Monday, July 30, 2007

Senate Republican Steering Committee Fights Indian Bills

Hmm It seems that four Republican senators from different parts of the country have got together and single-handedly decided that Indian people are not only no longer sovereign, but are sub-human and do not deserve basic human services like health care, public safety and substance abuse services.

It is really surprising to me that four white males would see Indians as dogs, I mean white males have always been a friend to the Indian. They gave us our reservations, they gave us their Small Pox and other diseases, they gave us our opportunity to leave the reservation and be stranded in large cities with no resources and no support so that we could "assimilate" into their wonderful culture, they are just such a giving people. Why would they want to hurt us all of a sudden??

Oh yeah, because they are greedy soul-less bastards with no substance and no relationship with their Creator. Damn, I almost forgot that part. Oh well, read for yourselves about our lovely senators - and then send them packing!! We need leadership from our Congress, not bigotry and blatant racism.

Oh, D.C...when will you ever learn???

WASHINGTON—July 27, 2007—Blow after blow, the U.S. Senate Republican Steering Committee continues to block all legislation that benefits Indian people. The Senate Republican Steering Committee is a small group of Senators who have been working together to put secret "holds" on all legislation benefiting Indian tribes and Indian people.

Indian Country has had strong ties to the Republican Party through the Indian Self−Determination Policy and respect for the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly recognizes the treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, religious freedom, and the shared values of federalism that encourage local decision−making. Tribal leaders and the Republican Party share strong interests in law enforcement, economic development, energy, the military, veterans, and many other issues.

"At first we thought that it was coincidence that so many bills on Native issues were being blocked by members of the Republican Steering Committee," said National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Joe A. Garcia. "But it is clear now that it is not. NCAI is a non−partisan organization that has built successful relationships on both sides of the aisle for many decades. It is a very small number of Republican Senators, but we must address this obstructionism that stops all legislation no matter how bi−partisan and non−controversial."

Most recently, the Senate Republican Steering Committee, lead by Senator James DeMint (R−SC) and including Senators John Kyl (R−AZ), John Cornyn (R−TX), and Jeff Sessions (R−AL), killed non−controversial, bi−partisan piece of legislation that would have helped tribes in combating sexual predators on tribal lands.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006 requires tribes to comply with its provisions by July 27, 2007. The legislation in question would have given tribes another year to make important decisions on how they want to work with the systems registry that is being created by the U.S. Department of Justice. "This legislation has a real human impact," said Garcia. "This kind of responsibility should be handled by those who know their communities best—tribal leaders, not a few Senators far off in Washington."

In February the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act (H.R. 545) to make Indian tribes eligible to apply for certain grants to fight methamphetamine abuse and trafficking in Indian Country. Senator Kyl has a hold on the bill and is preventing its passage in the belief that a grant program could somehow confer jurisdiction to tribes over drug offenses committed in Indian Country. Tribes need these grants for prevention, treatment and enforcement against drug traffickers, and Kyl's obstructionism is endangering public safety for reservations and their neighbors.

The Republican Steering Committee has also fought the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, legislation that would modernize the health care system for reservations and at the end of last session held up all bills affecting Native Americans. "We had a similar situation in the mid−1990's with Senator Slade Gorton – but tribes overcame that obstructionism," said Garcia.

"The Constitution requires respect for tribal governments. We want to work together in a productive way. It's time for the Senate Republican Steering Committee to do its part and allow tribes to take responsibility for issues affecting them. The Committee just doesn't seem to be well informed on Indian Country issues."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Speaking out on the theft and abuse of spirituality

Speaking out on the theft and abuse of spirituality
© Indian Country Today July 20, 2007. All Rights Reserved
Posted: July 20, 2007
by: Shadi Rahimi

Photo courtesy Marisol Crisostomo-Romo -- Marisol Crisostomo-Romo, Pascua Yaqui, is leading a campaign urging a summer camp to stop its misuse of Native imagery, beseeching all those ''offended and disgusted by cultural exploitation and mainstream society's self-entitlement'' to write letters.

SAN FRANCISCO - It was a strange sight, at least in East Los Angeles.

While walking her dogs recently at Arroyo Seco Park, Marisol Crisostomo-Romo, 26, said she spotted a van with a tipi on it. Into it piled a group of white children clutching bows and arrows.

They were members of the five-week-long Camp Shi'ini, ''a Native American-themed summer camp'' that is named after ''a Native American word meaning 'Summer People,''' according to its Web site.

The 60-year-old camp divides children into nine ''tribes'' and offers activities ranging from horseback riding (in the tradition of the Navajo, Comanche and Eskimo, its Web site stated) and archery (Mohawk, Seminole and Blackfoot) to fishing (Zuni, Iroquois and Apache).

