black eagle

May 21, 2008 at 4:57 pm (aboriginal, anti-racism)

I am not sure how i feel about barack’s ‘native name’.  I am even less sure how I feel about the reporting in this article.  it sounds like a caricature.   With all the stereotypes of native communities.  feathers, headresses, banging drums, and the ‘dancing with wolves’ adoption.  What other ways could the reporter have told the story?  Ways that center the Crow Nation.  That center the relationship that this nation has Barack?  The commonalities that they perceive and share?

By Jeff Mason in Montana

May 20, 2008 11:00am

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama became an honorary member of a native American tribe today and promised policies to help tribal people if he wins the White House in November.

The Illinois senator who is leading rival Hillary Clinton in their race for the party’s presidential nomination, joined the Crow Nation, a tribe of some 12,100 members in Montana, taking on a native name and honorary parents in a traditional ceremony.

Obama, who would be the first black US president, was “adopted” by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle and given a name which means “one who helps all people of this land”.

“I was just adopted into the tribe, so I’m still working on my pronunciation,” Senator Obama told a crowd after stumbling over some of the native names.

“I like my new name, Barack Black Eagle,” he said. “That is a good name.”


Many in the audience wore traditional feather headdresses and some banged drums ahead of Senator Obama’s visit, the first by a presidential candidate to the Crow Nation.

Senator Obama held rallies throughout Montana, which holds its primary election on June 3.

The state is home to some 60,000 American Indians, making them a key swing vote, according to Dale Old Horn, 62, a spokesman for the Crow Nation.

Senator Obama said he would appoint a Native American adviser to his senior White House staff if he won and would work on providing better health care and education to reservations across the country.

“Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, the first Americans,” Senator Obama said.

Mr Old Horn said the tribal members related to Senator Obama because of his background.

“His heritage of being poor, of being an outsider, you know those two things are the commonalities that he has with us,” he said.

“We’ve always been treated like outsiders when it comes to government policy. In addition to that, we all grew up poor.”

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the power of looking

March 22, 2008 at 7:11 am (aboriginal, chiapas)

the tourists have invaded for the past week and in our humble posada there is not a habitacion left. today we watched jesus being dragged through the street being whipped…

spring is coming over the mountains. chilly nights. it rained yesterday and the temperature dropped into the bones…

some of the things i love and critique about san cristobal: the youth culture here. how it embraces (and exoticizes) its afro-links…afro-cubano, afro-colombiano. the music latino hiphop and reggae. how they lean and embrace the natural beauty of themselves, the crazy mix of cultures born out of slavery colonization voluntary migration…how timeless and influx it feels…

how middle aged couples cuddle in bars and are in love and showing that love that physical love

how tourism runs the economy here

indigenous women their babies slung on their backs wrapped in bright colored rebozos selling bright colored rebozos to tourists.

little children with black plastic shoes carrying hand made belts and bracelets run through the streets laughing steely eyed hawking their wares

how some moments it feels like everyone has something to sell…

the huge ornate churches built to impress and yet it is their dark corners where i can actually imagine mary praying

how mayan spirituality is for sale and mayan zapatista politics is for sale and mayan art culture is for sale and yet the maya are not for sale and how do they keep themselves from being on the market as another commodity?

how everyone comes wanting something from the maya and think that their pesos should cover the cost…

walking into the chamula church and trying to convince myself that it was okay to stare at women praying and not understanding if this was a show they were putting on for the over hundred toursits with their khaki shorts and cameras or if they just didnt see us or if they saw us as being part of the landscape of the church like flies hovering over the candles or if we were disturbing them but they didnt have an economic choice anymore or…and just needing to leave cause in my heart i couldnt watch them pray without denying them some measure of their dignity…

and then talking to others about it and they praised the people in the church. and didnt imagine that tourist were disturbing at all.

