25 October 2007

More Hysteria over the "Native Terrorist"

Claims of Maori separatist plot begin to unravel
By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent
Published by The Independent, 23 October 2007

A week after 17 people were arrested in anti-terrorist raids, New Zealanders are asking whether their security forces foiled an astonishing plot by militant Maori separatists – or whether they made a monumental error of judgement.

Extreme secrecy surrounds the affair, with only two of the 17 detainees being identified and the media excluded from court hearings. But those held in dawn raids across the nation are said to include a mixture of white anarchists and environmental activists as well as Maori radicals.

As well as swooping on homes in cities including Auckland and Wellington, police sealed off a hamlet in the Ureweras, a mountainous area of the North Island, which they claim was the site of terrorist training camps. The isolated, thickly forested region, home to the Tuhoe tribe, is now the focus of national attention.

New Zealand is not usually associated with terrorism. The only terrorist act carried out there was the bombing of the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, by French secret agents in Auckland harbour in 1985....



22 October 2007


TUESDAYS from 4-5pm (EST)

WESU (88.1 FM), Middletown, CT


On Tuesday, October 23rd, join your host, Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui for a look at the politics of Taino identity. The Tainos are the indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands. When Columbus landed at Hispaniola while trying to find an alternative route to India, he named the inhabitants "Indians." Today, many Taino-identified Caribbean people are challenging the official doctrine that has declared the Tainos extinct.

Listen to Dr. Marianela Medrano-Marra's lecture, "The Divine Feminine in the Taino Tradition," which was delivered at the Yale Peabody Museum on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 8, 2007. This program also features an interview with Jorge Estevez, Taino from Kiskeya (also known as the Dominican Republic), and Valerie Nana Ture Vargas, Taino from Boriken (also known as Puerto Rico) on the politics of Columbus Day and indigenous identities.

19 October 2007

AIM leader passes on

Vernon Bellecourt, who fought to restore land and dignity to Native Americans and against the use of Indian nicknames for sports teams as a longtime leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), died Oct. 13 of complications of pneumonia at a Minneapolis hospital. He was 75.

Since leaving behind careers as a hair stylist and real estate agent and joining his brother in AIM in the 1970s, Mr. Bellecourt had been in the forefront of the movement to ensure that treaties between Native American tribes and the U.S. government would be fulfilled. He was president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media and principal spokesman for AIM.

He was involved in numerous demonstrations to bring attention to his causes, including the 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington and the 1992 Super Bowl rally to protest the name of Washington's football team.


Guatemala: a good place to kill

Ivan Briscoe

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Each day brings an average of fifteen fresh corpses, scooped up from roadways and ditches after the work of death-squads and criminals has been done. And each day, or so it seems, the police force loses some more men, as the latest counter-narcotic cleansing shears through its dwindling ranks, and a fresh batch of guns goes underground.

Life without law and order makes for a restless public. The decisive round of voting approaches in the country’s
presidential elections on 4 November 2007, and many of the 13 million Guatemalans are darkly unexcited, sullenly vengeful. "What people want is protection", says Estuardo Zapeta, host of the popular radio talk-show Contravía in the capital, Guatemala City. "They no longer want the authorities to bother - they don’t believe in the police. What you hear now is a cry of despair. Out of 100 callers, ninety agree with social cleansing."

Zapeta is indigenous, an anthropologist and a devout Protestant. In almost any other part of modern-day Latin America, he would have become a progressive political leader. But Guatemala is different. Guatemala has death-squads, polo matches, mega-churches and four television channels, all belonging to one foreigner. Only Russia has a higher murder-rate for women, only China exports more children for adoption to the United States. And Zapeta’s favourite subject is that of his listeners: how to survive in a state of nature. Retired army general
Otto Pérez Molina stalks the campaign trail in luminous orange t-shirts, his smile frozen, roundly denying any involvement in the country’s genocides of the 1980s while proffering a mano dura (firm hand) against crime. His rival Álvaro Colom, the leader in the first round of voting, promises a rational, moderate government, yet no one can deny that his National Unity of Hope party is penetrated, as all major parties are, by torrents of drug money. For the moment, Pérez Molina narrowly leads in the polls.

On 9 September, in the first round of the poll,
these two came out top of a scattered field of fourteen candidates riding diverse parties, cobbled together by friends and financiers, in which representatives of the left - including Nobel peace prize-winner Rigoberta Menchú - scraped together under 6%. Without a doubt, this was the most miserable showing for radical change in the whole of Latin America.

The public mood is fear, but this
result is still a great mystery. A democracy with 51% poverty, wracked by the worst inequality in the continent, afflicted by crime and judicial decay, feels compelled to cure its wounds by scratching them harder and harder. Meanwhile, the killings and crimes are still faced with a monumental indifference from state institutions, or incompetence, or, worst of all, are the work of dark forces that watch jealously over Guatemala from some cold-war bunker.

"It’s widely known who the drug traffickers are. The names of politicians, judges, deputies and officials are known. The US embassy has a register of these people. So why aren’t they captured?" asks Edelberto Torres Rivas, the Guatemalan doyen of Latin American sociologists and author of dozens of books. "I have no reply."

Back to the colony
Guatemala, like much of central America in the era of globalisation, is in the thrall of political irrationality. For an outsider, its cultural riches and starved collective wisdom seem an impossible combination - as if a millenarian civilization were constantly imploding, which was indeed the condition of the ancient Mayan empire according to environmental historian Jared Diamond. Yet the place where explanations usually begin is the colony, formed by one of Spain’s most bloodthirsty conquistadors, Pedro de Alvarado, and perpetuated by a tiny elite that robbed land and lived off its Indian serfs with great self-satisfaction.

During the wanderings of his exile, the deposed Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz was often accused by the left, and Che Guevara in particular, of cowardice in face of the United Fruit Company coup that overthrew him in 1954. Arbenz’s defence was that he could not mount any decent riposte to Washington’s intervention when it was his own military and economic elite that willingly took the US bait, uprooting the country’s sole attempt to create an equitable capitalist society.

Imperial power, first Spanish and then north American, has consistently operated on Guatemala, that potential "communist beachhead in our hemisphere" whose spectre President Eisenhower raised. But the extent of its influence has hinged on the cooperation of a domestic elite whose application of colonial rule - from vagrancy laws to genocide - has made it an ideal agent of foreign strategy, powerful enough to repress but too illegitimate to live without help from abroad. This nexus has undoubtedly been the most stable feature of Guatemalan political history. "The greatest fundamental problems of contemporary Guatemala.... are colonial realities," wrote historian Severo Martínez Peláez in 1970.

This was clearly visible by the time the Guatemalan state, the army and the last guerrilla ranks signed the 1996 peace accords. Amongst its many provisions, the treaty had one ambition at its heart: draining the state of its military ethos, and giving it sufficient funds to provide basic social welfare. In a country where the progressive wing of the armed forces in the early 1980s planned only to kill 30% of inhabitants of rebel areas rather than all of them (President
Carlos Arana infamously declared in 1971 that "if it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so"), this marked an extraordinary change.

The decade since then has dispelled hopes of an orderly transition. Every step back from official power by traditional elites has been mirrored by a new presence in the shadows, reinforcing all the old vices: taxes are frozen at just over 10% of GDP, the military keeps its intelligence under wraps, and death- squads once again tour the Indian villages alongside Lake Atitlán, as if trapped in a Reaganite time-warp. The public, meanwhile, has proved strangely supportive of this inertia, failing to turn out for a referendum in 1999 on constitutional reform, and then voting repeatedly for the right. All that remains are the words of the accords, and the hollow promises of rulers.

"Everyone lives in their own world", argues Pedro Trujillo, professor of politics at
Francisco Marroquín University, intellectual bastion of the economic elite. "The government favours and protects business, and they’re happy. The leftwing groups live off international aid, generating projects which say this country is a disaster. No one wants to make space for anyone else."