Crisostomo-Romo, who is Pascua Yaqui, immediately wrote the camp a letter and e-mailed 422 people to do the same, beseeching all those ''offended and disgusted by cultural exploitation and mainstream society's self-entitlement.''

Her anger is echoed across the country by Natives who continue to be frustrated with what they view as misappropriation and abuse of spiritual and cultural practices.

Similar Native-themed camps, nonprofits, centers, programs, workshops, retreats and seminars offered mostly by non-Natives thrive across the country. And the number of non-Native people operating as medicine men and shaman - and often charging for their services - has only grown despite opposition from traditional elders, groups and Native activists.

''We don't charge for ceremonies. People with real sicknesses actually go to these people; we've heard of these people even taking advantage of women,'' said Charlie Sitting Bull, 54. ''That's the danger in people being misinformed. We battle it all the time.''

Sitting Bull is a traditional Oglala Lakota from South Dakota who said he is a direct descendant of Chief Sitting Bull. He began noticing the misuse of Native culture as a teenager, when he first saw a Boy Scout troup ''dressed as Indians,'' he said.

Since then, he has confronted Native and non-Native people falsely claiming to be descendants of Chief Sitting Bull and has worked to stop non-Native people from charging for spiritual teachings. Most recently, Sitting Bull said he prevented a white man from charging to teach Sun Dance songs at a Washington state bookstore, which the man had learned from a legitimate medicine man.

Responding to a request from the medicine man himself, Sitting Bull confronted the white man, telling him he could not hold the workshop, and asking for a written apology. The man was arrogant, but eventually obliged, he said.

A non-Native person practicing Native spirituality presents a similar danger to all Natives as a Native person who practices but ''isn't clean'' - taking drugs or not ''living a good life,'' - Sitting Bull said.

''They actually infect us like a sickness,'' he said, referring to both scenarios.

In 1993, a decree passed at an international gathering of 500 representatives from 40 different tribes and bands of the Lakota, titled the ''Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality,'' stated that immediate action be taken to defend Lakota spirituality from ''further contamination, desecration and abuse.''

It detailed what it described as the destruction of sacred traditions, reminding Natives of their highest duty - ''to preserve the purity of our precious traditions for our future generations, so that our children and our children's children will survive and prosper in the sacred manner intended for each of our respective peoples by our Creator.''

Among the ''disgraceful expropriation'' that even then had ''reached epidemic proportions in urban areas throughout the country,'' according to the leaders, were corporations that charge money for sweat lodges and vision quest programs; Sun dances for non-Natives conducted by charlatans; and cult leaders and new age people who imitate Lakota ceremonial ways and mix in non-Native occult practices.

The decree urged traditional people, tribal leaders and governing councils of all other Indian nations to join ''in calling for an immediate end to this rampant exploitation of our respective American Indian sacred traditions.''

The decree was published in a newsletter, in controversial author Ward Churchill's 1994 book ''Indians Are Us? Culture and Genocide in Native North America,'' and online.

Since then, an active stand has been taken by medicine men and traditional practitioners even against ''Native healers that are out of line,'' Sitting Bull said.

Responses to the decree from non-Native people on various Web sites explain why they engage in Native spiritual practices.

''I understand the importance of the statement and feel money is being made by the stealing of the traditionalists,'' Mark Montalban wrote. ''I also feel that ghosts and spirits can enter your life and give purpose and direction.''

But many Native people disagree, arguing that the appropriation of spirituality is not only disrespectful, but also dangerous if practiced incorrectly and by non-Natives.

''One can study Native culture all they want, but if it's not Native blood flowing through their veins then they'll never truly understand those ways and how to use them,'' said Anthony Thosh Collins, 25, of the Pima, Osage and Seneca-Cayuga tribes. ''I support the use of our Native culture to help heal this world, but only through the guidance of one of our own qualified elders.''

The movement against non-Natives appropriating and sometimes selling Native spirituality is growing, with younger Natives joining the forefront.

In her letter to Camp Shi'ini, Crisostomo-Romo explained the sacred nature of the face paint and war bonnets displayed on its Web site, saying, ''Non-Natives don't have business messing with these things.''

She suggested the camp instead teach children about modern issues faced by Native people, including the desecration of sacred sites, poverty and substance abuse.

It is important for non-Natives to understand that Natives do not exist only in museums or in Western movies: ''We are a people who have a future and who want the best for our children,'' Crisostomo-Romo said.

''The very notion of trying to recreate a lifestyle of a people that are still in vibrant existence is purely ridiculous,'' she said. ''Native people are not just about bows and arrows, feathers and dream catchers. The depth and beauty of our cultures can never be captured in a summer camp.''


Friday, July 13, 2007

All Hail The Chief...

In May of this year, the President of the Charlestown, RI, Town Council, Kate Waterman, wrote an email to another Charlestown citizen, that was later leaked to the media. The email is a glowing example of the ignorance and blatant bigotry of most 21st-Century Americans. Let's dissect a little...

"I do not give a hoot if the Narragansetts, or the Mexicans, or the Cambodians build a casino over there on Narragansett Bay..." This is one of largest misperceptions that mainstream society has about Native Americans. We are not immigrants, we are not an ethnic U.S. minority, we are not willing participants in the so-called American Dream. We were on this land for tens of thousands of years before the birth of your "Great Nation".

Native Americans are a sovereign people who share occupancy of this country with the United States. We have a political distinction that is different from that of any other class of people in this country. It is a distinction that is guaranteed us through your U.S. Constitution. If you would like to throw out the distinction that Indian people have as sovereign nations, then you also need to throw out your right to free speech, to freedom of religion, your right to vote, and any other rights or freedoms you are afforded by the Constitution. If you feel that our rights as Indian people are old and outdated, then so are yours as citizens of this nation which was founded upon the same Constitution that gives us a separate political distinction.

"And they have free health care. For life. And they have a good-sized health clinic in Charlestown, even though there aren’t many of them here. We don’t have one of those. And we can’t use it, even though it was paid for with our tax dollars. And if you look around, they have a lot of things that the rest of us don’t. I believe they have free college tuition." Indians were 'guaranteed' health care and education for life and for posterity. This was written in treaties that allowed the immigrant Euro-Americans to usurp the land and settle cities like the one Ms. Waterman has no qualms about living in today. Indians made an agreement to give up our lands peacefully on the condition that certain provisions were made for our people and their descendants. The "noble" (forgive me a "HA") ancestors of this nation, including Ms. Waterman's ancestors, if they had already immigrated to the U.S. by then, were more than happy to sign this promise. If Ms. Waterman and her contemporaries have no problem with reneging on the part of the deal that was agreed to by their antecedents, then Indian people should not be expected to uphold the part of the deal agreed to by ours. Basically, Ms. Waterman has asked to revive Indian wars in the United States. I think the United Nations and other world leaders might have a problem with this.

"They don’t pay taxes on their land, which was gifted to them." I won't spend a lot of time on this one, because it's covered in a previous post (Does the IRS Know??) First of all, how benevolent of Ms. Waterman's government to "gift" us land that was ours in the first place. Second, if the ever-so-ignorant Ms. Waterman would do her research, she would discover that Indians were never gifted any land by the government. We are allowed ownership-in-trust, meaning the federal government owns the land, not the Indians. Since taxes are to be paid by the land owner, the person Ms. Waterman really needs to take up her case with is the head of the Department of the Interior. Go ahead and ask the Department why they don't pay taxes on the land they own.

"Does that give them the right to be a sovereign people within a sovereign nation? To be free of the laws of our land? Where is the equality in that notion? Ethnicity does not convey privilege!" Oh, if only ethnicity did not convey privilege. How hypocritical of Ms. Waterman to make that statement, since she is of the only ethnicity in the United States to be conveyed privilege!! What gives us the right, dear, dear Katie, is not only the United States constitution, but also the fact that we made the concessions that allowed your people to populate this country! If we as Indian people had chosen to be the barbaric savages that Europeans and their ancestors have proven themselves to be time after time, then the moment the first ship hit the shores of this country, we would have slaughtered every man, woman and child aboard. And we would have continued to do so until this very day. However, we made the concession of showing civility and respect from the very beginning and, in return for this concession, your ancestors (and the ancestors of any American with more than two generations in this country) chose to repay our kindness by massacring our loved ones, introducing disease and pestilence that had never existed on this continent before, and usurping the very land that has been a mother to our people for hundreds of generations. Oh what a proud legacy your people have, Ms. Waterman, and you are right indeed to question the integrity of Indian people everywhere.

As far as Indian people being "free of the law of the land" I can't imagine a more absurd statement. Have you ever heard of the Department of the Interior?? The government agency that enforces regulations on Indian people that are not enforced on any other people in this country?? Did you know that Indian people were not even granted the freedom of religion until 1978?? When the "laws of your land" finally granted us permission to practice our own religion without fear of death or imprisonment. And if you really think that Indian people are not subject to the laws of the land, then explain how an entire field of law practice known as Indian Law could even exist?? Not only that, but if Indian people are not subject to the law of the land, then how come Native Americans are extremely over-represented in the U.S. prison population?? We are not only subject to the laws of your land, Ms. Waterman, we are abused by them more so than any other people in this nation today. Your statement above is by far the one I, as an Indian person, take the most offense to. Actually, it disgusts me to no end.

