Thursday, May 17, 2012

U.N. Mission Calls U.S. to Return Indigenous Lands

American Indian's oppression was the cornerstone of conquering this side of the Atlantic.  The U.S. government signed over 300 treaties with natives tribes and broke every single one of them.  The U.S. stole sacred land and killed off nations.  Not only the people but their culture and livelihood.

For the first time the United States allowed a United Nations fact-finding mission to determine the impact of the passage of the proposed Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.  

The 12-day fact-finding mission was performed by James Anaya, a professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona.  This mission took Anaya all over Indian Country and up to Alaska to determine the experience of natives in this country.  He will be presenting his finding in September to U.N. Human Rights Council.  

Reflecting on his mission Anaya said on Democracy Now! 

The indigenous peoples of this country—the Native Americans, American Indians, Alaskan natives, native Hawaiians—suffer from poverty, poor health conditions, lack of attainment of formal education, social ills, at rates far that—that far exceed those of other segments of the American population.

One of the headline catching recommendations that Anaya has suggested, is that the U.S. return some land that was stolen back to native tribe as a way forward for reconciliation.  One specific piece of land was Mount Rushmore, which is located in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, historically this is sacred land for the Lakota (Sioux).  This land was stolen after the U.S. found gold in the black hills, violating the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.  

In 1980 the Supreme Court decided that the seizure of the black hills from the Lakota was illegal and stated that the U.S. needed to pay the Lakota for the land.  The Lakota refused the money, instead demanding their land back.  


This findings of this mission is no surprise as the very foundation of the U.S. is based on stolen land.  The U.S. continued to expand westward in an effort to find new markets and new resources to continue to build their wealth in the world.  The foundation of this wealth was based on the building of the railroad and digging for gold, silver, and other rich resources on stolen land.  

In 1871 the U.S. discontinued the treaty process with natives.  A huge blow to sovereignty.

At this point the policy was to assimilate all Indians into white society.  Young Indians were forced to go to boarding schools where they were forced to cut their hair and forbidden from speaking their native tongue.  

It wasn’t until the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 that Indians were given the right to vote, which makes them the last minority in this country to gain the right to vote.  This also allowed tribes to have democratically elected tribal councils to govern their reservations.  Though these councils were set up by the U.S. government, and often used by them, and not by the traditional native decision-making process, this was a step towards sovereignty.   

In the 1970s we saw a rise in American Indian struggle.  This came in the form of the American Indian Movement (AIM), which looked to bring the injustices of native people to the forefront again.  They successfully put these issues in the mainstream again with actions such as occupying Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Wounded Knee, the site of the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890.  The american public time and time again sided with the Indians in these conflicts.  

As a result of this pressure the U.S. passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1980.  That’s right, American Indians didn’t have the legal right to practice their religion until 1980.  The act states:

That henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.

It should be highlighted that this act gave natives the right to have access to sacred sites.  This often is at odds with sites that are rich in natural resources.  Especially those resources that the U.S. government and corporations can get rich on.  

One example is uranium mining in Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico.  The mining for uranium not only destroyed land and Navajo health but helped fund the U.S. war machine.  There are plenty more stories of resistance to the exploitation of sacred lands.  


In 2010 President Obama stated that the U.S. supports the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.  To get an idea of the what the declaration conveys, Article 3 of the declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

The reality is the administration has done very little to push for the rights of indigenous people.  They passed the Tribal Law and Order Act, which further militarizes reservations with the addition of more police and judges.  It seems that this is more important to them than addressing housing shortages and astronomical unemployment rates on reservations.

The recommendations by this mission will call the hand of the U.S.  Will they actually pursue reconciliation, reparations and sovereignty of American Indian Nations? I think the answers lies in the increase in struggle for indigenous liberation in this country.   

The administration can sign as many documents as they would like to that state they support indigenous rights.  However it won’t be until American Indians see jobs, houses, reparations, their land and sovereignty will the administration’s words mean anything.  

Although the likelihood of the U.S. being responsive to a U.N. recommendation is unlikely, the results of this mission creates an opening to bring indigenous issues back to the debate.  The indigenous people of this country are still fighting the same fight as their brothers and sisters of the past.  Now we need to continue to build a large movement that takes on a system that continues the exploitation of native people and land.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Cheyenne Resistance

All we ask is to be allowed to live, and live in peace...We bowed to the will of the Great Father and went south. There we found a Cheyenne cannot live. So we came home. Better it was, we thought, to die fighting than to perish of sickness...You may kill me here; but you cannot make me go back. We will not go. The only way to get us there is to come here with clubs and knock us on the head, and drag us out and take us down there dead.

--Dull Knife, Northern Cheyenne leader

TODAY, THE Northern Cheyenne live on a 444,000-acre reservation in the Tongue River Valley in southeast Montana. The tribe has nearly 5,000 enrolled members. However placid this may appear on the surface, resistance is at the very foundation of the Northern Cheyenne's story.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the Northern Cheyenne, the Lakota and the Northern Arapaho united against the federal government's efforts to steal their territory (as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty and 1868 Fort Larmine Treaty). Known as the Great Sioux Wars, Lakota leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull as well as Cheyenne leaders Little Wolf and Dull Knife led the fight against Gen. George Custer and his Seventh U.S. Cavalry.

During the Battle of Little Big Horn, which was the high point of the war, thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated the Seventh Cavalry and killed Custer. This was a huge win for Native Americans and their fight for freedom from the "Long Knives" (as the soldiers were known by some tribes).

On November 26, 1876, Col. Ranald Mackenzie attacked Dull Knife's winter camp in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and forced his surrender, thus ending the Cheyenne's participation in the Sioux Wars.

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ACCORDING TO the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which the Cheyenne signed, the Northern Cheyenne "committed them to live either on the Sioux Reservation or on a reservation set apart for the Southern Cheyenne." The Southern Cheyenne at this point lived at the Darlington Agency in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Cheyenne assumed that they would be forced onto reservations set up in South Dakota for the Lakota. Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne, said:

All of us wanted to stay in this country near the Black Hills. But we had one big chief, Standing Elk, who kept saying it would be better if we should go there [Indian Territory]. I think there were not as many as 10 Cheyennes in our whole tribe who agreed with him. There was a feeling that he was talking this way to make himself a big Indian among the white people.

Lt. William P. Clark assured Little Wolf that if they did not like Indian Territory, they would be permitted back north to their home after a year. Of course, the U.S. government never intended on keeping this promise.

In 1877, 972 Cheyenne and Arapaho embarked on the 1,500-mile trek to the Darlington Agency in Indian Territory after they were forced to leave. Only 937 completed the journey. Conditions on the reservation were horrible. In the summer of 1878, about 2,000 of the 5,004 Cheyenne and Arapahos were sick. The culprit was the change in climate and a shortage of food rations promised to them. The Northern Cheyenne resisted being farmers and assimilating to the white man's way of life--and were punished for doing so.

The Cheyenne were "authorized" to hunt for game in the winter of 1877-78, but the buffalo, the livelihood of the Cheyenne, were all but extinct in the lower plains, forcing the Indians to eat some of their horses to survive the winter. Iron Teeth, a Northern Cheyenne, described the experience:

When we were not sick, we were hungry. Much of the time, we had not any food. Our men asked for their they could kill game...Sometimes, a few of them would take their bows and arrows and slip away to get...meat...The bows and arrows were used at times for killing cattle belonging to white men. Any time it happened, the whole tribe was punished. The punishment would be the giving of less food to us, and we were kept still closer to the agency. We had a great many deaths from both the fever sickness and starvation.

In August 1878, Dull Knife and Little Wolf started preparing their people for their trip home. But as their departure drew near, tensions rose between the federal government and the Indians. On September 9, 1878, Little Wolf had a frank conversation with John D. Miles, the federal agent at the Darlington Agency, telling him:

My friends, I am now going to my camp. I do not wish the ground about his agency to be made bloody, but listen to what I say to you. I am going to leave here; I am going north to my own country. I do not wish to see blood spilt about this agency. If you are going to send your soldiers after me, I wish that you would first let me get a little distance away from this agency. Then if you want to fight, I will fight you, and we can make the ground bloody at that place.

Little Wolf, Dull Knife and their followers, numbering 353 in total, left later that evening. Their number totaled 353, only a third of those who had made the trip to Indian Territory a year earlier. The number included 92 men, 120 women, 69 boys and 72 girls and no more than 60 or 70 experienced warriors. They were on a trek that was either going to kill them or get them to home--there were no other options in their minds.

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CAPT. JOSEPH Rendlebrock of the Fourth Cavalry was in charge of the pursuit. "In all, about 250 soldiers had been put in the field by the Department of the Missouri by September 12. By the end of the Cheyenne odyssey, that figure would escalate to over 1,000." That's right, more than 1,000 troops to fight against 60 to 70 seasoned warriors. The U.S. government did not want a repeat of the Nez Perce chase that ended a year earlier.

The first test was on September 12 during the Battle at Turkey Springs in Indian Territory near the Kansas border. Little Wolf, who was a brilliant military strategist, said to his warriors:

Let them shoot first. But do you all get your arms and horses, and I will go out and meet the troops and try to talk with them. If they kill any of us, I will be the first man killed. Then you can fight.

The fight lasted for more than 24 hours, and the Northern Cheyenne successfully surrounded Rendlebrock and his Fourth cavalry, leaving them without water and forcing them to retreat. "At Turkey Springs, the U.S. Army lost simply because the Cheyennes won, not by sheer numbers but by virtue of superior tactical leadership," explained historian John Monnett.

In order to survive, the Cheyenne raided settlers' ranches for food and often got in conflicts with the settlers, resulting in the deaths of about 80 settlers along the way. However, Little Wolf and Dull Knife also impressed upon their young warriors that they should avoid killing civilians whenever possible, saying that the fight was with the U.S. Army not the settlers.

Following Turkey Springs, a running battle ensued across Kansas and Nebraska. The Cheyenne followed the old Indian Trail connecting the Northern and Southern Cheyenne. They tried their best to stay on rugged trails so the army would be unable to use wagons. A call was issued to all cavalrymen and infantrymen in the area to come by horse, train and foot.

In the first days of October, the Cheyenne crossed the Union Pacific Railroad and headed toward the sand hills of Nebraska. At this point the weather had begun to get much colder, and the Cheyenne constantly faced a shortage of food and clothing.

When 34 Cheyenne went missing, a divide became apparent in the camp. Desperate for food and shelter, Dull Knife argued that they should go to the Red Cloud Agency in northern Nebraska for the winter (but unknown to Dull Knife, the agency had moved to Pine Ridge, S.D.). Many times before the Cheyenne had helped Red Cloud and the Lakota in battle, and it seemed like a good moment to ask for hospitality. Little Wolf, on the other hand, couldn't stand this talk and said he was determined to make it to the Tongue River Valley.

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THE TWO leaders decided to allow each member of the group to choose whom to follow--either Dull Knife bound for the Red Cloud Agency or Little Wolf headed north to the Tongue River Valley. When they parted ways, 150 left with Dull Knife, and 134 continued home with Little Wolf.

On October 23, Dull Knife and his band were just two days away from Fort Robinson, Neb. Only a couple months earlier, Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota warrior, was imprisoned and killed there. When a blizzard caught them on the open plain, the Third Cavalry surrounded them and took them to Fort Robinson where they were imprisoned. Knowing that they would be disarmed upon capture, the band disassembled many of their guns and hid them in their clothing.

Dull Knife was in negotiations with the soldiers in hopes of being permitted to continue to the Red Cloud Agency in Pine Ridge. The cavalry said they needed to get approval from Washington. When the word arrived on January 3, 1879, Washington said that they must return south to Indian Territory. "Unless they are sent back to where they came from," said Gen. Sheridan of the War Department, "the whole reservation system will receive a shock which will endanger its stability."

