Perfect Consideration: Part Two (Present)

Native Oppression and a Final Treaty-

If creation is an ongoing process, the consequences of which are inseparable from our own lives, then all experience must have inherent value in and of itself, since it is through this binding relationship with reality that a sense of the Sacred is maintained and offered for us. While this particular conceptualization of the natural world may contribute to the irrelevance of such terms as “Religion” and “Environment” in the Native worldview (as they are simply taken to be intrinsic to nature itself), the argument does come under scrutiny when applied to the question of Oppression, i.e. where is the goodness in being “conquered?” Yet if the Buddha is truthful in stating that the greatest sign of ignorance is to believe the perceived self is unconnected to the Oneness of the universe, then how are we to understand the broken treaties, political manipulation, and genocides of yesteryear as vital necessities in the passing of time?

Knowledge of self is based upon the sum of relationships cultivated, out of which spiritual wellness, psychological health, and communal integrity are derived. However, cultural bonds are disintegrated and destroyed in surrounding atmospheres of social amnesia and so, the contradictory nature of subsequent “unilateral definitions” will often categorize limited understandings based on incomplete half-truths:

“Whoever attempts to write Native American history must admit in advance to fallibility. There is not and never will be any proof, no possibility of ‘hard evidence’ to support a conjecture based on deduction” (Dorris, 104).

Something else then—an “Other” (determined as such to be an enemy)—forces upon us an undesirable state: namely, perpetual ignorance. The futility of regarding certain phenomena in ways ungoverned by personal prejudices then stunts our mental development, preventing the fusion of difference needed for comprehending any available “big picture.” In this respect, historical awareness is conceived through individual perception, its significance and value determined by one’s own mind. Cultural maps are constructed as social identities to graphically depict what is consciously named and included, demanding the constant reassessment of events and affairs on which those worlds are built to guide action through our reconceived notions of right and wrong, or good and bad:

“Building and sharing place-worlds is not only a means of reviving former times but also of revising them, a means of exploring not merely how things might have been but also how, just possibly, they might have been different from what others have supposed” (Basso, 3).

Surely then it takes some degree of Moral aptitude to attribute subjectivity to any statistic argued to be demonstrative of Oppression. Perhaps like the cherished Salmon, Bison, and Corn featured on the Pollen Path, Oppression itself is a fundamental tenant of the Native experience, without which there should be no purpose other than to enjoy The Experience itself.

Through the common assimilation into a shared motivating outlook, one is challenged to find strength in ways other than the murder and massacre of innocents. In reacting to undesirable circumstances, inherent problems and contradictions can be alleviated as fundamental differences are rectified. Natives and non-Natives might never have experienced each other’s tribal heritages if not for cultural trade; and in adapting their worldviews to counter the perceived threat of extermination, members of each group attach themselves to an endpoint (in the future) so as to introduce their own aspirations as systematic goals. This provides the means of progressing towards a unique understanding while simultaneously reproducing actions that would constitute the desired effect, reconciling Linear time with its Cyclical counterpart. The systematic absorption of Native culture can therefore provide a worthy example for other instances of assumed Oppression for Indigenous peoples around the globe, by which a “conquered people” might live Freely and, through their own work, destroy any undesirable force that should arise. Thus, in venturing out into the surrounding Four directions we can only hope to be adopted by something better than what is provided for us at the moment, with a collective dissidence transforming one Oppressive Empire into a more unifying arena destined for social harmony. In so doing, we must not fear losing the path, as it is we who in fact make it up as we go.

The Mightiest Weapon

Yet how to combat the destruction of culture, ancestral wisdom, and the spirit of a people? How to learn the language of Nature itself so as to better recognize Earth's untapped potential and guide us by the spiritual energy of all creation? And how to forgive those whose entire predilection of violence has spawned the forces of hatred and fear which threaten the very extinction of a common existence?

