Monday, May 26, 2008
When one thinks of American Indians and wars overseas, the first who come to mind are probably the Code Breakers of WWI and WWII. Although these brave men are certainly deserving recognition, they are just a small portion of American Indians who have served in war - many of who received the highest honor given by the U.S. Government - the Medal of Honor.
On 12 April 1875, eleven Apache warriors from Arizona serving in the Indian Scouts were awarded the Medal of honor for gallant action and bravery in the Apache campaigns - Alchesay, Blanquet, Chiquito, Elsatsoosh, Jim, Kelsay, Kosoha, Machol, Nannasaddie, Nanthae, and Rowdy. As time rolled by and other wars were fought, American Indians continued to be awarded the Medal of Honor for military heroism and extraordinary bravery - Jack C. Montgomery (Cherokee from Oklahoma), Ernest Childers (Creek from Oklahoma), Van Barfoot (Choctaw from Mississippi), Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. (Winnebago from Wisconsin), and Charles George (Cherokee from North Carolina).
Lt. Ernest Childers, Lt. Jack Montgomery, and Lt. Van Barfoot were all of the famed 45th Thunderbird Infantry Division. Childers had first distinguished himself in Sicily, where he received a battlefield commission. Later in Italy, unaided and despite severe wounds, he destroyed three German machine gun emplacements. During the Anzio Campaign in Italy, Montgomery attacked a German strongpoint single-handed, killing eleven of the enemy and taking thirty-three prisoners. During the breakout from Anzio to Rome, Barfoot knocked out two machine gun nests and captured seventeen prisoners. Subsequently, he defeated three German tanks and carried two wounded men to safety.
The unit with the most American Indians in WWI was the 36th Division, with around 600 represented in the Company E of the 142d Infantry Regiment as well as in the 358th Infantry Regiment. Half of these had already served in the unit before the war as it was a Oklahoma-Texas National Guard unit. There were also some largely Lakota units, such as Battery B of the 130th Field Artillery, Battery C of the 147th Field Artillery and companies of the 351st and 355th Infantry Regiments. Most of the 12,000 American Indians who served in WWI were scattered and integrated throughout the army.
In 1918 the Iroquois Indians had declared their own war on Germany. Since they were not included in the 1919 Peace Treaty, they simply renewed their Declaration of War for WWII and included Italy and Japan. They passed their own draft act and sent their young warriors into National Guard units. The Chippewa and Sioux joined the Iroquois in declaring war on the Axis.
The Pueblos sent 10 percent of their population to the armed forces for WWII. Wisconsin Chippewas at the Lac Oreilles Reservation contributed 100 men from a population of 1,700. Nearly all the able-bodied Chippewas at the Grand Portage Reservation enlisted. Blackfeet Indians enlisted in droves. Navajo Indians responded by sending 3,600 into military service; 300 lost their lives. Many volunteered from the Fort Peck Sioux-Assinibois Reservation in Montana, the descendants of the Indians that defeated Custer.
On Pearl Harbor Day, there were 5,000 American Indians in the military. By the end of the war, 24,521 reservation Indians, exclusive of officers, and another 20,000 off-reservation Indians had served. The combined figure of 44,500 was more than ten percent of the Native American population during the war years. This represented one-third of all able-bodied Indian men from 18 to 50 years of age. In some tribes, the percentage of men in the military reached as high as 70 percent. Also, several hundred American Indian women served in the WACS, WAVES, and Army Nurse Corps.
The 45th Division *Thunderbirds* (Texas-Oklahoma National Guard) had the highest proportion of American Indian soldiers of any division, and American Indians served conspicuously in the 4th and 88th Divisions, the l9th and 180th Infantry Regiments, and the 147thField Artillery Regiment, plus numerous other different Oklahoma National Guard units. Maj. Lee Gilstrop of Oklahoma, who trained 2 ,000 Native Americans at his post, said, "The Indian is the best damn soldier in the Army."