Dull Knife's band continued to refuse to go back south. At 9:45 pm on the night of January 8, 1879, the Cheyenne assembled their guns and made a run for it. The warrior Bull Bear, who was reportedly seven feet tall, led the break out. By morning, 65 Cheyenne, 23 of them wounded, were taken back to Fort Robinson as prisoners. Only 38 Cheyenne, including Dull Knife, made it out alive, and they were now being pursued by the cavalry. Only nine made it to Pine Ridge alive. Later, 58 of the survivors still at Fort Robinson were allowed to also settle in Pine Ridge.

Little Wolf's band spent the winter months around Wild Chokecherry Creek in the sand hills of Nebraska, where they had plenty of game to hunt. For the most part, they were left undisturbed, but in the spring Lt. William P. Clark came looking for Little Wolf, determined to get a surrender.

The band agreed to surrender and was taken to Fort Keogh, Mont. Many then became scouts for the army--and were plied with alcohol. "The Cheyennes drank whiskey from boredom and despair," said Dee Brown. "It made the white traders rich, and it destroyed what was left of the leadership of the tribe. It destroyed Little Wolf."

Later, Dull Knife and the 58 survivors in Pine Ridge were free to join Little Wolf at Fort Keogh. In 1883, 360 Northern Cheyenne still in Indian Territory were permitted to go to Pine Ridge. After months and months of delay, in 1884 the Northern Cheyenne united for the first time in five years on the newly established reservation in the homeland of the Tongue River Valley.

Landon Means, a Northern Cheyenne who was born and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, discusses the impact of this experience on his people today. "When I was young," he said, "my grandfather would say, 'Be proud that you are Northern Cheyenne.'"

Landon went on to say that the landscape has changed as younger people today have lost some of the knowledge of their Odyssey. Phillip White, a Northern Cheyenne, is trying to change that by organizing an annual run along the same route that Dull Knife used to escape from Fort Robinson.

Although the Northern Cheyenne never achieved their dream of living free on the open plains of their homeland, their story of resistance is inspiring. That this small band of Cheyenne outsmarted and outmaneuvered the U.S. military during a 1,500-mile trek under harsh conditions stands as an enduring accomplishment. And though their homeland has changed, they were never forced back to Indian Territory again.

First published at

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Manifest Massacre: Revisiting Wounded Knee

I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from the high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream...the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. -Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Medicine Man looking back at the Wounded Knee Massacre

On this day 121 years ago the European colonizers of this continent caused a nightmare for the original inhabitants of this land. Under the instruction of Manifest Destiny, a tragic event marked the end of "Indian Wars" and became known as the last conflict between the white man and the Indians. The massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 goes down in history as a day when hundreds of Lakota were slaughtered by the 7th Cavalry of the United States.

In order to put this story in context we need to start with the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, where the Lakota (Sioux) signed a legally binding document with the United States government that would create the "Great Sioux Reservation", which included all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The treaty stated, "No white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the territory, or without the consent of the Indians to pass through the same.".

The U.S. government signed the treaty before they found gold found in the Black Hills (the Lakota's most sacred land) in 1871. In a Wall Street endeavor, mining companies totally disregarded the 1868 treaty and flooded the area under U.S. government protection, and then the U.S. officially seized the Black Hills in 1877.

In 1871 the U.S. government formally ended the treaty process with tribes. A huge blow to Indian sovereignty rapidly increased the assimilation process to western Indians.

At this time Indians were being forced to live on small reservations. For the Lakota this meant that the U.S. government split and seized most of the "Great Sioux Reservation". The various bands of the Lakota were split up into 6 smaller reservations where they still live to this day. On December 3, 1875 Edward P Smith, the commissioner of Indian Affairs, ordered all Lakota and Cheyenne to report to reservations by January 31, 1876 or a "military force would be sent to compel them."

Bands of the Lakota followed the Oglala Lakota Warrior, Crazy Horse, and the Hunkpapa Lakota Medicine Man, Sitting Bull, who both refused to give up their land and their way of life. Both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull helped unite the Cheyenne and the Arapaho to fight against the U.S. This lead to the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 where the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry . The U.S. faced a significant blow to westward expansion and the craze of Custer's exploits.

At this same time a new spiritual "Ghost Dance" spread throughout Indian Country. The ghost dance was developed by Wovoka, a Pauite Indian from Nevada, who received it in a vision. His vision stated that the dance would eliminate the white man, return the buffalo herds, and restore traditional life on the continent. Out of desperation, people took to the ghost dance and practiced it all over the plains. Alarmed, the U.S. Government perceived the ghost dance as a war dance. In turn, the U.S. government hunted movement leaders. On December 15, 1890, forty Indian Police seiged the house of Sitting Bull for his arrest, and when he tried escaping, they shot and killed him.

Following the killing of Sitting Bull, out of fear, 300 Hunkpapa Lakota fled the Standing Rock Reservation and joined Spotted Elk (later called "Big Foot") and his band of Miniconjou Lakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

A call for Spotted Elk's arrest followed Sitting Bull's death. On December 23, 1890 Spotted Elk lead his band of Miniconjou Lakota along with 38 Hunkpapa Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservation to the Pine Ridge Reservation, seeking shelter and food for the winter with Red Cloud and his band of Oglala Lakota. On December 29, 1890, the 7th Cavalry intercepted the band of over 350 Lakota at the Wounded Knee Village. The Cavalry insisted that they give up all their arms. A deaf man, by the name of Black Coyote, couldn't hear the orders and resisted giving up his gun. After a struggle, the gun went off. The Cavalry that was already in position and drinking throughout the night started shooting at the defenseless Lakota, in response. At the end of the bloodshed, 150 Lakota were killed with 50 wounded with 26 Cavalry members killed and 39 wounded. It later came out that the killed and wounded Cavalry members resulted from friendly fire. Since they surrounded the Lakota, bullets went astray and hit their own men.

American Horse, an Oglala Lakota Chief, reflecting on the inhumanity of the 7th Cavalry said:

There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce...A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing...The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through...and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys...came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.

A blizzard covered the plains for three days, leaving the dead and wounded covered in snow. Frozen into horrifying postures, dead women, children, and men laid for three whole days until the blizzard cleared. Then the government gave white settlers two dollars per body they dumped in the mass grave at the top of the Wounded Knee hill. Of the frozen corpses, they found Spotted Elk, and in an act of dominance, showing no mercy, they scalped him.

Following the atrocious massacre, the U.S. government gave 20 Medals of Honor to members of the 7th Cavalry . This is the highest military award and the U.S. government has never taken back those metals to this very day.

American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and Oglala Lakota, Russell Means said:

Wounded Knee happened because Indian people wanted to survive as Indians and there wasn't any way to survive, so we made a stand and made a statement, but now Indian people are beginning to rebound, rebound according to their concept of Beauty. And that's really what's necessary. to understand Indian people have to become free again.

Over 80 years later, in 1973, AIM and the traditional Lakota engaged in a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee and stand off with the FBI, opposing the treatment of Indians in the U.S.. During the stand off, shoot outs occurred almost every night, and Pine Ridge Reservation was regarded as a war zone. At this time, Indians were still legally forbidden from practicing their religion, a law that finally changed in 1978.

In 1980, the Supreme Court, in United States vs. Sioux Nation Indians, ruled that the seizure of the Blacks Hills was indeed illegal and the U.S. government would have to pay $15.5 million, plus 103 years of interest (an additional $105 million), to the Lakota. The tribe turned down the money and instead demand the seized territory back. Obviously, the U.S. government has not given the land back to the Lakota.

On July 28, 2011 Attorney General Eric Holder visited and honored the site of the Wounded Knee massacre. He then talked with tribal leaders about the Law and Order Act, an act Obama signed into law last year to increase the "public safety" on reservations. In effect, police presence and judges on the reservation have increased, and jobs, education and housing still lack funding or significant U.S. government support.

It took from Columbus landing in the West Indies in 1492 to 1890 to fully conquer this land. We often overlook the story of the Indigenous people's genocide and resistance, whether in your history class or a discussion about civil rights. All sides of the political spectrum cast aside the American Indian as a people of the past, hardly existing or mattering. It is our job as fighters for social justice to remember and realize that the American Indian is still alive today and still fighting back.

