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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
1 Comments
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
5 Comments
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
15 Comments
It's the system, stupid!
by: Jay Stevens - Oct 24
7 Comments

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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.
Native Americans

"Respect goes in both directions"

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 11:55:14 AM MST

This Missoulian editorial caught my eye:

Western Montanans recently entered the debate over a congressional resolution formally apologizing for the way the U.S. government has treated Native Americans. The Missoulian's Gwen Florio wrote a news story detailing the fact that a key phrase having to do with the federal government's mismanagement of tribal funds held in trust had been dropped from the resolution.

But few of the comments posted online with that story concerned this facet of the discussion. Instead, many provided a stark reminder that racism runs rampant through our community.

Gwen Florio ran a followup on the Missoulian blog, "The Buffalo Post," in which she posted a letter from Patrick Weasel Head. It's worth a read in its entirety, but essentially Weasel Head wonders what the Native American community can do to soften its image, yet ultimately calls to task all of us who tolerate racism in everyday life:

There are sensitive individuals that bridge the cultural gap between indigenous peoples and the community, and I applaud them for their effort and true feelings of diversity and inclusion. They are truly the kind of people I want to interact with and to grow a sense of community for all. Yet, I feel that society expects, and tolerates, this insensitivity toward indigenous peoples and that it is so easy to 'pick on' the Indian community (or individuals) without any reaction from their statements. I think this has to end. Too often I hear that indigenous peoples are seen as the easiest to disparage, to make fun of and to chastise without any level of sensitivity or compassion or better yet, repercussions. That too has to stop.

I challenge all to make a difference, to see what they can do to dispel this insensitivity to the indigenous populations and remember, that respect goes in both directions. Are these few comments as listed in the Missoulian article representative of the community and that rampant racism exists? If not, speak out.

I couldn't agree more.

But it is surprising that the Missoulian sounds surprised by all of this, and is essentially calling for others to decry racism when they see it, because the newspaper, frankly, doesn't have such a great track record when it comes to criticizing those who engage in racist rhetoric.

Take the recent kerfluffle over a racist letter (pdf) sent to former Missoulian reporter, Jodi Rave. The Electric City Perfesser defended the letter, agreeing there was too much coverage of Native Americans in the paper. Instead of supporting Rave, explaining why it felt Native Americans should be included in the news, and decrying Natelson's ignorance on race matters, the Missoulian said...nothing.

And while Jodi Rave wrote about the racist rhetoric in the state OPI campaign, the paper's editorial board said...nothing.

(One wonders how the paper will handle anti-Native-American rhetoric now that Rave left the the Missoulian...)

And given the numerous questionable statements that both Dave Berg and Dave Rye have made - and will no doubt continue to make - instead of questioning whether Taylor Brown - the man who hired them both for his radio network - was fit for public office, the Missoulian said...nothing.

When Corey Stapleton made racially insensitive remarks on the floor of the state legislature, the Missoulian...said nothing. Matt Singer did, and was slammed for it by the Choteau Acantha, which wrote a puff piece about Stapleton and slammed blogs, and the Missoulian...said nothing.

And let's not forget that not too long ago the Missoulian editorial board endorsed racial profiling.

Whether those that pen the editorials want to admit it or not, neglecting racism from prominent public figures implicitly encourages such rhetoric. So, yeah, I think it's a bit hypocritical for the Missoulian to sound shocked or outraged at all of the racist comments engendered by a recent report...but the paper has essentially been complicit with the racism for years. Perhaps instead of a treacly editorial pointing out the ickiness of racism, the paper could instead make a vow to do better at singling out prominent racists and denouncing racist rhetoric when made by public figures...  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

The dominant paradigm v. the Perfesser

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 12:33:01 PM MST

I haven't paid much attention to the flap over racism that the Perfesser kicked off over a racist letter (pdf) that was sent to the Missoulian's Jodi Rave. Certainly Wulfgar! expressed the proper outrage, as did Rave's readers. 'Nuff ced.

But then I stumbled on Natelson's latest, in which he "proves" there's too much coverage of American Indians and not enough of white "taxpayers" by entering terms like "Indians," "Germans," "Irish," "Hmong," "taxpayers," "professors," etc, into the Missoulian search engine, and then tabulating the results. Naturally, "Indians" wins hands down.

Sadly, Natelson is looking in all the wrong places for references to white or other cultures. The coverage is there -- and right beneath his nose. Take today's newspaper:

Lead story? A ski jumping competition at Snowbowl. How's this for an alternate lede? "A crowd of mostly white people today enjoyed the traditionally Nordic sport of ski jumping at a local white-owned ski area." The picture that accompanies the article is a white man with his white child.

