Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Attitudes on Indians

Survey finds indication of overt, subtle racism

World Staff Writer

American Indians are more likely to be regarded with prejudice than are other minorities by white TU students, a study shows.

"The findings support the idea that although overtly racist ideas toward African-Americans appear to be less prevalent in contemporary America, overt racism towards Native Americans is present," TU researchers said in the study.

Results were from a written survey of 55 white, middle-class college students in their 20s at TU who had been in college for more than a year.

The study found that American Indians were consistently regarded less favorably on social factor indicator scales than black people.

Researchers said the mix of the state's many tribes increased the likelihood of students coming into contact with an Indian person.

According to 2006 U.S. Census estimates, 43,364 self-identified American Indians live in Tulsa County. Statewide, the number is 397,041.

Findings from the study indicate that although the respondents knew that Indians are different in culture, they were viewed less positively than black people, a factor they attributed to "subtle racism."

One aspect was perceived privileges, such as free health care, researchers said.

Researcher Dennis Combs, a former TU associate psychology professor who now works at the University of Texas-Tyler, said the findings are surprising because college students are perceived as liberal regarding race issues.

"Also, Native Americans may also be subject to a newer form of racism called subtle racism, which is centered on them as being different, having poor work ethic, and unfavorable," said Combs, who conducted the study along with student Melissa Tibbits.

Indians also are more likely to be regarded with "blatant prejudice" than black people, the survey showed.

The study also found that particular attributes, such as associating Indians with a heightened sense of nature and spiritual awareness -- while not negative -- paint a picture based on assumptions rather than reality.

Officials with the Tulsa Indian Coalition on Racism, who viewed the study's results, said that when generalities about Indians abound, negative viewpoints are nurtured and sustained.

"People think we have privilege and all get gaming checks. . . . That's not true," TICAR President Louis Gray said.

"People don't think of us as human; we're just symbols, but we have hopes and dreams like everyone else," he said.

Gray said education is key in getting a more realistic image of Indians across to the general public.

Nancy Day, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, said, "The roots of contemporary discrimination and racism directed against native peoples can be traced to the early periods of our country's history, and the manifestations of this discrimination are myriad."

Combs said, "In my opinion, the question that needs to be answered is where do these overtly racist attitudes come from, and one possible source is the negative stereotyping that Native Americans experience on a daily basis."

Preliminary findings from the same report were presented two years ago to TICAR.

Gray said he was surprised that the viewpoints had changed little among college students.

"Frankly," he said, "I was hoping that people would be more informed of what we face every day."

Contact S.E. Ruckman at
Copyright © 2007 , World Publishing Co.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Specific suggestion: General Strike

Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.
—Isaiah 26:19


Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope. Iraq will recover sooner. What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy—a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power—has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul. You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light—that is, to any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable. Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy’s Law and tomorrow’s fatal inducement to drink and be merry today.

If someone were to suggest, for example, that we begin a general strike on Election Day, November 6, 2007, for the sole purpose of removing this regime from power, how readily and with what well-practiced assurance would you find yourself producing the words “It won’t do any good”? Plausible and even courageous in the mouth of a patient who knows he’s going to die, the sentiment fits equally well in the heart of a citizen-ry that believes it is already dead.

Any strike, whether it happens in a factory, a nation, or a marriage, amounts to a reaffirmation of consent. The strikers remind their overlords—and, equally important, themselves—that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on. Camus said that the one serious question of philosophy is whether or not to commit suicide; the one serious question of political philosophy is whether or not to get out of bed. Silly as it may have seemed at the time, John and Yoko’s famous stunt was based on a profound observation. Instant karma is not so instant—we ratify it day by day.

The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life. The poet Richard Wilbur writes of the “ripped mouse” that “cries Concordance” in the talons of the owl; we too cry our daily assent in the grip of the prevailing order— except in those notable instances when, like a donkey or a Buddha, we refuse to budge.

The question we need to ask ourselves at this moment is what further provocations we require to justify digging in our heels. To put the question more pointedly: Are we willing to wait until the next presidential election, or for some interim congressional conversion experience, knowing that if we do wait, hundreds of our sons and daughters will be needlessly destroyed? Another poet, C├ęsar Vallejo, framed the question like this:

A man shivers with cold, coughs, spits up blood.
Will it ever be fitting to allude to my inner soul? . . .
A cripple sleeps with one foot on his shoulder.
Shall I later on talk about Picasso, of all people?

A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face. Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?

You will recall that a major theme of the Bush Administration’s response to September 11 was that life should go on as usual. We should keep saying that broad consensual Yes as loudly as we dared. We could best express our patriotism by hitting the malls, by booking a flight to Disney World. At the time, the advice seemed prudent enough: avoid hysteria; defy the intimidations of murderers and fanatics.

In hindsight it’s hard not to see the roots of our predicament in the readiness with which we took that advice to heart. We did exactly as we were told, with a net result that is less an implicit defiance of terrorism than a tacit amen to the “war on terror,” including the war in Iraq. Granted, many of us have come to find both those wars unacceptable. But do we find them intolerable? Can you sleep? Yes, doctor, I can sleep. Can you work? Yes, doctor, I can work. Do you get out to the movies, enjoy a good restaurant? Actually, I have a reservation for tonight. Then I’d say you were doing okay, wouldn’t you? I’d say you were tolerating the treatment fairly well.

It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them. It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse. We need to move the discussion of our nation’s health to the emergency room. We need to tell the doctors of the body politic that the treatment isn’t working—and that until it changes radically for the better, neither are we.

No one person, least of all a freelance writer, has the prerogative to call or set the date for a general strike. What do you guys do for a strike, sit on your overdue library books? Still, what day more fitting for a strike than the first Tuesday of November, the Feast of the Hanging Chads? What other day on the national calendar cries so loudly for rededication?

The only date that comes close is September 11. You have to do a bit of soul-searching to see it, but one result of the Bush presidency has been a loss of connection to those who perished that day. Unless they were members of our families, unless we were involved in their rescue, do we think of them? It’s too easy to say that time eases the grief—there’s more to it than that, more even than the natural tendency to shy away from brooding on disasters that might happen again. We avoid thinking of the September 11 victims because to think of them we have to think also of what we have allowed to happen in their names. Or, if we object openly to what has happened, we have to parry the insinuation that we’re unmoved by their loss.

It is time for us to make a public profession of faith that the people who went to work that morning, who caught the cabs and rode the elevators and later jumped to their deaths, were not on the whole people who would sanction extraordinary rendition, preemptive war, and the suspension of habeas corpus; that in their heels and suits they were at least as decent as any sneaker-shod person standing vigil outside a post office with a stop the war sign. That the government workers who died in the Pentagon were not by some strange congenital fluke more obtuse than the high-ranking officers who thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go. That the passengers who rushed the hijackers on Flight 93 were not repeating the mantra “It won’t do any good” while scratching their heads and their asses in a happy-hour funk.

An Election Day general strike would set our remembrance of those people free from the sarcophagi of rhetoric and rationalization. It would be the political equivalent of raising them from the dead. It would be a clear if sadly delayed message of solidarity to those voters in Ohio and Florida who were pretty much told they could drop dead.

But how would it work? A curious question to ask given that not working is most of what it would entail. Not working until the president and the shadow president resigned or were impeached. Never mind what happens next. Rather, let our mandarins ask how this came to happen in the first place. Let them ask in shock and awe.

People who could not, for whatever reason, cease work could at least curtail consumption. In fact, that might prove the more effective action of the two. They could vacate the shopping malls. They could cancel their flights. With the aid of their Higher Power, they could turn off their cell phones. They could unplug their TVs.

The most successful general strike imaginable would require extraordinary measures simply to announce its success. It would require sound trucks going up and down the streets, Rupert Murdoch reduced to croaking through a bullhorn. Bonfires blazing on the hills. Bells tolling till they cracked. (Don’t we have one of those on display somewhere?)

Ironically, the segment of the population most unable to participate would be the troops stationed in the Middle East. Striking in their circumstances would amount to suicide. That distinction alone ought to suffice as a reason to strike, as a reminder of the unconscionable underside of our “normal” existence. We get on with our lives, they get on with their deaths.

As for how the strike would be publicized and organized, these would depend on the willingness to strike itself. The greater the willingness, the fewer the logistical requirements. How many Americans does it take to change a lightbulb? How many Web postings, how many emblazoned bedsheets hung from the upper-story windows? Think of it this way: How many hours does it take to learn the results of last night’s American Idol, even when you don’t want to know?

In 1943 the Danes managed to save 7,200 of their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. They had no blogs, no television, no text messaging—and very little time to prepare. They passed their apartment keys to the hunted on the streets. They formed convoys to the coast. An ambulance driver set out with a phone book, stopping at any address with a Jewish-sounding name. No GPS for directions. No excuse not to try.

But what if it failed? What if the general strike proved to be anything but general? I thought Bush was supposed to be the one afraid of science. Hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion—are they his hobgoblins or ours? What do we have to fear, except additional evidence that George W. Bush is exactly what he appears to be: the president few of us like and most of us deserve. But science dares to test the obvious. So let us dare.

We could hardly be accused of innovation. General strikes have a long and venerable history. They’re as retro as the Bill of Rights. There was one in Great Britain in 1926, in France in 1968, in Ukraine in 2004, in Guinea just this year. Finns do it, Nepalis do it, even people without email do it . . .

But we don’t have to do it, you will say, because “we have a process.” Have or had, the verb remains tentative. In regard to verbs, Dick Cheney showed his superlative talent for le mot juste when in the halls of the U.S. Congress he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself. He has since told congressional investigators to do the same thing. There’s your process. Dick Cheney could lie every day of his life for all the years of Methuselah, and for the sake of that one remark history would still need to remember him as an honest man. In the next world, Diogenes will kneel down before him. In this world, though, and in spite of the invitation tendered to me through my senator, I choose to remain on my feet.

“United we stand,” isn’t that how it goes? But we are not united, not by a long shot. At this juncture we may be able to unite only in what we will not stand for. The justification of torture, the violation of our privacy, the betrayal of our intelligence operatives, the bankrupting of our commonwealth, the besmirching of our country’s name, the feckless response to natural disaster, the dictatorial inflation of executive power, the senseless butchery of our youth—if these do not constitute a common ground for intolerance, what does?

People were indignant at the findings of the 9/11 Commission—it seems there were compelling reasons to believe an attack was imminent!—yet for the attack on our Constitution we have evidence even more compelling. How can we criticize an administration for failing to act in the face of a probable threat given our own refusal to act in the face of a threat already fulfilled? As long as we’re willing to go on with our business, Bush and Cheney will feel free to go on with their coup. As long as we’re willing to continue fucking ourselves, why should they have any scruples about telling us to smile during the act?

Between undertaking the strike and achieving its objective, the latter requires the greater courage. It requires courage simply to admit that this is so. For too many of us, Bush has become a secret craving, an addiction. We loathe Bush the way that Peter Pan loathed Captain Hook; he’s a villain, to be sure, but he’s half the fun of living in Never-Never Land. He has provided us with an inexhaustible supply of editorial copy, partisan rectitude, and every sort of lame excuse for not engaging the system he represents. In that sense, asking “What if the strike were to fail?” is not even honest. On some level we would want it to fail.

Certainly this would be true of those who’ve declared themselves as presidential candidates and for whom the Bush legacy represents an unprecedented windfall of political capital. One need only speak a coherent sentence—one need only breathe from a differently shaped smirk—to seem like a savior. Ding-dong, the Witch is dead. Already I can see the winged monkeys who signed off on the Patriot Act and the Iraq invasion jumping up and down for joy. Already I can hear the nauseating gush: “Such a welcome relief after Bush!” Relief, yes. But relief is not hope.

How much better if we could say to our next administration: Don’t talk about Bush. We dealt with Bush. We dealt with Bush and in so doing we demonstrated our ability to deal with you. You have a mandate more rigorous than looking good beside Bush. You need a program more ambitious than “uniting the country.” We are united—at least we were, if only for a while, if only in our disgust. If only I believed all this would happen.

I wrote this appeal during the days leading up to the Fourth of July. I wrote it because for the past six and a half years I have heard the people I love best—family members, friends, former students and parishioners—saying, “I’m sick over what’s happening to our country, but I just don’t know what to do.” Might I be pardoned if, fearing civil disorder less than I fear civil despair, I said, “Well, we could do this.” It has been done before and we could do this. And I do believe we could. If anyone has a better idea, I’m keen to hear it. Only don’t tell me what some presidential hopeful ought to do someday. Tell me what the people who have nearly lost their hope can do right now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

United Nations: Native declaration

At the United Nations, the world has solemnly committed itself to better treatment of native populations. Well, most of the world, except for some of those that have the most responsibility for relating to indigenous populations.

Yup. The Bush administration and three other diehard governments -- Canada, New Zealand and Australia -- couldn't bring themselves to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Far be it from us to ponder thoughts of any special ethnocentrism in largely English-speaking lands; Britain, Ireland, Jamaica and other countries didn't oppose the statement. Appropriately, the four no voters squirmed, straining to explain concerns about technicalities, language and possible conflicts with their own laws, even though the declaration generally wouldn't be binding.

It took more than 20 years for the declaration to receive Thursday's approval from the U.N. General Assembly. You would think that, even under the Bush administration, this country, with one of the largest native populations, would have found a way to be a part of the progress and celebration.

U.S. delegate Robert Hagen did put the administration on record as committed to respect for tribal governments and their rights. "My government will continue its vigorous efforts to promote indigenous rights domestically," he said. But with a new world standard, even federal, state and local authorities will have to do better as they deal with tribal rights. The U.N. declaration is a step toward greater mutual respect and progress on behalf of all.

©1996-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Friday, September 07, 2007

Judge Strikes Down Part of Patriot Act

Friday September 7, 2007 7:16 AM


Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A federal judge struck down a key part of the USA Patriot Act on Thursday in a ruling that defended the need for judicial oversight of laws and bashed Congress for passing a law that makes possible "far-reaching invasions of liberty."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero immediately stayed the effect of his ruling, allowing the government time to appeal. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said: ``We are reviewing the decision and considering our options at this time.''

The ruling handed the American Civil Liberties Union a major victory in its challenge of the post-Sept. 11 law that gave broader investigative powers to law enforcement.

The ACLU had challenged the law on behalf of an Internet service provider, complaining that the law allowed the FBI to demand records without the kind of court supervision required for other government searches. Under the law, investigators can issue so-called national security letters to entities like Internet service providers and phone companies and demand customers' phone and Internet records.

In his ruling, Marrero said much more was at stake than questions about the national security letters.

He said Congress, in the original USA Patriot Act and less so in a 2005 revision, had essentially tried to legislate how the judiciary must review challenges to the law. If done to other bills, they ultimately could all ``be styled to make the validation of the law foolproof.''

Noting that the courthouse where he resides is several blocks from the fallen World Trade Center, the judge said the Constitution was designed so that the dangers of any given moment could never justify discarding fundamental individual liberties.

He said when ``the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of liberty.''

Regarding the national security letters, he said, Congress crossed its boundaries so dramatically that to let the law stand might turn an innocent legislative step into ``the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values.''

He said the ruling does not mean the FBI must obtain the approval of a court prior to ordering records be turned over, but rather must justify to a court the need for secrecy if the orders will last longer than a reasonable and brief period of time.

A March government report showed that the FBI issued about 8,500 national security letter, or NSL, requests in 2000, the year prior to passage of the USA Patriot Act. By 2003, the number of requests had risen to 39,000 and to 56,000 in 2004 before falling to 47,000 in 2005. The overwhelming majority of the requests sought telephone billing records information, telephone or e-mail subscriber information or electronic communication transactional records.

The judge said that through the NSLs, the government can unmask the identity of Internet users engaged in anonymous speech in online discussions, can obtain an itemized list of all e-mails sent and received by someone and can then seek information on those communicating with the individual.

``It may even be able to discover the web sites an individual has visited and queries submitted to search engines,'' the judge said.

Marrero's lengthy judicial opinion, akin to an eighth-grade civics lesson, described why the framers of the Constitution created three separate but equal branches of government and delegated to the judiciary to say what the law is and to protect the Constitution and the rights it gives citizens.

Marrero said the constitutional barriers against governmental abuse ``may eventually collapse, with consequential diminution of the judiciary's function, and hence potential dire effects to individual freedoms.''

In that event, he said, the judiciary could become ``a mere mouthpiece of the legislature.''

Marrero had ruled in 2004, on the initial version of the Patriot Act, that the letters violate the Constitution because they amounted to unreasonable search and seizure. He found free-speech violations in the nondisclosure requirement, which for example, disallowed an Internet service provider from telling customers their records were being turned over to the government.

After he ruled, Congress revised the Patriot Act in 2005, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directed that Marrero review the law's constitutionality a second time.

Indigenous on offense: Treaty gathering, U.N. vote coincide

Briggs: Indigenous on offense: Treaty gathering, U.N. vote coincide

by: Kara Briggs / Today correspondent
On Sept. 13, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sources privy to an intervention by Mexico, Guatemala and Peru with African states that have opposed the declaration say they have reached a set of small revisions that leave key tenants of the declaration in tact.

Speaking as recently as one month ago at a treaty gathering of indigenous nations at the Lummi Nation in Washington state, Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper, was concerned. He told those assembled, ''We have worked since 1977 on the draft declaration, and it's about to be shot down by four African nations under the direction of the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

''They're going to try to change the language on self determination, on collective rights and about all the rights concerning the natural world.''

