Thursday, April 30, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry #6

The last "official" poetry entry for National Poetry Month, while there is just a few hours left in April. I do plan on posting more poetry though - I've found a few poets I'm hooked on, and I have some books on order, still on their way, from the excellent suggestions I received.

The first is from an author I am familiar with, but as a novelist. She has beautiful prose, so it is no surprise that her poetry is also quite beautiful.

The second is a "traditional" Native poem (looks like a song, that was translated), though I don't know much about it. It is quite haunting when spoken though, and it reminded me of a ceremony (though brief) held at my grandfather's memorial/remembrance party.

The Strange People
The antelope are strange people ... they are beautiful to look at, and yet they are tricky. We do not trust them. They appear and disappear; they are like shadows on the plains. Because of their great beauty, young men sometimes follow the antelope and are lost forever. Even if those foolish ones find themselves and return, they are never again right in their heads.
—Pretty Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows transcribed and edited by Frank Linderman (1932)
All night I am the doe, breathing
his name in a frozen field,
the small mist of the word
drifting always before me.
And again he has heard it
and I have gone burning
to meet him, the jacklight
fills my eyes with blue fire;
the heart in my chest
explodes like a hot stone.
Then slung like a sack
in the back of his pickup,
I wipe the death scum
from my mouth, sit up laughing
and shriek in my speeding grave.
Safely shut in the garage,
when he sharpens his knife
and thinks to have me, like that,
I come toward him,
a lean gray witch
through the bullets that enter and dissolve.
I sit in his house
drinking coffee till dawn
and leave as frost reddens on hubcaps,
crawling back into my shadowy body.
All day, asleep in clean grasses,
I dream of the one who could really wound me.
Not with weapons, not with a kiss, not with a look.
Not even with his goodness.
If a man was never to lie to me. Never lie me.
I swear I would never leave him.
- Louise Erdrich
A House Made of Dawn
The Navajo Night Chant
In Tse'gihi
In the house made of the dawn,
In the house made of the evening twilight,
In the house made of the dark cloud,
In the house made of the he-rain,
In the house made of the dark mist,
In the house made of the she-rain,
In the house made of pollen,
In the house made of grasshoppers,
Where the dark mist curtains the doorway,
The path to which is on the rainbow,
Where the zigzag lightning stands high on top,
Where the he-rain stands high on top,
Oh, male divinity!
With your moccasins of dark cloud, come to us.
With your leggings of dark cloud, come to us.
With your shirt of dark cloud, come to us.
With your head-dress of dark cloud, come to us.
With your mind enveloped in dark cloud, come to us.
With the dark thunder above you, come to us soaring.
With the shapen cloud at your feet, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the dark cloud over your head, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the he-rain over your head, come to us soaring..
With the far darkness made of the dark mist over your head, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the she-rain over your head, come to us soaring.
With the zigzag lightning flung out on high over your head, come to us soaring.
With the rainbow hanging high over your head, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the he-rain on the ends of your wings, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the dark mist on the ends of your wings, come to us soaring.
With the far darkness made of the she-rain on the ends of your wings, come to us soaring.
With the zigzag lightning flung out on high on the ends of your wings, come to us soaring.
With the rainbow hanging high on the ends of your wings, come to us soaring.
With the near darkness made of the dark cloud, of the he-rain, of the dark mist and of the she-rain, come to us.
With the darkness of the earth, come to us.
With these I wish the foam floating on the flowing water over the roots of the great corn.
I have made your sacrifice.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
My feet restore for me.
My limbs restore for me.
My body restore for me.
Mt mind restore for me.
My voice restore for me.
Today, take out your spell for me.
Today, take away your spell for me.
Away from me you have taken it.
Far off from me, it is taken.
Far off you have done it.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily my eyes regain their power.
Happily my head becomes cool.
Happily my limbs regain their power.
Happily I hear again.
Happily for me is taken off.
Happily I walk.
Impervious to pain, I walk.
Feeling light within, I walk.
With lively feelings, I walk.
Happily abundant dark clouds I desire.
Happily abundant dark mists I desire.
Happily abundant passing showers I desire.
Happily an abundance of vegetation I desire.
Happily an abundance of pollen I desire.
Happily abundant dew I desire.
Happily may fair white corn, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
Happily may fair yellow corn, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
Happily may fair blue corn, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
Happily may fair plants of all kinds, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
Happily may fair goods of all kinds, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
Happily may fair jewels of all kinds, to the ends of the earth, come with you.
With these before you, happily may they come with you.
With these behind you, happily may they come with you.
With these below you, happily may they come with you.
With these abovee you, happily may they come with you.
With these all around you, happily may they come with you.
Thus happily you accomplish your tasks.
Happily the old men will regard you.
Happily the old women will regard you.
Happily the young men will regard you.
Happily the young women will regard you.
Happily the boys will regard you.
Happily the girls will regard you.
Happily the children will regard you.
Happily the chiefs will regard you.
Happily, as they scatter in different directions, they will regard you.
Happily, as they approach their homes, they will regard you.
Happily may their roads back home be on the trail of pollen.
Happily may they all get back.
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk.
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty,
It is finished in beauty.

From Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature edited by John Bierhorst, University of Arizona Press. The text is the translation of Washington Matthews.

An art show entirely dedicated to RAVENS?! These people are brilliant.

Up in Palmer, there are some smart people who noticed the superb-ness of the raven. They are having a juried art show, and an exhibit, entirely focused on the subject of RAVENS.

Entries for this "Raven's Call" are being accepted from May 2nd to the 7th.

Ah yes, our time has come...

Rural affairs job lost... then back

From the Tundra Drums:

Former Bethel and Chevak resident Amy Sparck Dobmeier received an employment reprieve of sorts Wednesday when acting Anchorage Mayor Matt Claman moved the city’s rural affairs coordinator into the Office of the Mayor.

Basically, the position was cut, and then Claman moved it so it wasn't. Croft said he would keep the position, Sullivan wouldn't commit. We'll see, when the new mayor is crowned, just what ultimately happens with this position.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alaska Native Art Auction tomorrow night!

Get some fantastic, authentic, innovative Native art at tonight's art auction!
I don't know how many seats they have open, but they had some beautiful stuff last year (pictures and info here), and the proceeds go to a great cause.
(I adjusted the day on this - I thought today was Thursday....)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wow. Didn't see that coming today.

From the Huff Post. Senator switches parties - from Republican to Democrat!

If you've been keeping count, that means when Franken is finally in there, filibuster-proof Senate.