Second story, on wilderness proposals, tells of the mostly white upper legislative body in a government formed from Anglo-European traditions of democracy, which is debating bills (along European parliamentary procedures) that would use a legal system based on English Common Law to enact a contemporary Anglo-American notion of public ownership of land -- an interesting component of European views on property ownership.

Third story, a review of a Russian ballet -- a European classical dance -- performed by the Missoula symphony orchestra, a body of musicians playing classical European instruments and arranged along classical European music traditions. They play in a typical early 20th century Anglo-American performance hall.

Get it? If it's a report about the dominant culture -- Euro-Anglo, white American, whatever -- it's not explicitly mentioned. White culture is implied, it's the norm. To Natelson, a debate on wilderness bills is inherently neutral alongs lines of race, ethnicity, gender. However, I suspect there's probably a young Native American woman out there who instead views the debate through the prism of her particular race and culture, who sees a bunch of old, rich middle-age white guys in suits and ties arguing over how they're going to divide up land that once belonged to her people. Her perspective is entirely legitimate.

Don't mistake this post for as an indictment against Anglo-Euro culture. I thrive in my culture. What I'm doing now -- the act of typing, crafting a rhetorical argument, sitting on a wooden, hard-backed chair at my kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee -- is firmly rooted in my culture.

Instead this post is a plea for perspective and empathy, characteristics that the Perfesser sadly seems to lack when he writes, as a suggestion to "counter-balance" Jodi Rave's stories featuring American Indians, "have other reporters assigned to subjects that concern the rest of us. For example, a taxpayer columnist might do a semi-weekly column on legislative bills...This sort of thing is supposed to be done by the Lee Bureau in Helena, but there has never been a huge amount of sympathy for taxpayers there."

Here's the thing, Rob. American Indians are taxpayers.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Two Views on Democracy

by: Matt Singer

Sun Feb 15, 2009 at 12:53:27 PM MST

I've been stewing on this question for a bit and finally getting to reading this article on blood quantum that ran recently in High Country News and was reprinted by the Missoula Independent (the article also reminded me of my need to subscribe to High Country -- they do great work).

Obviously there are lots of different ways to think of democracy, but one distinct difference in how people approach it has led me to think a lot lately.

  • In one camp, closely associated with the great man model of history (at least, it seems to me to be that way), the job of elected officials is to listen to thoughtful, public-interested citizens as they work to find the correct answer, something that exists in Platonic form somewhere. Along the way, this decision-making process is undermined by powerful special interests who angle and cajole and corrupt their way to victory.
  • In another camp, democracy is merely a venue for competing interests to be heard to reach imperfect (and often temporary) solutions and to maintain a rough consensus of the governed in the process.
As with many things (but not all), I think the answer to why and how democracy should work is closer to the second than to the first.

There are, of course, caveats. There is a need both for the representation of self-interest and a need to think about getting to a correct answer, not simply about defending status quo economic powers.

To see some of my thoughts on how this plays out in a particular instance, check out this thread at 4and20. So many questions we face as a city, a school district, a state, or a country impact so many different people in so many different ways. Figuring out how to give voice to people and communities that see impacts from these decisions -- and specifically helping to amplify the voices most often ignored -- is what organizing is all about.

So, um, yea organizing. Or something.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bill Clinton to woo Native American voters

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 09:29:36 AM MST

Buckle up, folks, we'll be hearing plenty about presidential politics and Montana in the next few days, what with the two leading presidential candidates and a former president in town.

Probably one of the best analyses of Montana politics I've read in a while came recently from Chris Cilliza, who appeared to have actually researched the state's political environment beyond fundraising and '04 voting numbers.

This is what he had to say about how Clinton could win Montana in June:

The wildcard in all of these calculations is the vote that will come out of the Native-American areas of the state. Native Americans make up 6 percent of the state's population, according to the 2000 Census, but are likely to vote at a proportionally higher level in a Democratic primary with estimates running from 10 percent of the primary electorate to as high as 17 percent. Former President Bill Clinton is a revered figure on the reservations, a status that should accrue to his wife's benefit, according to those who know the state well.

And, as if right on cue:

And then on Tuesday, the former president will stop in Havre.

Population 9,451.

Even in a race as tight as that between Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, has it come to this?

Why Havre? Pundits opine it's because of its proximity to the Rocky Boy's, Fort Peck, Blackfeet, and Fort Belknap reservations.

Indian people have not forgotten Bill Clinton's visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1999, which made him the first sitting president to visit a reservation since Franklin Roosevelt. In that speech - nearly a decade before his wife became a presidential candidate - he specifically mentioned that Hillary Clinton had spent more time in Indian Country than any first lady in history.

"Indian people prospered more under his administration than any other," said state Rep. Margarett Campbell, D-Poplar....

"He has a lot of influence in those communities," said Campbell, of the Fort Peck Reservation. "His coming up there is a real reminder to Indian Country of what the Clintons are capable of in terms of understanding Indian Country and being willing to really look at some innovative and long-term systemic ways of making changes, both social and economic.

Kudos to the Clinton campaign for making this visit. Montana's Native Americans are going to enjoy a deserved and much-needed moment in the sun, and to hear a voice address concerns about health care, poverty, education, and voting rights on the country's reservations.

That's a good thing, no matter who wins the primary. And it'll be even better if Obama, too, makes a similar visit, and suddenly issues important to Native Americans become a crucial component of the 2008 presidential election.

Good times.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Thoughts on the dismissal of CERA's lawsuit

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Nov 09, 2007 at 13:48:36 PM MST

Matt already mentioned the dismissal of CERA's lawsuit (pdf) challenging voting practices on the Big Horn reservation, but I've put a lot of sweat into this issue, and I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

First, the background. CERA's challenge of the legality of voting on the Big Horn reservation took place when Montana's Native American population has enjoyed a recent political surge, with record turnout among the Nations in 2006, and a record number of Native Americans serving in the 2007 state legislature.  In fact, Native American voters were one (of many) crucial voting blocs to Jon Tester's successful Senate run. In short, Native Americans are positioning themselves to be a driving force in state politics.

IMHO, that's a good thing. The Nations have always been underrepresented in politics and society. It's time they had some say in what happens to them, and to us. But not everybody sees it that way. Enter the Citizens' Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) - birthed in part out of the racist anti-Indian movement in the 1970s Flathead Valley and aligned with the pro-resource-extraction forces of the "wise use" movement. Their goal is to end tribal sovereignty. 

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 373 words in story)

Tester upbraids the IHS

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 11:37:21 AM MST

Robert Miller picked up this passage from the Billings Gazette report on Sens. Tester and Dorgan "chastising" the Indian Health Service for under funding health care for Native Americans:

Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne encouraged IHS employees and tribal leaders to call for more funding. The Pryor Mountain wild horses receive more annual funding than the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Hospital, he said.

"We are the poorest of the poorest in the United States of all ethnic groups," Venne said. "We're not begging the U.S. government; they made promises."

To quote Miller, "more money for wild horses than Indians??"

Tester:

"Those treaties promised that in exchange for millions of acres of land and vast amounts of natural resources, our government would use some of the money it earns from those lands to provide American Indians with adequate health care, housing, education and economic development necessary to sustain quality lives," Tester said.

"Everybody in this room knows that over the past several hundred years, the government has failed to tell the truth to Indians, cheated Indians and failed to fulfill the promises it made many years ago."

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Voter fraud and Native Americans, part 2

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Jun 08, 2007 at 08:11:29 AM MST

Yesterday, I mentioned that a group called Citizens' Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) was bringing a lawsuit against Montana state officials over alleged voter fraud on the Crow reservation.

So, who's CERA?

In an article summing up Senator Slade Gorton's historical battles against deny Native American sovereignty, the group was succinctly described thusly:

...a coalition of nearly 500 groups that is pushing to end the tribes' right to self-government on reservation lands. Among CERA's objectives two stand out: "Ensure the right to own private property on or near Indian reservations" and "Ensure the fair administration of natural resources on public lands for the general welfare." Thus, it's not surprising that more than 50% of CERA's member organizations have an interest in mining, industrial recreation, timber, oil, and gas, and that the organization itself is closely affiliated with the anti-environmental Wise Use movement.
There's More... :: (2 Comments, 833 words in story)

Voter fraud and Native Americans, part 1

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jun 07, 2007 at 07:36:47 AM MST

A while ago, an article hit Montana's newsstands about a group suing state officials over alleged voter fraud on the Crow Indian reservation:

The lawsuit contends Crow tribal members formed a slate of candidates "based on race" and violated state and federal election laws governing political campaigns. The suit also charges that reports of "double-voting" by tribal members in the November election were not thoroughly investigated by federal officials.

Among the plaintiffs is the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, a South Dakota-based group that contends tribal governments should be abolished and the U.S. Constitution should trump American Indian law.

The lawsuit contends that as a result of the alleged irregularities, nontribal members in Big Horn County were denied equal voting rights. Big Horn County includes much of the Crow Reservation. Elections for more than a dozen county positions were included on the November ballot, according to plaintiff's attorney, Richard Stephens.

Defendants of the suit include Deputy Secretary of State Elaine Graveley, Big Horn County Clerk Cyndy Maxwell, and old pal Brad Johnson, the same fella who wanted to abolish same-day voter registration because of non-existent voter fraud.

I suspect there's never been anyone happier to be sued than Mr. Johnson.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 497 words in story)
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