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Native American land plagued by environmental damage, speaker says

by Scott Brinckerhoff - November 6, 2006
http://www.advance.uconn.edu/2006/061106/06110602.htm

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, two guest speakers recounted Wednesday night the tribulations of the Lakota Sioux and the Black Seminoles at the hands of early United States governments.

Author and activist Charmaine White Face described the Lakota as a proud people determined to hold onto their heritage. James Madison University Professor Joe Opala offered a similar assessment of the Black Seminoles, the descendants of slaves brought to the New World from Sierra Leone.

Opala's story was primarily a history lesson about the little-known but prominent role the Sierra Leoneans played in the Deep South in the early to mid-1800s, while White Face presented an urgent call for action to halt environmental damage caused by the U.S. government on Lakota lands.

That damage, she said, is now spreading across the country.

White Face said the United States has "smothered" an 1868 treaty that was supposed to have established her tribe's land as a sovereign nation in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Instead of honoring the treaty, she said, the government has allowed extensive open pit mining of uranium and other elements, to the detriment of vast aquifers and the air itself.

As described by White Face, the decline of the Sioux nation is astonishing.

It once covered 14 states and three Canadian provinces and included seven sub-nations, of which the Lakota are one.

The Sioux economy revolved around buffalo, which were decimated by whites who went on to mine sacred Lakota lands, unleashing radiation.

"People are being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation," she told the audience.

White Face cited the case of Bullhead, an Indian village built along South Dakota's Grand River.

People there are dying of thyroid and other cancers at an alarming rate; babies are often stillborn; and calls for help from the state and federal governments have gone unheeded, she said.

Her message: "We are all related."

Educated as a biologist, White Face noted that aquifers cover massive areas of the continent, rivers empty into one another, radioactive dust is carried by the wind, and poisons in the soil nourish grass and feed crops that eventually work their way into the food people eat.

White Face urged the audience to support efforts by her group, Defenders of the Black Hills, to compel governments to clean up residue at hundreds of mines and to encourage the United Nations General Assembly to pass an indigenous peoples human rights resolution that would include her tribe.

Opala, who spent 17 years in Sierra Leone, starting as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s, has spent much of his career studying the people who became known as Black Seminoles and their language, called Gullah.

Like White Face, Opala described a native people whose treatment at the hands of white Europeans was shameful.

Brought to the United States from Sierra Leone as slaves, a million are estimated to have died crossing the Atlantic.

Those who survived lived in Georgia and South Carolina and brought with them extensive knowledge of rice growing, which became a vital part of the early U.S. economy.

But the slave traders also brought new diseases with them from Africa, including malaria and yellow fever.

The Sierra Leoneans were far more resistant than the whites, and in time, the slaves began to outnumber whites.

They also began to escape, Opala said, and Florida - dominated at the time by the Spanish - welcomed them.

The slaves aligned with the Seminole Indians of Florida and became known as the Black Seminoles.

They distinguished themselves as fierce fighters who conducted an effective guerrilla war from 1835 to 1842 against the United States Army in the wilderness of Florida.

The Army had been charged with returning the Black Seminoles to bondage,

since slavery was the law of the land, and the idea of having "free" slaves in Florida did not sit well with the government - even though many of these "slaves" had in fact been born free.

The Black Seminoles fought the Army to a standstill, and ultimately signed a treaty that allowed them to live in peace in Oklahoma and other locations.

In modern times, Opala has accompanied Black Seminoles from the United States to their ancestral home in Sierra Leone, where he said the U.S. contingent is always amazed to find familiar music, food, language, and culture.

 

October 24, 2006
San Rafael Journal
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN

At This Gathering, the Only Alternative Is to Be Alternative

SAN RAFAEL, Calif., Oct. 21 — Along with Santa Ana winds and ripe persimmons, fall here brings with it a migratory phenomenon known as the Bioneers, a three-day pep rally for environmentalists, lefty political activists and young people with “Renewable Energy Is Homeland Security” bumper stickers that transforms the Marin Civic Center into something of a megachurch for the Prius set.

For some 3,200 true believers, and about 10,000 others who were beamed in by satellite from simultaneous conferences in Logan, Utah; Honolulu; and other far-flung places, the Bioneers is part tribal gathering and part support group, encouraging adherents to connect with their inner Al Gore. (The name is a play on biodiversity and pioneers.)

Students, organic farmers, architects, advocates for Pacific dolphins and a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to invest in green technology come to hear the latest thinking on global warming (code word: Katrina) and how to keep the food supply safe (buzzword: spinach). Alternative energy, Bioremediation and environmental justice, once-fringy issues, have over the course of the conference’s 17-year history become part of the national dialogue.

“It’s biology as a metaphor for social change,” said Paul Hawken, an author and a founder of Smith & Hawken, the outdoor supply company. Mr. Hawken double-dipped, speaking at a satellite conference in Marion, Mass., then flying back to Marin. “It’s a parallel universe,” he said. It’s a universe unto its own, all right. Paul E. Stamets, a mycologist and the founder of Fungi Perfecti, a mail-order mushroom business, lectured on “myco-remediation,” or using fungi to restore toxic waste sites. Mr. Stamets also announced a patent for a household pesticide that uses the mold state of the Cordyceps mushroom to kill 100,000 to 200,000 species of insects — a new eco-spin on the old Roach Motel. Mr. Stamets shared the stage with Jay Harman, a naturalist who is now the chief executive of Pax Scientific, an engineering company rooted in “biomimicry,” a fledgling science that takes its inspiration from nature’s designs and processes.

Mr. Harman showed a small device capable of circulating five million gallons of water, using only a light bulb’s worth of electricity. “It’s all about flow,” he said, adding that the technology could be applied to aircraft, fans, pumps and water circulators for reservoirs.

Activists talking about the environmental exploitation of native lands for oil and gas development — or what Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Canadian organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, called “energy genocide” — communed with vendors from the Elixir Café who were doling out $2 hits of Lavender Bliss, a viscous purple liquid billed as a decongestant for “blocked energy.”

The conference is the brainchild of Kenny Ausubel, a 57-year-old writer and filmmaker who was co-founder of the organic seed company Seeds of Change, and Nina Simons, the former president of the company and a former marketing director for Odwalla. Since 1990, they have operated from an old schoolhouse in Lamy, N.M., outside Santa Fe. They credit their experience with Seeds of Change, since sold, with convincing them that a fledgling political movement could be forged from issues like sustainable agriculture and green technology — fields, Mr. Ausubel said, “that in 1990 were like talking about U.F.O.’s.” Since then, the culture has in some ways caught up. For instance, Mr. Ausubel has been an adviser to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose coming feature-length documentary on global warming, “The 11th Hour,” was filmed extensively at last year’s Bioneers conference.

“The issues they were raising a decade ago, from local food to rooftop power, have moved into the mainstream,” said Bill McKibben, a writer who spoke at last year’s conference. “The Bioneers has been consistently ahead of the curve. It began as a gathering place for a fairly small number of like-minded people but is now a hatchery for the next wave of important ideas that five years hence people will be talking about in Rotary Clubs.”

The ground troops of the environmental movement, Mr. Harman said, “are not business-savvy — they want to make a difference but don’t know how to do it.”

So they came to learn sophisticated tactics from people like Tzeporah Berman, the program director of ForestEthics, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to protect endangered forests. It successfully pressured Office Depot and Staples to phase out supply paper made from endangered old-growth forests and persuaded Ikea not to use wood from the temperate rain forest now known as Great Bear, in British Columbia. John Maus, a 67-year-old contractor from Littleton, Colo., who builds Starbucks stores — which he defended as “meeting places” — came to the conference for the latest intelligence on green building. “The industry is slow to change and uses huge amounts of natural resources,” Mr. Maus said. “We need to develop a conscience.”