Monday, April 27, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry #5

April is nearly over, but I have really enjoyed focusing in on Native poetry. I enjoy poetry, and read it somewhat regularly, but almost entirely devoting this month to Native poets, it's given me a new appreciation for the talent and beauty they can produce. In the past, I would only be able to name a few "favorite" Native poets - I now have too many to choose from.

I've also really appreciated the suggestions on books or poets - please keep sending them! I even ordered a few books online that I couldn't find here in town. Because I've actually had to limit what to place here in posts, I am going to take the suggestions of some of the commenters here and continue this beyond National Poetry Month. I think a little variety of Native art can only do some good.

This next one was sent to me just today (thanks Freddie!) and I think I reread it a half dozen times. While I usually tend to "feel" after a good poem, or begin a "long think," this Mary TallMountain poem, though short, did what I usually depend on prose for - made me really visualize something.

The second poem is another by Chief Dan George (I was trying not to repeat poets, but he is one of my favorite poets/authors.) I wasn't originally going to post it - it is incredibly sad to me - but this TallMountain one made me think of the contrast of the two.

The Last Wolf
The last wolf hurried toward me
through the ruined city
and I heard his baying echoes
down the steep smashed warrens
of Montgomery Street and past
the few ruby-crowned highrises
left standing
their lighted elevators useless
Passing the flicking red and green
of traffic signals
baying his way eastward
in the mystery of his wild loping gait
closer the sounds in the deadly night
through clutter and rubble of quiet blocks
I heard his voice ascending the hill
and at last his low whine as he came
floor by empty floor to the room
where I sat in my narrow bed looking west, waiting
I heard him snuffle at the door
and I watched
He trotted across the floor
he laid his long gray muzzle
on the spare white spread
and his eyes burned yellow
his small dotted eyebrows quivered
Yes, I said.
I know what they have done.
- Mary TallMountain
The Wolf Ceremony
I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson.
So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion.

He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed.

In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong.

I sang.
In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat.

I sang.
In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers.

I sang.
In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed-- the link to creation.

I sang.
In my eyes sparkled love.
I sang.
And the song floated on the sun's rays from tree to tree.

When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf's reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out.

All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.

At last I could whisper to him: "It is finished!" "Can I go home now?" He asked, checking his watch to see if he would still be in time to catch his favorite program on TV. I watched him disappear and wept in silence. All is finished!
- Chief Dan George

Mayor's forum on Alaska Native issues today

If you can't make this event (or are reading this after) the Alaska Native Professional Association has a live Webcast of it, and will have a transcription and audio of it after the event. I'll post it when it comes on.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama's first 100 days - whaddya think?

As Obama hits his first 100 days, well, don't know that I'm exactly qualified to be judging his job, but for the issues I care most about, pretty good job. "A" for effort, certainly.

One thing I had hoped he would have by now is one of his campiagn promises to Indian country -a Native senior advisor. I figured he'd have this position filled within the 100 days - and certainly before the puppy situation was settled! I'm sure there's a lot of top positions yet to be filled, but I'm ready for the names to stop dangling in front of me (including two Alaska Native women!) and for the position to be filled! There's some good opportunities slipping by...

Still, Obama has had some Native history made already, in his first 100 days, so I suppose I should stop my complaining. From a record increase in the Indian Health Services budget to the first Native woman appointed to the top position at IHS, there's some looking up in that area. And he's not just appointing Native people to jobs serving other Native people - he's appointed some big Native guns to positions across the administration.

Quick and easy!

And some other Native and/or Obama first 100 days bits:

Tribal leaders attend planting of organic garden at the USDA.

Meetings in Indian country about economic stimulus (Indian Country Today,) as well as the National Congress of the American Indians page/Web site about it.

Sec. of the Interior Salazar announces $500 million for tribes in stimulus. (RezNet)

Polls on the first 100 days are pretty good for Obama, except for the torture memo thing (from the Washington Post.)

Huffington Post's collection of articles, photos on his first 100 days.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry #4

Fourth installment to honor National Poetry Month, and all those brilliant Native poets out there!

The first, really, the first line still rings in my ears, like an anthem. "Today, I am more native than yesterday..."

And I promise it's not just because she's a fellow Tlingit, and Raven moiety as well! The whole subject of the poem is really only something I've begun to understand in the last few years, "And my heart spoke a purpose in my life,/of seeking integrity in myself..."

It's the kind of poem that you have to think on for a few hours, or a few years, and really let it sink into your life. The rhyme scheme isn't that strong, maybe, but it is easy to ignore because of the quite peaceful, and strong, words she writes.

The second messed with my mind a little, so I thought I'd share. It kind of reminded me of my Intro to Philosophy class, when the professor showed us the french painting of an apple, with the words painted across it, "This is not an apple."

Moses is a Canadian First Nations member, I believe.


Today, I am more native than yesterday,
I didn't hurry so fast, running from my past,
I sat real still when I was alone,
didn't have to call someone on the phone,
listening to the silence until my head heard,
my heart speaking to me....
And my heart spoke of purpose in my life,
of seeking integrity in myself,
of walking a solitary path of peace,
seeking harmony instead of wealth,
of seeing the strength in a prayer,
sharing with my children the power there,
of honoring everything that is alive,
being one with nature, not strife....
On this journey I walk,
my heart continues to talk,
turning me into what I was born this day,
for I am more Native than yesterday....

- Melody Jackson

The Line

This is not the poem, this line
I'm feeding you. And the thought
that this line is not the poem
is not it either. Instead
the thought of what this line is not is
the weight that sinks it
in. And though this image of
that thought as a weight is quite
a neat figure of speech, you
know what it's not
this time let the line smoothly
arc to this spot, and now lets
it reach down to one other,
one further rhyme
of which almost does measure
up, the way it keeps the line
stirring through the dampening
air. Oh, you know you can hear
the lure in that. As you know
you've known from the start the self
referring this line's doing
was a hook bit of wit that made you look
and see how clear it is no
part of this line or its gear
could be the poem. Still it cast
and kept the line reeling out
till now at last the hook's on
to itself and about to
tie this line I'm feeing you
up with a knot. Referring
to itself has got the line and us nowhere. So clever's
not what the poem is about
either. We're left hanging there
while something like a snout starts
nudging at your ear, nibbling
near my mouth
it's the poem about to take
the bait. From the inside ought
to be a great way to learn
what the poem is. And we'll use
this line when the poem's drawn it
taut and fine as breath to tell
what we know, where we are and
where we'll go
breaks. How would it feel, knowing,
at last, what the poem really
is, to lack the line to speak?

