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Natives Are Not Gun-Rights Mascots

Adrian Jawort
6/10/13

While the NRA side of the gun debate claims the recent deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six educators from Newton, Connecticut are being exploited to promote an anti-gun agenda, another anonymous gun rights promoter has exploited the historic plight of Native Americans to fit their own political program.

In Greeley, Colorado there are signs along a busy highway that show a picture of three Native men holding guns that say, “Turn in your arms, the government will take care of you.” The people who created billboard do not want to be disclosed. Just over 200 miles away from Greeley, the site of the infamous 1864 Sand Creek Massacre took place in which 700 cowardly Colorado volunteers and soldiers gunned down over 200 mostly Arapaho and Cheyenne women, children, and elderly men while most of the warriors were out hunting.

Before the massacre, pacifist and Cheyenne “peace” Chief Black Kettle had waved an American flag he’d gotten from Abraham Lincoln himself the year prior, and told the camp they needn’t be afraid because he was assured no Americans would fire at anyone who flew this flag. The “well-regulated militia” opened fire, however, and slaughtered his people before his eyes. Later, they paraded their ghoulish “trophies” of things like women’s private parts in downtown Denver among other heinous acts.

Atrocities endured by our ancestors have seemingly become likened to a pro-NRA prop to fuel political ignorance and paranoia of G-men coming to confiscate every law abiding citizens’ guns if added modest regulations are proposed to buy them, or existing rules are actually enforced with teeth.

Disclosure: my brother, who was just a year younger than me and someone I considered my best friend, was a victim of gun violence. He died several years ago at the age of 26, exactly a month before his son’s first birthday. The impact of a bullet had shattered his pelvis, and he laid and bled out for several hours before he was begrudgingly taken to the hospital by the one who shot him where he was pronounced DOA - Dead On Arrival. It obviously pains and angers me when I think about how horrid my baby brother’s last couple of hours on this earth must’ve been.

However, I never blamed a gun for his death; I blamed the person who abused it. During the court sentencing I said to the face of my brother’s murderer, “Guns don’t kill people, idiots with guns kill people.” The presiding judge agreed and even quoted me soon after. I consider myself a crack shot, and I’ve used guns and respected them since I was a young boy wandering the Montana countryside.

I personally know at least a dozen people my age or younger I count as good friends that have served in Afghanistan or Iraq- most with multiple tours and a few that were Special Forces. I’m just noting that’s my generation and I’m proud of these warriors, and none of them need to pretend they’re manlier-than-thou because they’re playing GI Joe with a AR-15 shouting against imagined “tyranny.” They’ve seen the real oppression of Taliban and Islamic radicals firsthand.

But with any proposed gun restrictions automatically being deemed "unconstitutional" by factions, I'm curious what self-proclaimed patriots think is "constitutional" regarding an amendment written when muskets fired once or twice followed by bayonet and close quarter physical fighting was the rule in 1791—not like when the Tucson killer expended over 30 rounds in a brief terrifying moment and received 19 charges of murder and attempted murder for the minimal effort of twitching his finger.

Do current gun rights advocates honestly believe there are no lines to be considered because of political partisanship? Or does a mentally ill, deranged mass murderer’s right to bear and stockpile arms that they bought with little or no questions asked before pumping rounds into civilians always trump our own right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

As far as the definition of "arms," do they think selling more firepower that includes fully automatics, Surface to Air Missiles, and grenades to any citizen is a right that "shall not be infringed" lest they can't adequately defend themselves from said theoretical government tyranny?

Am I under the mistaken belief the NRA is supposed to be about teaching safe and responsible gun ownership, or has the NRA motto become: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of schoolchildren and civilians"? Does that sound like freedom?

Rather than unite behind the unite behind the recent horrific tragedy of Newton, extremist pro-gun Americans have wrapped themselves in the same haunted American flag that Black Kettle flew over his camp while he watched women and children being slaughtered and called it patriotism.

As a proud Cheyenne who knows how hard my ancestors fought so I could speak today, I know their spilled blood should not be used as a “gun rights” Straw Man ploy. Does anyone really believe the anonymous people who created this billboard are some kind of longtime American Indian rights activists?

Not to exclude other non-white killers like that of the Korean National V-Tech and the Ojibwe Red Lake killers, but if we’re bringing race into the issue, why don’t they use pictures of mass murdering Caucasians Jared Loughner of Tucson, Newtown’s Adam Lanza, or Aurora’s James Holmes? They’d call it insensitive, while ironically telling me I should “just get over it” regarding the deaths of innocent Sand Creek children being exploited. They could have a picture of all three of them together as it says, “Buy more guns. The NRA will make it easier for these guys to do so, after all.”

Sardonic, perhaps, but at least having their photos on a billboard wouldn’t be a deflection to the real reason of why we’re having this discussion in the first place instead of using the systematic genocide of Natives as some sort of political gun nut mascot.

A lifelong Montana resident, Adrian Jawort is a freelance journalist, writer, and poet. A proud member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, he is a contributor to Indian Country Today Media Network as well as Native Peoples, Cowboys & Indians and many other publications.
 

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Anonymous's picture
I DON'T FEEL THEY DID THAT AT ALL, ITS NOT A PERSONAL INTEREST, ITS A NATIONAL INTEREST! WE KICKED CUSTERS ASS WITH GUNS AND OTHER WEAPONS...AND WE USED THEM TO DEFEND OURSELVES AND OUR OYATE...! YOU MAKING IT POLITICAL, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH U.S. POLITICAL AND ECCONOMICAL AND DOMINATING INTEREST TO RULE OTHERS BY DIVIDING THEM...! OUR FIRST NATIONS SHALL STAND STRONG WITH GUNS, AGAINST THOSE THAT WOULD KILL US, EVEN AGAISNT THE U.S. OF AMERICAN AND WE WIN!!!!!
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I think the message of the billboard is all Americans are about to become as disenfranchised as the Indians were. Rights are being taken from Americans by the government now just as they were from Indians.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I have long wondered about the connections between Native peoples of this country and their connection with guns. Good information here. I wonder what other comments are forthcoming? Additionally, Blessings to All our Native soldiers who have served and are yet in the military. You have chosen a Warrior's way according to our Native way.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
"I think the message of the billboard is all Americans are about to become as disenfranchised as the Indians were." Really? Are they going to start riding into towns of white people and start mass murdering every child and woman they see because there is a proposal not to sell guns to people like Jared Loughner? Is that your comparison?
Anonymous
stevef's picture
I am sorry for your loss. When I first saw that poster, I laughed. I thought it was great. The 'message' I got from it was 'go ahead, trust the government, like the Indians did'. I have skin friends on Facebook that put that picture up as their profile pic because they got the same message that I did. We’re from Oregon, Washington and Montana and it didn't strike the open nerve that it did on you. For that, I am sorry. Peace out, Steve
stevef
Anonymous's picture
Agreed, stop those that seek to use the Native image to promote their own agenda be denounced for the parasites the represent to the Native people. Thank you for TRULY representing the Native people and our need to ensure the tools we use to hunt do not become the weapons others use to kill.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I agree with many statements in this article. The comment below suggesting that politics has nothing to do with it may not be entirely true. As a Native American myself I find it insulting because regardless of who funded the billboard, seeks to get the favor whether realizing it or not from Native peoples. Those morons are comparing apples to oranges because time periods separate the political and societal turmoil that tends to happen. As stated in the article, the second amendment was written during a completely different time period where muskets and single shot rifles were used AND people needed to defend their homesteads. I'm not anti-gun, but I am anti-automatic weapons because they have no place in what we call a 'civilized' society. In fact, the issue is whether or not semi-automatic and fully automatic guns have a place in society. Are you really going to hunt with a weapon that you need 30+ rounds to even shoot the damn animal. Learn to aim with 10 or less. Believe me, it's plenty. