12 June 2008

Unity Run

Greetings Relatives!
Here is the update and finalized plans to begin the Peace and Dignity Journeys East Coast Tributary Route. All are invited and we need your support! Please forward widely to anyone you think can help and/or participate!
Gathering Ceremony, Preparation and Send off
(#9 train to 145th Street, walk one block West)

This event is an all nations event to receive and welcome the staffs, runners, and communities. There will be Danza with Cetiliztli Nauhcampa Quetzalcoatl and please bring your songs and offerings. We will have 2008 Peace and Dignity Shirts and other items for sale! Bring donations of money and supplies also!
Peace and Dignity Run Begins
Inwood Park

(Take the A train to the last stop 210 St. and exit through the Isham exit, once you go up stairs you will be facing North, turn around South and make a right on that corner, the entrance to Inwood Park is less than 2 blocks East.)
We will meet here at 5am sharp to walk together up the Mountain, a sacred site here in Manhattan by 5:30 am to greet the sunrise. From this point we will begin running together across the George Washington Bridge making our way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to meet with the Longest Walk 2 and eventually to the Pamunkey Reservation in Virginia to meet with youth from the Haudenosaunee Nation and other Native relatives on the East Coast. Our tributary route will conclude in Tahlequah, Oklahoma where we will meet with runners from the Trail of Tears route. The staffs we will then make their way toward the Kuna Nation in Panama on the main route of Peace and Dignity Journeys. You are all invited to be part of this prayer and historical time as we continue our work towards restoring and preserving our sacred sites, ceremonial traditions and sovereignty as Indigenous Peoples of this hemisphere.
For more information: Jennie Luna 646.245.1216 lalunaxicana@yahoo.com
There are many ways you can participate:
#1: WE NEED VEHICLES. If anyone is willing to drive for a few days or loan us a vehicle, please let me know. The duration of the route will be for approximately 25 days. If there is any piece of the route, certain days or vehicle contacts in different areas that you have, that would be appreciated. If there is any organization or nation that has a vehicle (preferably a van) that would be willing to participate by driving any distance…that would be welcomed.
#2: RUNNERS. ALL runners for ALL lengths/distances are welcome. We do need more people that can run the entire distance to Oklahoma, but if you can only do a portion, all running is welcome. If you would like to run, please contact me with the days/distance you are willing to run. Below is the entire route so you can figure out where to join. I have also attached to this email a Runners packet. Please read it carefully and make sure you are willing to comply with the commitment that is asked of you. For example, there are NO drugs, alcohol, sexual relations, allowed during the run. You will need to complete this packet, fill it out and give to me when you join the run. Also, as a runner, please know that you are responsible for your own transportation home. You must have funds to provide your way home and some funds to help support yourself for the duration of the run (food, gas contributions, etc).
#3: FUNDS. Peace and Dignity is a completely grassroots effort. We do not take corporate money and all fundraising is done through grants and community fundraising. Some money has been raised by the New York committee, but it is not enough to sustain our journey. All funds will go to help with gas for vehicles. As we all know, gas will be the most expensive part of the run. If you are able to donate any money, that would be a tremendous help to make sure we make it to our final destination. Please bring your donations to the gathering on FRIDAY or SATURDAY sunrise.
#4: Hosting. Below you will find the route. If you have contacts anywhere near these areas, runners will need places to to sleep, shower, wash clothes, and have a meal. Ideally we would like to work with Native communities and Centers. Also, since this run of 2008 is dedicated to honoring and preserving sacred sites, if anyone has a suggestion or knowledge of sites along the way…we would like to make sure we arrive and pray with the staffs near these sites.
#5 Supplies: We will need help with the following items. If anyone would like to donate the following items, contact me and/or bring them to the gatherings.