and living in a house here, where the owner gave tours of the house and quickly realizing that i and my daughter and our friends were part of the tour and tolerating it and laughing at it and being annoyed by it and hoping that the tours would go away. but also realizing that it was partially that we were interesting to watch was why we were allowed to live there.

and the realization that i came to one day as i was walking through the streets, feeling stared at, that everyone stares at everyone and i had every right to stare back and so i started looking at whatever i wanted for a few minutes (feeling incredibly rude and liberated) and that to look to see is powerful and that to some i am an object and to others a subject.  and that whether or not i am an object or a subject is not solely dependent on the intention of the viewer (for what do i know of others’ intention?) but on the relationship that is created between my look and theirs.   whether or not i want a relationship, or engage the look, and whether they insist upon looking without reading my eyes, my body, my walk.

and how once i was walking in the centro and three guys walked passed me calling : negra at me and i called back : hijo de puta.  and they hung their heads slightly and walked faster out of my sight.

and how foreign white women they kinda shrug their shoulders when i talk about all the extra attention as if they think i might be exaggerating or that if i am going to travel i should get used to it.  as if i should know how strange and exotic i am and maybe i should feel lucky to get extra attention.  or better said: they shrug their shoulders as if to say: its not my fault.  i dont see you that way.  and i cant do anything about how others treat you.

and i hope that my look says back to that shrug: i am not the one playing victim– you are.

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im sorry

March 18, 2008 at 4:26 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression, anti-racism)

all opposed to indigenous rights say im sorry

In the last month, two of the four States that opposed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People issued “apology resolutions” for the historical crimes they committed against indigenous people. First it was Australia on February 13th; and then America threw up an apology of it’s own a couple weeks later, on March 1st.

It’s particularly interesting considering how both States continue to utilize the very same policies they claim to be so sorry about. Or perhaps, that’s not why they’re apologizing?

The Australian Apology

Focusing primarily on the “Stolen Generations,” this apology came as the first official act of the recently elected Prime Minister of Australia. It seems to have been relatively well received by indigenous and non-indigenous alike, however it’s been repeatedly stated that any such words must be followed by actions otherwise the apology has no real meaning. Most people are saying the People should be financially compensated; but I for one think a political overhaul is what’s really needed.

As for the apology (video) itself, one couldn’t help but notice the glaring omission of the word GENOCIDE… Adopting Canada’s residential school system, that is precisely what the government committed against the Traditional People of Australia.

It was also impossible to ignore how, before and after the apology, the Government was fully engaged in the “Intervention scheme.” I’m sure you’re familiar with it by now. By all intents and purposes the intervention follows the exact same model used to create the stolen generation.

And did you know the intervention is being presently expanded? WSWS elaborates:

When the Rudd government made a formal apology to the Aboriginal “stolen generations” on February 13, the WSWS warned that all those hailing the apology as a step toward rectifying the historic crimes committed against the indigenous people were carrying out a monstrous deception. We cited the old maxim that when the ruling class apologises for past crimes, it is only in order to better commit those of the present. (See: “Australian federal parliament’s ‘sorry’ resolution: the real agenda”)

On February 27, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin delivered a speech to the National Press Club that confirmed the necessity for that warning. Macklin announced that the two central thrusts of the former Howard government’s police-military intervention against Northern Territory (NT) indigenous townships and camps will be expanded, with slight variations. She outlined plans to extend the “quarantining”, or partial seizure, of welfare payments from the NT to Western Australia, and introduce new means for overturning communal land title to make way for private ownership.

Is this “the new relationship” Rudd was talking about in the sorry speech? If so, then what was the apology if not an epochal farce, perhaps aimed at appeasing the malcontent while lifting the guilt carried by sorry white Australia?

Oops, sorry about that. But I think it’s doubly so (a farce) considering how the logic and intent that carries the intervention–and that fueled the stolen generation–has now become attached to every day Australia. I am now constantly running into reports that talk about the need to take more, stronger measures against indigenous people.