Exploits by American Indians in WWII are far from few. Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker, an Osage, was the highest ranking American Indian in the armed forces at the beginning of the war. He died leading a flight of bombers in the Pacific during the Battle of Midway. Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma is named after him. Joseph J. *Jocko* Clark, the first American Indian (Cherokee) to graduate from Annapolis, participated in carrier battles in the Pacific as a Rear Admiral. Brumett Echohawk, of the Pawnee Kit-Kahaki (warrior band) and now a renown Pawnee artist and author, was an expert in hand-to-hand combat and trained commandos. Brummett and William Lasley, a Potawatomie, led the successful charge at Anzio Beach to take the *Factory* which insured that the allied toe-hold at Anzio Beach was secure. Lasley was killed in the first assault.
The stories and lists of names continue through other military actions, reaching the present. Hundreds of American Indians have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Specialist Lori Piestewa, Hopi, was the first service woman killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first known Native American service woman known to have been killed in combat. Mike Dawes, Cherokee citizen and former Cherokee Nation law enforcement officer, lost his life in Iraq. PFC Sheldon Hawk Eagle (Lakota name Wanbli Ohitika), who traced his bloodline to Crazy Horse on his father’s side and Sitting Bull on his mother’s side, also paid the ultimate price in Iraq. Corporal Nathan J. Goodiron, from Mandaree North Dakota and with the North Dakota National Guard, died when a rocket propelled grenade struck his vehicle while on patrol in Qarabagh, Afghanistan. Corporal Goodiron’s cousin, C.J. O'Berry, was wounded in the attack.
I wish I knew the names of every single American Indian who has been either wounded or killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Their names should not be lost to history. Nor should all who have served and come back be forgotten.
In speaking of Specialist Piestewa, Oneida Daniel King, president of the Wisconsin Indian Veterans Association, has said: "There is an old warrior saying: 'When you adorn yourself with the implements of war, you are ready to kill. It is only right then, you must be prepared to die as well. As Indian people, we know how to face war, we know how to sacrifice, we know how to honor, we know courage. We know how to remember."
Thursday, May 22, 2008
At the same time I was writing the last comment about the nutritional problems of the Makah and Native American peoples who have been forced from their tradition diet, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium announced the publishing of it’s book, “Traditional Food Guide for Alaska Native Cancer Survivors." The book was published with financial support from the Alaska Cancer Survivorship and Wellness Program, Alaska Regional Hospital's Cancer Care Center, the American Cancer Society, the Intercultural Cancer Council, the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service, Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center and the state's Comprehensive Cancer Control Program. The purpose of the book is to educate and support the return to traditional subsistence foods for health reasons.
The traditional Eskimo diet, which includes seals, walrus, and whales, once resulted in the highest level of health found among indigenous peoples anywhere on earth. Because of the introduction of western foods, Alaskan Natives now have the dubious distinction of having the highest cancer death rates in the nation. In addition, the traditional diet of the Eskimo contained as much as 80 percent of calories as fat and there is no indication that they suffered from heart disease. Today, Eskimos have a fifty percent higher percentage of congenital heart disease than western populations.
Part of this high incidence is the result of the diet being replaced by plant derived liquid oils that have been hardened through the process of hydrogenation, and therefore tend to be rancid. Rancid fats contain large numbers of free radicals, molecules with unpaired electrons that are highly reactive. Free radical damage in the arteries is thought to be an important factor in the initiation of plaque. Secondly, these oils lack vitamins A and D found in animal fats and through processing are likely to be shorn of naturally occurring vitamin E and other antioxidants. Yet, these unhealthy plant oils are exactly what the animal rights activists would like to coerce American Indians such as the Makah to ingest.
Are the anti-Makah activists racist?
The selective protests against American Indians, such as the Makah, points to a concerted racist program conducted by the activists involved. Section 101(a)(5) (A-D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1371(a)(5)), allows the incidental taking of small numbers of marine mammals by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographic region. This taking includes depleted and endangered or threatened marine mammals. In 1992, a further amendment was added that expedited the process for authorization to take the mammals.