- Daniel David Moses

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Earth Day resolutions

So Earth Day kinda snuck up on me, and I do try and recognize it in some way. For several thousands of years, the Native people of this continent did a pretty good job of being responsible with the earth. But I think we're slipping, big time now. "Taking care of the land" should not be a past value, and I don't think it totally is - yet.

But today, I didn't really do anything because I forgot about it until about noon today. I also got to thinking that every Earth Day I reflect on how I SHOULD be doing more, and down the way not that much happens.

So today I actually reflected on WHY that's usually a fail. And I came up with two pretty obvious reasons:

1) I start too big. Somehow, overnight, I believe I'm going to change all my habits? As utopian as that is... that's a set up for a big fail right there.

2) I'm not really that specific. "Recycle more." "Use less energy." Uh, right. Not ,only is it kind of copping out, there's no accountability, even to myself.

So I've gone over some very small, very realistic changes I know I can make and instead of making them, "change these for the rest of your life" kind of moves, I'm going to commit to them until the end of the summer (Sept. 1.) Then, re-evaluate. My small changes include:

1. Do not purchase DVD's, or physically rent them.
Benefits: Save on packaging, the energy to create the physical DVD, save on gas. I will download any movies I want to rent or purchase, and if it's not available on iTunes... well, I'm SOL. I think it's something I can survive.

2. Do not purchase anything from the grocery store if I'm not using a reusable bag.
I started something like this last year, and even have all the bags, but kept forgetting them, and shrugging it off for a "I'll remember next time." So, for grocery shopping only, if I don't have the bags, I'm not walking in. Benefits: Save on plastic AND paper, landfills not as full.

3. ONLY use environmentally conscious cosmetic brands
I'm halfway to this goal, as the brand I prefer for my basics is pretty much there. But I looked up one of the items I use every day, and... yikes. I checked it on Skin Deep cosmetic database, and holy crap. I'm basically washing my face with toxins... which seems a little self-defeating as well. So only earth-friendly brands. This includes my shampoo, shower gel - the works. Benefits: Not putting freaky hormone-ridden stuff on every day, save on packaging, supporting companies with a green conscious.

4. I will dispose of any medications correctly
I didn't even know this was a problem until I was made aware of how BIG a problem it is recently! Not disposing of medications correctly can mean a lot of things, like danger to yourself or children by accidental poisoning, but it can also (and DOES) get into the water systems, and doesn't come out. This goes into our drinking water, but it can also effect salmon (and other wildlife) populations. You can check out proper disposal here from the State of Utah (hey, they popped up first.) Benefits: Non-poisoned drinking water and oceans, less chance of poisoning.

So that's it. It seems like so little to me, but this year I'm focusing on small changes, and succeeding small, instead of focusing on big, and failing hard.

A few other Native environmental bits:

Here in Anchorage, is was apt timing of the Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change. This APRN audio focuses on the importance of traditional knowledge in the environment discussed at the summit.

A few Native environment sites and organizations:

A Native drum-making business that creates their drums from fallen trees.

The American Indian Environmental Office focuses on "environmental protection in Indian country, with a special emphasis on helping tribes administer their own environmental programs."

Honor the Earth is a Native American environmental advocacy organization.

Sexual Assault Awareness Event TODAY

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is only a test

In my blog Spring Cleaning, I'm finally figuring out how to post from my fancy new cell. So here it is...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New look, and a few pieces of news

Experimenting with some improvements to the blog, including a bit of a change in the look. Let me know what you think!

And a few bits if you're looking:

The Immoral Minority has a post up about Palin's new rural advisor.

Mudflats has a post about the Alaskan Marie Antoinette of the moment, regarding rural energy.

And some of the post-mortem on Palin's AG pick, Wayne Anthony Ross, who was rejected in an historic vote for Alaska, the Juneau Empire reported on which of the Southeast, and Juneau, legislators that voted. This was quite telling (representative) of the mood of Alaska Native citizens about Ross:

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, and Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, both spoke out against Ross on the floor.

Both are Alaska Native, and Kookesh said the Native community could not support Ross "because of the past history and dealings with this gentleman."

All of the Native legislators voted against confirming Ross.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Western Alaskans travel to London

I saw some news on this, but I got an e-mail that pointed out something interesting about it. Western Alaskan residents traveled to London this past week to voice their opposition of the Pebble Mine to the Anglo American company, executives and shareholders. Anglo American holds a 50% interest in Pebble, along with Northern Dynasty.

An interesting tidbit in here is that Bethel residents (presumably from the group AK2UK) bought a share in the company, so they would have a say as shareholders, and could attend the shareholder's meeting in the UK.


One of the travelers also had an op-ed in the London Times.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry #3

In honor of National Poetry Month, I'm highlighting Native poems throughout the month.
Of the two below, the first is a wonderful Tlingit (Alaska Native) woman. Nora and her husband have done an immeasurable amount for the Tlingit people. She is truly a living treasure.

Her poem reminds me of the Southeast waters, and being on the boat (though a much bigger one) with my own papa, on Mother's Day.

The second poem is very striking, and actually reminds me of another Tlingit woman who told us the story of being put into school for the first time, and the fear, the beatings for speaking your language.

by Nora Marks Dauenhauer

I was telling my grandfather
about what was happening
on the boat. My father
and his brothers were trying to anchor against the wind
and tide.

I could smell him, especially
his hair. It was a warm smell.
I yelled as loud as I could,
telling him what I saw.
My face was wet from driving

I could see his long eyebrows,
I could look at him and get
really close. We both liked this.
Getting close was his way
of seeing.

Halfbreed Girl in the City School
by Jo Whitehorse Cochran

are you Mexican
are you Italian
are you Chinese
are you Japanese
spic wetback greaseball slant-eye
you are dark enough to question
you are light enough to ask
you have near black hair brown eyes
and speak slow-english
we are blonde blue eyed
and wear store bought sweaters skirts or pants
you wear homemade clothes out of style
we circle round you and your sister
you hug your sister close she's small and even darker
we kick we tug at braids and coats
we pull "I'm Indian!" out of you

the social worker wants
you to describe your family
she asks
does your father beat
your motherdoes your father drink
does your mother
do you hate your parents
do you cry
tell me tell me do you
like the reservation better
are you ashamed in the classroom
when you wet your pants
why don't you speak up
why don't you get excused
why don't you go at recess
tell me tell me speak!

you stare out the window
turn an alphabet block in your hand
speak english speak english
the social worker caws
outside Canadian geese pass through your immediate sky
six in an arc going south
if you were a Changer like Star Boy
you could fly with those long-necks
but you must stay and look out this window

Grandma's words pound in your head
they want to strip us of our words
they want to take our tongues
so we forget how to talk to each other
you swallow the rock
that was your tongue
you swallow the song
that was your voice
you swallow you swallow
in the silence

WAR is over, I can now enjoy my weekend

Palin enjoyed a triple smack-down Thursday, and I must say two of those was something of a relief.