Today, in our struggle against capitalism, we must stand in solidarity with all those oppressed by its forces, especially the first inhabitants of this land. We must learn from all those oppressed, as well. After all, the American Indians were the first victims of Wall Street and the first fighters against Wall Street.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wall Street's First Victims


The past three weeks have been pretty inspirational in regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement. That it's spread now to other cities throughout the United States shows the wide support it has.

A recent poll says that 74 percent of New Yorkers support the protest. Overwhelming anger towards Wall Street and the bankers that have put us in this economic crisis is the driving force. There was a tweet that I saw which said: "0 bankers were arrested while, over 1,000 protesters were arrested."

The financial bank, JPMorgan recently donated $4.6 million to the NYPD foundation--hmm, I wonder why. This is a telling sign of where government interests lie in this capitalist system, where the richest 400 households in the U.S. have a combined wealth of $1.37 trillion. The government calls for cuts in social programs while handing out over $16 trillion to Wall Street and continuing expensive wars around the world. Some call this backwardness, but this is exactly how the capitalist system works.

This experience, which is new to some people in this country, is the continued story of the American Indian--a people who have been subject to oppression by the speculators on Wall Street and the government ever since Europeans came to the Americas. This country was founded on the genocide, displacement and on stolen land of the American Indians. As their lands were stolen, they were then forced to live on prisoner of war camps called reservations. Any Indian who didn't go to the reservation was considered hostile to the U.S. government and subject to arrest.

As we see today, the police defend the criminals on Wall Street. This is reminiscent of General George Armstrong Custer's exploration for gold into the Blacks Hills in western South Dakota in the 1870s. This land was sacred land and titled land to the Sioux (the Lakota) as part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. This treaty created the "Great Sioux Reservation", which included all of western South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The Lakota people were entitled to this land for as long as the sun shined. But because gold was there, the U.S. government decided that they didn't need abide by the treaty and seized the land in 1877.

In the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) came to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. AIM leaders there led the occupation of Wounded Knee (the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890). At the same time, AIM was talking about treaty rights and the Lakota's rights to the Black Hills, uranium was found in the Blacks Hills--and "Custer's expedition part II" started as companies came to drill for profit and help the United States war machine. The FBI came in defense of Wall Street to stop the occupation and protests happening on the reservation.

In 1980, the Supreme Court, in United States vs. Sioux Nation Indians, ruled that the seizure of the Blacks Hills was indeed illegal and the U.S. government would have to pay $15.5 million, plus 103 years of interest (an additional $105 million), to the Lakota. The tribe turned down the money and instead demand the seized territory back. Obviously the U.S. government has not given the land back to the Lakota.

This story is not unique, but rather the normal experience of tribes throughout the United States. Currently, conditions on Indian reservations in the United States are similar to those in the developing world. Most times you will find a significant number of people without running water, electricity or without housing, in very harsh weather conditions and living on desolate land.

Jewell Praying Wolf James, a descendant of Chief Seal'th, in a testimony titled Ecocide and Genocide, wrote:

"The American Indians have the highest infant mortality, shortest life-expectancy, highest unemployment and underemployment, lowest educational and vocational attainments, highest poverty, and the poorest housing. They have been deprived of their traditional foods and medicines, and have been forced to convert religions that oppose the Mother Earth spirituality of indigenous peoples. Their parents and grandparents have been forced out of traditional roles, and family institutions have been destroyed. Our traditional forms of government have been destroyed and non-Indian governmental structures instituted. Our people suffer great amounts of alcohol and drug abuse and psychological and sociological depression and dysfunctionality."

The government moved westward in the name of "Manifest Destiny," but it might as well been Manifest Profits. The government, with the partnership of Corporate America, destroyed the native way of life in order to gain profits and expand markets, simply because the indigenous people's way of life was contradictory to capitalism. So the government deemed these people "savages."

In the same testimony, Praying Wolf James said, "In this society there were no police, no nobles, no kings or queens, no regents, no prefects, no prisons, and no state. There existed a socialist form of economics and marketing."

He went on to say:

"Today, it is corporate and industrial greed that demands more and more from the government, more exploitation of individual rights and the natural resources. The rich get richer and the poor die in toxic contamination caused by mass production, the fever of consumerism, and rampaging materialism. Multinational, transnational and international corporations and industry owe loyalty to profit-making and not humanity.

"When national governments...impose stricter laws to protect the poor, the environment, the wilderness, or to force conservation measures to be implemented, these corporations transplant themselves amongst the Third or Fourth world peoples. They then tell their own people that they are "unproductive" and export their exploitation and toxic wastes to Third World and "underdeveloped" countries."

This show us why we need an international movement of solidarity amongst all the oppressed people of the world against capitalism, whether it's the Egyptian worker, the Wisconsin worker or the oppressed Palestinian. Because the fact is, capitalism is an international system and we can only fight it internationally.

Protesters today across the U.S. as part of the Occupy Movement need to understand that what is happening right now with Wall Street is nothing new and is at the very core of the foundation of this country. Whether it was the genocide of the American Indian or the enslavement of African Americans, this was how the market worked.

It is important to know that this isn't a short-term problem--and the only way we can win is by fighting for a socialist society that is based on human need, rather than profits. A society where American Indians could have true sovereignty for the first time since Europeans came to the Americas.

The protests erupting around the country are inspiring and we need socialist activists to be on the front lines making these arguments and connecting these various struggles to fight for a better world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why we need to support USPS workers

Today marks the day of national action to save the United States Postal Service (USPS). Congress, along with the support of the Postmaster General, are threatening to lay off up to 120,000 workers and close 3,700 post offices around the country.

USPS is a universal service that represents something more than just mail. It's a service to which everyone is entitled, no matter race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. As I have been biking across this country, there may not be much of anything in a town but there is always a post office. No matter the size, as long as you have a zip code, there is a post office where you can get mail and send mail at an affordable price.

So, is this a real crisis or is it a manufactured crisis (like the great economic recession)? It's definitely a manufactured crisis. The threat of default by the post office is a result of a law that made the USPS overpay into the treasury to fund retirement benefits for workers for the next 75 years. Basically, this means that they are putting money into the treasury account for post office workers retirement who aren't even born yet. By law they have had to put $5.5 billions into this account every year. No other government agency has to do anything like this. Congress could easily allow USPS access to their own money to prevent default and continue to operate without laying people off using a lot of that money to modernize USPS. Obviously, this solution isn't discussed nearly as much as it should be in the overall conversation about how to solve the crisis.

USPS has a work force that is 39 percent minority with 21 percent being African-American. Historically, USPS has been a place where African-Americans could have a secure job. With the unemployment rate already 17 percent for African-Americans (the overall population is at a little over 9 percent), this type of attack would only inflat that number.

The powers that be aren't interested in saving jobs and moving forward in a sensible way. They're interested in busting the union of the post office, privatizing and denying access to the most vulerable people in this country. This fight has everything to do with the government and corporate leaders agenda to attack the working class in the name of the economic crisis. We saw this in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Verizon, the Tacoma Public Schools. This is about a set of priorities, where we won't tax the rich in the name of the crisis or end the wars, rather we will attack the most vulnerable people in our society while Wall Street benefits from million dollar bonuses. If we don't fight back, the attacks will only continue and expand

The only way that we can fight this is through struggle. The government and corporate leaders may have money but we the people have the numbers. As we continue to see struggle happening throughout the U.S. and the world we have to fight the attacks through protesting, taking workplace action and fighting the attacks from the bosses and the government.

Today this struggle is just getting started with a protest happening in every single congressional district in the country from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. This is only the beginning and the Tacoma, WA Teacher's Educational Association showed us that strikes can win and as this fights moves forward we need to connect these struggles and learn what works and how we can win.

Here is some more information about where to protest and the issues:

Uniting to defend postal jobs

Save America's Postal Service

Shock Doctrine at U.S. Postal Service