"I detest prejudice as much as I am dismayed by those who victimize minorities with the rhetoric of 'poor!'" If only you detested your own ignorance as much as you claim to detest prejudice. And, as Mr. Brown already brought to your attention, most racists claim to detest racism. Hypocrisy is even less of a defense than ignorance, Ms. Waterman. In your position as leader of a community, you have let down all of the people that you were elected to represent, by choosing bigotry and hate over an opportunity to learn about the true history of your great nation.

Paying to teach and 'play Indian'

The following article, printed in Indian Country Today, can be found at

by: Shadi Rahimi

SAN FRANCISCO - They climb mountains on a quest for a vision. They beat drums and shake rattles. They pray in sweat lodges. Some study for years and later teach others the spirituality they paid to learn.

They are a growing population. But they are not Native. And as self-proclaimed medicine men and women or shaman - referred to by some critics as ''plastic medicine men'' or ''shake and bake shaman'' - they often charge for spiritual services.

That, for many Natives here, is a big problem.

''Even if they're not charging for money, they have no idea about our people's ways, they have no idea what they're doing and how catastrophic it can be,'' said Jimmy Red Elk, 32, a traditional Oglala Lakota who lives in Los Angeles. ''It's really bad out here.''

The liberal-leaning state has always been abundant with New Age centers and people who advertise Native-themed services ranging from ''Native healing and ceremonies'' to ''pilgrimages to sacred places.''

Over the past two decades, such centers and retreats run by non-Natives have spread across the state - and the country - sometimes with deadly results. In 2002, two people died after spending more than an hour in a sweat lodge in southern California run by the group the Shamanic Fellowship.

Traditional elders, activists and groups have written resolutions and held protests denouncing such services. Some have even forcibly shut down questionable practitioners by dissembling their sweat lodges.

But such practices have only increased. And, in recent years, even more groups have sprouted up online.

''Our ways are not for sale!'' wrote D'Shane Barnett, 31, a member of the Mandan and Arikara tribes, in an e-mail sent recently to dozens. ''People cannot claim to understand our ways with one breath and then offer to sell them with their next breath.''

Barnett, a special projects officer at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, was referring to an e-mail he received by mistake, intended for a company called Native American Nutritionals. From their site he had been lead to another,

There, he found an offer of ''spiritual adoption'' for a $90 donation and $5 in monthly payments by the Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete.

The group is an ''independent band'' which offers enrollment in an online college where people can pay to qualify as medicine men or women, healers and Native practitioners, according to their Web site.

Courses range from online lessons in smudging to a six-hour ''Unipi Ceremony Practicum,'' which requires a mentor to ''come to your lodge.''

Each member receives a ''ministerial card'' that is valid as long as they are progressing and ''making regular offerings,'' according to the Web site.

Similar Native-themed services are offered for a price across the country. In Washington, Tana ''Blue Deer Woman'' Hamiter offers vision quests for $300 on A ''Southwest Spirit Quest Tour'' offered by www.divine includes ''a night spent in a traditional Navajo hogan'' and ''authentic Native ceremonies.''

''My first reaction was anger,'' Barnett said. ''But when I spoke with a couple of different medicine people, the way they explained it to me is that I need to pity these people. What they are doing is filling a void.''

Though it may not appear so, seekers of Native spirituality are often well-intentioned, said Ann Riley, a shamanic counselor in the East Bay.

''The yearning for a spiritual connection is common,'' said Riley, 70. ''Americans are very drawn to the Native American spirituality because it's the indigenous spiritually of this continent.''

Riley is a white, retired schoolteacher who for 15 years has studied ''shamanism'' - which she defines as a technique for connecting with ''spirits for healing and problem solving'' - with a shamanic center in Marin.

Today, she charges $75 for a 1 and 1/2 - 2 hour session, during which she uses a drum or rattle to help students ''enter an altered state'' from which they connect with spirits, she said. It usually takes four to five lessons, she explained.

At her El Cerrito office she holds drumming circles and long-distance group healing. Her students include teenagers and ''lots of psychologists,'' she said.

She has known self-proclaimed spiritual leaders who have gotten sick by taking hallucinogenic drugs from South America or Mexico in ceremony.

''Sometimes white Americans go to some other culture or read about something and think they know how to do it,'' she said. ''It's really something that you have to immerse yourself in. I see it really as lack of respect.''

Philip Scott, 44, said he has immersed himself in ''the Native Path for more than 25 years,'' in an ad in the New Age magazine Open Exchange.

Today, the founder of the Ancestral Voice - Center for Indigenous Lifeways in Novato, he offers services including ''Rites of Passage'' ceremonies and classes in ''Native drum and flute.''

Scott said he is of European and Cherokee ancestry, though he isn't sure how much. And, he is Lakota not ''by blood ancestry, but by affiliation,'' he said. After years of studying various spiritual practices, he had a dream about the Sun Dance, he said. He received permission to dance in South Dakota, he explained.