The American Apology

Piggy-backing a health care bill that was approved by the Senate on March 1, the American Apology (pdf) is much the same as the Australian counterpart— though seems to covers a host of different policies (as in ‘deliberately committed atrocities with the expressed intent of committing genocide’) rather than just one.

Shortly after it was approved, Brenda Norrell had an interview with Jimbo Simmons, coordinator of the ongoing 2nd Longest walk . Simmons explained the apology, which practically came out of nowhere,

[… ] is directed at the IRA Indian tribal governments or “puppet governments,” organized under the Indian Reorganization Act, which have caused so much suffering for Indian people.

Simmons said the apology should go to the original treaty signers. His comments were made on the Longest Walk Northern Route’s live broadcast on on Monday morning, March 3.

Simmons pointed out that when the original Longest Walk was making its way across the United States in 1978, a similar diversion was created to diffuse the impact of the walk at that time. Indian representatives came out and told the Long Walkers that their walk was not necessary because the anti-Indian legislation underway would be defeated without their march into Washington.

Now, 30 years later, another effort is underway to diffuse the impact of this Longest Walk.

“The United ‘Snakes’ of America thinks this would be enough for us,” Simmons said. “There are still problems across Indian country. We’re talking much more than just treaty rights.

“It goes beyond human rights and civil rights, we are talking about our natural rights since the beginning of time.

“Our traditional and spiritual leaders have been silenced for so long. The apology should be directed to them.”

Simmons said the IRA Indian tribal governments created by the United States are “puppet governments” which are “victimizing our people.”

“They continue to perpetuate the bureaucracy in Indian country.” [Many also exploit their own People. See for examples]

Regarding the point of the apology being a distraction, that certainly seems to be the case with the Australian Apology as well. And as for the “IRA tribal governments” (which are organized like sub-states within the Westphalian system of States), the fact is the United States Government is doing the exact same thing. Sure, their present-day policies are nowhere near as brutal as they once were, but the fact is they continue to diminish and infringe upon Indigenous Nations and they continue to neglect their treaty obligations ad nauseum.

The International Indian Treaty Council’s Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report, prepared last January (which the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently responded to), provides numerous examples of this. The report mentions situations involving the Goshute, Shoshone, Lakota, Navajo, Winnemmem Wintu, and the Peoples of Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii, among others. Off the top of my head, I could also add the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, the Apache, The Onondaga, and the Peoples of Colombia.

As heartfelt as the American Apology maybe, in the face of American policy and practice it is no less than an insult to the millions that were raped, burned, scalped, mutilated and killed en masse for doing nothing wrong.

The Politics of Saying Sorry

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, Apologies began in the mid 16th century as a formal legal defense against an accusation. While in some circumstances they are still used like that, an apology has come to have several uses in ‘western’ culture.

We use them to sympathize with others, to express regret, to console our friends for a loss. We use them to take responsibility for doing things we had no control over (like farting or dropping a cup of juice), to absolve ourselves from taking responsibility (like a man who beats his wife), to punish ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, and to a lesser extent, to mark a fundamental change in the way we live.

Sometimes they’re even used to make others feel ashamed, like the Church did in their apology to the Indigenous People of Australia in 2001. ‘Sorry for doing nothing wrong’, it reads (which is as if to say the People should be sorry the Church failed).

Most of us would never methodically plan out or twist an apology like that—nevertheless they almost always serve as devices to control or redirect a moment. This is especially true for political apologies and those issued on behalf of institutions like the Church.

For example, from 1947-onward, Priests in Canada began apologizing for 5 generations of physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, linguistic and cultural terrorism they and their Churches practiced against Indigenous Children. Some of the apologies were powerful, genuine pleas for forgiveness—but at the same time, many of them read as if they were attempts to absolve the Church. ‘Now let’s just put it all behind us, ok?’

