30 July 2006

Farrakhan: Common Struggle with Navajos

Farrakhan: Navajos must demand respect
Nation of Islam leader says 'red, black people' need to unite

Published by The Independent, Gallup, New Mexico (Thurs., Jul 20, 2006)

Diné Bureau

WINDOW ROCK — Louis Farrakhan, controversial minister for the Nation of Islam, told the Navajo Nation Council Wednesday that it needed to demand respect and settle for nothing less.

Farrakhan's visit was not on the agenda, but he was given special permission by the council to give an address. Many delegates were not aware that Farrakhan was going to be at the session since the staff in the president's office was initially attempting to keep it secret at Farrakhan's request.

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. stated on Tuesday that he knew that Farrakhan was a "figure of notoriety" and Farrakhan said that dialogue between him and Shirley's office began this spring when Yo'NasDa LoneWolf Muhammed, National Director of the Indigenous Nation's Alliance-Millions More Movement began a dialogue with the tribe.

Farrakhan said Wednesday at a press conference after his speech at the tribal council that he wanted to learn more about the indigenous community, and more specifically the Navajo Nation, it is one of the largest nations, and he feels it is potentially most powerful of all indigenous people.

Similarities highlighted
He also highlighted many similarities between the black community and indigenous communities, stating that the union between the two could result in positive change. Hardeen said that during a meeting with council delegates on Tuesday Farrakhan said that his mentor, the Honorable Elijah Muhammed, prophesied a time when the "black people" and the "red people" would align together.

During his address, Farrakhan told the council the need for people of color worldwide to come together, adding that uniting of people of color would outnumber white people 11 million to 1 million.

Throughout his speech, he addressed Shirley and council delegates as "brothers," and how people of "black" and "red" color need to work with one another. Farrakhan used analogies and examples to emphasize the importance of bringing in Navajo owned businesses and infrastructure. He highlighted how many minority groups need to become producers, rather than just consumers, and said that dependence on federal dollars has caused people of color to neglect themselves.

Farrakhan also spoke of the land within the Navajo Nation being one of the greatest assets to the people.

"It is not what they will allow; it's what we will permit," Farrakhan said. When you accept your status as a minority, you begin to think like a minority, Farrakhan said. You ask for respect and equality things all people should be entitled to, he said. The Navajo must stop viewing themselves as a people alone and realize that they are part of the entire family of Native Americans a relative to all indigenous people around the globe, Farrakhan said.

"We share common problems, we share a common destiny," Farrakhan said. "I did not come here as a stranger; I am your kith, I am your kin."

The minister briefly spoke of racial violence though not addressing Farmington and he said the outside communities will always look down on a people they consider inferior. The Navajo need to take strong steps to resolve that perception, he added.

"You cannot defeat racism by picketing. Marching is okay I'm not saying it isn't but marching won't win respect," Farrakhan said. In response to the recent violence against Navajos in Farmington the tribal council is planning a protest march.

Dependency destroys
The American Indian and the black man have failed when it comes to producing their own necessities. They depend on the government, or private companies to provide all they need. Both races need to become self-reliant, he said.

"I saw Basha's here, I saw other supermarkets where's yours?" Farrakhan asked. "Nobody is going to respect a people who aren't producing."

Only about five percent of businesses in Navajoland are native owned; that means most of the money spent leaves the reservation, Farrakhan said. The Navajo are not a poor people, because they have land, Farrakhan said. "Having land is better than having a dollar," he said. "Don't tell me your environment is hostile, because your fathers, your ancestors conquered the environment."

"America should be ashamed," Farrakhan said. After taking most of the native's land taking the coal and oil, and anything valuable it not only failed to keep promises and treaties, but allow the natives to live today without electricity and running water.

Farrakhan visited with President Joe Shirley Jr. and several delegates, bringing with him other high-ranking members of the Nation of Islam, including his wife of 53 years and the wife of the Nation of Islam founder, the Honorable Wallace D. Muhammed.