Spiritual supplies needed:
Plenty of sage/cedar/sweetgrass/tobacco and other medicine bundles needed for ceremony and as offerings
Carbones/charcoal and copal
Red cloth for prayer flags/markers

Logistical supplies needed:
WATER, large jugs
Electrolyte powder mix
First aid kit
Antibiotic cream
Tylenol tablets/ Advil
Arnica, Ice hot, tiger balm, hot/cold cream for pain
Roadside emergency kit
Instant Ice packs
Ace bandages
Trail mix/ snacks/ granola bars
Basic camping gear, such as pots, utensils, plates
Non-perishable food, cereal, bread, peanut butter, jelly, fruit, etc.
Toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes/ gel

East Coast Route Logistics/Route
Saturday June 14th: Begin the run at 5am sunrise out of New York City, Inwood Park to Easton, Pennsylvania (70 mi)
Sunday June 15th: Easton, PA to Lebanon, PA (77 mi)
Monday June 16th: Lebanon, PA to Carlisle, PA (50 mi)
Tuesday June 17th: Carlisle, PA to Everett, PA (80mi)
Wednesday June 18th: Everett, PA to Mount Pleasant Mills, PA (76 mi)
Thursday June 19th: Mt. Pleasant Mills, PA to Pittsburgh, PA (41 mi)
Friday June 20th to Saturday June 21st : Rest Days: We will converge with the Longest Walk 2 in Pittsburgh and have been invited to a Pow Wow on this weekend.
Sunday June 22nd: Pittsburgh, PA to Friendsville, Maryland (72 mi)
Monday June 23rd: Friendsville, MD to Petersburg, West Virginia (72 mi)
Tuesday June 24th: Petersburg, West Virginia to Harrisonburg, Virginia (70 mi)
Wednesday June 25th: Harrisonburg, VA to Louisa, Virginia (65 mi)
Thursday June 26th: Louisa, VA to Richmond, Virginia (or Pamunkey Reservation) (50 mi) at this point we will unite with the Spirit of the Youth Run (coming from Oneida Nation) and run to Pamunkey, Virginia (through a confederation of 8 nations) and continue on the route with them.
Friday June 27th: Rest Day
Saturday June 28th – July 4th: Running from Pamunkey, VA to Chattanooga, Tennessee (580 miles) where we will end the run at the Eternal Flame of the Cherokee People, the exact location where the Trail of Tears route will have started. There will be someone there to receive us, uniting the routes, which will allow for it to be a continuous route which will continue on to Panama. The details of this route, day to day still need to be worked out with the Spirit Runners who are taking the lead for this part of the route. We will most likely go through North Carolina (through the Tuscarora nation). Their exact route is not decided, but I will send this part out as soon as it is completed.
At the closing of our route, those who choose can depart from Tennessee back home, or those who wish can continue on to drive to Tahlequah, Oklahoma where we will meet the Cherokee Trail of Tears runners as they conclude their run in Tahlequah and we will pass the staffs to those runners from Chicago (another tributary route arriving to Oklahoma) and to the Trail of Tears runners. They will carry on the prayer to New Mexico where they will meet the main route running south.
The drive to Tahlequah, OK is 15 hours. We need to arrive there by July 5 or 6th.
What is Peace and Dignity?
Peace and Dignity Journeys are spiritual runs that embody the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. This prophecy mandates that at this time all Indigenous Peoples in the Western Hemisphere shall be reunited in a spiritual way in order to heal our nations so we can begin to work towards a better future for our children and generations to come. Peace and Dignity Journeys occur every four years and start with Indigenous runners on opposite ends of the continents (Chickaloon, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina). They run for seven months through hundreds of Indigenous communities where they participate in their respective spiritual practices and traditions; spark dialogue on the issue of peace and dignity for Indigenous Peoples; model their responsibility to Mother Earth, Father Sky, communities, and themselves; and receive the community’s prayers. These prayers, sacred staffs, and conversations are then carried to proceeding communities until the runners reach the center of the hemisphere. When the runners meet at the Kuna Nation in Panama City, Panama,(they will arrive November 13th) it will symbolize all Indigenous Peoples joining together in a spiritual way to manifest the prophecy of the Eagle and Condor. For more info: www.peaceanddignityjourneys.com

Tezcatlipoca-a reflection, a moment of reconciliation of the past with the possiblities of the future, not a vision of the light but an awareness of the shadow that is the smoke of lights passing. It is the smoking mirror into which the individual, the family, the clan, nation and barrio must gaze to acquire the sense of memory that steers intuition, the sense of history that calls for liberation.

