s Day

Some in the United States choose to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day.

Genetin-Pilawa said the name of the holiday should be formally changed.

“I definitely think that we should question maintaining a federal holiday for Christopher Columbus. As to what day that could become, I support the creation of Indigenous People’s Day,” he said.

But Viola disagreed, saying Native Americans should find another day to celebrate their cultures.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the indigenous community to find a day that they can rally around issues they can grab onto and an opportunity to say, ‘ok, hold on. Let’s talk about what this means to us,'” he said.

Source: http://www.voanews.com/content/columbus-day

Aboriginal People Must Be Involved In Canadian Politics

The Mohawk and Five Nations flags fly outside the former site of a Canadian border post in the middle of Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, photographed Wednesday, July 28, 2010. AARON LYNETT / (AARON LYNETT / NATIONAL POST)

The Mohawk and Five Nations flags fly outside the former site of a Canadian border post in the middle of Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, photographed Wednesday, July 28, 2010. AARON LYNETT / (AARON LYNETT / NATIONAL POST)

By Doug George-Kanentiio | Ottawa Citizen‎, Oct 9, 2015

Many Native people believe the federal elections mean little or nothing to them, that no matter the promises and gilded speeches, meaningful changes are impossible.

Others, such as my fellow Mohawks and other members of their respective Iroquois communities, argue that to take an active part in the Canadian political process is to compromise our standing as independent peoples and that formal treaty status is incompatible with citizenship; a nation cannot make treaties with its own people.

In this regard they are right. The American experience has been the whittling away of Aboriginal sovereignty. From the enforcing of U.S. federal and state criminal laws on Indian territories to the National Indian Gaming Act, there has been a decided, some would say fatal, move away from sovereignty to a status resembling that of local municipalities.

Among our own Iroquois people, the same contrasts exist between what we advocate and the reality of our social, legal and political lives. We do have a strong, vibrant culture but we also live in a time of historical challenges and nowhere is that more apparent than on my home community of Akwesasne, the capital (as we say the central fire) of the Mohawk Nation.

Our lands have been arbitrarily divided between Canada and the U.S. with attendant state and provincial sections. This along with a dozen alien police agencies, competing legal systems and three Native governing agencies, two of which were imposed upon Akwesasne at force of arms by officials in Ottawa and Albany while the third, the Mohawk Nation Council, has no financial resources to respond to the needs of its citizens.

We are therefore deeply affected by what the Canadian electorate decides and must have our voices heard in whatever forum presents itself if we are to remove the international border and rid ourselves of the colonial band-tribal council systems.

This does not mean we must cast ballots but we must be actively engaged if we are to lessen the burdens which have crippled us with every negative measure of social behaviour and physical health.

In the past our Iroquois leaders were masters of the political processes of not only our nations but those of the Europeans. We made it our business to understand how the immigrants thought and by which manner were they governed. We took a very active role in the affairs of the colonies. We also pressed for the colonial leaders to study our governance and thereby secure greater freedom for their own.

At the famous Lancaster, Pennsylvania treaty conference in 1744 the Onondaga leader Canassatego admonished the English colonies for their lack of unity and offered the Iroquois Confederacy as an example of freedom and stability. In 1754, at the Albany Unity Conference, the Mohawk leader Tiyanoga (Hendricks) also offered the Confederacy as a model for the colonies. Both speeches influenced Ben Franklin, who cited the Iroquois as a tangible example for colonial unification.

It was our active participation in the politics of that era which resulted in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, that edict which set in motion all formal treaty procedures between Native nations, Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

It is also true that in the spring of 1776 an Iroquois delegation was present in Philadelphia to advise the rebels as to Aboriginal relations and once again to offer the Confederacy as an entity whose powers are defined by a constitution with the rights of its citizens to specific freedoms and complete emancipation set into law.

In more recent times we have also sought to actively change Canadian policies and to secure our aboriginal rights. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was largely passed because the Iroquois Confederacy was at the UN pressing hard for its passage. While Canada and the U.S. have been among the most reluctant of signatories the enactment of the declaration into federal law will only happen if we press each one of the national parties commits to its passage.

We have to influence the policy makers and the ministers. We must have the ear of the next prime minister. We have to make our voices heard by using our diplomatic skills and our ability to come to terms: not to make fatal compromises in our standing as aboriginal nations but to draft and enact those laws and regulations which are within our means to change.

Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the former editor of the journal Akwesasne Notes, a co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association and the vice-president for the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge.


Cypress Hills Massacre Little-Known Dark Point In Canadian History

Tourists visit a replica of Fort Walsh, Sask., on August 21, 2015. The original fort was built by the NWMP in 1875 and only two kilometres from the site of the Cypress Hills Massacre, where more than 20 First Nations people were murdered on June 1, 1873. Bill Graveland / The Canadian Press

Tourists visit a replica of Fort Walsh, Sask., on August 21, 2015. The original fort was built by the NWMP in 1875 and only two kilometres from the site of the Cypress Hills Massacre, where more than 20 First Nations people were murdered on June 1, 1873. Bill Graveland / The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

FORT WALSH, Sask. – One of Canada’s worst mass murders occurred in what is now a remote area of southwestern Saskatchewan, but experts say it barely registers as a footnote in Canadian history today. The silence at Fort Walsh Historical Site, 60 kilometres from the U.S. border in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, can be deafening at times.

But on June 1, 1873, an altercation erupted just two kilometres from Fort Walsh between a small band of Nakoda (Assiniboine) people and a group of American wolfers. The wolfers would poison buffalo carcasses left behind by robe traders and then harvest fur from the dead wolves and coyotes that ate the tainted meat.

A misunderstanding over missing horses, fuelled by alcohol, led to the bloody slaughter of the native people. When the dust settled, at least 23 natives – men, women and children – were killed along with one of the wolfers.

“There were atrocities conducted,” said Clay Yarshenko, a heritage presenter at Fort Walsh.

“They clubbed to death the wounded and some of the women were captured and some of the men tormented them through the night.”



News of the massacre eventually made its way to Ottawa and Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

A bill calling for the creation of the North West Mounted Police had already been passed, but pressure from the United States to take action on the slaughter and other unrest in the West sped up the process.

“It’s the trigger that more or less forces Macdonald to move ahead with that Mountie implementation policy,” said Bill Waiser, a University of Saskatchewan professor emeritus, who taught history for 33 years.

Macdonald eventually sent 150 Mounties to Winnipeg and in 1874 the North West Mounted Police made their historic march westward.

“They could have chosen a much easier route but they deliberately followed the route that paralleled the international boundary as a symbol of Canadian sovereignty,” said Waiser.

“Their trip westward is more or less announcing to the Americans that Canada not only has taken possession of this region, but there is a police presence.

“It’s very symbolic.”

Yarshenko said one of the first priorities for the arriving Mounties was to investigate the Cypress Hills massacre.

“By the spring of 1875, they arrested seven of the participants in the U.S., extradited them back to Canada and put five on trial,” he said. “They were found not guilty.

“It’s hard to prove first-degree murder and the men were released.”

Three other men were captured in Canada, but the verdict was the same.

Yarshenko said the Cypress Hills massacre and the arrival of Chief Sitting Bull, who escaped across the border after defeating Lt.-Col. George Custer in 1876, focused international attention on the area for years. But now, he said, most Canadians have forgotten.

“Seeing as most Canadians still live in Central Canada you don’t get exposed to something that is impacting other people even through this place,” said Yarshenko.

Replicas of the two trading posts remain at the site of the massacre along with a stone monument.

There have been First Nations ceremonies remembering the attack but it’s not something that is widely talked about, said Waiser.

“It’s an ugly event. In my time on campus I lectured about it, we discussed it, but I’ve never been aware of any big commemoration of this event.”


13 Issues Facing Native People Beyond Mascots And Casinos

The Huffington Post

These are the problems you’re not hearing enough about.

Most of the recent headlines about indigenous Americans have had to do with a certain D.C. football team, or a surpassingly dumb Adam Sandler movie, or casinos of the kind operated by the fictional Ugaya tribe on “House of Cards.” And we’re not saying these issues don’t matter. But beyond the slot machines, the movie sets and the football fields, there are other problems facing Native communities — insidious, systemic, life-or-death problems; the kinds of problems it takes years and votes and marches to resolve — that aren’t getting nearly as much attention.

There are 567 tribes, including 229 Alaska Native communities, currently recognized by the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs — the primary federal agency in charge of relations with indigenous communities — is also considering extending federal status to Native Hawaiians.