The declaration drafted by American Indians 30 years ago was intended to recognize indigenous peoples in an international setting - a setting that had effectively brought the principles of human rights to world consciousness of the cold light of 1948 shown on the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews and others.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized the ''unalienable rights'' of the individual, the nine-part draft declaration states that indigenous peoples have a right to self-determination, to hold onto their land bases, to be respected for their differences.

It's this concept of self determination - the everyday language of U.S. government relations with Native nations - that has been most controversial on a world stage.

Some opponents to the declaration said in 2006, according to a statement of a spokesman for the General Assembly, the concept ''could be misrepresented as conferring unilateral right of self-determination and possible secession, thus threatening ... the stability of member states.''

Opponents of the declaration have submitted watered down drafts before. Now with days before a vote of General Assembly, member states of the African Union have told sources that their latest revision won't be available until sometime next week, probably two or three days before the vote.

Sources close to the proceedings said on Sept. 4 that the African states had agreed to let the current text, including acknowledgement of the right to self determination, stand. There was only one area of weakening, which had to do with military use of indigenous lands.

''One can never be sure that's actually what will occur,'' said attorney Tim Coulter, the author of the original draft of the declaration and executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center. ''But it could occur, even if there are other changes offered, that they might well be voted down. The votes in the General Assembly are notoriously difficult to predict, members are sovereign.''

Coulter said that the bureaucratic processes of the United Nations allow for the declaration to come back even from a no vote in the General Assembly. But he isn't expecting the declaration to be voted down.

Still through the summer months many indigenous leaders remained worried about the effectiveness of the U.N. process.

''The United Nations has not delivered enough constructive outcomes for indigenous peoples,'' Aroha Te Pareaka Mead, representative of the Ngati Awa Iwi and the Aotearoa in New Zealand, said in late July. ''It has delivered some things, but not enough and it's taking too long.''

Especially worrisome to indigenous leaders gathered in late July in the gymnasium of the Lummi Nation School were proposed compromises that would further empower states to think that they could define who is and isn't indigenous.

A treaty of their making, a United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty of North America and the Pacific Rim, could be different, could shift the paradigm of international relations.

For three days, representatives of 40 indigenous nations from around the Pacific Rim conversed about a treaty of mutual support that they would write and sign. If historic treaty making by U.S. officials in the then foreign language English were fraught with deceit, this treaty would be done with transparency.

Using an overhead projector, organizers displayed the draft treaty on a movie screen. A young man typed proposed changes into the text while the leaders of indigenous nations weighed their options. A quick trip to Kinko's provided copies.

More than one leader had expressed sentiments of intergenerational, post-traumatic stress over treaty processes that their nation had been included in or excluded from.

''Generally speaking, our people haven't been much for treaties,'' said Mike Marchand, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, which is located on the U.S. side of the border with Canada. ''We never sold our land to Canada. We have a lawsuit against the Queen. They say we have to make a choice: be a Canadian and get kicked around in Canada, or be an American and get kicked around in the U.S.''

Marchand said if the treaty under discussion talked of collaboration in getting land returned, then he would sign for his nation.

He and 10 other leaders of indigenous nations signed the treaty on Aug. 1 with plans for a larger signing involving more nations later this year.

While there are historic precedents for Native nations making treaty with each other, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy or the relations of the Coast Salish from the central British Columbia coast to south of Washington's Puget Sound, this treaty is a modern exercise of a long-standing right of nations.

How many Indian nations have foreign affairs departments, asked Frank Ettawageshik, chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa, of those assembled. He explained, ''The intergovernmental relations between us are on the same international level as the United Nations.''

The treaty has a more immediate potential for effecting cultural protections, land recovery and business relations among its signatories than the U.N. declaration. The declaration has the potential once entered into international law to influence national laws and court cases. The U.S. Supreme Court routinely explains that international law is one of bodies of law it consults.

What we need is both the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to effect laws outside indigenous nations, and the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty to strengthen and protect from within an alliance that spans North America and the Pacific Rim.

As indigenous leaders prepare for 11th-hour negotiations at the United Nations in New York, it's worth remembering that the General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights didn't pass with the ease that we 60 years later would think.

But when it passed, the General Assembly called on members to ''cause the declaration to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.''

So be it with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

To read a draft of the declaration, visit and select U.N., then select Human Rights Council 2006. For more information on the United League of Indigenous Nations Treaty, visit www.indig

Kara Briggs, Yakama and Snohomish, is associate director of the American Indian Policy & Media Initiative at Buffalo State College. She lives at the Tulalip Reservation in Washington.