Once a protegee of Malcolm X, Farrakhan became a vocal critic after Malcolm X broke from the Nation, shortly before his 1965 murder at the hands of three Muslim men.

Delegate responds to Farrahkan
It's time for the Navajo Nation to get out from under the yoke of U.S. oppression, open the doors to foreign trade, set up its own banking system and become self-sufficient, according to Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Bennie Shelly.

He sees a budding relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as a means to meet that end.

Shelly said he, several delegates, and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. met with Farrakhan at 3 p.m. Tuesday after the Navajo Nation Council recessed for the day.

"I was very curious to know who he was. I didn't know him. All I knew about him is that he was the head of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., back in 1995. But the more I got to know him, the man's pretty good. He's real smart. He's enough in the higher echelon within the black organization, he would be up in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. capacity," Shelly said.

"He has a large organization, he's well known, has traveled the world, talks about human rights and talks about how minorities should support each other in unity mostly just trying to tell us as Navajo Native Americans that as a minority, you are pressed to a master.

"We're being controlled by the master so that we should not advance. How they do that is by trying to suppress us, keep us low not have us go get higher education, prevent us from doing that and things like economic development and self-sufficiency," Shelly said.

Farrakhan was impressed with the size of Navajoland and pointed out to Navajo leaders how rich they are by having a 27,000-square-mile land base.

"Even though we don't have everything, we have land that we live on. The land never loses its value; the dollar does. I think purchasing land and expanding our land gives us more sovereignty and also more ability to achieve our goal to be self-sufficient in every area. He talked about, and I kind of like that," Shelly said.

Farrakhan also was talking Shelly's language when he spoke of finance, "mainly because of the Budget and Finance Committee that we are, the authority that we have, and the concern that we have for our Nation's finance."

Dictating Navajo future
Shelly said Farrakhan spoke of banks in the United States vs. foreign countries, and how they support each other. He said Farrakhan's organization finances through its own banks, "which are black established banking systems that they have all over the world, similar to the Arabs. The Arabs, the Chinese, they have their own banks and they borrow money and they also return money.

"Like the Arabians that we have here: They never utilize the United States' banks. They have their own banks in foreign countries and they borrow and generate and support each other in that way.

"In that case, he's telling us to keep the money on the reservation. I think that's the key thing that we need to do. We need to develop economic development and start dealing with foreign countries.

"If the local U.S. (government) can't deal with us, then we should reach out and deal with foreign countries to be self-sufficient, get on our feet, and dictate our own future," Shelly said.
Farrakhan also spoke of foreign trade, "that there should be no restriction to come to the Navajo Nation to create trade and do business with a foreign country," Shelly said.

He also talked of the elderlies [sic], the youth, and the middle-age [sic], that they need to be more positive, more proactive in the area of development, and more aware of what's around them, "that we need to build our Nation as leaders, and also we need to look at the future and think about the future of our young people."

What's in it for me?
Shelly said he believes the Navajo Nation Council is lacking in leadership. "We don't have unity. The problem with the Navajo Nation Council is a 'what's-in-it-for-me' type thing. 'If there's nothing in it for me, I don't support it.' We have always practiced that in our council. I see that a lot in here and I complain about that," he said.

One example he cited was legislation introduced in council that pertains to emergency needs, such as Tuba City's jail facility.

"They're closing that down, and here is legislation asking for $94,000 to get that facility on track and keep it going. This council voted it down. So that just tells me, 'That's in Tuba City, why should I support this?'

That's the kind of concept we have in the council. We need to stop doing that. We need to support each other, no matter where it's from, if it's going to benefit the people. I think it's something that we haven't learned yet," Shelly said.

"What this man is telling us is that you have one project that you need to support, no matter what area it is in.

"This man, to me, is a person that came from the outside, looking at us. He gave us a piece of his mind on what we need to do. The end result is this man is here for real, and I think we do need to get to know them and get support."

Beneficial partnership
"I think the Navajo Nation needs a partner, and we do need a partner that has gone through whatever the ordeal if it's racism, if it's economic, if it's property, if it's poorness. Whatever it is that they went through, they have the experience. They have gone through all of this hardship, and we're going through it. They will give us the technical advice."

Shelly said he believes the Navajo Nation can partner with Farrakhan's organization. "We can learn a lot from them. They can guide us through what needs to be done," he said.

"One of the things that I notice, that is really standing out, is that we are controlled. The Navajo Nation is controlled through the Code of Federal Regulations, through federal grants, external funds.

"The federal government acts like a father and we're the children. They treat us like we have to depend on them all the time. I think the bottom line is we've grown up now. We need to get on our own, to get away from our parents. I think that's what we really need to work on."

Shelly expressed great admiration for Farrakhan. "He kind of gave us some new light, some new hope that there are some people out there that have gone through these experiences and are willing to help."

24 July 2006

Trinidad Debates Eurocentrism and Indigeneity

As some readers will already know, a current debate taking place in Trinidad and Tobago concerns renaming the highest national award, the Trinity Cross. The debate itself is not by any means new, but a recent court ruling acknowledged that the naming of the award was offensive and discriminatory towards the country's Hindu and Muslim population. Ironically, the same ruling, while supporting the charge of religious discrimination, threw out the motion to have the name changed since the name itself has been established in law.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has agreed to change the name of the award by August 31st of this year, ideally choosing a word and symbol from the country's indigenous history. However, there will be debates as to what Manning and the government mean by "indigenous," as there is some suggestion that the steel pan may become the new symbolic emblem of the award, rather than the cross. In this case, needless to say, indigenous means "locally produced" rather than a pre-Columbian notion of "locally rooted."

The irony is that the name "Trinity Cross" may change, but Trinidad (Spanish for Trinity) will remain unchanged. It is interesting, perhaps encouraging, to see Trinidadians grappling with the legacies of colonialism and European cultural domination, even if it is momentary.

Garifunas Speaking Out Against Disney

Last week, Cherly Noralez of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation was interviewed on KPFK 90.7 FM Radio in Los Angeles. Luckily, the audio from that show has been archived (see the link below) and listeners/visitors may also post their feedback on that same page.

17 July 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Commentary by Claire Yashar

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Claire Meurens-Yashar
, BA/BS Anthropology
Research in Taino/Arawak Iconography, Myths and Legends
July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean, a 2006 Walt Disney Picture is, as are all movies, pure entertainment and not reality shows nor documentaries. As an entertainment medium, it has earned a two star rating[out of four] by the Tribune Movie Critic, Michael Phillips, and three star rating by Matt Pais, the Metromix Movies Producer.

Directed by Gore Verbinski, screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, this “fun” film has, however, a hideous side. It implies that the Caribbean Natives, the Arawaks, are and were cannibals; a slander they had to endure from generations to generations. The implication is as demeaning to today’s Caribbean populations as it was to the gentle people who greeted Christopher Columbus.

Five hundred years ago, this contemptuous portrayal of the inhabitants of the New World, was a convenient way to justifying enslaving them and treating them like cattle. It implied them to be sub-humans savages in the most derogatory sense of the word.

Today, perpetuating this myth is unjustifiable and in poor taste. It is a throwback to the racial antagonism of the indefensible ideology of the twentieth century when the blacks were the target of racial slurs, segregation, demeaning treatment, brutality, and considered racially inferior to their white counterparts.

If we allow these kinds of racial slurs to go without remark or rebuke, then I am sorry to say, we haven’t learned anything yet about humanity. If we have any capacity to be touched by the cries of pain and anguish from centuries past, we must leave the theater perturbed. Once again, the film industry has exploited the native people by slanderous implications of cannibalism. The original inhabitants of these islands are victims of cinematic self-sabotage since, as extras, they represented themselves and by extension, their ancestors. Mr. Walt Disney, who was one of the most honored film makers of his time, would not be proud to have one of his production be an embarrassment to the film industry.