Well I’m sorry, but that’s not gonna happen until all the Churches empirically prove they are not what they were before, during, and after the Residential School Era (which lasted from 1840 to 1970)

To do that, and to get any real sense of forgiveness, the Church must take steps (as outsiders) to replace the historical violence with supportive efforts that help restore the individuals, families, communities, and Nations they disrupted, dispossessed and destroyed. I speak here of Justice.

There are thousands of different things the Church could do—the most important of which would be to leave every single Indigenous Community. I would even go so far as to say all members of any church should be banished from Indigenous lands until they earn the right to return as friends and equals.

This is justice in my eyes. Never mind this financial compensation nonsense because money adds fuel to the fire burning inside Indigenous People because of what Residential Schools did. Why do you think there’s such a big problem with alcohol and substance abuse? Why do you think so many youth today are severely depressed and committing suicide? Why do you think there’s so much poverty and self loathing? Canada is a major part of that, of course, but for those recent 5 generations, the Church was instrumental in advancing Canada’s lofty dream of breaking Indigenous People.

How in the universe is a few thousand bucks going to help with this? Is buying a new tv and a couple pair of socks going to make everything alright? hardly.

When it comes to States, the kind of Justice I speak of must result in no less than policy change. That means altering the way they interact with Indigenous Nations (stopping land encroachment, fulfilling treaty obligations, etc) and making every necessary accommodation to correct history…. This could start, for example, by having every school textbook recalled and replaced with new ones (that indigenous People approve of). I say this especially because violence and subjugation of Indigenous People became a part of Western Culture. It was encouraged, promoted, rewarded, and then made into riveting stories of triumph for sleepy white kids.


Overall, a word cannot undo an action, be it a kick to the chins or a 500-year genocidal assault against a People. An apology can, however, help mark out a framework that can heal us in the present while empowering future generations so they do not augment the ‘mistakes’ of the past.

No Church or State will take steps toward this, so then we are left alone with a word that we can either scathingly reject, or use to help rid ourselves of the burden that’s not ours to carry.

It’s a disappointing truth, but one that echoes far beyond the words “I’m sorry.”


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why we banned legos

March 1, 2008 at 12:31 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression, anti-racism, chiapas, women of color) (, , )   The Movement

for some reason my ability to create links is disabled…damn you wordpress!!!

We had an initial conversation with the children about our decision. “We’re concerned about what was happening in Legotown, with some kids feeling left out and other kids feeling in charge,” Kendra explained. “We don’t want to rebuild Legotown and go back to how things were. Instead, we want to figure out with you a way to build a Legotown that’s fair to all the kids.”

Naturally the children had big feelings and strong opinions to share. During that first day’s discussion, they laid out the big issues that we would pursue over the months to come.

Several times in the discussion, children made reference to “giving” Lego pieces to other children. Kendra pointed out the understanding behind this language: “When you say that some kids ‘gave’ pieces to other kids, that sounds like there are some kids who have most of the power in Legotown — power to decide what pieces kids can use and where they can build.” Kendra’s comment sparked an outcry by Lukas and Carl, two central figures in Legotown:

Carl: “We didn’t ‘give’ the pieces, we found and shared them.”

Lukas: “It’s like giving to charity.”

Carl: “I don’t agree with using words like ‘gave.’ Because when someone wants to move in, we find them a platform and bricks and we build them a house and find them windows and a door.”

These children seemed to squirm at the implications of privilege, wealth, and power that “giving” holds. The children denied their power, framing it as benign and neutral, not something actively sought out and maintained. This early conversation helped us see more clearly the children’s contradictory thinking about power and authority, laying the groundwork for later exploration.

really interesting article about power privilege ownership authority etc. what i find most interesting is the way that the kids at several points construct their own and others power in much the same way that i hear adults/friends/relatives do even though they are much older…and, thus should know better….for instance the way that one of the powerful kids describes that he gave to the younger kids…’like charity’. in which he understands very clearly what giving to charity is (and why i have a high critique of charity-world in a capitalistic system).