Despite its mantra of biodiversity, the conclave can sometimes feel a bit like a monoculture, a love-fest between graying activists and youthful idealists with blond dreadlocks and veggie-fueled cars, most of them Caucasian. “It’s a conference of privilege,” said Brennan Manoakeesick, 28, an Oji-cree from Winnipeg who is working with low-income neighborhoods. “We’re here to provide a context, to give face to the faceless.”

William Casey, an eye surgeon and olive grower from St. Helena in the Napa Valley, stood out in a button-down shirt. He came with his wife, Rachel, to keep tabs on the latest trends in integrative pest management. Inspired by last year’s Bioneers, they put up songbird houses and added carnivorous plants to their olive groves to control the olive fruit fly. South African guinea fowl now roam the premises destroying larvae.

“We get tremendous energy from it,” Mr. Casey said of the gathering. “It’s like the Big Bang.”

Agnes Fay Williams, Seneca
12148 Burning Springs Road
Perrysburg, NY 14129
Email: Agnesfay@aol.com
716-532-4228 voice & message
716-532-4868 fax
716-522-4901 pager

 

From: Kapoonis1959@aol.com

Message from Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

Mitakuye (my relative),

I, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nation, ask you to understand an Indigenous perspective on what has happened in America, what we call "Turtle Island." My words seek to unite the global community through a message from our sacred ceremonies to unite spiritually, each in our own ways of beliefs in the Creator.

We have been warned from Ancient Prophecies of these times we live in today, but have also been given a very important message about a solution to turn these terrible times around.

To understand the depth of this message you must recognize the importance of Sacred Sites and realize the interconnectedness of what is happening today, in reflection of the continued massacres that are occurring on other lands and our own Americas.

I have been learning about these important issues since the age of 12, upon receiving the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle and its teachings. Our people have striven to protect Sacred Sites from the beginning of time. These places have been violated for centuries and have brought us to the predicament that we are in at the global level.

Look around you. Our Mother Earth is very ill from these violations, and we are on the brink of destroying the possibility of a healthy and nurturing survival for generations to come, our children's children.

Our ancestors have been trying to protect our Sacred Site called the Sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, "Heart of Everything That Is," from continued violations. Our ancestors never saw a satellite view of this site, but now that those pictures are available, we see that it is in the shape of a heart and, when fast-forwarded, it looks like a heart pumping.

The Dine have been protecting Big Mountain, calling it the liver, and we are suffering and going to suffer more from the extraction of the coal from there and the poison processes used in doing so.

The Aborigines have warned of the contaminating effects of global warming on the Coral Reefs, which they see as Mother Earth's blood purifier.

The Indigenous people of the rainforest relay that the rainforest are the lungs of the planet and need protection.

The Gwich'in Nation has had to face oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, also known to the Gwich'in as "Where life begins!"

The coastal plain is the birthplace of many life forms of the Animal Nations. The death of these Animal Nations will destroy Indigenous Nations in this territory.

As these destructive developments continue all over the world, we will witness many more extinct Animal, Plant, and Human Nations, because of mankind's misuse of power and their lack of understanding of the "balance of life."

The Indigenous people warn that these destructive developments will cause havoc globally. There are many, many more Indigenous awarenesses and knowledge about Mother Earth's Sacred Sites, her Chakras, connections to our spirit that will surely affect our future generations.

There needs to be a fast move toward other forms of energy that are safe for all Nations upon Mother Earth. We need to understand the types of minds that are continuing to destroy the spirit of our whole global community. Unless we do this, the powers of destruction will overwhelm us. Our Ancestors foretold that water would someday be for sale. Back then, this was hard to believe, since the water was so plentiful, so pure, and so full of energy, nutrition, and spirit.

Today we have to buy pure water, and even then the nutritional minerals have been taken out; it's just empty liquid. Someday water will be like gold, too expensive to afford.

Not everyone will have the right to drink safe water. We fail to appreciate and honor our Sacred Sites, ripping out the minerals and gifts that lay underneath them as if Mother Earth were simply a resource, instead of the Source of Life itself.

