Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Unfortunately, the result in many cases has not been one of economic development, but rather a scenario of in-fighting, fraud, embezzlement, substance abuse, and even tragedy, due to mismanaged - or often unmanaged - economic growth. This is not because tribes are irresponsible - at least not any more irresponsible than the federal government that regulates them - or that Indians are bad people or have any predisposition to crime or substance abuse, it's just the logical conclusion to an ill-conceived development plan. There is a notable difference between economic growth and economic development.
You can't take a group of people who are living in poverty and struggling with such powerful spiritual issues as substance abuse, violence, depression, and trauma and just hand them money and say, "Okay, now everything is better so go live well." It doesn't work that way. People, not just American Indians but any people, need support, guidance and knowledge in order to use their available resources well. If you withhold that support, guidance and knowledge, as the federal government has continuously done with American Indians, then you can't expect a great deal of success to come from your development plan.
In the end, the tribes that will develop themselves successfully will be the ones who do not put all of their eggs in the basket that is Indian gaming. Many tribes are realizing this and are reaching into actual economic development projects. For example, last month NPR reported a story on the Lower Brule Sioux tribe of South Dakota. This tribe purchased a Wall Street investment firm after recognizing that its casino would likely never meet the economic development needs of its community.
Other tribes have ventured into different businesses and other development opportunities, including colleges, hotels, golf courses, spas, restaurants, and many others. Examples include:
Friday, July 10, 2009
It seems I can't click on cnn.com but every other day without finding a news story in the arena of same-sex marriage. I sit quietly and read about folks like David Parker of Lexington, MA, or Brian Camenker of Waltham, MA, or the heretical Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, who in all of their supernatural wisdom have such self-loathing that they actually exert all of their available energy on the oppression of their fellow man.
Then I click a different link and read stories from across Indian Country with such contrasting views. Navajo anthropologist Wesley Thomas claims that gay men and women were part of the norm in traditional Navajo life (basically before Anglos descended upon our ancestral lands), but Navajo tribal council delegate Larry Anderson disagrees - so much so, that he introduced legislation in Navajoland that prohibits same-sex marriage. The legislation passed in 2005, was vetoed by the tribal president, and then that veto was subsequently overturned by the tribal council, so ultimately same-sex marriage is still prohibited on the Navajo Nation.
Similarly, the Cherokee Nation went through turmoil in regards to same-sex marriage. Cherokee historian David Cornsilk expressed viewpoints matching those of the Navajo anthropologist, that gay men and women were revered in traditional tribal society. Todd Hembree, Cherokee tribal attorney, argued however that Cherokee society does not and has not ever tolerated homosexual relationships. It is important to note that in both of the cases outlined above, strong anthropological and archeological proof actually supports the existence and previous acceptance of same-sex relationships, including marriage. Anthropological evidence also shows that homophobia was not present in most American Indian tribes until after contact with Christian and other missionaries.
I am not Navajo. I am not Cherokee. I am not an anthropologist, an archeologist, an attorney, a tribal council member, or a person of any authority whatsoever when it comes to the philosophical, theological and political practices of my own tribe or any other tribe. I am Mandan, though. I am Arikara. I am Plains Indian. And, quite frankly, I am frustrated. I am not coming at this from a political angle, but rather a cultural one.
American Indians were nearly annihilated by Western settlers. We underwent hundreds of years of genocide, repeated massacres, and poisoning from the introduction of alcohol, nicotine, meth amphetamines, and European diseases - for all of which our bodies had no natural defense capabilities. As a nation, though, we survived. We persevered. Though we lost many a battle over the last 500 years, we have never lost the war and are still fighting - not just to survive, but to thrive.
So why would we adopt western ideologies - the same ideologies that for centuries permitted the murder of Indian women and children because as savages they possessed no souls - that fly in the face of everything our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents and great-great-great grandparents fought to protect. Have we even stopped to consider how many generations - both past and future - we are betraying??
I speak not as a learned scholar, not as an elected official, but as one man who has literally dozens of great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents who were born on this American land, generations before the great-great grandparents of the President of the United States, the Vice-President, the Speaker of the House, or any other sons and daughters of the Daughters of the American Revolution even knew that this entire continent existed. How dare you come to this mother, pillage her womb, rape and murder her children, then presume to place laws upon us that conform to your traditions of disrespect, vulgarity and absolute sacrilege. Worse yet, how dare we, as strong Indian people, form allies with these unhallowed beings and use their weapons of mass destruction on our own people??