Each of the federally recognized tribes is a nation unto itself — sovereign, self-determining and self-governing — that maintains a government-to-government relationship with the United States. In addition, the rights of all indigenous peoples, including Native Hawaiians, have been affirmed in a 2007 United Nations declaration. Each indigenous nation has a distinct history, language and culture. While many face concerns that are specific to their government, state, or region, there are certain issues that affect all Native communities throughout the United States — from Hawaii to Maine, and Alaska to Florida. Here are 13 such issues that you probably aren’t hearing enough about.

Native Americans face issues of mass incarceration and policing.

Thanks in large part to the Black Lives Matter movement, which has insisted that demands for justice and equality for the black community remain part of the national conversation, there is now growing momentum to address the issues of policing and mass incarceration. But while the brutalization of black Americans at the hands of police, and their maltreatment within the criminal justice system, have garnered national headlines, similar injustices against Native Americans have gone largely unreported.

Earlier this month, Paul Castaway, a mentally ill Rosebud Sioux tribal citizen, was shot and killed by Denver police. His death led to protests in the Denver Native community, and has shed light on the shocking rate at which police kill Native Americans — who account for less than 1 percent of the national population, but who make up nearly 2 percent of all police killings, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Native peoples are also disproportionately affected by mass incarceration. In states with significant Native populations, Native Americans are wildly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. In South Dakota, for example, Native Americans make up 9 percent of the total population, but 29 percent of the prison population. In Alaska, Native people account for 15 percent of the total population and 38 percent of the prison population. And Native Hawaiians are only 10 percent of the state’s population, but 39 percent of the incarcerated population.

The issue of mass incarceration in Native communities is complicated by overlapping and unresolved conflicts between tribal, federal and state jurisdictions. If a crime is thought to have occurred on a Native reservation or within a Native community, it’s not always clear which agency is going to be in charge of prosecution. That’s determined by a complex set of factors, including the severity of the charges and the races of the victims and alleged perpetrators. The overlapping jurisdictions of federal and tribal sovereignty also mean that Indians who commit crimes on tribal lands can be punished twice for the same offense: once under federal jurisdiction and again in tribal court. Lastly, aside from cases of domestic violence, tribal courts are not allowed to try major crimes as defined under the Major Crimes Act. This means that suspects in most felony cases are prosecuted in federal courts, where sentencing tends to be more severe.

In February, building off the momentum of Black Lives Matter, the Lakota Peoples’ Law Project released its “Native Lives Matter” report, which gives an overview of the inequities faced by Native Americans in the criminal justice system. The report, like the voices of Native peoples in general, has been largely ignored in the growing national conversation about policing and criminal justice reform.

Native communities are often impoverished and jobless.

Native peoples suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. Seventeen percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and 27 percent of all self-identified Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

However, the national figure distorts the prevalence of poverty on Indian reservations and in Alaska Native communities, where 22 percent of Native people live. In 2012, three of the five poorest counties in the U.S., and five of the top 10, encompassed Sioux reservations in North and South Dakota.

Last year, President Barack Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux on the border of North and South Dakota, where the poverty rate is 43.2 percent — almost three times the national average. The unemployment rate on the Standing Rock Reservation was over 60 percent as of 2014.

The federal government is still stripping Native people of their land.

The U.S. was built on land taken from Indian nations, and indigenous peoples across the country are still living with the reality of dispossession. Right now, members of the San Carlos Apache Nation in Arizona are fighting the sale of their sacred Oak Flat site to foreign mining conglomerates.

The Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii are fighting to protect their sacred mountain Mauna Kea from the construction of a 30-meter, $1.4 billion telescope. Many Hawaiians are now questioning the legality of the state’s annexation, which took place after a group of business interests, most of them American, overthrew of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

And in the heartland, the Great Sioux Nation has refused a $1.3 billion settlement as payment for the government’s illegal seizure of their sacred Black Hills in South Dakota in 1877. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are etched into the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore.

Exploitation of natural resources threatens Native communities.

Throughout the history of North American settlement, the territorial dispossession of indigenous peoples has gone hand in hand with natural resource exploitation. In the 1800s, Indian nations in the West clashed with miners pouring into their territories in search of gold.

Today, from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to the Tar Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada, Indian nations often stand on the front lines of opposition to hydraulic fracturing and pipelines that pump oil out of indigenous communities — violating treaty rights, threatening the environment and contributing to climate change in the process.