In a time of sharply decreasing US interest, the blockage of reform points to a process more dynamic and obscure than brute colonial practice. If we want to understand the mystery of how nothing of significance has happened in a democracy of the oppressed, ripe for its own
Evo Morales, then three key issues unavoidably come to the fore: the panic over insecurity; the entrenchment of the elite; and the singular failure of the mass indigenous movement.

The enigmas of the crime wave
On many evenings, Guatemala’s main news broadcast, Noti7, opens with the snarling faces of tattooed gang members seized by the police with some small bags of drugs. A few instants later, an advertising break reveals a very similarly dressed hip-hop homeboy drinking a desirable beverage, and adored for it by surrounding women.

There is little more schizophrenic that gangland in central America. Borrowed straight from US culture, or rather deported from the suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1990s, the
mara gangs are now said by Washington to represent one of the gravest threats to peace in the region. "Homies", as they call themselves, have a different set of concerns. Many would like to retire from the crime game, but the problem is that they can’t: "Five years ago we started a programme that tried to get the gang members into jobs", explains one official in a major international development agency. "But the narco-traffickers came to tell them that they had to sell drugs. The police insisted on a certain amount of robberies, so they could take their share. In one month, nineteen young kids were killed, and that was that."

While the murder tally has soared to around 6,000 a year, no rigorous effort has been made to categorise the
deaths, be they criminal, narcotic, political, or the work of a parallel state structure. Common crime and gang violence are assumed to represent the lion’s share, but those who know the poor barrios of Guatemala City are not convinced: "there have been very few killings recently between gang members", observes the aid worker. "Most are now extra-judicial assassinations, and this year has been very violent."

The question of why so many people are being killed is rarely addressed in Guatemala. For a start, each homicide investigator has only seventy-two hours on average to wrap up a murder case; the result is that most are shuffled immediately into files, with only 2% ending in a court sentence. Politically sensitive cases, meanwhile, are subject to layers of pressure and manhandling. "I do the work, I hand the file over", explains one police investigator. "Then the bosses decide amongst themselves."

Yet the suspicion, voiced in numerous quarters and echoed in an outstanding United Nations report by legal professor
Philip Alston in February 2007, is that death-squads are prowling freely once again. Alston abstains from branding this official policy, even if Guatemala’s decrepit institutions certainly make it, in his words, a "good place to kill". But the direct participation of police officers points to at least tacit support from authorities: two bodyguards of the police chief were arrested in recent days for picking up five young men playing football in the capital and shooting then dead, all at midday on a Saturday. The obscure roles played by security advisers, retired military officers and off-duty police suggest the policy of "social cleansing" could even have been sanctioned by the highest levels of state.

Evidence here is thin on the ground, which is understandable. Figures such as Víctor Rivera, a former CIA operative in 1980s El Salvador, and now adviser to the interior ministry and proprietor of a twenty-four-hour drop-in centre for wealthy families of kidnapping victims, are shrouded in mystery, even when they deign to give newspaper interviews; he recently affirmed that "the families I advised knew that I wasn’t going to pay." The former police chief Erwin Sperisen, meanwhile, was an intimate colleague of Rivera, and has also been linked to death-squad activity. He
resigned in March 2007 in the wake of the gruesome murder of three El Salvadorian politicians, a narco-trafficking turf crime in which Rivera played a thoroughly obscure role, apprehending the culprits before they were taken to jail and liquidated. In his last official gesture, Sperisen declared on an evangelical television station that "we carried out illegal acts, but we did what was right."

The ties between retired military officers and Pérez Molina’s campaign team are likewise murky, and journalists prefer not to pry. Six former chiefs of military intelligence are nevertheless reported to be involved in the retired general’s campaign, and few doubt that they are themselves connected with the cliques of economic power and organised crime formed by veterans of the civil war. It should be noted that around 120 private-security firms operate in the country, almost all belonging to former army officers.

Grand conspiracy theories are not needed to observe a certain primitive logic here. Organised crime and corrupted police institutions appear to have substantial control over the country’s homicide rate and its levels of petty crime. An increase in the murder rate serves the economic interests of private security and racketeers, and is useful in dampening down crimes against the rich, particularly bank heists and kidnappings - the two types of crime that have fallen most sharply in the past four years. Lastly, and most speculatively, the murder rate fuels the political demand for tougher retribution, and an "iron fist."

For the general public, these causal connections are far removed from the visceral sensations of everyday insecurity. In rural areas, lynchings are commonplace solutions. But in urban centres, demands focus on the return of the one institution that has shown itself throughout Guatemalan history to be exceptionally brutal, but also effective and victorious - "the spinal column of the state, in comparison to the infantile and shameless political class", in the words of the country’s top political analyst and former guerrilla fighter, Gustavo Porras.

Since 2006, 3,000 soldiers have been deployed in joint street-patrols with the police. Pérez Molina’s plan is clear: "we need to use the army until we have a police force that is ready, and its use must not be limited to working alongside officers, it must have its own ability to act." His rival Colom’s plan, on the other hand, would see a merit-based professionalisation of the police force.

There are no prizes for guessing which plan strikes the popular chord. "People want a militarised police, a civil police with a military culture", declares Zapeta.

The eternal elite
Occasionally, the visitor to Guatemala can sight a member of a rare species. Sandwiched between bodyguards, darkened behind tinted glass, shuttered in villa ghettos, the economic elite is reclusive as never before. "They send their children to Houston for medical check-ups, they send them to university abroad, they have their bodyguards", explains
Juan Alberto Fuentes, a leading economist. "They don’t actually need the state."

It is curious, then, these reclusive oligarchs - experts estimate these may involve around 150 families, clustered into five major holding groups - exert a political and material dominance greater than central America has ever seen before. Every vice-presidential candidate on the tickets of the five main parties in September’s poll was a member of these wealthy clans. Unprecedented amounts of money are sprayed at far too many candidates, while the television tycoon from Mexico, Ángel González, favours the business-friendly with flattering news spots. Naturally, none of the leading hopefuls - not even Menchú - proposed any rise in taxes, or any increase in government spending beyond that made possible by cuts in telephone calls and other minor wastage.

"Saying you’ll raise taxes is political suicide", observes Manfredo Marroquín from the election monitoring group
Acción Ciudadana.

An essential reason for the mire of Guatemala is the elite’s fanatical conservatism. In many ways, this sits oddly with the radical transformation of business life since the region’s civil wars ended: interests have shifted from coffee and cotton to banks, assembly plants, transnational expansion and, inevitably, money-laundering. Intra-regional trade quintupled from 1990 to 2004.
Pollo Campero, Guatemala’s flagship fast-food giant, has lit the beacon for others to follow. Inside its innumerable drive-in foodcourts, nervy waiters with hi-tech headpieces instantaneously transmit the customer’s chicken predilections; one of the bosses, Dionisio Gutiérrez, has his own television show on Sunday night, in which he propagates the purest form of neo-liberalism.

The anomalies here are again extraordinary. At Guatemala’s stage of development - just over $2,000 per capita - it would surely make excellent economic sense to roll out better health and education, generating hardier workers, busier consumers and peaceful civil coexistence. But the logic simply does not hold. In a fundamental sense, the economic elite has lost interest in Guatemala, and scorns both the state and its military backbone. The opinion of one corporate executive, quoted by the researcher
Alexander Segovia in his work on new central American elites, is illuminating: "In my daily timetable, I can only dedicate thirty-five minutes to Guatemala."

Yet this exuberant pan-American expansionism is something of a smokescreen. Elites are richer and more diversified than ever before, yet their inflated status sits uneasily with the inequality, mass democracy and criminal peril that has dropped anchor at home. This homeland may certainly not matter to them or their children, but even so it remains a platform, full of pliable subalterns and dirt-cheap labour. It serves the rich materially, but its ever increasing distance has come to constitute a direct existential threat.

More than anything, it is this complex bind of financial strength and numerical fragility than accounts for an elite which steers political and media life, yet cannot bring itself to entertain any modest change to distribution or development. One disaffected member of the coffee-growing oligarchy summed it up: "This is a system that requires massive repression. The elite simply cannot see a way out of its own domination."

The manifest destiny?
Yet the numerical logic seems irrefutable. Guatemala’s twenty-two long-suffering indigenous peoples, who constitute around 50% of the population - the precise proportion is a matter of great historical controversy - should long ago have seized power. Indeed such is the force of the numbers that, according to the Mayan intellectual and activist Álvaro Pop, many indigenous people content themselves with their "manifest destiny" of eventual power, even as they continue live under the thumb of white, Spanish-speaking sons of Alvarado.

It was Bolivia’s
Evo Morales who proved instrumental in Menchú’s candidacy, reportedly commanding her to stand during his visit to the country in late 2006. Yet the eternal obstacles to indigenous empowerment had not receded. The recurrent indigenous political shipwreck, seen first under Arbenz, and repeated in the guerrilla disaster of the 1980s and the fragmentation of the late 1990s, played itself out all over again, with a paltry 3.09% for the Nobel laureate.

A strong indigenous political party would seem the ideal solution to many of Guatemala’s chronic problems, sweeping away the absurd fragmentation of the party system - the average lifetime of a party is 7.6 years - connecting people back to state power, and forcing the elite into acknowledgment of the need to reform. Intellectuals
scratch their heads in wonderment at this absence of what should necessarily have occurred, and diverse reasons are provided: inter-ethnic rivalries, a fixation with community life, and an unbridgeable gap between Mayan intellectuals and the popular base.

Most pertinently, the ideological dispersion of the Mayans has blocked
mobilisation. In the indigenous highlands of the Quiché, the indelibly corrupt party of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt still holds a strange attraction, based in large part on the networks of local militia patrols recruited to join the military’s murder spree of 1982-83. Ríos Montt killed many, but not everybody; for those he did not kill, there was food and security and presidential sermons on a Sunday night. It is the Stockholm syndrome on a massive scale.

Guatemala’s rulers, having doctored the political threat, have seen fit to induct the Indians into power. The largesse of the outgoing president,
Oscar Berger, ensured the incorporation of 300 indigenous officials into government posts. Over 38% of the country’s mayors are now indigenous, although one leading government official dismissively told me that "these mayors are so bad no voter trusts in them." For now, this is where the racial settlement stands: tiny shares of power in a state that doesn’t work.

"There are two fears in this country", argues Pop. "One is that of the whites, and their ancestral fear of us. The other is that of the indigenous community, which has internalised its marginal status and assumes that certain things cannot be done."

A last stand
A Guatemala paralysed into inertia runs the distinct risk of watching the state fold up and collapse, whoever wins the 4 November
poll. Far from lifting the country’s fortunes, global integration has only bolstered Guatemala’s economy of short-term, lesser evils, of practical reason in a social and institutional vacuum. Already the profits from drug-running - some 75% of cocaine consumed in the United States is estimated to pass through Guatemala - have turned huge chunks of territory into lawless zones. In turn, the trade aggravates the crime wave, reinforces the elite’s isolation, and corrupts new indigenous leaders; in simple words, it is poison for a sick country.

For the moment, the United States and Europe are giving their commitment to a new United Nations investigative body, the
International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig). The task is to find and prosecute the dark powers that people all the state’s institutions. It is, quite possibly, a last-gasp effort, and few would dare speculate as to how it might fare against a revitalised military seizing control of the nation’s police force.

But let there be no doubt: as the world forgets central America, a tragedy is forming, born out of cold-war beachheads and powdering northern noses.

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12 October 2007

Network of Concerned Anthropologists: Online Pledge

Thanks to Prof. Roberto Gonzales of the NETWORK FOR CONCERNED ANTHROPOLOGISTS for informing us that an online pledge is now available at:

This is part of the effort to counteract the drafting of anthropology into counterinsurgency efforts.

08 October 2007

Senate Panel Revisits Kennewick Controversy, Sides with Tribes

Senate panel OKs bill that could return Kennewick Man to tribes

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A U.S. Senate committee has approved a bill that could allow American Indian tribes to claim the ancient bones of Kennewick Man, a 9,300-year-old skeleton found on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996.

This is the third time a change has been proposed to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The change would ensure that federally recognized tribes could claim ancient remains even if a direct link to a tribe can't be proven.

The act governs the control of American Indian skeletons, requiring museums and federal agencies to return them to tribes if there is evidence that links the remains to the tribes.

This latest two-word addition tucked inside a bill to allow tribal participation in methamphetamine grants, among other things, would expand the definition of what remains are considered ancestral. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved the bill last week.


Anthropology's Dirty Little Colonial Streak?

In good times it might appear to be a minor streak; at other times it is a big, broad swath. The coloniality of anthropology might be something hidden and obscured by the passage of time, perhaps seemingly esoteric; at other times, such as the present, anthropology's role as an instrument of empire can come back into sharper focus as an inherent problem of a Western way of knowing the world (at other times, anthropology might simply be an amusement of empire). This is of course not meant to paint most, let alone all anthropologists as sinister figures. Yet, we have to admit that imperialism is a significant feature of a "discipline" that was made possible by colonial expansion and where once again anthropologists can find profit from imperialist missions in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. When this is added to the chorus of voices in anthropology that would like to diminish indigeneity, that disputes the very concept "indigenous," that refers to the struggles of the colonized for rights in terms of "seeking special rights," and that lords over indigenous physical remains as if other people's bodies (specifically colonized bodies) were the natural property of anthropology--then it is no wonder that this "discipline" (the martial severity of this terminology is indicative and fortuituous in this case) continues to be banished from most universities in the "decolonized" world.

It is also no wonder that numerous programs have been spawned in universities that some anthropologists indignantly criticize as attempts to expropriate their discipline's cherished subject matter, programs such as Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies, and numerous Native Studies, American Indian Studies, Indigenous Studies, and First Nations Studies programs. Why should native communities receive anthropologists who wish to "study" them when anthropology is still fighting with its own colonial heritage, and when some anthropologists seem to have enlisted in the John Howard School of Anthropology? (I am using the figure of right wing Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, whose aim is to force Aboriginals into the white Australian "mainstream" where nobody is to be deemed different or "special," no matter how much shorter their lifespans, or how much greater their poverty, or how different their languages and social relations may be, and in spite of the fact that ideas such as "Australia" can be read as synonymous with invasion.)

What prompted this seemingly sudden outburst of critical self-reflection is the growing number of media reports of anthropologists participating in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. See for example: "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones," by David Rohde, in The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2007. Some anthropologists are volunteering to take part in what the American military calls "Human Terrain Teams," and once again the terminology tells us something: a conceptualization of a "field" as an object of surveillance and occupation. (See a New York Times video on Human Terrain Teams--Cultural Anthropologists in Afghanistan). Beyond this particular issue, it is surprising that anthropologists, myself included, can so easily resort to talking about "fieldwork" with little in the way of conscious examination of the "scientistic" and colonialist connotations of the idea. Indeed, an Australian anthropologist who helped to devise the new military strategy, David Kilcullen, approvingly calls counterinsurgency "armed social science" (see his articles on anthropology and counterinsurgency in the Small Wars Journal). Montgomery McFate, an anthropologist who has advocated "embedding anthropology" in military missions seems to dismiss critics who say this is militarizing anthropology: "we’re really anthropologizing the military." Wonderful. And what is the military doing "over there" again? Marcus Griffin, who muses on "Of What Use is Anthropology?" defends the participation of anthropologists in these Human Terrain Teams.

