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 If you feel that our rights as Indian people are old and outdated, then so are yours as citizens of this nation which was founded upon the same Constitution that gives us a separate political distinction.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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a *terrific* post, but without a link to the original email, not the most useful.

I followed links here to your posts about the Nemenhah travesty. Your writing is clear, to the point, and illuminating. With better links to sources, this could be a regular must-read for lots of folks, myself included. Do keep writing.