Attacking Nations and having to utilize more resources to carry out destruction in the name of peace is not the answer! We need to understand how all these decisions affect the Global Nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions. Allowing continual contamination of our food and land is affecting the way we think.

A "disease of the mind" has set in world leaders and many members of our global community, with their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring Peace.

In our Prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives' eyes.

We are the only species that is destroying the Source of Life, meaning Mother Earth, in the name of power, mineral resources, and ownership of land, using chemicals and methods of warfare that are doing irreversible damage, as Mother Earth is becoming tired and cannot sustain any more impacts of war.

I ask you to join me on this endeavor. Our vision is for the Peoples of all continents, regardless of their beliefs in the Creator, to come together as one at their Sacred Sites to pray and meditate and commune with one another, thus promoting an energy shift to heal our Mother Earth and achieve a universal consciousness toward attaining Peace.

As each day passes, I ask all Nations to begin a global effort, and remember to give thanks for the Sacred Food that has been gifted to us by our Mother Earth, so the nutritional energy of medicine can be guided to heal our minds and spirits.

This new millennium will usher in an age of harmony or it will bring the end of life as we know it. Starvation, war, and toxic waste have been the hallmark of the Great Myth of Progress and Development that ruled the last millennium.

To us, as caretakers of the heart of Mother Earth, falls the responsibility of turning back the powers of destruction.You yourself are the one who must decide.

You alone - and only you - can make this crucial choice, to walk in honor or to dishonor your relatives. On your decision depends the fate of the entire World.

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.

Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger?

Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. Did you think you were put here for something less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending!

 

As Native Americans in this day and age, we are survivors, we have survived the genocide, the federal Policy to "kill the Indian, and save the man", and all the other atrocities that are not covered in US history books. I wish a beautiful victory song to all Native Americans today, we have survived and, for most of the tribes and bands, our cultures are intact, alive and well. We have overcome the onslaught, we must however never forget, and strive to better our Native communities and omelands by educating ourselves and our people so that they can represent our people to preserve our land, our resources, our cultures, and our religions.

Steven Chischilly

Columbus Day no reason to celebrate


By Mary Annette Pember
10/06/2006

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue on a mission of plunder for Spain. When he arrived here, he commenced the virtual annihilation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

A culture and nation founded on the murderous, exploitive philosophy of this act has two choices: apologize and make reparations, or cunningly twist the facts and make it an opportunity
for celebration.

The United States has chosen the latter.

In many ways, the whole Columbus Day debate is a big yawn for native peoples, just another in the ongoing pinches in the rear that define being Native American in America.

Mostly, we simply say, "Ouch," and go on with the business of surviving the policies borne out of a ruling government's mindset that sees Christopher Columbus as a national hero.

At the time of European "discovery" in the 15th century, there were more than 10 million native peoples in North America. But by the beginning of the 20th century, our numbers had dwindled to less the 230,000.

So we're pretty ambivalent about the whole celebration idea surrounding our near-demise. The Columbus attitude has justified U.S- Indian policy all the way from stolen lands and broken treaties to recent attacks on tribal sovereignty and the failure to make good on Indian trust funds.

Currently, mainstream America has a "just get over it" attitude to native peoples, dismissing our grievances as political correctness gone awry. But in the recent words of an elder, "If the shoe were on the other foot, Americans would carry laminated copies of their ancestors' treaties until they got their just dues."

Asking the U.S. government to abandon Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day is akin to asking for a sea change in the national psychology. It demands a soul-searching objectivity that is simply too threatening to the mainstream culture and economy.

The European "discovery" of America is a misnomer. This victor's history is still very much at the heart of the American psyche. By ignoring the fact that that the place was already inhabited by millions of indigenous peoples, the celebration of Columbus Day exalts a criminal act.

This philosophy has allowed the current Christopher Columbus reincarnation, George W. Bush, sufficient national support in his efforts to bring democratic light to the darker regions of Iraq.