One, in particular, was a great relief, and that of course, was the vote by the Alaska legislature to reject the confirmation of the Palin AG appointmee Wayne Anthony Ross. Anti-subsistence, anti-Native sovereignty, anti-gay Ross was shot down in a 35-23 vote. All democrats and many republicans voted against Ross, and many cited his strange statement recently that lawmakers shouldn't be worrying about "legal or illegal" when confirming Palin's senatorial appointment and just do it as a reason for their final vote.

Palin's reaction was fairly predictable about disappointment, and lawmakers doing it for "petty" reasons - like not wanting a guy who thinks gay people are degenerates and aligns with the governor no matter what being petty, I suppose. But she also called the nay voters hypocrites.

She cites the hypocrisy based off the of positive citation the legislature voted to give Ross on his 65th birthday, then voting him down now, as the hypocrisy.

Uh... two things here guv.

First - annointing someone as attorney general of the state and essentially giving him a birthday card are two pretty different things. I would HOPE there would be much more scrutination here.

Second - that's VERY pot calling the kettle black. Palin publicly praised Walt Monegan for his service and efforts just a few months before firing him.

The other two events also involve rejection of Palin appointees. The first is Palin's second (and fourth?) "appointment" to the open senate seat, Joe Nelson. He withdrew his name for the job, and was not too happy about it in his letter.

The final was the rejection of Palin's board of fisheries appointment Brent Johnson. I was gratified to see that it was not only the imbalance of the commercial fishing to sport fishing board members that made the legislators vote it down, but they also cited the lack of Alaska Native representation.

This lack has been an issue since Palin began, and I'm glad to see the legislative body recognizing it, and doing something about it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower

I mentioned the PBS series "We Shall Remain" in an earlier post, but now that I've seen it, it really is a must-see. This was only the first of five.

If you think you know what happened after the Pilgrim's landed, this is a great show to watch. If you want a moving, dramatic story to watch, it's also good.

It is gratifying to finally see an American history through Native eyes - we were here for every second of "American history," and shaped this country as much as any other American, but usually get relegated, quite literally, to the margins of the history books. One of the behind-the-scenes interviews addresses the stories of these Native people of history as "American patriots." Although the truth of this is no more true today than yesterday, you almost never here the Native people of this continent referred to as patriots.

But it is also not as some might "fear." It is not, "here's the victim Native people, and the bad guy English." They show some very touching moments, actually, and redeemed some of the Pilgrim people for me where I used to have only frustration. It does not, in reverse of the history we tend to teach in our schools, show the Native people as always being right, and the English/non-Native as always being bad.

Instead this first episode made a point of showing the Native people of the region for what they were - a civilization. Real people with real strengths and weaknesses, friends and enemies, families, agriculture, economy and spirituality. They didn't bend to the "noble Indian" stereotype, which can be just as dangerous as the "savage Indian" stereotype. They just showed real people coping with incredibly complicated, difficult situations.

In short, I was impressed.

The next episode is set for Monday at 8 p.m., Alaska time, PBS.

One of the more impactful moments came near the end of the episode.

Just one generation after the Wampanoag have literally ensured the Pilgrim's survive, and have ceded them land, the tide has turned and the Native people are being stolen from, made to give up their weapons and sign false confessions. A battle is inevitable, and the governor of Rhode Island is summoned to warn the young Wampanoag leader against action.

Says the governor, "The English are too strong for you."

Says Philip, son of Massosoit, "Than the English should treat us, as we treated the English when we were too strong for the English."

I realize how little I watch "Native American" themed movies or documentaries every time I do so. Sometimes it feels as if you've been punched over and over, and you leave the movie feeling beat up. Sometimes it is a growing sadness, because no movie or documentary involving Native history has a happy ending. Not a one.

Although this episode makes me feel proud - it was also pretty emotional. It is the inevitably of it all - the hope spoken by the leaders that if they just fight bravely enough, things can be all right for their people.

Which is why we contine their work.

UPDATE: Sweet! You can watch the first episode online! It's on the PBS Web site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Impressive, not impressive... WTF?!

Such was my reaction to the ongoing news today.

Impressive - Ken Salazar.
(from the Anchorage Daily News)

Not impressive - Palin rural advisor John Moller
(from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner)

WTF?! - Palin's latest action regarding her appointment craziness.
(from the ADN)

And I do mean crazy.

Mudflats and Celtic Diva do the best job of summing this up, I think, but let me sum up the Palin madness of late. This being just ONE of the issues she's seem to gone nutty over lately.

State Sen. Kim Elton took a job with the Obama administration, so it's up to Palin to appoint a new senator, which the democratic senators must confirm. The dems only submitted one name to her as a suggestion, a state representative who has spoken out against Palin's actions in the past.

Palin ignores this, and appoints a man who was registered as a republican until just a few weeks before. Naturally, the dems reject him. The Juneau dems submit FOUR names to Palin for consideration. Palin ignores this, and appoints a nice, unknown guy who has never run for public office. Naturally, the dems reject him.

The craziness took a whole new turn today, when Palin, who, by law, must appoint ONE person, "submits" three names to the dems. Just in this, she's not following the law. Need more crazy? TWO of the names are of people the dems have already rejected. The third person is yet another unknown, yet ANOTHER guy who wasn't even registered as a democrat until last month!

Mudflats and Celtic Diva do a better job of how many legal issues (not even taking in the ethical ones!) Palin caused with this latest, most bizarre act.

One of the more mind-numbing parts of this to me is why Palin is getting so frustrated for the dems not choosing her strange choices to represent Juneau, when she's never come up with a good reason for why she's not choosing any of the names the dems submitted. Why are her choices for a voice for Juneau more qualified than those the dems are submitting?

The people of Juneau voted, they voted democrat, and by law they need a democratic replacement. TWO of the names she's submitted weren't even democrats until March. With the end of the legislative session just days away, they have had no voice this session. WTF?

For the other two issues I was following today - or at least heard about - Salazar and Moller.