Other groups, however, such as the Ute Tribe in Utah and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota, have tried to make the most out of the economic opportunities presented by oil and natural gas extraction. For the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, the rush to cash in on oil has resulted in a mess of inadequate regulation and corruption — including allegations of murder for hire.

Violence against women and children is especially prevalent in Native communities.

Native American communities — and particularly Native women and children — suffer from an epidemic of violence. Native women are 3.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaultedin their life than women of other races. Twenty-two percent of Native children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder — a rate of PTSD equal to that found among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Often, this violence comes from outside the community. The nonprofit Mending the Sacred Hoop, citing 1990s data from the CDC and the Department of Justice, reports that “over 80% of violence experienced by Native Americans is committed by persons not of the same race,” a rate “substantially higher than for whites or blacks.”

However, some progress has been made. This year, despite staunch GOP opposition, tribes won the right to prosecute non-Native men who commit crimes of domestic violence or dating violence or who violate orders of protection against Native women on Indian reservations. Tribes have continued to push for control over justice systems on sovereign Indian land, in spite of resistance from state, local and federal lawmakers and law enforcement authorities.

The education system is failing Native students.

Only 51 percent of Native Americans in the class of 2010 graduated high school. Native Hawaiians fare better, but still underperform compared to their peers — as best we can tell from the limited data, anyway. In the mid-’00s, about 70 percent of Native Hawaiiansattending Hawaiian public schools graduated in four years, as compared to 78 percent of students statewide.

For Native Americans, at least, these disparities are in large part the result of inadequate federal funding, to the point where some schools on Indian reservations are deteriorated and structurally dangerous.

Native families live in overcrowded, poor-quality housing.

Forty percent of Native Americans who live on reservations are in substandard housing. One-third of homes are overcrowded, and less than 16 percent have indoor plumbing. Housing on reservations is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered and augmented by tribes, and has been historically underfunded, despite treaties and the trust responsibility of the federal government.

Native patients receive inadequate health care.

Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians face massive disparities in health as compared to the general population, suffering from high rates of diabetes, obesity, substance abuse and HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Although Native Americans and Alaska Natives are eligible to receive health care through Indian Health Services, nearly one in three are uninsured. Like many other federal agencies that serve Native people, IHS has historically been underfunded. Local IHS facilities often lack basic services like emergency contraception, in some cases forcing Native patients to travelhundreds of miles for treatment elsewhere.

There’s a dearth of capital and financial institutions in Native communities.

Indian nations do not own their reservation lands. Rather, the lands are held in trust by the federal government. This prevents Native Americans who live on reservations from leveraging their assets for loans, making it difficult for them to start businesses or promote economic growth in the area.

Compounding this problem, 14.5 percent of Native Americans are unbanked, and therefore lack the basic financial resources needed for economic prosperity.

Native Americans have the right to vote… but that’s not always enough.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives are often unable to vote because there are no polling places anywhere near them. Some communities, such as the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada and the Goshute Reservation in Utah, are located more than 100 miles from the nearest polling place.

These problems are compounded by high rates of illiteracy in some rural Native communities, such as the Yup’ik in Alaska, who primarily speak and read their native language because public education was not available in their region until the 1980s.

There is an epidemic of youth suicide in Native communities.

Suicide is the second most common cause of death for Native youth ages 15 to 24 — two and a half times the national rate for that age group. In February, following a rash of suicides, the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota declared a state of emergency.

Native languages are dying, and the U.S. government is doing little to help.

Native languages are struggling to survive in the United States, with 130 “at risk,” according to UNESCO, and another 74 “critically endangered.” While some communities, such as the Native Hawaiians, the Anishinaabe and the Navajo, have had success preserving and revitalizing their languages, Native communities face obstacles from the testing and curriculum requirements ofNo Child Left Behind. And educators who want to teach young people about Native languages and cultures have to contend with a general lack of funding and resources.

Many Native communities do not have their rights recognized by the federal government.

Native Hawaiians, and members of many other Native communities throughout the U.S., have never received federal recognition of their rights as Native peoples. This deprives them of basic services, and even of the limited rights of self-governance available to other Native communities. Many tribes spend decades wading through Bureau of Indian Affairs paperwork, only to lose their petitions for recognition.

Recently, however, the Obama administration announced that it would be streamlining the federal recognition process, making it easier for unrecognized Indian nations to secure their rights under the law.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

By Julian Brave NoiseCat, The Huffington Post, Posted: 07/30/2015