and how even at that young age, the powered children are very defensive and in denial that they had more power than others. or that this power may not have been deserved or may have been yielded unfairly. or that the very act of giving can be so disempowering to those to whom you give..

even more so i am interested right now in how do we own something? what makes us an owner legitimately? and what does that ownership entitle us to do? does the ownership of something mean that you can then make up the rules for its use?

for instance, if i own a lego and you own a house…who in the end determines what i get to do with my lego? how much agency do i have, if you can tell me where to put the lego on your house?

i am thinking of this in terms of andrea smith’s book: conquest. about indigenous women and communities and the anti-violence movement. in which she says that all knowledge is not knowable. in other words, simply because someone knows something and has shared this knowledge with you does not mean that you can do whatever you want with this knowledge. you do not own the knowledge in the sense that you have rights or freedoms that come with this knowledge. instead we can think of this as a series of obligations that this knowledge sets upon you. for instance perhaps you can only use this knowledge and share this knowledge in ways that the person who shared this knowledge with you intended.

so lets think about these ideas of intellectual property and how the very knowledge that is gathered stolen from indigenous communities is then used as a weapon to disempower those same communities by denying access to the communities to that which the communities shared with outsiders.

my partner and i were talking today (about christianity) and i said that i thought that we need to stop imagining that we can be omniscient. that the mistakes and oppressions that we commit are not committed because we do not know the right thing to do or the right thing to say, they are committed because we imagine strive for a place a state of being in which we always know the right thing to do or the right thing to say. a state in which we know the right thing to give at the right time. it is this striving to be omniscient or to be as close to omniscient as possible. and the more omniscient we become, the more omnipotent we can act. that white people (in particular) do not need to cast off the erroneous dominant history and take on (know, own) another more accurate and holistic history and make it the dominant paradigm (this better more accurate history making white people even more omniscient) , white people need to stop trying to ‘know’ what is the ‘correct’ history. all knowledge is not knowable.

instead we can come to a place where we deconstruct the dominant history de-legitimize it and then sit in the uncomfortable place of not-knowing. but i can hear you resisting (ah, white folks i know you…i really know you…) asking yourselves: but what would that accomplish? what would be the point of not-knowing? isnt that just giving up and doing nothing?

well, first you would get a teensy experience of how the rest of us live our lives, those of us who are side notes, blips on the screen of dominant history (sidenote: yesterday i once again spent a few minutes answering the questions of where my people were from. answering: from the u.s. is just me teasing them, because i know they are about to ask where my parents and grandparents are from. so i launch into the memorized speech about the descendants of slaves and then he looks me and says: but what about the rest of your family? where are they from? and i talk about 500 years of history and the intermingling of the indigenous and africans…and then he says: so you dont know where they are from? only from the states? this is a conversation you have constantly when you are a sidenote to history) so that we learn histories that cause cognitive dissonance in and of themselves, histories that we cannot relate to, histories that we know to be wrong and yet do not have an alternative history which is acceptable to mainstream society for no other reason than that it is not the dominant history. (ahh…the tautologies of my private and public school education!) and we sit in that (spiritual?) place of not-knowing, of disconnected realities, of uncertainty of our place in the world and we have to act daily. survival compels us. since we were not meant to survive and have. and that is our history.

second, learning to act when you are no longer striving towards omniscience and omnipotence is well, ashe. and even sometimes helpful. i am not just talking about learning how to blithely shrug off responsibility (the ability to respond) with ‘i dont know’. that is copping out. (and i do it all the time) but acting in such a way as to realize that the knowledge that we have can only be utilized in ways that the giver of that knowledge intended and requested. that our primary obligation is to see that knowledge as an obligation between giver and givee and not a right to share or use this knowledge as we see fit.

andrea smith poses these types of questions in her essay: spiritual appropriation as sexual violence. in which she looks at spiritual appropriation through the lens of ‘to know’ in the biblical sense is to have ‘sexual intimacy with’.

so what does it mean to ‘know’ something is that a way to ‘own’ something? and if we ‘own’ it does it mean that we can do what we want with it. (yes, i am asking even those of you who claim to mean well…i mean everyone intends well, means to do the right thing…which is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions…)

can we act, not because we know the right things, the right histories, the right perspectives, but because we have obligations/responsibilities/relationships/rightness (rather than right knowledge) to those who came before us, to those spiritual practices which sustain our survival, to those peoples and communities who have knowledge that we should never know?

and how do we own what we own? and when is it ours? and where do we keep that knowledge? and what do we plan to do with it?