Those asking such questions have always found their answers hidden deep in the confines of knowledge. It should come as no surprise then that Education will always be considered a most prized and cherished resource available for the oppressed, detailing an investment in the future to further personal directives of survival. Whether through the erasure of traditional identity (or in its ultimate reclamation), the calculated indoctrination of the Other has forever maintained a place "intended as an alternative to the outright extermination seriously advocated" by the bloodthirsty Generals of battle (Bird, Erdoes 256). This goal recapitulates totally the importance of the School as a laboratory for fomenting Cultural Revolution.

A community's warring against imposed slavery is established through the reinforcement of self-identity. Perhaps taking the form of local activism to mandate a strong participatory element, this aim demonstrates the "tenacity and energy that can be directed toward assuring that survival," since retrieving a sense of self-sufficiency aids the dispossessed in the mainstream culture they are found subjected to (Lobo, 265).

If assimilation has failed, it is because it is considered undesirable, contradictory of personal values, and thus to be feared. The cultural trauma witnessed by so many lends staggering credit to the maintenance and strengthening of educational control by a local community, if for no other reason than the preservation of national heritage and peace of mind. Constructed organizations, complementary support structures, lobby groups, workshops, institutions, influential bills and legislation, reports, and confrontational tactics are all utilized to expand a common purpose: the enrollment and graduation of those students comprising an eventual impact upon the "Great Society" they share. Indeed, financial, academic, and cultural support does much to define communal progress, out of which a "return to the university ideal can develop into a great contribution not only to the survival of Native society, but also to the survival of the world through the community of learning" at large. (Wollock, 280)

This creation of a powerful vanguard—from which to rally against all else—provides the means by which one generation, relegated to a position of total domination, might find its way back to the Great Spirit it is borne out of. In learning of our deepest selves we can better understand our own intentions. Our actions evolve in this context to transform our desires into tangible experiences, solidifying theories through collective action. The wisdom shared with one another certainly guides this struggle for liberation, to reassert the sovereignty inherent in each of us. So too, by injecting a benevolent truth (that is, our own self-worth and cultural distinction) into an enveloping social apparatus, we may radically diminish the economic, political, and military power negatively affecting us, thereby repairing the "disjuncture between the past, present and future of Native North American peoples which has been imposed by nearly four centuries of unrelenting conquest, subjugation and dispossession on the part of Euroamerica's multitudinous invaders" (Churchill, 18).

The Myth of Purity

For many, the various religions of the world are nothing more than the stagnated interpretations of an individual’s constructed philosophy [Islam was founded by Muhammad; Taoism by Laozi; Buddhism by Siddhartha—even Christianity, “founded” by Jesus, split off into multiple denominations, all adhering to an individual’s personal considerations: Calvinism, Lutheranism, Mormonism, etc…]. In many of these cases, traditions are held and passed down to a privileged elite, holding authoritative positions so as to better minister to an uninformed public.

All have mass appeal, maintaining their influence by claiming the “correct” method by which to bring people into "The Way," the path identified as being most in-line with what a supreme deity would consider “Good,” that which is in harmony with "God’s plan." While the battle between who is “right" has surely shaped the course of history through battle, war, revolution, etc., one thing remains certain: those who are brought into a new mindset, in which humanity and the natural world are given reverential respect, are often thought to be more “in-touch” with the spiritual realm and more apt to make the world a “better” place. (Quotations denote subjective qualification, as conceived by the individual) Thus, the means to achieve "Enlightenment" are practically rendered irrelevant, considering these separate paths all lead to the same supposed Sacred state of mind. A belief system, being the product of one’s imagination as s/he recognizes the relationship between an individual soul and the collective spirit, comes to understand the commonality of existing in the one cosmos and Earth. In so doing, natural experience is organized and characterized, so as to better understand various patterns of Truth through specific models.

Yet in realizing the fundamental similarity of the human experience, how can any person claim a piece of the natural world for themselves alone, holding the knowledge in question (passed down through ancestry) over a “less-deserving” person because s/he simply doesn’t understand or isn’t considered worthy? If we accept that all are inherently equal, then don’t we all have a legitimate claim to the world and the (spiritual) resources residing within? If one person is more comfortable listening to one of similar descent talk about her experiences and how it brought her into a more harmonic relationship with herself, others, and the natural world, does it really matter who in fact presented the wisdom in question to the audience member in the first place?