It turns out that this latest New York Times article is just the tip of a growing body of information--see for example:

In this climate, and with this historical baggage, anthropologists will have to work even harder (after decades of "decolonizing anthropology") to challenge the perpetuation of a fairly accurate image of a discipline that is probably the "whitest" (broadly conceived) of all the social sciences in terms of the composition of both its students and faculty. After years of my own complaints at how "unfairly" anthropology was portrayed in some quarters as an Ugly White Colonial discipline, I am tempted to silently acquiesce.

Arrested for Protesting Against Columbus


Columbus Day protest in Denver leads to arrests

Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007

DENVER (Reuters) - About 75 protesters, including American Indian activist Russell Means, were arrested on Saturday after blocking Denver's downtown parade honoring the Italian-born discoverer Christopher Columbus, an event they denounced as "a celebration of genocide."

Police loaded protesters onto buses after they refused orders to disperse. Most will be charged with obstruction of a roadway or disrupting a lawful assembly, Denver Police Lt. Ron Saunier said.

Police delayed the parade's start for more than an hour as they tried to head off confrontations.

American Indian groups and their supporters have disrupted the city's annual Columbus Day parade every year for nearly two decades, leading to clashes with Colorado's Italian-American community over the century-old celebration, the longest-running such commemoration in the United States.

Columbus Day, marked this year on October 8, is an official holiday for most U.S. federal government workers, many public schools, state and local agencies and the U.S. bond market. It recalls the October 12, 1492, landing of Columbus in the Americas on his search for a naval route to India, an event that spawned an era of European interest in the New World.

Means, talking to Reuters before his arrest, said Columbus was the "first trans-Atlantic slave trader" after landing in the Americas in 1492. He said Columbus started centuries of oppression of native peoples.


American Indians confront UC-Berkeley over remains

From The San Francisco Chronicle

Native Americans ask UC Berkeley to return museum artifacts

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Native American groups rallied Friday at UC Berkeley in an attempt to get campus officials to allow them to return thousands of museum artifacts to tribes from California to Alaska.

A group that included university staff and tribal representatives used to decide which items must be returned to the tribes, but a reorganization at the Hearst Museum put museum staff members in charge, and tribal leaders say the new configuration shuts them out.

The move comes as increasing numbers of tribal leaders, using a law approved nearly 20 years ago, try to get possession of human remains and cultural artifacts.

After an hourlong noon rally - during which they extolled the virtues of relinquishing to tribes the remains of 13,000 Native Americans stored at the museum - the 200 protesters marched from Sproul Hall to campus administration offices where they demanded to meet with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Assistant Chancellor Beata FitzPatrick emerged briefly from California Hall to assert that the university is abiding by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.


Anthropology and Indigenous Sovereignty

From The Seattle Times:

Anthropology: the great divide

In the fall of 1996, anthropologist Richard Jantz e-mailed fellow scientists with a plea to help save history.

The University of Tennessee professor urged colleagues to challenge the federal decision to give the 9,300-year-old remains that became known as Kennewick Man to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla for burial. In Jantz's view, the Army Corps of Engineers was about to slam shut a critical window into America's past.

In Seattle, archaeologist Julie Stein read the e-mail with disdain. She had had enough of the ham-handed handling of the unusual case of the remains found on the shores of the Columbia River in southeastern Washington. Then-curator of the Burke Museum of Natural History, Stein had spent 14 years studying Washington archaeology and building relationships with local tribes.

She fired back, chiding Jantz for the effort and alleging the Benton County coroner's local consulting anthropologist, who collected the remains, had attempted to mislead the tribes and the corps by saying they belonged to a recent European settler. She also noted hand bones were submitted for carbon-dating without proper consultation with tribes.

"This is an example of why every tribe in the United States should mistrust and detest archaeologists," she said. "This write-in campagne (sic) of yours is targeted toward the wrong individual.

"Disgustedly yours, ... " she concluded.

Neither Jantz nor Stein knew it then, but the Kennewick Man case would gain international renown — and its accompanying controversy would highlight not only the conflict between principals of scientific inquiry and tribal sovereignty but also a deep professional divide within American anthropology.