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marcia langton’s wilderness

November 14, 2006 at 6:51 am (aboriginal, anti-oppression)

In a celebrated critique of the white Australian concept of “wilderness”, Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton has said that this denial of the occupation of such landscapes by the indigenous people for thousands of years represents a continuation of the terra nullius myth that was used to justify a ruthless pattern of colonisation. The conceptual separation of bush that should be preserved from human culture is, hence, a legacy of colonialism or, if you like, a frontier mentality.

…but it is just so natural…

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Blakk Indian realities

September 16, 2006 at 4:11 pm (aboriginal, anti-racism, racism)

The following is an excerpt from the book “Understanding The Connections between Black and Aboriginal Peoples”

The Blakk Indian Hiphop Connection and modern day Blakk Indian realities (Toronto, San Francisco)

I broke up the long bus journey to Berkeley with a short stop in Washington State. There I hooked up with Pablo B an aboriginal filmmaker, traditional dancer and a hip hop industrial musician. Music labels especially aboriginal companies rejected his work because they found it strange that an aboriginal kid would be composing industrial music mixed with hip-hop.

That night Pablo and a Black anarchist friend jammed in his living room. I watched as they created a new track with Pablo rapping as the anarchist quickly scribbled lines for him for a piece that railed against the FBI campaigns against Black and Aboriginal
….Activists like Geronimo Pratt, Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae Aquash. Over raw jagged hip-hop beats Pablo rapped lines that were very pertinent at the time. “State police power increasing every hour, black men shot with their hands held high.”
….The high number of fatal shootings of unarmed black men in Canada and the United States weighed very heavily on people’s minds.
….Frequently during my travels in North America, I