05 June 2008

Obama position on Cherokee issue builds ties with Native Americans

By Kevin Bogardus

Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Barack Obama’s support for the Cherokee Nation in its controversial battle with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is helping him win support from Native American leaders.

That support has translated into votes in Democratic primaries, and could also help the Illinoisan in a general-election fight with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Obama has weighed in against legislation supported by other CBC members that would cut off federal funds to the Cherokee Nation. The CBC is upset with the Cherokee for excluding Freedmen — descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members — from tribal membership.

Obama has said that he disagrees with the decision, but opposes cutting off funds to the Cherokee, saying tribes have a right to be self-governing.

To most black lawmakers, the move by the Cherokee Nation smacked of racism and discrimination. But many Native Americans see tribal membership as an issue of sovereignty and resent any federal intrusion.

Chairman Joe Brings Plenty of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota said if Obama had sided with the CBC on the issue, it would have weighed on Native American voters’ minds.

“It would have been costly,” Brings Plenty said. “If Congress is allowed to step and just rearrange the constitution, what is going to happen to our constitution? The seriousness of the issue is that comes down directly to interfering with the nations.”

Obama easily won the two South Dakota counties where Brings Plenty’s reservation is located on Tuesday, although it wasn’t enough for him to win the entire state. He also benefited from strong wins in Indian counties in Montana, where he did defeat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

According to Obama’s advisers and supporters, a number of states might go Democratic in this year’s general election because of Native American votes. They cite Montana, a state where more than 6 percent of the population is Native American. It has voted Republican in the last several presidential campaigns, but Obama trails McCain by an average of only seven points, according to polls monitored by RealClearPolitics.

Another example cited by Obama’s supporters is North Carolina. While its population is only a little more than 1 percent American Indian, it is seen as a swing state where Obama might be able to edge out a narrow victory.

If Obama had sided with the CBC, Brings Plenty, who has no position on the substance of the Freedmen dispute, said he would not have retracted his endorsement but would have requested a meeting with the senator to offer his perspective on the issue.

Brings Plenty isn’t alone in praising Obama’s position on the Cherokee issue. Indian Country Today, a Native American news service, praised him for meeting “Indian issues head-on, even where they could put him at odds with other voters.”

“It was smart of Obama to put out a position. I’m glad he’s on the record. This is something tribes definitely want to hear,” said Lillian Sparks, a member of the Rosebud Sioux and executive director of the National Indian Education Association.

The CBC reaction has been less positive.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), who endorsed Clinton for president, said the Democratic front-runner’s statement on the Freedmen shows he is without “a clear understanding of the issue.”

“What Sen. Obama fails to understand is that the Freedmen issue is about treaty rights, not tribal sovereignty,” wrote Watson.

Obama has taken other positions to win over Native American voters. He backs more education and healthcare funding for tribes, and has promised as president to hold an annual meeting with tribal leaders and to hire a senior White House aide to handle Native American issues.

“At the heart of his campaign is the need to be inclusive, particularly for communities that have felt they have been left out. For Indian Country, that resonates,” said Keith Harper, a Cherokee member and partner at Kilpatrick Stockton who heads up the Obama campaign’s 50-member Native American policy advisory committee.

Obama has met with tribal leaders in five states so far, including Tuesday’s Democratic primary states, according to his campaign. He also held a conference call with tribal leaders from across the nation in July 2007.

Brings Plenty soon started hearing from Obama campaign aides in October 2007 about an endorsement, although his nearly 16,000-member tribe is based in South Dakota and was not voting until June.