We are OF COURSE presented with a dilemma as to how to legitimize any claim, sufficing to say we should all be helped to gain insight into the enormous responsibility that comes with the power to create and destroy preconceptions. The knowledge that our various human cultures have accumulated over generations thus requires a space not overshadowed by other attempts towards the same objective, enlightening or falsely indoctrinating their audiences. Generalizations are often offensive, but unless the one who generalizes is aware of the mistake, the maliciousness of “cultural imperialism” can always be justified by ignorance. The responsibility of the “colonized” to inform and educate those who have taken it upon themselves to seek understanding of something they wish to know then arises, so as to reproduce the particular culture in any constructed interpretation; moreover, to avoid furthering untrue caricatures and stereotypes necessitates volunteering the “true” identity, providing options for the seeker, or consumer in question.

"In modern consumer society, religion is placed squarely in the market place along with other meaning systems [alluding] to the supermarket of lifestyles where individuals are able to select from packaged bodies of meaning systems such as religions... Individuals [then] feel increasingly isolated and lonely as social relations in consumer culture continue to break down. People seek neo-tribes in a desperate search for community." (Aldred, 338-340)

The public arena is a malleable product of perspective. Likewise, commodities are exchanged along with the blending of cultures. While there are surely other motivations besides money (power, fame, desire, guilt, insecurity, fear…), if in fact the motivating force of educating the public to better understand the world they are a part of is considered the purest, then it should be obvious that we must stop protesting others’ interpretations of the Sacred and rather express what has come to be revealed for us individually. In elucidating on these particular points, competition can be restored to the marketplace so the superior “product,” derived from the one source of inspiration (Existence), may take its rightful place in our hearts and minds to aid us in our own spiritual quests for personal truth. Though people might always venture towards what appeals to them, society can alleviate the aggregate of fabrications and shoddy imitations that misguide them by indiscriminately providing for the masses the content needed to formulate substantial worldviews.

“Native people must come to understand that Whiteshamans did not just pop up out of the blue and decide to offend Indians. They are responding, at least to some extent, to a genuinely felt emotional need within the dominant society. The fact that they are concomitantly exploiting other people for profit according to the sanctions and procedures of their own culture does not alter this circumstance.” (Rose, 2001)

The Hypocritical Oath

While America was perhaps founded solely on the premise of individual profit, it is surely seeing signs of how that profit has come at the expense of society, along with the implications for a collective culture at large. The United States charges that “Indian occupancy is not a property right; it can be terminated without compensation at any time,” thereby dispossessing natives of political sovereignty, sacred cultural rites, and self-supporting economic practices through legislation based on the controversial European “Right to Discovery.” (Lobo, Talbot 346) The result is the propagation of “ecocide,” and thus the general “ethnocide” of those peoples who occupy the lands no longer in their legal jurisdictions.

As the environmental destruction of the natural world threatens eventual species extinction through persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the forging of power relations in courtrooms dismantles sovereignty and jeopardizes resources used for subsistence lifestyles. The result is an alienation of people from their own natural rights, as land is appropriated for corporate use, often through policies of “Eminent Domain.” Radioactive spills, uranium depletion, coal mining, oil exploitation, timber sales, emission discharges, hydroelectric exploration, toxic contamination, military occupation, and destructive dumping all affect localities detrimentally (through chronic disease, poisoning, forced relocation, suicide, adverse cultural effects, etc…), devastating populations for corporate profit, of which those same populations are not even allowed to partake in. (LaDuke 353-368)

Moreover, corrupt institutions are at the heart of shaping consciousness, so that many are not even aware of the very issues that affect them most. For instance, advertising companies partner with lobbying firms, splitting profits while at the same time ignoring or downplaying any damage done to the environment:

“It was an elegantly closed circle. The titans of packaging pushed throwaways into production. The Ad Council preached the creed of consumption, assuring Americans that the road to prosperity was paved with trash. The people bought; the people threw away. Then, the same industries and advertisers turned around and called them pigs. The people shamefacedly cleaned up the trash. And the packagers, pointing to the cleaned-up landscape, just went on making more of it.” (Strand, 2008)