I removed the embedded video because it automatically started playing a commercial every time the blog was opened... annoying. So, here's the first of the two-part interview KTUU did of Salazar. For the second part, click here, or visit the KTUU site (they have some other coverage as well.)

Ken Salazar is the new Secretary for the Interior. He was up here to talk about oil (and this is the big reason Alaskans care about him right now) and offshore drilling, visiting Dillingham and Anchorage.

Although I'm SURE there's many thousands of Alaskans who will not agree with me here, it was gratifying to see how many Alaskans do. His visit to Dillingham was overwhelmed with local opposition to offshore drilling, and many, many Native people stood up to make sure he knew they opposed it.

So many times we hear the big voices with lots of money behind them, including many Native corporation voices, who are all for drilling and profit. I can understand these positions - jobs and revenue, building communities (though not as much as you'd think) and... well, more money.

But rarely is the local voice heard with much volume, and I'm very glad Salazar took the time to head to Dillingham. He made a point of saying the Dillingham trip was his desire and idea, to visit a rural location (you know, the people who will feel the NEGATIVE effects of oil accidents - because Anchorage sure won't) and hear what they had to say. I cringed to hear him say the ANWR bit (it's not going to happen,) NOT because I support drilling in ANWR, but because I knew at that moment about half of Alaska shut their ears to him. He had some intelligent things to say, very well thought out.

I've had some hope for this guy, as I was down in Colorado where he presented local Native tribes to open up the Democratic National Convention. Because, though I do have interest in the oil part of his job, like all Alaskans, he's also the Secretary over the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I was a little disappointed he didn't get to visit any Native sites or organizations up here, but I'm more glad he crammed Dillingham AND Anchorage into his "one city" visit. I just hope he'll come back to take a look at what we're doing with Native issues, health care, culture, social services, etc. up here soon.

For Moller... sigh.

This is the guy Palin appointed as her rural advisor, and I had some hope as he "describes himself as Alaskan Native" (I don't know what that means) and comes from rural Alaska.

I won't say much about his lackluster interview with the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on Sunday, because most of it was a lot of "I'm not really going to answer that question with anything but 'we'll see.'"

But his subsistence answer was strange to me:

Q: What about subsistence issues?
A: AFN (Alaska Federation of Natives) has had a position on subsistence. It doesn’t align with our constitution. If it’s going to be addressed, it needs to be addressed as a whole, the Legislature and the administration — that’s if it’s going to be addressed.


First... that's not an answer. Second, why are we bringing up the AFN stance? Natives don't all get a vote in the AFN, so it's not the end-all or be-all for Native people. It's an important organization for sure, but ask the average Joe Native what AFN's stance is on subsistence and 9 out of 10 wouldn't be able to tell you. Third... I don't even understand what the last part of that answer means!

So it's snowing on Easter, the volcano is still erupting, earthquakes are shaking my house, and Alaska politics are doing the impossible - getting even nuttier.

Is there a nice, boring state I can hide out in for awhile? Just until I'm sure we're not getting sucked into some wierd 8th dimension of a black hole? Anyone?


Another Palin appointment criticism

Palin is drawing criticism for yet another appointment. Her appointment of Brent Johnson to the state Board of Fisheries goes against the norm of what governors have been doing since Hickel:

From the Juneau Empire article:

John Blair of Sitka... said Johnson's appointment raises two important concerns: It would leave Interior Alaska without representation, and it does not correct the current lack of Alaska Native representation on the board.

The "Alaska Native representation" part has been a concern for quite a while.

Monday, April 13, 2009

We Shall Remain: Part One

If you haven't heard of this new mini-series on PBS called "We Shall Remain" from their "American Experience" line... well, that's probably not a shocker. PBS doesn't exactly have the American Idol type marketing budget.

But I am excited to watch this series. It promises a "multi-media history of America through Native eyes." History is so often written from a singular point of view, I'm very interested to see the difference in this. It goes from the 17th century through the 1970's by the time the series is done.

We recorded the first one, part one of five, and I'll actually be watching it tomorrow. If you didn't catch it on its prime time slot, it's playing again at 2 a.m. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. I know, I know... but figure out that old VCR again if you don't have a DVR! Or just wait for the DVD to come out.

It looks like the new episodes will be coming out every Monday at 8 p.m. (Alaska time, anyways) on PBS, and if you don't see it listed as "We Shall Remain," I've found it as "American Experience" as well. Hmm... ad over. :)

I'm also interested to hear reaction from it, so if you do catch it, let me know!

Updates on politcs in Indian Country

If you're wondering how the stimulus is affecting tribal entities and other Native interests so far, Maia of Own the Sidewalk pointed out this excellent site a while back that I've now come to haunt:

Indian Country Works

It's put on by the National Congress of American Indians, and is excellent. I would love to say our own state has organized the information half as well...

And in the White House, Indian Country Today did an article about additional Native appointments being done, NOT just in the BIA, but other divisions of the government. They also honed in on EchoHawk, a bit of a controversial figure in Indian country, and Obama wants him for the BIA.

I still am wondering who's going to get that senior advisor position though. There has already been some decisions that I wish a Native senior advisor was in place for. I loved that this was a campaign promise in the first place, and since we've heard of various vettings for the position, I'm hoping it's more because he wants to do a careful job of this appointment than he's forgotten about it, or doesn't consider it as that important.

In the state Native politics arena, well.... all I can say is, "WAR! What is it good for?" and let you fill in the rest of that. And that WAR is Wayne Anthony Ross.

Palin's pick for AG is being heavily opposed by Native groups, including the Alaska Federation of Natives, and the house and senate hearings for him went on last week. If you're an Alaskan, I invite you to read some of the blogs I note below, and see if this is who you want as the top legal authority in this state. If not, e-mail, or call your legislators TODAY and let your voice be heard.

If you're not Alaskan, I invite you to read the blogs too. Look at the people Palin is trying to place in the top spots, and THEN try and visualize who she'd try and put in the top spots were she president.

Progressive Alaska (Phil did some excellent research, even pulling up old op-eds that WAR did)
Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis
The Immoral Minority
Bent Alaska
Meet Sarah!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry #2

My second installation of Native poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month.

I like the contrast of these poems and poets.


Bending, I bow my head
And lay my hand upon
Her hair, combing, and think
How women do this for
Each other. My daughter’s hair
Curls against the comb,
Wet and fragrant—orange
Parings. Her face, downcast,
Is quiet for one so young.

I take her place. Beneath
My mother’s hands I feel
The braids drawn up tight
As a piano wire and singing,
Vinegar-rinsed. Sitting
Before the oven I hear
The orange coils tick
The early hour before school.

She combed her grandmother
Mathilda’s hair using
A comb made out of bone.
Mathilda rocked her oak-wood
Chair, her face downcast,
Intent on tearing rags
In strips to braid a cotton
Rug from bits of orange
And brown. A simple act,

Preparing hair. Something
Women do for each other,
Plaiting the generations.

- Gladys Cardiff

Crow Testament

Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.

The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow's talons.

Damn, says Crow, if I could swim
I would have fled this country years ago.

The Crow God as depicted
in all of the reliable Crow bibles
looks exactly like a Crow.

Damn, says Crow, this makes it
so much easier to worship myself.

Among the ashes of Jericho,
Crow sacrifices his firstborn son.

Damn, says Crow, a million nests
are soaked with blood.

When Crows fight Crows
the sky fills with beaks and talons.

Damn, says Crow, it's raining feathers.

Crow flies around the reservation
and collects empty beer bottles

but they are so heavy
he can only carry one at a time.

So, one by one, he returns them
but gets only five cents a bottle.

Damn, says Crow, redemption
is not easy.

Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded powwow
but none of the Indian panic.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world.

- Sherman Alexie

Listen in to public testimony tomorrow

If you want to listen in, or participate, in the house hearing on Sarah Palin's attorney general pick, Wayne Anthony Ross, you can check out the Alaska Gavel to Gavel site. As well as audio and video to watch during, there is archived audio of Wednesday's senate hearing on Ross as well.

Mudflats, Progressive Alaska, Celtic Diva, The Immoral Minority, and Meet Sarah! all have coverage of the Wednesday hearing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Boring election, exciting times for Native politics

So the municipal election was pretty yawn-worthy - and pretty much what everyone thought would happen did happen. Sullivan vs. Croft in a runoff. Anchorage-ites determined they don't want to spend a dime on anything except fire safety (and possibly public transit.) Even after attending a candidate forum, I could only eliminate candidates, not get excited about them. Would you believe I was more invested in the school board elections?

But there are some interesting bits of Native political news, big and small.

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Native Hawaiian's land claims

I don't think this shocked anyone, this is sort of history as usual, but some important notes to "bring it home."

1. I would love for Palin's AG pick to reassess his view that OUR Native land claims (ANCSA) had no benefit for Native or non-Native Alaskans. The struggle to get land claims settled in Hawaii and the Lower 48 is a good example of just what benefits both Alaskan parties continue to receive from this.

2. The supreme court ruling that the official apology by Hawaii for their actions had no standing in this case SHOULD open the doors for official apologies from many other entities. Without fear of legal ramifications, it could pry out some official apologies.

Native people in Alaskan political news

Joe Nelson

Palin's second pick for the open dem seat in Juneau, after her first pick got soundly rejected. From all accounts, Nelson's a good guy - who is not involved in the general democratic political scene. Meaning... no experience. I mean NO experience. He's a board member of Sealaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute - the Southeast Alaska Native regional for-profit corp and nonprofit corp, works at the U of A Southeast - as well as being a Tlingit (Alaska Native) man and husband of former representative Mary Nelson.

Board membership and a good job is one thing - but why is Palin selecting someone who has never voluntarily run for anything except board membership? If he really wanted to be in office... why hasn't he ever tried to do so? I'll lob my views from the side here - I think it's the people of Juneau, the ones he'll be representing, that should have the bigger voice on this. But I do find it all very strange.

Jeannie Mackie

An Athabascan (?) self-described stay-at-home-home mom married to former Senate Majority Leader Jerry Mackie. She was chosen to fill the school board vacancy and this is her first time running for anything. There is "less than a percentage point" separating her and Mia Costello as of midnight. I've heard it said that she part of why she wants to run is to help the Native student situation out in Anchorage, but can't find material/news bits about that either on her site or in the news.

James Labelle

Here's a guy I'm hoping will keep it up. The seat will go to Kathleen Plunkett, but Labelle got a pretty respectable 17-18% for a first run at something. Young guy, and son of Jim Labelle, a big ANCSA name. He comes from a pretty political family, not to mention a family I respect quite a bit, so I hope he'll step out and define himself really well, and keep at it.

Walt Monegan

His name was famous as the top cop who got the boot from Palin in the whole "Troopergate" issue, though it looks pretty definite he's not going to be mayor this time around. He's a guy who could really make a difference, and was trying to do just that, for rural Alaska and Native issues. He was already working on it when he got the axe. He's lived both rural and urban, is of mixed-Native heritage (Tlingit and I THINK Yup'ik... but don't quote me on the Yup'ik) and a decent, smart man. This was his first run for elected office, and I'm hoping he's really going to find his niche in the world soon. We could use him.

And in case you missed it...

The Alaska Federation of Natives,
Association of Village Council Presidents and
the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp #70 (Glacier Valley - Juneau)

These are three Native organizations that have voted to oppose Sarah Palin's attorney general pick, Wayne Anthony Ross. Check out my previous posts for details. Suffice it to say that they are my organizational heroes right now. And please let me know if you see any other organizations - Native or non-Native - taking a stand on this issue!

In all - and I feel as if I'm repeating myself here - this can be a really exciting time for Alaska Native politics.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Another Native group opposes Palin's AG pick

Last week, two major Native groups, the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Association of Village Council Presidents, voted to oppose Sarah Palin's pick for attorney general, Wayne Athony Ross. (My previous entries: 1 and 2)

On Saturday, Camp #70 of the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANB/ANS) held a special session to vote on the same issue, and came up with the same conclusion - to oppose the selection.

The ANB is one of the oldest (possibly THE oldest?) Alaska Native organization, founded in 1912, divided into "camps" aound the state. My hope, and it looks like Camp #70 out of Glacier Valley (Juneau) has the same hope, is that all the other camps around the state will follow suit.
Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood
Glacier Valley Camp #70


Title: Requests that Executive Committee Grand Camp oppose the confirmation of Wayne Anthony Ross to Attorney General for the State of Alaska.

