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Thoughts From the Edge

Ray Cook, Opinion Editor
4/3/12

When I sat down to write this column, I wanted to tell you about how well ICTMN is doing in promoting our (Indigenous) interpretation of the world through presenting our view of news, events and thoughts. But that will have to take a back seat.

Richard Milanovich passed away. The Onondaga nation lost a Clan Mother of Clan Mothers. And a handful of grannies and grandpas did their part out in Lakota country, slowing the progression of the Killer Pipe Line that the Americans call Keystone Pipeline XL.

First, I want to clarify my ethnicity. My people say we are from Kienenkeh (land of the flint) and our ethnicity is, Ongwehonweh (the original people). But my nationality is Mohawk, Kienenkeha (people of the land of the flint). Kienenkeha exists within the realm of the Rotinoshonee (Iroquois Confederacy). But to my grandson I am Tota (grandparent) and, sometimes, Bubba Ray.

So, you see, in Iroquois country it is the land, the family, the clan; then the nation, then the Confederacy. But above us all, and all the time is the Universe—the sky world. In our way, that is where we came from. No Siberian bridge needed to fall from the sky.

Without the land there are no roots and without the roots there are no people and without the people, well, no government can stand upright on its own. I don’t know if the California-based nations understand that, judging by the dismemberment (disenrollment) movement going on out that way. And the Cherokee Nation is not assisting in this important dialogue at all.

I am not big on the capitulations the Cherokee and their sister nations have made over the decades. What self-respecting nation would even consider allowing the BIA to have final approval on their government amendments and referendums? The IRA is killing our understanding of sovereignty. No one needs to look any further than the politically assimilated ruminations of some leaders of national Indian representative organizations to savor its bitter taste.

Political assimilation is no different than cultural assimilation. If a Native leader claims to be a proud American, I applaud them and their convictions. And we all should help them move their belongings so they can live among them.

My country 'tis of thee, thy people are dying.

The grannies of the great, and I mean Great, Sioux nation continue to step up to the plate and show us all the right way to carry oneself. When was the last time your elected tribal government “leader” took one for the team and went to jail for your (tribal citizens') convictions? In my nation I know of two, both within the last year. Though they were not elected, they were “put up.” Found to be natural leaders, they are humble men not looking for glory, just a future for their grandkids. Their English names are Larry Thompson and Roger Jock.

The first one wants to hold General Motors accountable for leaving behind the largest polluted landfill in the history of the U.S. and its EPA. That landfill is on Mohawk lands. The American government, as part of a bailout, gave GM money to pack up and leave this area, without even cleaning up the mess that still oozes toxic chemicals into the Mohawk community’s water supply and into the air.

The second one saw his people’s land (in a land-claim area) being sold by an Anglo squatter and moved to occupy that land and bring it back into the possession of the Original People. We still hold that land even as Jock proceeds through the Court process, fighting grand-theft charges for his action.

There is a place for peaceful direct action.

Our understanding of what leadership is and what leaders are required to do has been watered down over the years, because for a long while the people we elected were “educated” people who understand “the ways of government and business.” But they know nothing about their people’s ways—or nature’s ways for that matter—and our part in the natural world.

No one is more to blame than the elected leaders of National Indian representative organizations that claim to represent all Tribal and Indigenous nations on this continent but in reality represent only a handful—less than half of all Indigenous nations here. But what they also represent, and what's most dangerous to our existence, is compromise.

In their world, if you have 100 trees but sacrifice 50 trees during negotiations with the Feds or business, you will get what you want. But what do you have left? Then, after a while, in another negotiation, they again compromise, but this time the compromise requires one to give up 25 trees. Then what do you have left? And so on and so on, to a sum of zero. That is not a very spiritual way, or logical way for that matter, to view the world.

You know, sometimes some things are just not negotiable. And compromise is not a victory, it is an avoidance of what you already started to do—which is sell out. Sometimes, enough is enough.

Those grannies in Lakota country had it right. Enough is enough. They basically said, "You are not going to bring those tools of destruction through our territory, no matter where its destination." "Enough is enough," they said, and then they acted. And we should hold those real leaders up and support their sacrifice with our own.

Otherwise, some day there will be nothing left to compromise.

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rezican88's picture
Powerful, direct, beautiful. Another great article, Ray.
rezican88
lmann's picture
Thank you for your “Thoughts from the Edge.” Cuts Right to the Truth.
lmann
canucee's picture
^what rezican88 said.
canucee