12 July 2006

Soca Warriors, Amerindian Masking

While Italy's dubious "victory" over France in Sunday's World Cup Final helped to immediately forestall any possible nostalgia for the end of what was otherwise an often exciting month of play, I have to confess that I will sorely miss seeing those beloved Soca Warrior fans singing and dancing in the stadiums of Germany.

I collected a number of images from various sources, each of which reinforces the theme that the Soca Warriors (I don't mean just the team here, I mean the fans especially) conceived of themselves as Native Indian warriors, a theme that has run through the length of Trinidad's Carnival, from the mid-1800s.

The Santa Rosa Carib Community, whose members ardently cheered the Soca Warriors, once had a research officer by the name of Elma Reyes who insisted that the Native Indian figure in Trinidad's Carnival was not just some carbon copy of images imported from North America, but that there was also an indigenous Trinidadian-Venezuelan input behind the figures of Indians becoming and remaining prevalent in Trinidad's Carnival. Her attempt to "reclaim" the Indian of Carnival finds some support in the following research article which even observes that many of these Indian costumes were worn by individuals who in cases were themselves Amerindians of the region:

"Amerindian Masking in Trinidad's Carnival: The House of Black Elk in San Fernando", by Helene Bellour and Samuel Kinser, in The Drama Review, Vol. 42, No. 3, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival (Autumn, 1998), pp. 147-169.

Others have in the past observed that the national colours of Trinidad and Tobago--red, black and white--also mimic the natural body dyes and chalk used by Amerindians to paint their faces, as noted by a number of chroniclers in the Caribbean region. Some pottery styles also used red and black, or red and white, as decorative colours. Thus the appearance of individuals in the images that follow can seem more stunning to some of us than the reader might have expected.

For my part, as a tribute to both this theme, the team I long to see in action again, and the many wonderful fans, I offer this small collage (which can be enlarged by clicking on this link):

Until South Africa 2010!

The UN's Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

It has taken me a couple of weeks to begin to assimilate the news concerning the recent vote at the United Nations concerning a draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, the mixed reactions, and the uncertain outcomes.

First, it is important to note that the UN as such has not adopted the charter, yet. The declaration that was passed, which calls on states to grant a range of rights to indigenous communities around the globe, won 30 votes in the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, with 12 abstentions. It is still to go to a vote before the General Assembly.

Second, even if passed by the General Assembly, there is nothing to force member states, themselves some of the guiltiest parties in trampling on their indigenous communities, to adopt the declaration as law in their own countries. Speaking with The Washington Post, a representative of one of the current leading opponents to the draft declaration, Canada, stated the declaration would have "no legal effect" in his country, which in the past seemed to rally in support of the declaration. Indeed, Canada's representative, along with that of the Russian Federation, voted against the declaration. According to a Reuters report from June 29, 2006:

"Canada argued that several of the articles would violate the national constitution or even prevent the country's armed forces from taking measures necessary for its defense. Indigenous coalition representatives say they believe the big power opposition was largely driven by concern over the potential loss of state control over how natural resources, like oil, gas and timber, are exploited."

Canada had asked for a three-month delay for the vote, without a clear indication as to how the further delay, after two decades of debate, would resolve the Canadian government's "concerns." Readers can obtain some of the official documents, and recorded reactions of state delegates to the Human Rights Council, by following this link.