WHEREAS, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, Glacier Valley Camp #70 in a special session took up the subject of the appointment of Wayne Anthony Ross by Governor Sarah Palin of the State of Alaska, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 recognizes it is not in the best interest of Alaska Native people and Alaska to have Wayne Anthony Ross as Attorney General for the State of Alaska, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 believes Wayne Anthony Ross does not and will not honor subsistence agreements already agreed to by Alaska Natives and the state, but will also actively work against enforcement of subsistence rights and will not fairly represent their interest in future disputes between Alaska Natives, Commercial, Commercial Sport, and Sport users, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 believes Wayne Anthony Ross will not work towards ending the energy price disparity that exists between predominantly Native rural communities and urban non-Native communities that seem to enjoy comparatively low cost of energy, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 believes these issues are of regional and statewide concern that can best be addressed by testimony and evidence being provided by Grand Camp on behalf of all Camps organized in favor of ending discrimination and diminishment of Native rights, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 knows the Attorney General for the State of Alaska has tremendous impact over the day-to-day life of Alaska Natives and therefore must be an individual who understands Native rights and honors the State of Alaska’s obligation to treat all Alaskans fairly within the proper framework, jurisdiction and attitude, and

WHEREAS, Camp 70 believes Wayne Anthony Ross does not comprehend, understand and has demonstrated no interest in the special relationship between Alaska Natives, Tribal entities, the United States and the State of Alaska, and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Camp 70 requests that Grand Camp of Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood take all actions necessary to prevent the confirmation of Wayne Anthony Ross by taking actions including:
  • Providing direct testimony against his appointment
  • Calling all Local Camps to action and requesting written and oral testimony against his appointment
  • Providing a copy of this Resolution to Senators Albert Kookesh and Bert Stedman for further distribution to all State Senators
  • Providing a copy of this Resolution to Representatives Beth Kerttula, Cathy Munoz and any other Representative who is a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood for further distribution to all State Representatives
  • Authorizing the ANB and ANS Grand Presidents provide written and oral testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearings of each chamber on behalf of all members of the ANB and ANS

Sunday, April 5, 2009

AFN letter says Palin's AG pick is "unfit"

Though I've been haunting the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Web site all week, I didn't find the letter AFN was drafting about its vote to oppose Sarah Palin's choice for attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross. I was incredibly grateful to be e-mailed the full press release... until I was shocked.

The firm wording is totally called for, but there was one thing they objected to that I didn't even know.

Wayne Anthony Ross thinks that ANCSA was a waste?

Holy crap.

The 1971 "Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act" - commonly referred to as ANCSA - is too big an issue to tackle in a single post, but at it's core, it was intended to settle the land dispute of Native land claims in Alaska. It quite literally "settled" with Native people by transferring money to go to newly formed corporations in exchange for lost land, and determined what was still Native land and give title. Twelve original regional corporations were formed to handle this money and titles to land, as well as several hundred village corporations.

Yet Mr. Ross believes neither Native and non-Native Alaskans "haven't got much to show for the expenditure?"

Again. Holy crap.

First... well, you got LAND. That was kind of the point. And despite who thinks the settlement was fair or not, Native people also got the title to land (also the point) and a settlement for the land taken.

Second, I think it's painfully clear Ross doesn't know much about ANCSA. People - political entities - from all over the world come to study this landmark settlement of aboriginal land claims. Highly flawed as it is, it is a model in the world for both governments and aboriginal people.

Third, the letter mentions oil construction, and anyone who knows anything about ANCSA knows that oil was the catalyst in the first place! My guess is Native people would still be trying to get the issue heard in court (as many tribes down south are) if it were not for oil. The motivation for the whole settlement was oil. Period. No ANCSA, no oil money.

I don't understand the animosity Ross seems to hold for Native people or issues, but it seems to point more towards willful ignorance at this point than anything. I didn't know anything about this guy to begin with, and the more I learn, the more appalled I am at the choice.

The letter in full:

Anchorage, Alaska – April 2, 2009

On Tuesday, March 30, the Alaska Federation of Natives’ Legislative Committee unanimously adopted a motion to oppose the nomination of Wayne Anthony Ross to be Attorney General of Alaska. Here are some of the reasons behind that decision.

Subsistence: Mr. Ross has been most vocal in his opposition to a rural subsistence priority, in both state and federal law. However, subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering are the very core of Alaska Native life, as they have been for thousands of years. The vast majority of an estimated 125,000 Natives in Alaska practice subsistence regularly in order to put food on the family dinner table. Fish constitute 59% of the statewide rural subsistence diet, but subsistence takes only 2% of all the fish annually harvested in Alaska. The other 98% go to commercial, personal use, and sport users. Most subsistence activities occur on federal lands and waters, where Congress has unequivocally enacted a rural priority (in Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980).

If subsistence cannot be protected from the overwhelming competition of other users, most villages will not be able to feed themselves and will disappear. Such an enormous out-migration to Alaska’s cities would create a socio-economic crisis that would harm all Alaskans - especially urban residents. A rural priority is not only humane, but it is the intelligent thing to do in the interest of all Alaskans.

In his most recent gubernatorial bid, Mr. Ross stated that, if elected, he would hire “…a band of junkyard dog assistant attorney generals to challenge the federal law…” This is old news. The constitutionality of Title VIII of ANILCA has been challenged time and again in the federal courts. The courts have consistently upheld the rural subsistence priority on federal lands and waters in Alaska. That is settled law.

Tribal Sovereignty: Mr. Ross’s contempt for Native leaders and their self-governing institutions is obvious. He opposes the very existence of tribal governments, which have exercised their authority since time immemorial. Many millions of federal dollars come into this state to serve Alaska Natives simply because the federal government has a government-to-government relationship with tribes in Alaska. The State of Alaska receives some of these monies directly, while other funds go directly to tribal consortia, non-profit associations, and tribal governments, to assist them in the delivery of vital human services. If Mr. Ross does not know these facts, he is uninformed. If he doesn’t care, he is irresponsible.

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: Mr. Ross has often opposed the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement and the 1988 congressional amendments thereto. In 1987, he wrote that ANCSA had been a waste of public resources by Congress. He added: “…We average Americans, native and non-native alike, haven’t got much to show for the expenditure…”

That statement is not true. By settling Natives’ claims to the land, Congress cleared the right-of-way for construction of the oil pipeline. ANCSA, more than any event since Statehood, created modern Alaska. Everything that we have here today was made possible by that 1971 real estate sale between Natives and the United States. If it had not happened, the pipeline, the oil and the resulting economic boom would have been held up for decades in the federal courts. Mr. Ross’s view disregards the abiding legal principle of aboriginal land title, which descends from colonial times. Mr. Ross does not understand ANCSA’s history and legal foundation any more than he recognizes the benefits that it provided to everyone in Alaska.