“I was surprised because he had knowledge of native issues even then,” said Brings Plenty about Obama when listening in to the conference call. “When I found out [former Sen. Tom] Daschle [D-S.D.] was one of his advisers, I knew that’s why he knows.”

Brings Plenty endorsed Obama personally in November 2007 and later had a tribal resolution passed officially supporting the senator in February this year.

Kalyn Free, a member of the Democratic National Committee and Oklahoma superdelegate, was disappointed when Obama did not attend an August 2007 Native American forum also skipped by several other candidates. But she’s since endorsed Obama, whom she said plans to attend a national tribal leader forum she’s organizing this summer.

Free aims to hold the forum in New Mexico, “the most purple of battleground states,” Free said. “Indians are and can be the pivotal and the deciding factor on who wins the White House.”

The Puzzle of Race and Politics, from Counterpunch

June 4, 2008
The Puerto Rican Experience

The Puzzle of Race and Politics

The application of United States frameworks and perspectives to understand Puerto Rican politics and society always derive distorted results. To apply the same lenses we use in the United States to understand political dynamics in Puerto Rico will lead to failure. The analysis of the recent United States primaries in Puerto Rico in CounterPunch by Nikolas Kozloff is a good example of this. The historical record is full of examples of how misinterpretation of local social dynamics derived from the frames used to interpret them.

The United States Bureau of the Census learned this when the 2000 decennial census staff was preparing to develop items for the questionnaire to be used in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, since 1958, as a result of former Governor Luis Muñoz Marin’s negotiations with the U.S. Department of Commerce determined a process to develop the survey instrument to be used in the island. The process would consist of an inter-agency committee, led by the Puerto Rico Planning Board, that would include “consumers” of census data and would determine which kinds of survey items are needed in Puerto Rico. One of their decisions was that the question of race, would not be included in the survey instrument to be utilized in the 1960s census. Since the 1950s the question of race has not been included in the Puerto Rican census.

In 1980, the Legal Services Corporation (legal advocacy group) requested that in order to ascertain the level of racial discrimination in the island some data gathering about race was needed. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico eventually decided there was no need for the gathering of such data in Puerto Rico. The climate for considering questions about race changed dramatically after the 1992 election of Governor Pedro Rossello, of the New Progressive Party (NPP) and a supporter for statehood for the island. In the years previous to the 2000 decennial census, the Inter-Agency committee, chaired by Lillian Torres, director for the social and economic planning for census activities with the Puerto Rico Planning Board discussed the need for data on race but decided not to use the items in the United States Census. They proposed to develop items more in line with the social reality of the island. Their decision was rejected and Governor Rossello himself made the decision to use the entire U.S. census survey instrument without any modification in tune with the social, economic and political reality of Puerto Rico. The outcome, in an island with a strong African and Taino cultural and phenotypical influence, resulted in 80.5% of the population self-identifying as white. Therefore, Puerto Rico is “whiter” than the United States.

The bureaucratic decision of former Governor Rossello basically enabled a “whitening” process that was accelerated by Puerto Rico’s colonial status. Since the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico, while it has not experienced a dramatically large black emigration (or received white immigrants to the island in large numbers) Puerto Rico’s “white” population has grown from 48.5% (1802) to 80.5% in 2000.

The colonial experience has also been a racializing experience that has internalized even more the ideas that white is better (the colonial power is white). Also, the system of race is more fluid and elastic. In contrast with the polarized binary nature of the United States system of racial classification, between white and nonwhite, like in most of Latin America the system is more like a continuum where color gradations and other factors create a larger number of racial categories. While the system still is constructed along the two poles of white/black, the system, in sorting people, works quite differently than in the United States. The “one drop rule,” which guides racial classification in the United States, does not operate in the same way in the island. In the United States, for example, at one point in the state of Louisiana, a person who had 1/32 African ancestry would be considered “colored” regarded of its physical appearance. This makes African ancestry a very powerful factor in determining the racial classification of a person. The United States’ system adds to the nonwhite side of the racial ledger. In contrast, in Puerto Rico, the complex combination of color, type of hair, socioeconomic status, gender give European ancestry more weight in the racial classification. A person of high socioeconomic status, high education, whose skin is not extremely dark would be considered white and his peers would consider him white too. “Whiteness” is a very elastic category in Puerto Rico as part of a system that adds to the white side of the racial ledger.