Yet, protests by activists against these authorizations are conspicuously lacking. The most recent authorization appears in the 21 May, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 99)] [Notices] [Page 29485-29491] in the Federal Register. This authorization allows an LNG facility in Massachusetts Bay to take not just one marine mammal species - as requested by the Makah - but several: North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), minke whale (B. acutorostrata), pilot whale (Globicephala spp.), Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), killer whale (Orcinus orca), harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and gray seal (Halichoerus grypus).
There are at least 32 authorization permits in existence. Eleven of these permits alone are for power plant operations in Central and Southern California, so that the populations there can receive electricity. Granted, these authorizations to not guarantee that marine mammals will be taken (defined under the MMPA as "harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect."). But, and this is important, the authority to do so is given. Whether a marine mammal is taken by the Makah for food, or by one of the permit holders because the mammal got in the way, the ultimate end result is the same for the mammal.
Yet, activists apparently think it’s okay for their culture to take a marine mammal because it‘s in their way, but not okay for American Indians to take one for their cultural and traditional sustenance purposes. I would certainly call this a racist inspired program. The continued denial that the indigenous people of this continent have no “traditional cultural” rights also strengthens this picture. The concept of western society being superior to the Native American is not dead.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The writer’s position shows that many who oppose the gathering of marine mammals for sustenance have little or no knowledge of the various indigenous cultures. Using the argument given, it can also said that there should also be no rights for the white culture to exist at all. Who is really the dishonorable party? Who lied and broke treaties, who stole land, who spread diseases, who attempted in every way imaginable to completely destroy the indigenous population?
Using the same argument, does the city of Seattle really deserve to exist? The Strait of Juan de Fuca leads to Seattle, Tacoma and Cherry Point (a petroleum reﬁnery), as well as Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. The biggest threat facing whales is collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear. Fatal ship strikes are increasing as the number of ships serving these ports increase. Pull down these cities, and other cities with a population that consumes the supplies transported by the ships, then there will be no ships to strike the whales. This is a rather outrageous suggestion and scenario, but no more outrageous than the one presented towards the Makah and other Native American peoples. Of course, an added bonus of ending the European occupation of the area would include the end of all the ills that are associated with the occupation - crime, pollution, destruction of wildlife habitat, and so forth.
That the whale struck by Johnson was lost is unfortunate, but the loss of whales after striking is no different than the loss of any other game - deer, moose, caribou, mountain sheep, and fowl. During the period 2002-2006, 38 whales internationally were struck and lost. Not being there and knowing the exact circumstances, I doubt that few of us can make a valid comment on why the whale was lost or be able to present a valid condemnation. I can speak with my own experience of living 35 years in the arctic and sub-arctic and hunting with my in-laws, there are times when a marine mammal does sink before it can be salvaged. I can assure you that such things are not taken lightly and causes disconcert amongst the hunters.
Whales might be “intelligent, sensitive mammals who have done us no harm“, but what animal or bird used in the human food chain is not intelligent or sensitive to various extents? How many do us harm? There are even those who believe that plants have a degree of primitive intelligence and have “feelings”. Using this as a quotient for condemning the Makah whale hunt holds no water.
Before any activist starts raising the flag of holier than thou morality, perhaps they should first look at their own spiritual self - or lack of. Indigenous peoples are tied spiritually to the animals that they hunt. This spirituality drives everything from the preparation for the hunt to the final deposition of the animal. The rites and ceremonies before, during, and after the hunt have sustained the Makah for over 2,000 years and cannot be swept aside by those who lack the spirituality to understand such things.