As a native woman, experienced in the repercussions of American policy-making, I'm waiting for the president's supporters to propose establishing a George W. Bush Day in Iraq, celebrating the civilizing of that country.

I bet few Americans would see the irony.

Mary Annette Pember, Red Cliff Ojibwe, is past president of the Native American Journalists Association. She currently lives and works as an independent journalist in Cincinnati.


THE WASHINGTON POST
Bush Policy Irks Judges in West

 

Bush Policy Irks Judges in West

Rulings Criticize Agencies for Not Protecting the Environment

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006; A03

SEATTLE, Oct. 5 -- Using language that suggests they are fed up with the Bush administration, federal judges across the West have issued a flurry of rulings in recent weeks, chastising the government for repeated and sometimes willful failure to enforce laws protecting fish, forests, wildlife and clean air.

In decisions in Oregon, California, Montana and Wyoming, judges have criticized the judgment, expertise and, in some cases, integrity of the federal agencies that manage natural resources on public lands. The rulings come at a time when an emerging bipartisan coalition of western politicians, hunters, anglers and homeowners has joined conservation groups in objecting to the rapid pace and environmental consequences of President Bush's policies for energy extraction on federal land.

Specialists in environmental law cite a noticeable increase in the number of recent court rulings in which federal judges in the West have ruled against the administration, using blunt language that shows impatience and annoyance.

"You are seeing frustration in the federal judiciary," said Dan Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, in Portland, Ore. The law school has the nation's oldest environmental law program. "When judges express that frustration on paper, which is not all that often, they are often reflecting what they see as a systematic effort to get around the law."

The most scathing and exasperated of the recent court orders came late last month out of Portland, where U.S. District Judge James A. Redden has presided for six years over a stalled federal effort to prevent endangered salmon from going extinct in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Federal agencies "have repeatedly and collectively failed to demonstrate a willingness to do what is necessary" under the Endangered Species Act to save fish at risk of extinction, wrote Redden, who was appointed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter.

Responding to Redden's language and to other recent critical comments by federal judges in the West, Justice Department spokeswoman Cynthia J. Magnuson said: "It is regrettable whenever a court chooses to examine and speculate about the motives of a federal agency rather than applying the applicable laws to the facts of the case."

The agencies that Redden said are refusing to enforce the law include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which leads the salmon-recovery program, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from federal dams on the rivers.

Bob Lohn, regional head of NOAA Fisheries, declined to comment on Redden's criticism of his agency's work. Through a spokesman, Lohn said that any comment would be inappropriate because of legal disputes pending before Redden and other judges.

In his court last year, Redden said the administration's plans to protect fish had been proposed "more in cynicism than in sincerity." He noted in his order last month that federal agencies now "seem to be more concerned with ensuring" that Idaho irrigators get water for their crops than with mitigating the damage that dams and water diversions do to endangered fish.

Having tossed out two earlier federal plans for running the river system (one was proposed late in the Clinton era), Redden warned that he "will not allow another invalid" plan to remain in place while urgent action is needed to protect salmon. The warning suggests that the judge might halt the operation of federal dams on the Snake River -- dams that Bush has described as vital to the economy of the Northwest.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer ruled in San Francisco in late August that the "Forest Service's interest in harvesting timber has trampled" environmental laws protecting timberland in and around California's Giant Sequoia National Monument. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

In a much broader ruling, another federal judge in California used scolding language two weeks ago in tossing out a Bush administration plan that allowed governors to decide what national forest land is suited for logging, mining or energy development.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte largely reinstated a Clinton-era "roadless rule," which had put nearly a third of the national forests off-limits to development.

Laporte chastised the administration for changing the 2001 roadless rule without regard to consequences for endangered species, and for failure to cite "any new evidence" justifying the junking of land protections that had been years in the making.

Laporte was selected as a magistrate judge in 1998 by other judges in the northern district of California.

In Montana last week, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service had lost touch with science when it declined to investigate whether the North American wolverine is at risk of extinction.

Molloy, appointed by Clinton in 1996, found "a dramatic loss" in the range of wolverines, a decrease in their population and growing threats to the weasel-like scavenger from genetic isolation and human encroachment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, he ruled, had ignored "substantial scientific information that would lead a reasonable person to conclude" that listing wolverines as endangered or threatened may be warranted. He ordered the agency to look into the matter for a year.

In western Wyoming, the Bureau of Land Management ignored air-quality and wildlife data when it sold energy leases on national forest land in western Wyoming, according to a September ruling by Bruce R. Harris, a deputy chief administrative judge who works for the land appeals board in the Interior Department.

The ruling temporarily halted energy development on 20,000 acres in the Wyoming Range, where hiking outfitters and conservation groups have fought the encroachment of oil and natural gas exploration.

Specifically, Harris wrote that the BLM had not made itself aware of a recent study showing that endangered lynx were living within the leased parcel. He said that "little, if any, attention was given to air quality issues" before granting the lease. In the nearby Pinedale region, extensive gas drilling on BLM land has caused widespread air pollution. Federal court rulings in much of the West are appealed to the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Like lower courts in the West, it has often been caustically critical of the Bush administration.

Velma M. Smith
National Environmental Trust
1200 Eighteenth St, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
202-887-8859
cell: 703-231-6141
vsmith@net.org

 

Mohawks Join Tohono O’odham in Solidarity at Border Summit,
notes Brenda Norrell

U.N. Observer and International Report
http://www.unobserver.com/index.php?pagina=layout4.php&id=2639&blz=1
Oct. 3, 2006

SAN XAVIER DISTRICT, TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION, Ariz. -- Indigenous at the Border Summit of the Americas opposed a border fence that will separate Indian communities in their ancestral territories and contribute to the Bush administration’s plan for corporate profiteering.

Without compromise, Indigenous called for a halt to the militarization, oppression and psychological terrorism created by the military industrial complex along the US/Mexico border.

Mohawks from the northern border united with Tohono O’odham from the southern border and demanded a halt to the militarization of their lands by the US Border Patrol, National Guard and federal agents.

 

Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Sociology Department
San Jose State University

How "Contact" Shaped America


Americans from the United States are rightfully proud of the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, which assert that all people are created equal. However, this American belief in equity, which would inspire social reformers and social justice advocates in the United States and around the world, is not grounded solely in European philosophy. Rather, a strong argument can be made that the American notion of egalitarianism entered modern social thought as a result of European and Euro-American thinkers being challenged by the equality of Native American society, and as a result, a new way of thinking emerged.

The fact is that European cultures, in the time of Christopher Columbus up to the American Revolution, did not have a deep commitment to equality or freedom. Thomas Jefferson believed that Europe was divided into two classes, the rich and the poor, and that under the pretense of governing, the former took advantage of the latter, as wolves prey on sheep. The European belief that the wealthy were superior to the poor is revealed when one examines who was allowed to participate in political affairs. In late eighteenth-century England, only 1 in 20 men could vote, and in Scotland, only 3,000 men could vote.

To appreciate the great intellectual debt owed to Native Americans, it is necessary to look at what European and Euro-American intellectuals were writing at that time. After examining the record, the consistent theme is that Native Americans lived with a level of equality and freedom greater than that in European society. In one of the earliest descriptions to reach Europe, Michel de Montaigne, the French essayist, described what the first Europeans saw when they made contact with Brazilian indigenous society. Montaigne reported in 1575 that ¦Indian¦ society lacked poverty, riches, or inheritance, and that it was wrong to label this culture as savage or barbarian. Montaigne¦s essay, as well as other initial postcontact commentaries that stressed egalitarianism, had a profound impact on European ideas about equity, emerging in the works of William Shakespeare in The Tempest and Thomas More in Utopia.

Over a century later, in 1703, Louis Lahontan reported details of a conversation he had with Adario, a Huron (Wyandot) male, where the latter described how American Indians lived in egalitarian relationships. According to Lahontan¦s account, Adario was stunned by the high level of European poverty and repulsed by the inequality between rich and poor. Adario described Huron society as devoid of this type of inequality and argued that this would not be allowed among the Hurons. Once again, these egalitarian ideas had a strong effect on European society, as Lahontan became an international celebrity after his popular writings were adapted and made into plays, operas, farces, and burlesques throughout Europe.

In the period of the American Revolution, Europeans and Euro-Americans continued to be impressed with the level of equality in Native American society. St. John de CrFvecoeur described the American Indian way of life as superior to that of Europeans living in America, since indigenous people lived ¦with more ease, decency, and peace.¦ James Adair, who wrote The History of the American Indians in 1775, stated that in every Indian nation a person ¦breathes nothing but liberty¦ and lives with ¦an equality of condition, manners, and privilege.¦ Benjamin Franklin noted that this high degree of equity and freedom was the reason that many whites decided to go and live in Native American communities; at the same time, Franklin knew of no case where an Indian had chosen to live in white society.

The fact is that a new consciousness was gained from Native Americans about the possibility of living in a society that was both equal and free, and this served as a counterpoint to the ¦Old World.¦ Europeans and Euro-Americans had the opportunity to appraise theoretical ideas from the Enlightenment, like Locke¦s notion of ¦liberty, equality, and property¦ and Rousseau¦s ¦social contract,¦ in light of what they observed in Native American societies. What came out of this appraisal and reassessment led to the creation of a new philosophy of government based on equality and liberty, where society was not ruled by a monarch, but by the people.

Scott Myers-Lipton is author of the newly released book entitled:
Social Solutions to Poverty: America's Struggle to Build a Just Society.


Scott Myers-Lipton
Sociology Department
One Washington Square
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0122
(408) 924-5761

 

 

Great news! - landmark ruling gives indigenous peoples rights to traditional lands. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/australasia/article1655632.ece


Aborigines given ownership of Perth by judge

By Kathy Marks in Sydney
Published: 21 September 2006

Aborigines have been declared the traditional owners of Perth and given the right to hunt and fish in the area, in the first successful claim by indigenous people to an Australian state capital.

The landmark ruling by the Federal Court astonished Aboriginal groups, with one community leader, Noel Pearson, welcoming the "absolutely extraordinary" decision. The judgment opens the way for similar claims over cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

However, the state government of Western Australia said it would appeal, and it may be joined by the federal government. The Prime Minister, John Howard, said his initial reaction was "one of considerable concern".

The judge, Justice Murray Wilcox, granted the Nyoongar people "native title" over more than 6,000 sq km of land, including Perth and its surrounds. That means they can use it for traditional activities such as hunting, camping and fishing, as well as looking after sacred sites and generally caring for the land.

The judgment will not affect homes or businesses, as the Australian courts have ruled that native title does not apply to land owned on a freehold or long-lease basis. Mr Justice Wilcox cautioned that it was "neither the pot of gold for the indigenous claimants nor the disaster for the remainder of the community that is sometimes painted".

Native title claims in the past have prompted scare campaigns by mining and agricultural companies. But the judge said that his decision would have no impact on "people's backyards".

For native title, Aborigines must prove a continuing and unbroken link with the land that they owned until British colonists arrived. That was thought to be an almost impossible task in densely settled metropolitan areas.

In 2002 the High Court, which is superior to the federal courts, rejected a claim by the Yorta Yorta people over a heavily populated swath of south-eastern Australia. Mr Pearson said the latest ruling restored indigenous rights in relation to cities and southern regions.

Fred Chaney, the deputy chairman of the National Native Title Tribunal, said the Nyoongar people had been "subjected to pretty incredible interference and dislocation ... they've been shifted around, shunted around, their families have been broken up".

He added: "The extraordinary thing is that they've been able to demonstrate to the judge that there is still continuing Nyoongar law and culture, which is understood, which still binds them to the country, and which regulates their relationships. So it's an amazing example of cultural survival under extremely adverse circumstances."

One conservative politician in Western Australia warned of dire consequences, claiming that the public could be charged a fee to use parks and waterways. Alan Eggleston, a state Liberal senator, said: "This really could have quite profound and significant implications, and change our way of life."

Aboriginal Australian groups dismissed his claims as baseless "scaremongering". Glen Kelly, head of the South West Aboriginal Land Council, told ABC radio that the Nyoongar would seek a say in the management of parkland and state forests, but that "in general life will go on as it currently is".

Mr Justice Wilcox ruled that the Nyoongar are the traditional owners of the entire area to which they claim native title: 200,000 sq km of south-western Australia. But he has yet to decide whether to grant native title to land outside the Perth metropolitan district.

The state government said it would appeal as the judgment contradicted the High Court's Yorta Yorta ruling, which decided that native title had been "washed away by the tide of history".

Mr Howard said: "Many people will regard it as somewhat incongruous - there could still be some residual native title claim in a major settled metropolitan area."

Aborigines have been declared the traditional owners of Perth and given the right to hunt and fish in the area, in the first successful claim by indigenous people to an Australian state capital.

The landmark ruling by the Federal Court astonished Aboriginal groups, with one community leader, Noel Pearson, welcoming the "absolutely extraordinary" decision. The judgment opens the way for similar claims over cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

However, the state government of Western Australia said it would appeal, and it may be joined by the federal government. The Prime Minister, John Howard, said his initial reaction was "one of considerable concern".

The judge, Justice Murray Wilcox, granted the Nyoongar people "native title" over more than 6,000 sq km of land, including Perth and its surrounds. That means they can use it for traditional activities such as hunting, camping and fishing, as well as looking after sacred sites and generally caring for the land.

The judgment will not affect homes or businesses, as the Australian courts have ruled that native title does not apply to land owned on a freehold or long-lease basis. Mr Justice Wilcox cautioned that it was "neither the pot of gold for the indigenous claimants nor the disaster for the remainder of the community that is sometimes painted".

Native title claims in the past have prompted scare campaigns by mining and agricultural companies. But the judge said that his decision would have no impact on "people's backyards".

For native title, Aborigines must prove a continuing and unbroken link with the land that they owned until British colonists arrived. That was thought to be an almost impossible task in densely settled metropolitan areas.

In 2002 the High Court, which is superior to the federal courts, rejected a claim by the Yorta Yorta people over a heavily populated swath of south-eastern Australia. Mr Pearson said the latest ruling restored indigenous rights in relation to cities and southern regions.

Fred Chaney, the deputy chairman of the National Native Title Tribunal, said the Nyoongar people had been "subjected to pretty incredible interference and dislocation ... they've been shifted around, shunted around, their families have been broken up".

He added: "The extraordinary thing is that they've been able to demonstrate to the judge that there is still continuing Nyoongar law and culture, which is understood, which still binds them to the country, and which regulates their relationships. So it's an amazing example of cultural survival under extremely adverse circumstances."

One conservative politician in Western Australia warned of dire consequences, claiming that the public could be charged a fee to use parks and waterways. Alan Eggleston, a state Liberal senator, said: "This really could have quite profound and significant implications, and change our way of life."

Aboriginal Australian groups dismissed his claims as baseless "scaremongering". Glen Kelly, head of the South West Aboriginal Land Council, told ABC radio that the Nyoongar would seek a say in the management of parkland and state forests, but that "in general life will go on as it currently is".

Mr Justice Wilcox ruled that the Nyoongar are the traditional owners of the entire area to which they claim native title: 200,000 sq km of south-western Australia. But he has yet to decide whether to grant native title to land outside the Perth metropolitan district.

The state government said it would appeal as the judgment contradicted the High Court's Yorta Yorta ruling, which decided that native title had been "washed away by the tide of history".

Mr Howard said: "Many people will regard it as somewhat incongruous - there could still be some residual native title claim in a major settled metropolitan area."

 

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