Instead of becoming conscious of the actions and relationships unknowingly entered into, consumers are “educated” by those who have real stakes in their ignorance, so as to gain at their expense. Communities are then rocked with murders and violence as citizens fight amongst themselves for claims to exploit land, unaware of (or perhaps indifferent to) the potential disasters that are likely to affect them so long as they are able to capitalize short-term from their circumstances. (Paskus, 2009)

Rather than perpetuate the callous manipulation of people and the resources they share, it should be remembered that stewardship, or perhaps merely deference, as opposed to ownership, is necessary to cultivate important sustainable practices so as to ensure the continuation of the human species and the quality of life that is striven for. While the Senate Passage of the Native American Apology Resolution (2009) may suppose that American Policy is shifting towards a more humanitarian epoch, one can judge the effect of such an act by the qualms brought forth by Natives in the future. And considering it is these members of society who are so often declared the “canaries in the coal-mine” today, it is not too far of a stretch to imagine their outrageous predicaments will soon be ours.

Red Martyrs, Yellow Negligence

The evolution of warfare against the Native tribes of North America has spiraled so completely out of control as to seriously brutalize the planet’s life-support systems in part of an apparently accepted collateral damage. “Chronic unemployment” guides public policy at the expense of national sovereignty, with corporate profiteering indiscriminately deteriorating and contaminating ecosystems. The potentially life-extinguishing consequences of unenforced health and environmental regulations have far reaching implications, leading to the destruction of community livelihoods through the ubiquitous damage of water, land, and air.

By creating and sustaining authoritative institutions like the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal Councils, the Federal Government uses its Plenary Power to maintain monopolies of financial control. It is then able to approve treaties with Natives, appropriating and depriving them of resources while simultaneously precluding any responsibility whatsoever that would prevent long-term damage to local inhabitants.

For instance, the BIA “neglected” to include cleanup clauses for Kerr-McGee, who abandoned their uranium-mining site on Dine land in 1970. Adding insult to injury, the federally-created-and-supported Navajo Tribal Council had originally contracted the corporation to pay a hundred Indian miners only 2/3 of the equivalent off-reservation pay scale, leaving the community to deal with

“Seventy acres of uranium tailings containing about 85% of the original radioactivity found in raw uranium ore, much of it continuously emitted in clouds of radon and thoron gas. The huge mounds of waste, which will remain virulently mutogenic and carcinogenic for thousands of years, begin less than sixty feet from the only significant surface water in the Shiprock area, the San Juan River.” (Churchill, pg. 242, 2002)

Similarly, when the government found uranium ore under the Oglalas tribe, it transferred the land to itself and claimed the mineral rights were thereafter considered U.S. property. (254) Earlier, in 1964, the BIA arranged a mining/milling operation on behalf of Dawn Mining Company on the Spokane reservation in Washington—issuing only a $15,000 environmental restoration bond to deal with the enormous responsibility it would have. (256)

Whether institutions acting in these (and other) instances do so for profit, in ignorance, with malice, by indifference, or without alternative seems almost irrelevant since their impact poses so great of a threat to the planet (i.e., at Yucca mountain where 70,000 tons of high level waste are stored in geologically unstable conditions). It should no longer be considered “radical” or “paranoid” to think the situation Natives find themselves in is unacceptable and potentially lethal; rather, real opposition is needed in which movements, alliances, and activists minimize the effects of harmful institutions, directing the course of human events for themselves. 

Drawing from these resources, malignant actors can be eliminated totally through the various harmonic convergences of cohesive resistance: “To accomplish this, those representing indigenous liberation struggles must be accorded a central role in setting the agenda for and defining the priorities of radical social change on this continent.” (Pg. 278)

Networked Resistance on Turtle Island

When natives and colonists first interacted, relations with the natural world were tested. Ownership rights to land were forged so beneficiaries could profit and provide sustenance for themselves. Warfare prepared for the signing of treaties (often unwillingly) and subsequent laws affirmed contracts, ultimately governing the fate of those dependent on the land. As available landmass became scarcer and scarcer, Native communities were swindled out of their resources through political and economic manipulation, depleting social safety nets entirely.
Here, systematic extermination can be evidenced through rapid “social and economic stature decline.” (LaDuke Pg. 56) Moreover, the active affronts on human rights through “economic blackmail” and “corporate oppression” provides specific reference points to oppose (dangerous experiments, unsustainable resource management, all-around failure to protect life on earth…), justifying defensive actions from those affected. Communities must change their positions to restore their natural rights and relationships through an active engagement with the society that engulfs them (for example, the Indian Conservative Energy (I.C.E.) School empowers locales to end cycles of victimization for themselves).

Tribes, once denied the means to defend their own cultures, can use various techniques to organize lobbying, propose sustainable land practices, and arrive in delegations appealing to harmful corporations. The effect decentralizes information to shape public consciousness in important ways. Groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network define common interests to produce amalgams of options and solutions—in one case rallying against the production, transportation, and storage of high-level nuclear waste, specifically at Yucca Mountain and Skull Valley. Ideally, the recommendations, insights, and skillful articulations of active members will do much to clarify the harmful practices in question, ending the expansion of controversial operations for alternatives that assure general wellbeing.

In pressuring agents of “war” to act in self-interested ways (both short and long-term) while maintaining their accountability to a general collective, characteristics of perceived battlegrounds can develop into mutually beneficial environments. Concerned individuals may then reframe important relations as the manifested interdependence of separate entities, ultimately promoting the holistic and ethical stewardship of a shared bioregion.

History Doesn’t Stop (Timelessness at Wounded Knee)

Natives of Turtle Island have undoubtedly been stripped of their land and rights through consistent breaches of written contracts, i.e. Treaties. American policy has broken up and sold sacred land claims to encroaching settlers while ignoring tribal sovereignty, even terminating official recognition of Indian existence. The consistent betrayal and abuse of power has led to the dispossession of entire cultures, specifically with the Rule of Tree-Hit-Ton which states the Federal Government may claim all Indian land not ceded to it in Treaties without due process of law. In this regard we can certify

“The Native peoples of this land are under attack. That fact cannot be ignored, and it cannot be resolved in courts, because the courts are one of the instruments of the attack.” (Mohawk, 180)

How then to confront one opposing set of powerful ideals? Without reconciling atrocities committed in generations past so as to truly understand the intimate details of absolute oppression, there can be little communication with a Force that denies even the foundation of its own existence. Knowledge of the past must be acquired to understand the nature of an origin, so as to recognize the extent of its impact for us in the present:

“The process of allowing those whose pain is not healed to begin a dialogue is critical to building a healthy nation. It is a process still foreign to the United States, but there is always hope for truth, for peace.” (LaDuke, 90)

If this conversation is routinely ignored, silenced, or labeled as a threat, repeatedly effecting and enforcing cultural suppression and elimination, it cannot be expected that those members negatively affected will choose to avoid extralegal expressions of defiance. And while the motives of these particular instances can easily be traced, their presence perhaps does more to provoke significant responses to their outbursts, revealing the base instinct of their opposition. For instance, when the American Indian Movement (AIM) illegally occupied the area of Wounded Knee, reports maintained, “this AIM activity was part of a multiracial venture in terrorism,” an assertion demonstrating that 

“The government’s anti-AIM propaganda effort can serve as something of a textbook illustration of a much wider technique of political repression.” (Churchill, 223)

While initial reactions to perceived oppression may often enact violent tendencies, the environment we exist in is only constructed by our past actions and assertions. Time emerges as the distance between unique instances and we should realize there is virtually no separation between our Wars of then and now, since the same Forces of power (oppressive ideologies, violent resistance) continue to maintain their influence today.

It is this relationship to our environment that defines “home” and until we are able to “get at the more subtle—but deeper and more pervasive—racism reflected in place names that tacitly celebrate the near-annihilation of a people and their culture,” peace may never be restored. (Stange, 2006) Yet in acknowledging the savagery and inhumanity inherited by our present, we might act in “other ways” that promote our interests, engaging with our selves to recreate the world as we wish it to be.

“Look with wonderment to the future
As it will create the wonder of your past.
Come then and talk to me.
Tell me if the young dreams I have
Are the ones you need.
As quickly as the morning dew dries from a leaf,
Your childhood is a part of your memory.” (Pray, 1994)

Being as a Sacred Place-

Native peoples are tasked with confronting the genocidal tendencies of the United States’ legal system, intending to establish clear representations of what is determined to be Sacred for them. Yet it is this very process that has historically been used to wipe out Native cultures and spiritualities since its inception—a fundamental contradiction to the understanding that the Divine is found in every living thing. Thus, worshippers of the natural world, realizing creation’s perfection in and of itself, invoke appreciation for all life so as to convey value to a social mechanism otherwise ill-equipped to grasp the fundamental tenets of an Earth-based religion. To this end, redefined models of spiritual health may engage once-repressive tools of domination, reorienting their more destructive modes of being through mediums of space and time:

“Sacred places are the foundation of all other beliefs and practices because they represent the presence of the sacred in our lives. They properly inform us that we are not larger than nature and that we have responsibilities to the rest of the natural world that transcend our own personal desires and wishes.” (Deloria 1994)

Relationships to occupied places are often strengthened by reverence of distinguishable characteristics, i.e. religious sites affiliated with oral traditions; trails and pilgrimage routes; traditional gathering areas; individual use sites; ceremonial sites; ancestral habitation sites; calendar sites; memorial sites; etc. (Gulliford 2005) Associating spiritual significance to our surroundings then gives us the opportunity to formulate our own convictions and attachments to experience of a shared world, often bringing us into direct communion with a dimension of the Sacred. In this way, perceptions of separation between self and environment dissolve to reveal a lasting interconnection:

“In the Native American worldview is the conviction that the earth is vital…a dimension in which man rightly exists. It follows logically that there are ethical imperatives in this matter…In the natural order man invests himself in the landscape and at the same time incorporates the landscape into his own most fundamental experience. This trust is sacred. (Momaday 1999)
Ownership is therefore reclaimed through an organic conceptualization of inherent dignity—a self-proclaimed right to the existence of “self,” as conceived of by the individual in question.
In the eyes of the courts, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act initiated this characterization of uniqueness by establishing rights to exercise sacred practices, access sites, use and possess sacred objects and worship through traditional ceremonies and rituals. If nothing else, it ended (to some degree) the cultural genocide and legal imprisonment Natives had battled against since policies of extermination and displacement had begun. However, without specific places protected, Native peoples have witnessed the desecration of their most Sacred areas; in effect, their spiritual devastation has taken a backseat to America’s contrasting doctrine of “civil religion”:

“We have a problem of two separate spiritual paradigms and one dominant culture…Land taken from Native peoples either by force or the colonists’ law was the basis for an industrial infrastructure and now a standard of living that consumes a third of the world’s resources.” (Laduke 2005)

Perhaps most interestingly, out of this binary opposition comes a similar dualism concerning Prohibition and Freedom: whereas Indians are free to exercise their own freedoms, these liberties must in no way inhibit government beneficiaries’ freedom to profit in ignorance. The result is the appropriation of sacred territory for the purpose of exploitation, usually with little regard for the ecological consequences of such theft. In this instance, a sense of the Sacred is relegated to definitions incognizant of Native standards so that their users might assert absolute control over a source of unparalleled power, namely that of creation.

Spirituality involves a special relationship between an individual and the cosmos and since Native American rituals frequently reaffirm this relationship of humans to the creator, it follows that our social impact can best be mediated by substantial outlooks guided and informed by interpretations of nature as being its own Sacred place. Direct experience of the immanent Divine is aided through Entheogenic (literally, “generating the divine within”) catalysts found in nature so that through the healing dynamics of natural sacraments like Peyote and Ayahuasca, land can potentially bring us back to a reverential state of mind in which we are able to regain insight into the sublime we preserve through demarcation of Sacred spaces.