would encounter aboriginal youth who were hip hop fans and rappers who were also heavily influenced by black political figures like the Black Panthers and Malcolm X. Aboriginal rappers like Julian B and his CD “Once Upon A Genocide” and Funkdoobius were just few of the aboriginal rappers emerging at this time. At a Toronto Pow Wow I was blown away by the knowledge of an aboriginal hip-hop designer named Cyril Sunbird who was conversant in radical Black politics.
….As we spoke he revealed to me that his aboriginal father had grown up in the American Deep South. Not having a chapter of the American Indian Movement in his area his father joined the local Black Panther chapter. What can occur when hip-hop radical black politics and conscious aboriginal youth converge was further illustrated by what I witnessed one night on a downtown Toronto street corner.
…. A group of aboriginal youth was hanging out after a concert. Among them was ‘Hip Hop Mohawk.’ We had met after an aboriginal sovereignty meeting. While I was leaving the meeting, I noticed that the person walking beside me was wearing a baseball cap with a beaded Public Enemy insignia on it. I inquired where he got his cap. He responded that he had beaded it himself because he was a long-standing fan of the rap group and hip-hop in general. ‘Hip Hop Mohawk’ (who was indeed from the Mohawk nation) was also well versed in the spiritual practices of Black and Aboriginal people.
….One of the other aboriginal youth present that night was my friend, Sid Bobb. He had been buying Public Enemy records from a very young age. In fact I used to pass on Public Enemy paraphernalia that P.E.’s Chuck D had autographed for Sid. Both of Sid’s parents had been heavily involved in radical aboriginal politics. His mom Lee Maracle used to work with the Black Panthers when they would travel to Vancouver.
….That night after the concert another aboriginal youth whose uncle was a cop started attacking rappers who were against the police. Sid answered him back with one of the most articulate defenses of rappers with anti-police stances that I have ever heard. Sid had no delusions about the police and their role in propping up the status quo regardless of their colour. He understood that often when rappers attacked the police they were also exposing deeper issues of racism and injustice.
…. That night after the concert another aboriginal youth whose uncle was a cop started attacking rappers who were against the police. Sid answered him back with one of the most articulate defenses of rappers with anti-police stances that I have ever heard. Sid had no delusions about the police and their role in propping up the status quo regardless of their colour. He understood that often when rappers attacked the police they were also exposing deeper issues of racism and injustice. Everyone stood quietly in awe as Sid dropped science about this quoting Malcolm X and the Black Panthers in the process.
…. I spoke with Bob Manning a black counselor who does extensive work with aboriginal and black street kids. He provided me with his insights into the affinity aboriginal youth have for hip-hop. According to him there is a great need for aboriginal youth to have that arrogance that black people have on television. Just recently I was in the Squamish nation in British Columbia, I saw a lot of Malcom X shirts and a lot of flap jackets. These were aboriginal kids imitating black kids in ghetto communities that they see out of Detroit television. Aboriginal kids are going through the same things black kids are. A search for identity, the anger, the need to make something that’s theirs -whether its their own name, their own gang its that need to reach out for the extended family, just like black kids try and do. Some end up in gangs, which become their extended family. Aboriginal youth tend to look to black people as a model because black people are the first to come out with that arrogance. It was the same thing in the sixties -when the Black panthers came out other groups like the American Indian Movement started following the Panthers. Some black people are very quick at saying, “Hey we don’t like this and we are going to change it and if you don’t like the changes -fuck you! It’s this arrogance that got black people out of slavery and which stimulated numerous slaves revolts. It’s the attitude of people refusing to be controlled. The need and want to be free. So when an Aboriginal kid in Squamish sees a black kid in Detroit being arrogant, wearing a flap jacket and saying “Hey, this is me and I’m going to get in your face, I’ve had enough of this, I am going to fight right here, I’m going to take a stance. “Aboriginal kids relate to that and more and more are adapting that stance as we witnessed at the standoff at Oka.
…. When I arrived in San Francisco there was intense political activity as people geared up to protest the Gulf War that was about to erupt. I stopped off at the anarchist book store Bound Together Books to meet with anarchist hardcore band M.D.C. in regards to a Blakk Indian project. I left with the brilliant book, Black Wheels of Anger about radical activist, Tom Mooney by the anarchist writer Peter Plate who distributed his books free of charge in the tradition of the Diggers: anonymous radical activist of the sixties who use to hand out free goods to people in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
….I met with Michael Franti who was also preparing to take part in a Gulf War protest. Speaking with Michael was one of the key reasons I had journeyed to Berkeley. We had become acquainted while he was still with his first band, the Beatnigs. Now he was getting ready to launch his new band Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Michael had just recently discovered the fact that he was of Blakk Indian heritage. He introduced me to two Blakk Indian women Amelie Prescott and Akiba Tiamaya. Both had fascinating life stories to speak about.