''During my third Sun Dance, the spirits came to me and said I need to create a center,'' he said. Scott said he was ''bonneted'' at a Texas Sun Dance as a ceremonial leader.

Today, Scott holds Sweatlodge ceremonies - some of which have included newborn babies, he said - and doctoring, birthing and death ceremonies in the Lakota tradition. He has taught ''warriorship practices'' to youth and has worked as a Native spiritual adviser at the Napa State Hospital in Marin.

And he takes people on vision quests. ''I help people learn how to be human, responsible stewards of the Earth,'' he said. ''I listen to the directions the ancestors give me.''

Scott is earnest, saying he rarely receives criticism, and that people's doubts quickly dissipate when they see him in action.

''There is a lot of appropriation of Native practices and tradition,'' he said. ''There has to be that level of intent and experience that you bring. In time, the spirits will make clear who is legitimate and who is not.''

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

United Amerindian Center curtails services

Break with federal agency removes funding source
Malavika Jagannathan

Despite slashing its hours and staffing, the United Amerindian Center should be able to stay open on a limited basis for at least six months, according to its director.

Last week, the board of directors unanimously voted to sever its ties with the Indian Health Services funding stream that provides $2 million to the not-for-profit center each year. However, pulling out of the grant program is temporary and an attempt to start over with the agency with a clean slate. The center plans to reapply for federal funding within 30 days, although there's no guarantee it will receive it.

The most immediate effect will be a drop in the center's hours. The center already is open only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, said director Stephen Crowe. Three employees in various capacities were also let go, Crowe said, and all programs offered by the center will suffer because Indian Health Services is the major funding source.

The embattled center, which has faced the threat of cuts from the federal government in the past year, offers medical services, transportation and free drug and alcohol counseling to members of any Native American tribe. It is one of two urban Indian health centers in the state that are overseen by Indian Health Services, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

In late March, the center received a 90-day extension on its federal funding, which hinged on meeting a number of criteria set forth in what Indian Health Services calls a corrective action plan. At the same time, Crowe — a member of the Menominee Nation — stepped in as interim executive director.

However, according to Crowe and board president Anton Williams, additional demands were placed on the center by Indian Health Services even as the center was meeting the original criteria, which included extensive bookkeeping and other administrative changes.

"We were following every demand by the Indian Health Services, and every time they demanded more," Crowe said. "I believe the (corrective action plan) was set up for failure from the beginning. They kept changing the parameters."

According to a statement from Williams, those additional demands included copies of minutes of executive sessions of the board. Crowe said the agency also asked for changes in the center's bylaws and replacements to the board of directors.

This is not the first time Indian Health Services and the center have come to a head over the role of the board. Last August, the head of Indian Health Services' Bemidji Area Office in Minnesota brought up concerns about the board's involvement in day-to-day operations.

Calls to Indian Health Services were not returned Monday. David Quincy, a health systems specialist with Bemidji Area Office who serves as project coordinator for the center, would not comment on the situation.

Despite the cuts, Crowe said the center has enough money to stay afloat for about six months on a limited basis. In the meantime, he is looking for alternative sources of funding.

"Within 30 days, we are allowed to reapply for the grant," Crowe said. "Our reason is to get rid of the corrective action plan. And I'm making sure we are going to apply for a new project coordinator."

About 250 to 300 people use the services weekly, Crowe estimated last month. That number will probably decline with the new restrictions, especially in the transportation services offered to and from various medical appointments.

Because the center owns its building at 407 Dousman St. and it's not on reservation land, the building is in no danger of being impounded by the Indian Health Services, Crowe said.


The above article was published on the front page of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on May 8, 2007. It was the result of a four-page press release sent out by the United Amerindian Center in Green Bay on the previous Friday. I followed up by contacting the Center's new director and speaking with him about the situation.

Basically, the Center has a very good case for showing that IHS representatives acted extremely inappropriately on multiple occasions over the course of several years. When the Center's board and administration chose to confront IHS - with the community's support and participation - IHS official Phyllis Wolfe responded by saying that she chooses not to recognize the authority of the Center's board of directors.

Since when does IHS have the right to trump established state and federal regulation already in place that determines the legitimacy of an agency's board of directors and choose to not recognize a duly elected board solely based on the fact that IHS doesn't agree with their position on certain issues?? What we are dealing with here, folks, is a mega-power trip gone wild.

First, let me clarify something for those of you who may not be familiar with Urban Indian Health Projects aka UIHPs. UIHPs are nonprofit corporations who are tax-exempt under section 501(c)3 of IRS code and are governed by a board of directors that directly reflects the makeup of the local community. They are NOT IHS-owned or IHS-operated facilities. As a matter of fact, almost all UIHPs count upon several sources of funding in addition to any monies they might receive from IHS.