The Makah whale hunt contributes to a healthy lifestyle for the people and increases pride in being a Makah. The Makah are still reeling under the repression, disruption, and eradication of their entire cultural and social institution caused by the U.S. government and European interlopers. The activist organizations aligned against the hunt are a continuation of past wrongs. The ability of the Makah to resume their hunting will contribute to the decrease of substance abuse, teenage pregnancies, an increasing juvenile crime rate, high school drop out rates, and other ills faced by the Tribe.
Let me address one other important aspect of the whale hunt that few understand. The American Indian people are generally considered to be one the unhealthiest populations living within the United States. Diabetes, for example, is 234% more prevalent among American Indian people than in all other U.S. ethnic groups. To take this further, American Indians have the highest rate of diabetes in the world. The biggest contributor to the problems of certain systemic illnesses such as diabetes and obesity is linked to food and nutrition. The introduction of western foods such as refined sugar, flour, and lard - first in the form of annuities and supplies - has had a negative effect on the health of the American Indian and Alaskan Native.
Studies on the link between genetics and nutrition related illness (nutrigenomics) shows that discrete populations such as the Makah and other indigenous peoples evolve a genetic code that is uniquely suited to a particular environment and its food resources. This genetic code regulates the biochemical processes in the body that produce enzymes, proteins, fatty acids, and thousands of other chemicals which function within the human body. The largest of these studies focused on the Pima Indians of Arizona, whose traditional diet and lifestyle was disrupted by western expansion of European immigrants around 200 years ago.
In short, the genetic makeup of the various indigenous peoples does not accommodate the trash foods of western culture. I personally can confirm this through observation of elderly Yupik and Inuit friends and family who become ill when denied their traditional subsistence diet for even a short time. The younger generations also suffer nutritional related problems. The allowance of the Makah to resume their hunt for a traditional food will help alleviate this.
Finally, lets look at the anti-American Indian organizations themselves that are aligned against the whale hunt. The activist organizations sticking their noses into Makah cultural business are multi-million dollar 501(c)(3) non-profits. They live off of the emotions of thousands who donate to them. The Animal Welfare Institute raked in over five million dollars in 2006. Watson’s Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the baby of the bunch when taking in the money, but it raked in over two and a half million in 2006. Watson pays himself $80,000 a year, plus another $3,687 in extra benefits. Challenging the Makah is just another way for these organizations to increase their profits.
The news article included in the comment by “Anonymous” is a prime example of the general media’s negative attitude towards Native Americans (unless they are writing about a fabricated wannabe “tribe”). The article is far from balanced and is pointedly anti-Makah. It does support my contention that activists will be swarming out of the woodwork like cockroaches to outweigh rational thought in attempt to sway NOAA’s public hearings on the Makah hunt. Should they be allowed to succeed, count one more nail driven into the coffin of the continued existence of the American Indian people.
I fully reject, without whimpering, the anti-Indian position put forth by “Anonymous”.
Monday, May 19, 2008
By the late 1700’s, thousands of tribal members had died from epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza and whooping cough that had been introduced by Europeans. Continuing outbreaks of smallpox in 1852 further diminished the southernmost Makah villages. Realizing that their hunting and land rights had to be protected from the onslaught of Europeans and the United States government, 42 Makah leaders signed a treaty with the government on 31 January, 1855. Known as the Treaty of Neah Bay, the treaty specifically allowed the Makah to retain their traditional hunting and fishing practices in exchange for 300,000 acres that were ceded to the government. At the same time, the Makah continued to resist assimilation attempts by the government, Indian agents, missionaries, and educators. They suffered under federal laws against potlatches, ceremonies, and speaking the Makah language (a member of the Wakashan language family).
Although the Treaty of Neah Bay allowed the Makah to continue their whaling, the environmentally conscious Makah voluntarily suspended their whale hunts in 1920 when international commercial whaling decimated the Eastern North Pacific gray whale population. This was a full 26 years before the International Whaling Commission was established and the gray whale bans that followed. It was a full 50 years before gray whales were listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Conservation Act. The actions of the Makah alone, long before any agency, represent their concern over the existence of the gray whale as part of their traditional culture.