Third, it is not at all clear that either the passage or obstruction of the declaration was, is, or might be of universal interest and relevance to all indigenous communities. Besides the "disconnect" that sometimes obtains between indigenous delegates to the UN and members of communities back home, the often obscure and formalistic language of the documents produced at the UN, there is also extreme suspicion in some quarters that the UN, as a body, is a neo-colonial pontoon supporting the interests of imperial states (e.g., Canada, Russia, the USA, Australia). In this regard, writers for the Mohawk Nation News provide one example of some very staunch criticism of the elitism and imperialism embodied in UN efforts to control, contain and overtly assuage indigenous populations with watered-down and non-binding declarations.

At the end of it all, even assuming the declaration passes a vote at the General Assembly in September, it is not clear what will have been won, who will have won, and what practical effect will be had by its passage. On the other hand, I am sure most will agree that the debates that transpired over the past two decades were at least better than complete silence.



We are pleased to announce that there is a new book on the market that you may wish to add to your collection. It is edited by Dr. Baldwin King, Dr. Kenneth John and Cheryl L. A. King. The book, Search for Identity: Essays on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was published in April 2006 by KINGS-SVG Publishers.

The book is essentially a re-publication of essays and commentaries on the social, economic and political life of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that appeared in the local Flambeau magazine up to 1968. The authors are all Vincentian-born except for two invited contributors. The editors believe that many of the essays still have such relevance to today's Vincentian society that re-publication is entirely appropriate. For example, Clem Iton's "Of Color of Skin and St. Vincent" is as topical today as it was in 1965. Kenneth John's "The Political Crisis in St. Vincent" is quite insightful. Wallace Dear's "Constitutional Development of St. Vincent" is a "must read" in the context of the Constitutional Review which is taking place right now. So, many of the essays provide a benchmark against which to judge the progress that has been made over the last forty years in Vincentian society. As such, it should be fascinating reading, not only for the "old-timers", but also for the young people of this generation.

The retail cost of the book (paperback, 303 pages) is US$29.95 plus US$5.50 for shipping in the US, US$7.50 for shipping to Canada and US $11.00 for shipping to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, by airmail. If you would like to have your book signed, just send the relevant information. To order, please send your name, address and payment-check or money order payable to Baldwin King to:

Dr. B. King,
P.O.Box 702,
Madison, NJ 07940,
U.S.A .



Baldwin King received his B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in physical/inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught Applied Chemistry at U.W.I. Mona and currently teaches Physical Chemistry at Drew University, New Jersey, USA where he is Professor of Chemistry. His research interests include neurochemistry and neuro-oncology. He is the author of Introduction to Chemistry and the Environment as well as a number of peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals.

Kenneth John received his B.Sc. in Government from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in Government from Manchester University. He is also trained as a barrister-at-law. He entered politics briefly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a candidate of the Democratic Freedom Movement. He writes a weekly column in the Vincentian newspaper. He also practices law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cheryl King received her B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, her Diploma in Education (Teaching of English) from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and her M.A. in Political Science from the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York, New York. She is the author of "Michael Manley and Democratic Socialism." She currently works in the Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey, USA.

Garifuna leader forced at gunpoint to yield community land

Please read:

Garifuna School Supply Drive and Fundraiser

1. Operation LaBugana sponsored by GAHFU
This weekend (4th of July weekend) GAHFU, Inc. is launching a 4-week campaign to collect donations from people who are interested in donating school supplies to the children of La Buga - Livingston, Izabal.


Please visit the website to find out more information on both events:


Caribbean Beat Weblog

Unfortunately excluded from a previous post inviting readers to visit some very engaging and fascinating Trinidadian weblogs was the blog for CARIBBEAN BEAT. Caribbean Beat is a very attractive magazine that is published once every two months and frequently contains articles that will be of considerable interest for those interested in learning more about the Caribbean region as a whole. Over the years, they have published a number of articles on indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, with particular reference to communities in Suriname, Dominica, Trinidad and elsewhere. The Caribbean Beat team, which includes editor Tracy Assing, herself a Carib of the Arima community, is responsible for also producing the blog mentioned above, as well as the Caribbean Review of Books and a number of other publications.