IHS is given an amount of money each fiscal year that is identified for UIHPs. The total amount (just under $33 million) is distributed between each of the 33 UIHPs (this is new as of 2007, there were 34 UIHPs, but IHS chose to sever all funding of the Fresno project earlier this year - forcing it to close its doors).

The idea behind this funding, as dictated by federal policy, is to give UIHPs a resource that they can leverage in obtaining additional funding to serve the healthcare needs of urban Indian people. The IHS funding was never intended to meet the entire need of these communities and the IHS was never intended to operate or regulate these entities. UIHPs are community organizations just like any other nonprofit corporation - they are NOT government clinics.

The Director of IHS, Dr. Charles Grim (see March 27th post), appoints an official to oversee the internal IHS program office for UIHPs. This individual, Phyllis Wolfe, in turn works with Project Coordinators throughout the nation whose job entails ensuring that the UIHPs successfully fulfill their scope of work as outlined in the contracts for IHS urban funding. While common sense dictates that their relationship with the UIHPs should be limited to the monies and scope of work provided for in their individual contracts, in reality - as demonstrated by the Green Bay issue above - the IHS project coordinators and national coordinator often decide to overstep their authority and act as dictators for the UIHPs they are supposed to be partnering with.

IHS officials consistently work outside of their designated role and try to micro-manage facilities that they have neither the experience or the knowledge to run. As community organizations, state and federal law says that these corporations must be run by a board of directors that directly reflect the demographic of the communities they serve. Phyllis Wolfe is not a resident of the Green Bay community, nor can she claim to be an expert in what are the healthcare needs of the local Indian community of Green Bay nor how to best address those needs.

The same can be said of Fresno, Sacramento, Boston and every other urban Indian community. Our communities have the right to support their local UIHP in obtaining staff, board members, funding, services and philosophies that best address the needs of our communities - we are guaranteed that right by both state and federal law!!

I forgot, though. IHS is above the law. Dammit, why did I even bother with this post??...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Plastic Medicine Man/Woman Online Site

I received a message from a woman who had sent me an email with no response. She had mistakenly entered my email address incorrectly, so I decided to do a search on - the address that she used - since she didn't get a message bounced back to her about the site name being invalid.

Through google, I found that there is a company called Native American Nutritionals that also refers to themselves as Native Health. I browsed the site for a moment to see if it was affiliated with any known tribal community or Urban Indian Organization. On the last page of the site, entitled "The Native" I was appalled to see a link called "Becoming A Native American Practitioner". I followed the link and was taken to another site, for a group called Nemenhah - they state their official name as The Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization (NAC). The (NAC) implies, as is listed throughout their website, that they are affiliated with the Native American Church.

At the bottom of their "Spiritual Adoption" page they offer to adopt anyone with an open heart who is willing to pay them a $90 initiation fee and a $5 monthly fee thereafter. When you click on the link to start the adoption process, it states "If you wish to become a Native American Medicine man or woman please click the payment option below."


The Native American Nutritionals website sells products that are given stereotypical tribal names and invites its visitors to join a pyramid scheme by "Profit Sharing" through a referral program. This entire organization, Nemenhah and Native American Nutritionals a.k.a. Native Health, is founded on the principles of profiting from the bastardization and tokening of Native American people and practices.

I am putting the word out to as many tribal communities as I can in an attempt to bring attention to this horrible travesty and find a way to prevent this kind of deplorable treatment of our tribal ways. OUR WAYS ARE NOT FOR SALE!! They never have been and they never will be and people cannot claim to understand our ways with one breath and then offer to sell them with their next breath. Please help tribal communities throughout the nation and the future generations of Native Americans who need your voice - and put a stop to this kind of trickery and deceit!!

Here are the links so you can see for yourselves:


Whistling Elk
Mandan/Arikara (Prairie Chicken Clan)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Was it really the deadliest shooting in American history?...

A Native Perspective on Virginia Tech Headlines
By Kat Teraji Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, Deep in the Earth, Cover me with pretty lies - bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Didn't we learn to crawl, and still our history gets written in a liar's scrawl. They tell 'ya 'Honey, you can still be an Indian d-d-down at the 'Y' on
Saturday nights.' - lyrics to 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,' written by Buffy St. Marie

'The worst shooting rampage in American history?' 'Massacre and Mourning, 33 die in worst shooting in U.S. History,' and 'Rampage called worst mass shooting in U.S. history.' 'What first appeared to be a single shooting death unfolded into the worst gun massacre in
the nation's history.' You've seen and heard these headlines and reports all week as the media provided non-stop coverage of the tragic shooting of 33 people at Virginia Tech University on Monday.

'The worst in U.S. history?' Really? It is certainly the worst shooting on a college campus in modern U.S. history. But if we think it is the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history, then we are a singularly uneducated nation.

'I can't take one more of these headlines,' said Joan Redfern, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe who lives in Hollister. We met at First Street Coffee to talk while we scanned Internet stories. 'Haven't any of these people ever heard of the Massacre at Sand Creek in Colorado, where Methodist minister Col. Chivington massacred between 200 and 400 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, most of them women, children, and elderly men?'

Chivington specifically ordered the killing of children, and when he was asked why, he said, 'Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.'

At Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, the U.S. 7th Cavalry attacked 350 unarmed Lakota Sioux on December 29, 1890. While engaged in a spiritual practice known as the 'Ghost Dance,' approximately 90 warriors and 200 women and children were killed. Although the attack was officially reported as an 'unjustifiable massacre' by Field Commander General Nelson A. Miles, 23 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for the slaughter. The unarmed Lakota men fought back with bare hands. The elderly men and women stood and sang their death songs while falling under the hail of bullets. Soldiers stripped the bodies of the dead Lakota, keeping their ceremonial religious clothing as souvenirs.

'To say the Virginia shooting is the worst in all of U.S. history is to pour salt on old wounds-it means erasing and forgetting all of our ancestors who were killed in the past,' Redfern said.

'The use of hyperbole and lack of historical perspective seems all too ubiquitous in much of the current mainstream media,' Redfern said. 'My intention is not to downplay the horror of what has happened this week in any way. But we have a 500-year history of mass shootings on American soil, and let's not forget it.'

This is only the most recent mass shooting massacre in a long history of mass shootings in a country engaged in a long love affair with firearms and very little interest in gun control.

Let's not forget our history and the richness of our Native roots. While spending time on the 1.5 million acre Hopi Reservation in Arizona, I met families living in homes they have occupied for over 900 years. On the surface, it looks like a third world country: you will observe many homes without running water, travel unpaved roads, and notice that there are no building codes. But sitting in a Hopi home being served a delicious lunch cooked by a proud Hopi working mother, I experienced so much more: the continuity of a long and deep heritage, a sense of the sacred, an artistic expertise, and wisdom about many things that remain a mystery to my culture.

Most of all, may we never forget all those innocent civilian men, women, and children who lost their lives simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as the students happened to be this week in Virginia. May we always remember the precious humanity of these students, but may we also never forget the humanity of those who lost their lives simply for being born people Native to this country. ..

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Does the IRS know??

A Washington city mayor is in Indian politics up to his head after making the comment that the reason his city is facing a budget shortfall and unable to fight crime is because Yakama Nation tribal members don't pay taxes. This write up details the comments and the outrage expressed by both Indians and non-Indians alike at the mayor's ignorance and blatant bigotry.

First, let's dispel the myth - Indians do pay taxes. Tribal enrollment cards and CDIBs don't automatically make you immune to federal or state income tax, FICA and all the other ways Uncle Sam figures out to nickle and dime you. An Indian nickel is still a nickel and Uncle Sam wants it all the same.

Now, to look at where the myth originates from. It is true that Indian people living on federal trust properties (in other words, tha rez) are usually exempt from paying property tax. It is also true that Indian people may not be required to pay local sales tax when they are on established reservations. Neither of these is true in every circumstance, but they are true enough to create the illusion that Indians don't pay taxes. So let's talk about why these two exemptions exist.

First, in case you missed the first portion of the property tax statement, it said that Indians living on federal trust property usually wouldn't pay a property tax. You know why?? Because they don't own that land, the federal government does! The federal government retains ownership of the land and holds it in trust for the individual and their heirs, but even though the people living on that land may change over time, the ownership of the property doesn't. It always has been and always will be owned by the federal government. Unless at some point in the future the government decides to terminate its trust responsibility and sell the property, to an Indian individual, a non-Indian individual, an Indian-owned business or a non-Indian-owned business, at which point whoever acquires the land - regardless of Indian status - will have to pay property taxes. So the Indians don't get away with not paying property taxes, the federal government does. You want to try and grab a nickel from Uncle Sam, you're pretty much gonna have to pry it from his cold, dead fingers...have a blast.

The second exemption was created because the monies collected from local sales tax are used to maintain local services such as roads and law enforcement. Well, Indian nations are responsible for providing these services on the reservation, not the local governments, so it wouldn't be fair to force Indians - or any people - to pay for a service with their tax money that would not be benefiting them in any way and that they would have to pay for a second time with other monies. So tribal nations, like the Yakama and hundreds of other nations within the United States, are responsible for maintaining their own police force, their own road maintenance crews and all the same services that would be provided by any other city or local government.