…. Amelie began by telling me “When I was growing up I was told I was Creole but my parents never spoke what that mixture really was. As a child some people asked me if I was Black. I lived in Maryland in the fifties and there was still a lot of segregation going on but I never took it personally. It was just kind of interesting to me when I got sent to the back of the bus. So my Mom made me wear a little Aboriginal bracelet at the beginning of the summer so I could show I had a tan so I didn’t have to go to the back of the bus or have to go to the coloured bathroom. In the early sixties I was living in San Francisco and teaching a mixed classroom in Sausilitio. I taught a pilot program in Black studies and sex education. For my Black studies course I felt it would be good to have some of the black Panthers I knew come over and talk about the subject. I spoke to them and they agreed. Twice a week they came and taught Black studies. Now, they used to ask me to decide what race I was because there was going to be a revolution and I would have to take sides. They would say ‘Are you Black or White?’ and I would say ‘I’m brown, I’m aboriginal, I’m black, I’m French, I’m a mixture.’ That was my first introduction talking about that because those things weren’t discussed. Aboriginal people weren’t in fashion then’.
….Her encounters with the Black Panthers prompted Amelie to further investigate her Blakk Indian heritage. She began to teach in East Oakland and discovered that a lot of her students were part aboriginal. As she taught about aboriginal ways, parents of students would approach her and say that someone back in their family was aboriginal but it wasn’t something that was spoken about.
….Wondering about this silence prompted Amelie to do some research. What she discovered was the history of escaped slaves going to aboriginal reservations where they would be together and have babies. Then the army could come and say, ‘Everybody out.’ Everyone would go but Blakk Indians had no tribal rights so they couldn’t say, ‘I’m half Choctaw. I’m half this.’ Those tribal rights were gone and that is what the army and government wanted.
…. Amelie stated that during those times “it was very dangerous to be an aboriginal person so if you could pass for Black you didn’t mention you were part aboriginal since you could get killed because of that or have your children taken away to missionary schools. They would often take the children away and put them in white homes. A lot of children who are mixed Black and Aboriginal don’t know. People like Michael Franti who was adopted, didn’t know until I told him and he went and found his birth mother and she told him he was.”
….Amelie’s friend Akiba Tiamaya had some further observations about this according to her. Amelia said aboriginal people were considered nothing so a lot of time they would be in the Black community and hide out there. They were considered black. “A lot of black people today haven’t seen the necessity to come forth. Its like, so what? My grandmother was aboriginal, so what? It wasn’t any big deal”.
….Akiba herself had experienced some difficulties as she tried to reconnect with the aboriginal side of her heritage. At various times she hadn’t felt welcomed in aboriginal communities. A very spiritual person, she was proud of the fact she was a sun dancer but even in that she had to overcome obstacles from aboriginal people. In conversation with me Akiba disclosed something that I have heard echoed by many Blakk Indian people. She said that she had experienced a lot of inner turmoil because in this time when it seemed to her so many people were falsely attaching themselves to aboriginal culture, she didn’t want to be perceived as being part of that bandwagon.
….She was also acutely sensitive to the possibility that aboriginal people might think that she was claiming this part of her ancestry in order to have access to certain economic rights aboriginal people have. Like so many Blakk Indian people I have spoken to, Akiba felt aboriginal people had been so mercilessly exploited that in no way did she want to participate in anything that could possibly further exploit them. As a result many Blakk Indian people are very quiet about the aboriginal side of their heritage.
….After speaking with Amelie and Akiba, Michael and I went to San Francisco where intense preparations were taking place for a massive demonstration against the US. Bombing of Iraq. Accustomed to and aware of the practice of police brutality and the reality of class warfare at demonstrations some activists were practicing their tactics to deal with the police.
….Later that night as Michael and I took part in a gigantic march, we discussed what Amelie and Akiba had spoken to me. As Michael put it to me, “I have tended to identify mostly with being Black because that is predominantly what other people’s perception of me is. But I’ve always had a sense of a fact that I’m Native American. Being both Native American and African American I feel as though part of me was stolen from my country and I had my country stolen from me.
….The keynote speaker at the march was Angela Davis renown Black activist and professor at the university of Berkeley. Angela gave a rousing speech. I would later find out that she was very aware of the Blakk Indian connection.
….According to her, “It’s really important for us as Black people to stand together with our American Indian sisters and brothers because they really helped us during slavery. A lot of our ancestors were able to escape and set up maroon communities that were created by fugitive slaves that were the result of the work our Native sister and brothers did for us and of course a lot of us have Native blood. I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about it if you aren’t going to do something about it. We have to say that the genocide that was perpetuated against the original inhabitants of this land came around to Africans. We were all together then and we ought to be together today.”

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