Mr. Ross also criticized the 1991 Amendments to ANCSA, arguing that they would promote Native authority in Alaska. The truth is the exact opposite. The 1991 amendments were opposed by most of Alaska’s tribes because they saw the statute as failing to give tribes sufficient powers. Mr. Ross does not know what actually happened; but he waves “tribal sovereignty” as a scare tactic. That is politics, not law.

Legal Competence: Mr. Ross was among several candidates for the Alaska Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Bryner in 2007, and for the Court of Appeals seat vacated by Judge Stewart in 2008. He did not make the “short list” of qualified applicants sent to the Governor for either seat.

Nominations for the state judiciary are handled by the Alaska Judicial Council, which rates all candidates by means of a Bar Survey answered by attorneys. The Survey has to be anonymous in order to encourage frank, honest answers. However, in a letter recently published by the Alaska Bar Association, Mr. Ross strongly objected to the anonymity of the Bar Survey. The secret ballot is an axiom of modern democratic process. Mr. Ross’s objection to it in his own case demonstrates a certain disregard for democracy, itself.

Between now and Mr. Ross’s confirmation hearing on April 8, AFN will strongly urge its membership, and all concerned citizens in Alaska, to ask their own legislators to oppose his confirmation. By his extremism, his biases and his lack of competence, Wayne Anthony Ross is unfit to be the Attorney General of Alaska.

Excellent and accurate letter.

For some of Ross' other quotes regarding Native and rural issues:

An article sent from SMR, regarding his opposition to building hate-crime legislation, focusing on Native education, etc.

"Alaskans are divided because we have too many people pointing out the perceived problems, and we don't have enough people pointing out how well we work together."

On Native sovereignty and subsistence (from the ADN):

''The idea of Native sovereignty is a 19th-century principle, and we are going into the 21st century.''

''Rural preference is wrong and not necessary to ensure subsistence foods."

The crazy part of Ross' argument/defense of these types of comments is his assertion that people are jumping the gun, so to speak, on what his stance really is. That he "doesn't have positions" on these issues. Let me sum up the Tundra Drums interview with Ross by paraphrasing the answers he gives to every issue they ask him about:

"I never said anything bad, and if I did, it was because I was paid to."

He seems to think subsistence isn't even an issue anymore. Someone hasn't been paying attention.

His statements and battles from the past speak for themselves.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

A month of (Native) poetry

I like to celebrate the written word as much as possible, and wierd to say I actually look forward to, and remember, that April is National Poetry Month. A ticker-tape parade it is not, but there IS a lot more poetry out there being highlighted in April, and that's a good thing. Native authors, for the most part, aren't well-known, and Native poets even less so.

I'm no poet (the meager bits I've plunked down are not going to see the light of day) but I still want to celebrate with all the other litera-nerds out there, so look forward to some samplings of beautiful Native poetry on the blog this month!

The first is a quite recent one from an Open Salon blogger, Noahvose:

I saw him, the last eagle.
Someone pointed, and for a moment
We were all still.
A breeze suddenly touched us,
And in that moment my heart sank,
For somehow I knew.
I think, despite hope, we all knew.
So we stood there, silently.
At last, together.

I was there in the crowd
When the dancers stopped dancing
And the singers forgot the words.
A group of children played tag,
While an old man sat outside the circle
In his blue, foldout chair
Trying hard to hide his tears.
I didn't realize until then
How much they had taken...
How much we had let them take.

I had to narrow it down to only one from Chief Dan George. But pick up any of his books for some truly beautiful - and often sad - thoughts:

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,

the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,

They speak to me.

And my heart soars.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Native groups vote to oppose Palin's AG pick

From the ADN rural blog, The Village:
AFN votes to oppose Ross appointment

AFN is the Alaska Federation of Natives - Native representatives from all around the state.The Association of Village Council Presidents also voted to oppose the appointment - Western Alaska representatives (the area you may have heard about lately with fuel shortages.)

In case you need a catch up - Palin appointed Wayne Anthony Ross to the attorney general position. Anti-sovereignty, anti-subsistence (not to mention very anti-gay,) Ross seems to be the last straw in Palin's long series of decisions against strong Native issues.

Yet she's never one to disappoint me with her irony. In her statement about Ross:

Now more than ever, it is essential that Alaska’s sovereignty be protected...

Alaska sovereignty good. Native sovereignty - eh, not so much. It's almost like she can't help but mention those key words that make it so ironic. Native attorney Heather Kendall-Miller on Palin:

Heather Kendall-Miller, a Native American Rights Fund attorney in Anchorage, said Palin picked an attorney general that represents her values rather than the most qualified person. She said it reflects more on Palin than on Ross.

"She's shown no interest in trying to work with the Native community on important issues of subsistence or tribal sovereignty."

The Village post cites another 1997 ADN article about Alaskan Indian country. Ross' quote about Native sovereignty:

''It's a giant leap backwards into the 19th century,'' said Anchorage attorney Wayne Anthony Ross, who represented sport hunters in the 1989 lawsuit that overturned as unconstitutional the state's subsistence preference for rural residents. ''They want to see Alaska balkanized into little fiefdoms where these self-proclaimed Native leaders will reign supreme with help from the Great White Father.''

The Great White Father? Can we at least try and pretend we didn't learn everything we know about Native sovereignty from old John Wayne movies?

The argument from Ross now that all this is out is that those comments he made on anti-soereignty, anti-subsistence were from another time. Not to mention that the anti-subsistence stance is that is wasn't anti-subsistence, but "pro-constitutional." Furthermore, these issues aren't as big a deal as they were.


Only if you've had your head in the sand for the last couple years.

Palin's asserts that the protests are from a "few" vocal critics who may have a "different opinion."

First - it's not just a "few." Two major Alaska Native groups have now voted to oppose her appointment (and more individuals have spoken out), and though I don't know the vote count, I'm willing to bet it wasn't close.

Second - subsistence and sovereignty issues are not idle opinions about things that barely touch these people's lives. It's not an opinion about whether or not your favorite American Idol guy is better. It's an entire way of life.

Her response reminded me of (non-Native) friends that, once we were talking politics, said, "You always bring up the Native issues. We aren't talking about Native issues."

It's only outside the comfort of my own home and family that it becomes "Native issues." Within, it's just life. It's the stuff that makes up every day, not some subsect of my life.

I'm glad that these Native groups and leaders are finally taking a stand on the increasingly anti-rural break the government is taking... not that it was ever really "pro-rural." As even the Native groups say, they don't think there's a real chance he won't get affirmed, but there's a point that comes when you have to say enough is enough.