Just like it is not the City of Toppenish's responsibility to police or fund the policing of the Yakama Nation, it is not the responsibility of the Yakama Nation or its members to police or fund the policing of the City of Toppenish. To create a budget shortfall for your city and then try and blame someone else just shows very poor management. The mayor and city council knew from day one that they wouldn't receive sales tax income generated on reservation property because they are not responsible for providing services on the reservation. If the city is facing the problem of a budget shortfall then they need to do what every other government in this country does, tribal or non-tribal...hire someone who knows how to manage money.

Ultimately, it has nothing to do with budget shortfalls or local sales taxes, it has to do with institutional racism and flat out bigotry. A group of non-Indian people who have no regard whatsoever for the longstanding legal agreements between tribal nations and the usurpers, decide that they have no more reason to honor those legal agreements because doing so is not in their best financial interests. Well guess what, signing those agreements wasn't in our best financial interests as tribal citizens either, but since we've already paid up our end of the bargain you can bet your ass we're gonna expect you to pay up yours.

Besides, why do you want our money anyway?? You know that any money you have Uncle Sam will find a way to steal away from you in the end. And if you don't know, just ask an Indian...they can tell you the story all-too-well.

Is Dr. Charles W. Grim Really Bush's Secret Identity??

There are 33 Urban Indian Health Projects in the United States that receive funding as such from the Indian Health Service. Last year there were 34, but the IHS decided to take out the Fresno clinic, so now we're down to 33 clinics serving this nation's 2.5+ million urban Indians.

In 2006, good ole George W. sent a budget proposal to congress that completely eliminated the $32.7 million in funding for Urban Indian Health Projects (UIHPs) for fiscal year 2007. The American Indian people of the nation protested and through a lot of hard work and even more "smart work" (ol' Georgie didn't know we had it in us), we got congress to re-appropriate funds for the program. In an attempt to not be outdone, GP (Georgie-Pordgie) repeated his request this year that for fiscal year 2008 the funding for UIHPs be eliminated.

Uproar and outrage!! UIHPs and our urban Indian people and tribal brothers and sisters from all across the country put ole GP in their political sights and steadied their trigger fingers just waiting for an opportunity to take down the man. Republicans all across the nation were decried as bigots (not that I'm saying they aren't, cuz everyone knows I think they are) and the ranks of the White House and the Justice Department were scrutinized as anti-Indian and anti-healthcare. Well duh, like we needed anyone to tell us that George W. Bush is anti-Indian or anti-healthcare. That's like acting shocked when you find out that Snoop Dog has been arrested for marijuana possession.

What is absolutely shocking, though, is how the true culprits have completely eluded any culpability on the part of the Indian community. We are so quick to knock down our Great White Father that we don't even stop to realize that our Great White Father doesn't even know we exist. Do you really think that George Bush woke up one morning and thought to himself, "ya know, I manage a nation of millions and oversee a budget (deficit) of trillions, but I think the answer lies in cutting $32.7 million from the UIHPs - eureka! that'll solve all my problems!!"

George Bush has little to no clue at all about UIHPs and the work they do and the monies they receive from IHS to leverage support from other funding sources. Who does know about this, however, is Dr. Charles W. Grim. As the presidentially-appointed head of the Indian Health Service, he oversees all aspects of Indian health, including the UIHPs. He knows exactly how much money the IHS allocates to these clinics and has plenty of ideas as to how that money could be spent in other areas of the IHS budget or used as the sacrificial lamb when GP calls upon all departments to "tighten their belts and help our nation reduce its deficit by reducing out-of-control spending". hmmm I could see how $32.7 million to provide health services for a population of more than 2.5 million could be seen as out of control when compared to the hundreds of billions being used to finance a war our nation had no business starting, but anyway.

So Dr. Grim says to the prez, yes we will come to the call of our nation and reduce our spending! Not by cutting his administrative budget or closing loopholes that lead to the waste of millions of dollars, but by targeting the UIHPs and the entire urban Indian population. Dr. Grim, as head of IHS, is the person that GP looks to for counsel on matters of Indian health. Ultimately, there is no way the UIHP funding could have ever been targeted if Dr. Grim had stood up and said, "No, this is not an expendable portion of our budget."

When urban Indians needed Dr. Grim to stand for them, all he did was sit. He sat on his ass and collected his fat paycheck while all the UIHPs stood in jeopardy. It wasn't Dr. Grim that got funding restored for 2007 and it isn't Dr. Grim that is leading the fight for 2008. The man who is charged with providing for and promoting the health of Indians throughout this nation has not lived up to his responsibilities. He should be answering to every single Indian person in this nation for the travesty that has been known as the IHS under his administration.

He's not, though, because we're too busy focusing on good ol' Georgie.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Introducing my blogspot...

So this is my blog, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, I am committed to it. Mainly, I will use it to comment on current events that are affecting the Native American community throughout the U.S. and Canada. Yeah, most of the stuff I say here will probably get me into trouble, but I pretty much do that all day long at work anyway - so why not bring my trouble online??