The old ones where I come from tell of life before contact with western society. For them, it wasn't that far back. My grandma was born in a place that no longer exists (the government flooded it in the 1950's to get rid of the Indians and usurp the natural resources), where many people had never even seen a white person. My grandma didn't have to learn English until she was sent off to school (for a brief intro on this topic, type "American Indian boarding schools" into google). The stories that I hear my grammas tell are the stories that were told to them by their grammas, women who lived before the Great White Father (a.k.a. the U.S. President, who is now the Great Half-White Father) even knew what lay west of the Mississippi River.
There is a re-occurring theme that runs through each and every one of those stories that they tell. It's a theme that calls for mutual respect and consideration of all that exists, not merely all that is man and that looks and acts exactly like we do. The old ones back home tell stories, stories of the wi'neke - the gay people. These stories talk about the role of LGBT people in our society thousands of years before the murderous Christopher Columbus ever set sail on a ship.
The way that gay people are described in these stories isn't much in line with the romanticized versions that I hear from other LGBT natives from other tribes. Sometimes their stories give the impression that gay people were given an elevated role in tribal society simply because of their sexual orientation, and I think this does a disservice to all sides. I can't speak for their people, but I know that for my people nobody was elevated or degraded in society based solely on their sexual orientation.
LGBT people did play a prominent role in the tribe, however, as afforded by unique abilities and understandings. Depending on the individual, as a gay person "back in the days" you might have been the local governess, the one to foster orphans or care for the infirmed, you might have had a calling as an exceptionally powerful root doctor (a little lesson for all you non-Indians out there, there is no such thing as an "Indian Shaman" - sorry to burst your bubble), or you might just be a warrior who happens to kick ass in a dress.
Talk to the old people, you will find out that there were actually some very brave warriors who identified as gay but who traveled and fought with war parties. Legend even has it that one famous Lakota leader would never take out a war party without his trusted right-hand winkte-warrior (winkte is the Lakota word for gay) by his side. Wi'neke were given the same responsibilities and expectations and afforded every right and privilege enjoyed by any other member of the village, including matrimony. Some even underwent a ceremony for gender reassignment, if they were so inclined. These are the stories that the old ones tell, and they are the stories that the evidence left behind by our grandmothers and grandfathers of long ago also tells.
If the great United States ultimately decides to disallow same-sex marriage, or even to disallow homosexuality (though how they'll enforce that, I don't even wanna know!), we have to leave that choice to them as their prerogative. As Indian people, though, we have a responsibility. WE are the stewards of this land and its people. From the day we are born, whether we haven't a drop of non-Indian blood in our veins or we only have the tiniest drop of Indian blood in our veins, we are charged with caring for this Earth and all of its inhabitants. Unlike whites, blacks, asians, arabs, jews, muslims, hindus, swahilis or any other of the multitude of peoples that inhabit this Earth, we don't have the right to deny compassion. If those people choose to live that way, to spread degradation and disease like nobody's business, well that is something they will have to answer for someday. For us to follow suit is not even an option; today is the day that we are responsible to our Creator - today and every day.
So in the end my message is this: 1. Prejudice and discrimination do not conform to the traditional values that American Indian tribes adhere to; 2. Whether or not you or anyone else likes to speak about it, the fact is that same-sex marriage was permitted in America before the pilgrims ever even got to taste a turkey, much less establish a tradition of Butterballs and chardonnay; 3. LGBT Indians were not despised or esteemed, in the Mandan tribe at least, based on their sexual orientation. Many earned positions of esteem through their works and character, but all were afforded the same rights and duties of every other tribal member; and 4. If you actually read this far then you have WAY too much time on your hands - craigslist has an employment section - use it to get a real job instead of one where you can read blogs all day long... ;-)
As always, with much love and respect.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
By JON TEVLIN, Star Tribune
Last update: May 11, 2009 - 11:57 PM
A boy's life hangs in the balance in New Ulm, Minn., this week as a court decides if he should abide by the advice of prominent doctors or that of a group claiming to be American Indian healers whose website the boy's mother says she "found on the Internet."
The Internet is a funny thing. Perhaps Colleen Hauser, the mother of 13-year-old Danny, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma, also looked a little deeper on the Web and discarded critical opinions about the group, the Nemenhah Band, but I doubt it.
Too bad, because Danny's life may depend on it.
If she had, she would have found case files in which Nemenhah's leader, Phillip (Cloudpiler) Landis, who submitted testimony in the case, had been convicted of fraud in two states. Or that another member of the band, James Mooney, won a case that allows him to claim religious exemption from law and sell drugs -- peyote.