The Eastern North Pacific gray whales were removed from the Federal Endangered Species List on 16 June, 1994. The following year, on 5 May, 1995, the Makah formally notified the U.S. government of their interest in resuming their treaty subsistence and ceremonial rights in taking gray whales. They asked that the government represent the tribe in seeking an annual quota from the International Whaling Commission. In 1998, the District Court for the Western District of Washington granted a judgment through NOAA Fisheries that the Makah could resume whaling, and in 1999 the Makah landed a gray whale. Immediately following were a series of reversals and denials of wavers submitted by the Makah, which still affect the ability of the Makah to resume their cultural practices today.
It’s important to note that while the Makah have been prevented by the U.S. government from harvesting the gray whale, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling recognizes aboriginal whaling as a category distinct from commercial whaling and exempt from the current moratorium on commercial whaling. The ICRW specifically states that the International Whaling Commission may not allocate specific quotas to any particular nationality or group of whalers. Because of this prohibition, the IWC sets an overall aboriginal subsistence harvest for the relevant stock, based on the request of Contracting Governments on behalf of aboriginal hunters. In the case of the Makah, this is the U.S. government.
The major adversaries aligned against the Makah in the attempt to resume their traditional and ceremonial whaling hunt are numerous environmental organizations. These include organizations such as the Animal Welfare Institute, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Church of the Earth, Prince of Whales, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Humane Society of the United States. Besides filing court cases against the Makah, activists continue their rhetoric such as “I don't believe all traditions should be respected. If they don't need the meat, then why don't they just go out and touch the whale? If this need is truly spiritual, then why should the remedy be nutritional?"
Activists threaten the hunt by blocking canoes, scaring whales, and threatening Makah whalers. The Sea Shepard Conservation Society has used the massive 180 foot length and 687 ton enforcement ship, “Ocean Warrior“, with a one inch thick riveted steel hull ; a former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, the Sirenian; and a 6-ton submarine, the Mirage, to disrupt the hunt. The media also gets into the act, hovering around the hunt in order to send pictures of dead whales around the world and spread misinformation about Makah cultural practices. For example, the media has called the single shot high powered 50- caliber rifle that is used along with the thrust of the harpoon to kill the whale more humanely a “machine-gun”.
All of this is another case of non-Indians knowing what is better for the Indian than the Indians themselves. This is also in despite of the fact that the Makah were the first to realize and act upon the decline of the gray whale because of commercial whaling, and despite that fact that the Makah have created their own Marine Mammal Management Program into its Fisheries Management Office. The Tribe has a full-time, permanent marine mammal biologist, who conducts research and coordinates management efforts with local and national organizations such as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Tribe’s Marine Mammal program has also made important contributions to international efforts to protect and manage whale populations worldwide.
The Makah are not seeking to strike and land an unlimited number of gray whales. They are requesting to be allowed to take five whales a year, one whale for each of the five traditional Makah villages which were consolidated during the early years of the treaty reservation. They have more than shown their ability to be involved in the management of it’s resources for over a thousand years, and their ability to maintain a functional balance with the gray and humpback whales.
Yet, the tremendous pressures brought forth by national and international environmental and animal rights organizations prevents them from doing so.
Fortunately, the public has a chance to remedy this wrong that is being done to the Makah. The National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA is holding hearings on a draft environmental impact statement that addresses the Tribe’s request to resume hunting for ceremonial and subsistence purposes. Based on hearing results, the NMFS will decide whether to issue a permit to the tribe. A similar permit has been granted to several Alaskan Native villages, which don't have a treaty protecting their hunt.
Hearings are to be held 28 May , 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. at the Vern Burton Memorial Community Center, 308 East 4th St., Port Angeles, Washington; 2 June, 2008, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m., Lake Union Park Armory-Great Hall, 860 Terry Ave. North, Seattle, Washington; and 5 June, 2008, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., NOAA Auditorium, 1301 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland.
It’s guaranteed that the environmental and animal activist groups will flood the hearings with an orchestrated full blown attack on the Makah. The call has gone out for a massive response to the comment period in order to derail any positive results for the Tribe. While environmental concerns must be met, they cannot be allowed to override either common sense or the well being of American Indians. Nor can they be allowed to arbitrarily disregard a formal treaty between a Tribe and the U.S. government.
The requested five whales a year will have little impact on the current gray whale estimated population of between 20,000 and 26,000. It is also far below the allotted quota of 620 gray whales over a five year period that is given to the Chukotka people of Russia, on the behest of the Russian government’s request to the IWC. Nor does it begin to touch the number of gray whales that die yearly, many of starvation.
Those, both Indian and non-Indian alike, who have a concern in the preservation of American Indian cultures and the spiritual and physical well being of American Indians need to respond to the chance to support the Makah people. Written comments by e-mail or letter should be sent to arrive before the 8 July deadline.
Submit written comments to: Steve Stone, NOAA Fisheries Northwest Region, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232. Comments may also be submitted via fax, 503-230-5441, Attn: 2008 Makah DEIS. E-mail comments should have the subject line of “2008 Makah DEIS” and may be sent to: MakahDEIS.firstname.lastname@example.org
Should we fail to respond in support of the Makah, we also fail in helping to repair failed treaties and the strengthening of the American Indian peoples - both physically and in spirit. We cannot allow big money environmental and animal activist organizations to control what the American Indian can or cannot do. The U.S. government does enough of that already.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The recent exposure by the Comanche Nation of Dr. Raymond Pierotti, Associate Professor of Indigenous Nations Studies and Biological/Environmental Studies at the University of Kansas, should remind us that Ward Churchill’s past dismissal from the University of Colorado did not end the saga of ethnic fraud in university faculties across the land.
Pierotti has continuously claimed to be Comanche during his tenure at the University, which began in 1992. Such a claim gave him an advantage in both hiring and personnel actions within the University. His claim as a member of the Comanche Nation was also made in association with receiving the title of the Tribal College/University Mentor of the Year in 1998, presented by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). His ethnic ploys while at the University are numerous, including an article published in the Journal of American Indian Education. At one point he was involved in the $400,000 solicitation for a documentary he was involved in, “Powwow for the Planet”. The website soliciting the funds described Poerotti as “a Penateka Band Comanche and one of a very few tenured Native American scientists in U.S. universities.”
Comanche students and teachers from both KU and Haskell first complained about Pierotti’s claims several years ago, but the University ignored the complaints. The Comanche Nation wrote the University in 2006 with their official tribal complaint. Still, the University chose to ignore the fact that they had an Indian imposter in the faculty. The Comanche Nation Business Committee sent another letter to the University on 2 January, 2008. Signed by eight tribal leaders, the letter included the following:
“The Comanche Nation is the only entity that can determine Comanche Nation citizenship. Pierotti’s self-identification as Comanche and the University of Kansas’ lack of effort to substantiate his claims shows disrespect to our tribal sovereignty and is an affront to the legitimate Comanche people. In essence, he is benefiting professionally and financially from unsubstantiated claims of Comanche identity for which the exclusive criterion is tribal enrollment.”
Finally, the University is acknowledging the complaints. As this is still in the initial stages, the final outcome is unknown. I suspect that we will see a re-run of Ward Churchill’s denials and acclamations. Pierotti, as did Churchill, has his own supporters with flawed logic.
Universities nationwide are laden with self-identified “Indian” professors who partake in ethnic fraud. By 2003, the situation had become so all-pervasive that the Association of American Indian and Alaska Native Professors issued a statement to address the problem. The association’s statement includes the recommendation that colleges and universities require documentation of tribal enrollment for those applicant professors claiming to be American Indian, and to include existing American Indian/Alaska Native faculty in the selection process.
After becoming concerned with “box checkers”, in 2007 the National Native Bar Association also made their own resolution concerning individuals lying about being Native American on university applications. Their guidelines are directed toward universities and colleges, which - like the AAIANP’s - are encouraged to require individuals who identify as Native American to provide information that will support their claims. Remember this as you continue to read this comment.
Even after exposure as frauds, many professors continue to rake in a small fortune based on their “tribal” claims. A prime example is the one time psychology professor of Evergreen State College, Terry Tafoya. He continues to rake in thousands of dollars per speaking engagements on mental health issues - complete in costume, with drum, long black (dyed) braids and stories of Indian mythology. This is despite the fact that Tafoya has falsified receiving a PhD (he has a Master’s from the University of Washington), and has lied about being an enrolled member of the Taos Pueblo. After it became known that Tafoya never received a PhD from UW, which he originally claimed, he tried to cover himself by saying that he had an “honorary PhD from the University of Alberta - which university officials there deny
Tafoya during a speaking engagement. Amazingly, legitimate American Indian organizations pay this guy large sums for speaking engagements and to work with tribal members.
While most Native American studies are taught by excellent professors, Indian and non-Indian alike, students would be well advised to thoroughly investigate the professor and the program before spending scarce funds and valuable time. There are some which should be met with great skepticism.
The insertion of concern by the National Native American Bar Association is worthy up to a point. The issue as they present it -Stop Academic Ethnicity Fraud/”Box-Checking” - certainly needs to be addressed. But, the NNABA’s approach to this can be likened to a doctor who is unable to heal himself or herself - yet tries to heal others. The NNABA’s own regular membership and associate membership requirements are sloppy. Both open memberships to: “All persons who are enrolled members of any Indian tribe or band, …….”
Note that this does not specify “any federally recognized tribe“, or even include “state” recognized tribes. The requirement of “any Indian tribe or band” leaves the door wide open. The consequences of this is that the NNABA has a questionable membership that includes individuals who are members of so-called “tribes” which are actually non-profit organizations of questionable history or validity as a tribe.
The current membership list on NNABA’s website is under construction, but the names and tribal affiliation of members can be accessed through older lists. This includes inviduals who belong to groups such as the Kispoko Sept of Ohio Shawnee, the Southern Cherokee Nation, and the Northern Cherokee Nation.
Accepting membership of attorneys with no valid tribal connection is no different than Universities which employ fake Indians as part of a faculty. Both actions commit fraud upon the public. As with universities, the NNABA should check their applicants for tribal affiliation, plus the validity of a tribe that a potential member claims to belong to. Hopefully, the NNABA will correct this in the near future. In the meanwhile, those who seek to hire a Native American attorney based on NNABA membership should follow the concept of caveat emptor.
Friday, May 2, 2008
The same misrepresentations can also creep into university and college Native American studies, such as at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
If a person can stand back for a moment and try to disregard the extreme damage fake tribes, pretend “Indian Chiefs”, and wannabe Indian professors do during their presentations, these can also be quite humorous. Two examples follow.
Pupils at the Ortona Elementary School in Daytona Beach, Florida, were given this entertaining impression of Cherokee Indians that was delivered during a 2004 Thanksgiving program “dispelling myths” that was given by “Chief Little Red Wolf” of the “Indian Creek Band of the Chickamauga Creek and Cherokee" located in Florida.
Perhaps the very best and most endearing photo I have ever seen is this one. This guy is part of Manataka’s “Bear Society of Arkansas“. His costume reminds me of a Teddy Bear I once has as a child. I couldn’t help myself from bursting out in laughter when I first saw it.
As ridiculous as some of the actions and presentations given by pretenders might seem, these folks are dead serious when creating their own brand of Indian traditions and history. School educators and the general public are often ill equipped to be able to discern truth from fiction. While presentations can be quite humorous to those who know better, they also contain an element that is deadly to the American Indian.