For example, to assume that “ugly racial fissures” (Nikolas Kozloff, “The Puerto Rico Primary
Obama's Latino Problem Getting Worse, Counterpunch, June 2, 2008) can be read from CNN exit polls in Puerto Rico is reading too much on data that is not very reliable. The only thing we can glean from this last election is that we are not quite sure about the role of race unless we do much focused research into what happened. Also, given that racial dynamics in Puerto Rico are so different from Latinos in the United States (even among mainland Puerto Ricans) comparisons or extrapolations run the risk of being unanchored in any empirical certainty.

For example, the turnout for this primary is one of the weakest in recent Puerto Rican political history. Only 16 per cent of the registered voters participated in the primaries despite all the hoopla around the local visits by Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama. In the 2000 and the 2004 general elections, 82.4 % and 81.7% of Puerto Ricans voted, a much higher rate than in the electoral process those years in the United States which were 51.2% and 56.7% respectively (see Manuel Alvarez Rivera, 2008).

Also, a majority of those who voted were overwhelming pro-statehood. 59% of voters identified as favoring statehood supported Sen. Clinton by 81% while those who favored Commonwealth divided themselves among both candidates. Sen. Clinton also received widespread support across age, income and education groups. However, many union activists and left of center voters (which could have potentially supported Obama) were involved in a march that Sunday against the primaries (including some left of center members of the local governing party and a new environmentalist party).

Ironically, as Matt Barreto, a political scientist from the University of Washington discussed in a recent posting of the Latino Section of the American Political Science list serve, those who said race was an issue were more likely to vote for Obama (63% Clinton and 37% for Obama) On the contrary, those who said race was not an issue were less likely to vote for Obama (71% Clinton and 29% for Obama). This is contrary to the experience in the United States where those that responded that race was an issue had much higher percentages of support for Sen. Clinton. Another problem with the CNN exit poll is that it does not ask people to identify themselves on the basis of race (as in the U.S. exit polls), so we cannot ascertain what racial dynamics might be behind these numbers.

But the main ideological factor that clouds any understanding of race and politics in Puerto Rico is the pervasiveness of a color-blind ideology in the island. Until we understand what sustains this denial of race and racism in Puerto Rico, and until we do not apply external paradigms that are not rooted in the Puerto Rican social formation we will reach the wrong conclusions.

Victor M. Rodriguez is a professor of sociology of race and ethnicity in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, California State University, Long Beach, his most recent book Latino Politics in the United States: Race, Ethnicity, Class and Gender in the Mexican American and Puerto Rican Experience, Kendall Hunt, 2005.

03 June 2008

Barack Obama Commits to the Rights of Indigenous Nations

"You will be on my mind every day I am in the White House"

My Indian policy starts with honoring the unique government to government relationship between tribes and the federal government and ensuring that our treaty obligations are met and ensuring that Native Americans have a voice in the White House.

Indian nations have never asked much of the United States, only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made by their forebears. So let me be clear: I believe that treaty commitments are paramount law, I’ll fulfill those commitments as president of the United States.

See also the "First Americans" section of the Obama campaign website.

  • Actually has an "Indian policy"
  • An American Indian adviser on tribal policy
  • End a century of mismanagement of Indian Trusts
  • Treaty commitments are paramount law
  • World class health care and education on Reserves

'Obamamania' hits the Crow Nation
Indian Country Today
May 23, 2008
by Adrian Jawort

Sen. Barack Obama makes first visit to Indian country

CROW AGENCY, Mont. - "I like my new name: Barack Black Eagle. That is a good name," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama told the crowd of some 4,000 people gathered at Crow Agency May 19. He referenced having been adopted into the tribe moments earlier by his new "parents," Hartford and Mary Black Eagle.

Obama's official new American Indian name, given to him by the Crow Nation, was translated as "One who helps people throughout the land."

"It is not just done for show," Robert Old Horn explained after he announced the tribe's newest honorary member. "But it is done with sincereness - adopting one into a family, with brothers and sisters."

Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne introduced Obama, thanking the Illinois senator for co-sponsoring the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and presenting Obama with gifts to share with his family.

"We ask that you, senator, commit to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People," Venne said. The U.S. is one of four countries that voted against that declaration.

In turn, Obama thanked and listed every tribe in Montana, and thanked the rest of Indian country for its support. He also praised the work of his director of Native American Outreach in Montana, Samuel Kohn, Crow.

Having the senator come to the reservation was the manifestation of a lot of hard work on behalf of Kohn and other tribal Obama supporters.

"We've been doing all kinds of things: community organizing, meeting up with each of the tribal leaders, traveled all over the state," Kohn said. "We've really ran the gauntlet."

Kohn said that because Obama makes every person feel involved, it has made his work more rewarding with a tremendous increase of voters on reservations.

He was touched when his work to get people to vote was heeded by one elderly man on the northern Montana Rocky Boy's Reservation.

"And at a meeting, a man 74 years old came up," Kohn said. "He said nobody cared enough to ask him to vote, or cared enough to even show him what he should do to register to vote. But when he said he was going to vote for the first time in his life, he said, 'I'm going to vote for Barack Obama.'

"For the first time, I feel that a candidate really cares about improving the life of American Indians. There's no other candidate that has sat down face-to-face with American Indians and genuinely cared about them."

One Northern Cheyenne voter present at the Obama rally, Donna Gonzalez, said she was disillusioned with the current administration and was impressed that Obama would put Indians in his cabinet. "I'm a Republican, but I'm voting for a Democrat this year," she said.

Obama's words at the rally were a strong indication that Kohn was right in his feelings about the candidate and his commitment to American Indians.

"Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as the Native Americans, the first Americans," Obama said. "Too often Washington has paid lip service to working with tribes, while taking a 'one size fits all' approach with tribal communities across the nation. That will change when I'm president of the United States."

Obama said that he'd work with tribes to settle mismanagement of Indian trusts, and would even host an annual summit at the White House with tribal leaders to come up with an agenda for tribal communities while making sure treaty obligations are met while honoring the tribal and federal government relationship.

"Because that's how we'll make sure that you have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about your lives, about your nations, about your people," he said about the proposed annual tribal White House summit.

Obama acknowledged that the U.S. government has had a tragic history with tribal nations, and that it hasn't always been honest with them.

"And that's history we have to acknowledge if we are going to move forward in a fair and honest way. Indian nations have never asked much of the United States, only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made by their forebears.

"So let me be clear: I believe that treaty commitments are paramount law, I'll fulfill those commitments as president of the United States."

He said in addition to co-sponsoring the IHCIA, he's fighting to ensure full funding of IHS, as well as increase tribal college and education funding for all American Indian children.

Obama told of how when he grew up in Hawaii and because he was black, he felt he was often deemed an "outsider," the same as many American Indians perhaps have felt in their own country.

"And because I have that experience, I want you to know that you will never be forgotten. You will be on my mind every day that I'm in the White House.

"We will never be able to undo the wrongs that were committed against Native Americans. But what we can do is make sure that we have a president who's committed to doing what's right with Native Americans - being a full partner.

"Respecting you, honoring you, working with you. That's the commitment I'm making to you; and since now I'm a member of the [Crow and American Indian] family, you know that I won't break my commitment to my own brothers, and my own sisters."