Because consciousness infused with these values is contained within a particular mind, it is imperative not only to respect individuals espousing these beliefs, but also to aid and abet them in their quest for universal harmony regarding all things. In allowing and supporting these members of society to flourish more fully, greater reconsideration of our own motivating outlooks can set them up as examples of how to think, live, and be.

Spaces of Reconciliation-

Whereas Indians have faced lasting cultural trauma since European immigrants reduced their mighty confederacies and tribal heritages to the modern shadows of their former selves, it will take more than simply a concerted effort to overcome the systematic exploitation and cultural suppression that consistently affects these tribes. Due to the realities of American political manipulation (through false and invalid treaties, exclusive dealings with preferred native “leaders” and a general ambivalence towards the social welfare of entire populations), legitimate evidence of tangible change must be identified and reproduced so as to catalyze effective opposition.

Even so, localized effort sustained by shifts in individual value systems will not flourish without the harboring and cultivation of a universal logic that recognizes this collective dissatisfaction with the oppressive climate. Thus, not until something “else” entirely is conceived of—a substantially altered consideration of how to live and be—can the reorganization of something “better” replace the displeasure of existing in an undesirable circumstance. And since Natives are often considered the first victims in a majority of the unconscionable policies in question, it stands to reason that other global communities will benefit from the collective response to these potentially lethal forces too:

“Given this, it seems obvious that the literal dismemberment of the nation-state necessary for Indian land recovery correspondingly reduces the ability of the state to sustain the imposition of objectionable policies within itself. It follows that realization of indigenous land rights serves to undermine or destroy the ability of the status quo to continue imposing a racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, militaristic order upon non-Indians.” (Churchill, 2002)

New loci of power aid the implementation of alternative agendas so as to collaboratively define new statements of purpose and principles; positions of authority are also influenced through organized lobbying against harmful practices, for example when Sarah James and other tribal elders actively protested drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other offshore sites in Alaska. (Daly, 2009)

This reassertion of benevolent (non)control over our surroundings infuses Consciousness with empathetic understandings for how best to live within the land we are so intricately and inextricably dependent upon. Power must be wrested from an abusive social system by organically fashioning and integrating groups that maintain spaces of compassion and interrelation, while at the same time fostering a sense of utmost delight in and respect for the natural word. In this way can land be reclaimed and cleansed of its offending corruption, providing for us a more pristine state to revere:

“The need is to gradually replace the existing world order with one that is predicated in collaboration and cooperation between nations. The only way to ever really accomplish this is to physically disassemble the gigantic state structures…which are still evolving in this neo-imperialist era.” (Churchill 2002)

Life and Death-

Reorganizing failed relationships requires nothing less than a total audit of moral character. The culture we reproduce is founded on facts and traditions accumulated over time through education and experience, so it is vital we discern truth from fiction and construct the relevant arguments needed to address presented challenges. This process can be regarded as the institution of proper methodologies, evolving experimental social frameworks that guide us to more compassionate lifestyles.

After dealing with generations of harmful practices, budget cuts and rationed resources, Native Americans are dying at the highest rates of anyone: life-spans have declined rapidly, infant mortality has risen significantly, they have the highest death rates for motor vehicle crashes and pedestrian deaths, suicide rates are 8 times higher than the national average and disease is rampant. (Peterson 2009) Many are uninsured and impoverished, underfunded with little access to the often-scarce resources (like medicine) they need. Containment rules link coverage for care to residency on reservations, prompting individuals to move into areas without running water or telephones, hours away from the medical facilities whose staffing shortages defer would-be-patients if their status is not qualified as “life-or-limb.”

Whether because dependence on an alien system has been fostered in tribal groups while funding is cut, or Indians have just not assimilated into the surrounding social milieu and are living in third world conditions, the historic right of healthcare is being reconsidered as Congress creates the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, encouraging Indians to enroll in specific governmental programs. Sustained influxes of capital and increased attention, preventative care and research, subsidized private health insurance and expanded Medicaid all provide Indians with the potential for world-class treatment. Moreover, communities are empowered as members are appointed to positions of influence, with exercise and healthy eating being promoted through education.

Even so, “some proposals, like exempting Indians from penalties for not obtaining insurance, may meet resistance from lawmakers opposed to expanding benefits for Indians, many of whom receive free medical care.” (Belluck 2009) Expansions in public coverage and subsidies are causing people to rethink whether Indian Country should still be receiving direct payments to run clinics, bringing issues of Sovereignty under fire.

Despite environmental atrocities, denial of horrendous conditions and inter-generational hostilities with lasting repercussions, tribes would still rather have their homes and the lands they were stripped of returned to them more than any other consolation. They are legally owed health from the country that entered into treaties with them, yet since they have been deprived of sufficient care by systematic incompetence, these treaties should be considered as void since the terms and conditions have been nullified. Hence, oligarchic ineptitude has put such pressure onto native communities to self-organize, incentivizing Indians to 1) establish for themselves the new foundations for their cultural cultivation, and 2) determine their own life-path.


Writing is hardly the optimal tool for expressing passion and emotion—instead, it functions best as a medium for conveying logic. Yet either are sufficient reasons to care about or respond to one basic point of Truth: life on earth is under attack. Whether or not we have come to be desensitized to this fact does not justify poisoning the web of life or contributing to the death of countless human beings. To confront this recently discovered reality of suicidal proportion, new democratic devices are needed for constructing the solutions that will prove commensurate with the problems faced today.

The recognition that all life is Sacred should prompt us to reconsider the lethal direction in which we are headed. It has indeed surpassed mere importance to educate ourselves fully on the complexities of the system we despise, to stage powwows and teach-ins that disperse and decentralize completely this knowledge we have accumulated. Rather, there has become a fundamental barrier in our Collective Psyche preventing us from taking full responsibility to the extent we should commit ourselves in our opposition to inadequate initiatives and impact statements. We can no longer afford to trust the outside control of those in sanctioned offices of authority to provide us with the lifestyle that dignifies civilization, for it will always be shortchanged without personalized determination.

Revitalization, the need for Self-rule and indisputable Sovereignty, is required to eliminate violations of accepted social norms, i.e. the Public Trust Doctrine. Unfortunately the public is still mostly ignorant to these issues despite living in an information age and therefore the reform of education and the rebuilding of justice systems will be critical components to alleviating the grievances prevalent in this system of bureaucratic insanity. A critical mass, a group of people coming together from different backgrounds with different theories must be orchestrated to produce a stable, responsive, capable, integrated resource management plan, legitimately concerned about our investment in the future. In describing how best to reconsider responses to issues bearing most significant for Native peoples, Charles Wilkinson offers, “The best outcomes will be inspired by Indian people themselves and carried out by their own institutions.” (Wilkinson 2005)

Will we seek to entomb our most callous mistakes of the past, repressing our historical traumas even as its toxicity seeps into our unconscious; or will we take the lesson of today, the urgency of “Now,” and apply it to the larger picture? We must teach each other by “doing” and “being” what is right, while including ourselves in a cross-generational commitment to the ideal of Ultimate good. But this radical assembly cannot merely be just for show—power must shift from institutions of hierarchy to the collaborative human effort oriented towards a common purpose, namely its own sustainability. We must let the children speak for themselves while aiding and enforcing their engagement with the natural world. If we can do but one single thing for those who have been and will continue to be most affected by these decisions of highest priority, it will be to believe that rage can in fact educate and motivate us to assess the risks and cure ourselves of the greatest war crimes perpetrated of all time. Only then can the potential power of our collective intellect save us from the destruction of unforeseen prejudice, constructing a vessel of cultural regeneration much like our ancestors who, together, fashioned the canoes that saved them from the rising waters of certain death:

“The canoe is a metaphor for community; in the canoe, as in any community, everyone must work together…all facets of the contemporary canoe experience—planning, building, fund-raising, traveling—combine to make our communities strong and vital in the old ways.” (Neel 1995)

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Lobo, Susan and Talbot, Steve. (2001) “Sustainable Development: economy and the environment.” In Native American Voices: A Reader (2nd Edition). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

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Stange, Mary. (2006) “Living With the Ghosts of Indian Wars.” February Issue: High Country News http://www.hcn.org/issues/315/16100

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