Maybe she researched all possibilities and still decided to take the word of a convicted criminal over that of Mayo Clinic doctors?
Calvin Johnson, the attorney for the Hausers, said neither he nor the family were aware of any possible criminal behavior of anyone associated with Nemenhah. And he didn't seem particularly concerned about it. In fact, he bristled at anyone who might question the Hausers' beliefs.
"We don't trample on the quality of someone's religious path," he said. "We don't do that. Danny has a wonderful soul and beautiful heart."
No one disputes the last statement. But many, including Native Americans, take issue with a family that chooses the claims of Landis, who has been convicted of fraud for misleading investors in an alternative-health mushroom-growing business, instead of Mayo Clinic doctors.
One is Al Carroll, a Mescalero Apache, Ph.D.-holding author and Fulbright scholar who moderates a website (www.newagefraud.org) dedicated to exposing people who exploit American Indian traditions for profit.
"I would argue from what I see on their sites that Nemenhah are alt-medicine types who hide behind a laughable pseudo-native facade," Carroll said in an e-mail from Indonesia, where he's teaching about native history. "That's pure Hollywood and New Age nonsense."
The Hausers, who are not Native American, joined the group by paying a fee, now $250, plus $100 monthly. Though the group calls it a donation, they warn members not to "neglect this part of the Adoption Covenant ... if they do, the Nemenhah Band cannot continue in its important work and its offering to Humanity globally."
Nonsense, said Carroll, who calls the group's leaders "plastic shaman[s]."
"No reputable traditional native healer would demand someone deny medical treatment which would save their lives, especially to a child," he said. "It's reprehensible beyond words. Only a crackpot fanatic who thinks modern medicine is part of some type of grand conspiracy would let a young boy die when there are good options to save him."
Carroll is not alone.
Nemenhah's website and forums refer members to other sites where they can -- surprise -- buy "sacraments" such as oils and herbs. One forum discusses how baking soda can cure cancer.
D'Shane Barnett, special projects officer of the Native American Health Center in California, called that a "pyramid scheme by profit-sharing through a referral program," adding, "This entire organization, Nemenhah and Native American Nutritionals ... is founded on the principles of profiting from the bastardization and tokening of Native American people and practices."
In other words, if Danny's Internet-purchased regimen doesn't work, critics say, he will live a tragically short life, but it won't be because the government interfered with religion. Call it death by multilevel marketing.
During an interview from Missouri, Landis was defiant. He said he has never counseled the Hausers on medical choices. He said that Nemenhah is not a tribe, but rather a church, and that churches frequently disagree with each other.
They also are allowed to take offerings, as are medicine men, he said, adding, "If not, this is not America."
Gabrielle Strong, a Dakota tribal consultant from Morton, Minn., said she doesn't blame the Hausers, but feels sorry for them. "I feel this group is taking advantage of vulnerable people," she said.
Strong, who said her mother is being treated for breast cancer with chemotherapy, along with spiritual remedies, said American Indians are abuzz about the Hauser case, but tribal leaders are hesitant to get involved.
"We are not the kind of people to impose our beliefs on people," she said. Yet, "I feel terrible for this family. This young man's life is on the line, and I wish someone legitimate [from the American Indian community] could talk to them."
So I made an offer to the Hausers through their lawyer: You got second opinions from medical doctors, who agreed chemo was needed. Give it another shot. Strong has said she would help me get you second opinions from Indian leaders in Minnesota familiar with traditional medicine. Then your family could reconsider.
You have my number, counselor. A kid's life is at stake.
Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702
Take the sad case of Daniel Hauser, 13, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He and his parents refused chemotherapy after his first treatment, saying it is contrary to their religious beliefs. Their refusal led the Brown County (Minn.) Attorney’s office to file a child endangerment complaint against the parents. The case is now in court.
The Hausers are “traditional catholics,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but the crux of their defense is their membership in the Nemenhah. Their attorneys insist that the Nemenhah’s religious beliefs are protected by federal Indian Affairs law, so the Hausers can do whatever they bloody well please.
The Star Trib and other media sources identify the Nemenhah as “an American Indian religious organization.”
Well, it ain’t.
The Hausers are probably very nice people, and perhaps they would prefer not to see their young son suffer through chemo, but they are dupes, plain and simple.
Here is what I have been able to piece together about the Nemenhah Band, to which the Hausers apparently belong.
The Nemenhah are not a true Native American tribe, nation or group. They are wannabe Natives — white folks who adopt Native-sounding names and
steal adopt Native American ways. This behavior has recently become a trend among New Agers in the USA, who have pretty much milked Eastern medicine and philosophy for ideas to peddle to the ignorant here. Now they are robbing Native American culture for fresh ideas to sell.
The Nemenhah’s websites claim, however, that the people known as the Nemenhah came to North America from the Middle East before the Christian era, and settled in the Four Corners area. Records (the Mentinah Archives) of their history and beliefs were preserved there, and only were recently (2004) translated into English. If this history sounds awfully like what is in the Book of Mormon, then it may interest you to know that the Nemenhah supposedly joined Hagoth, a figure in the BoM, when he left his homeland.
The LDS church, however, does not recognize the Mentinah Archives as authentic. The irony there is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
For suggested initial and monthly “donations,” you too can become a member of the Nemenhah, can buy their tribal medicinals, and can even sell them to your friends and family by joining the Nemenhah MLM.
Being afforded “spiritual adoption” means protection under federal law, the Nemenhah website says. “As a Nemenhah Medicine Man or Woman you will be able to practice your Healing Ministry under the full weight and protection of the Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act 1993 (NAFERA) and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993 (RFRA).”
There is no archeological or historical evidence of a people named the Nemenhah living in the Four Corners, however. (There is also no similar evidence corroborating the Book of Mormon, but that’s another story.) The US Bureau of Indian Affairs and Native American organizations do not recognize the Nemenhah as a valid tribe or nation, either.
Contrary to Native American practice, the Nemenhah’s online healing academy charges money (aka donations) for training to be a medicine man or woman. The Hausers, including Daniel, are medicine men, according to news reports.
You cannot become a member of a recognized Native American nation, tribe or people by paying money. To gain membership, your ancestors had to have been Native Americans, and you have to prove it. Saying your great-grandfather was Cherokee, for example, does not mean you are a Cherokee.
For that matter, paying money to a church for training or religious education is pretty atypical, unless the church happens to be the Church of Scientology.
The presumed head of the organization, known formally as the Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization (Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete), is Phillip R. Landis, who goes by the pseudo-Native name of “Cloudpiler.” Landis is a naturopath by profession.
Landis, coincidentally, wrote the foreword to the “translation” of the Mentinah Archives and published the English translation. The original texts are supposedly locked away in a safe location, while five unnamed translators voluntarily work on the translation.
Someone on a Mormon forum site challenged the authenticity of the Mentinah Archives. Landis, under the unlikely name of Ea-lea Powitz Peopeo, responded with a lengthy diatribe providing arcane details about the Nemenhah and the archives, all couched in language to appeal to a Mormon readership.
Those who want a better idea of what the Lord is doing to bring forth these translations can go back and study how the Lord did it with Joseph Smith. It is very similar. The heavens are opened. The original writers and God are very much involved in helping the translators. This should not be a surprise to anyone, yet it is a great stumbling block for many because of the condition the prophets and Christ said the Church and the world would be in in our day. For example, there are those who simply do not believe that God will allow anyone to be a translator unless he is one of the General Authorities of the Church. They don’t recognize that Joseph Smith was a translator before he was called to be the head of the Church. The fact is, God can call anyone He wants to be a translator, even an ignorant farm boy.
More of his rationalizations can be found here: http://blog.nemenhah.org/ The organization and financial structure of the Nemenhah and its MLM seem pretty sketchy to me, but I am not a lawyer.
Speaking of the law, Landis several years ago had some legal problems in Montana and Idaho regarding a mushroom-growing business that encouraged farmers to grow reishi mushers and be paid for their harvest. Some farmers allegedly never got paid.
The layers of deceit in this story are almost too many to count. We have a family who have bought into (literally) a supposed Native American church. This church claims to give its members protection under federal Indian Affairs law, but the church and the Nemenhah tribe in fact are not recognized Native American entites.
Meanwhile, the sole reason for the Nemenhah Band’s existence apparently is to peddle a line of “traditional” medicinals, using a dubious MLM scheme, to people like the Hausers, who want alternative ways to stay healthy.
A decision on the child endangerment complain is expected Tuesday. We’ll see how successful the Nemenhah Band has been in convincing the judge of their authenticity.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Minnesota Public Radio report: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/05/07/parents_refuse_treatment_for_son/
Indian Country Today report on the Nemenhah:
Whistling Elk blog - American Indian Voice of Spirit and Reason commentary
New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans - a Native American site criticizing pseudo-Native healers, schools, etc.
Links at the site specific to Nemenhah: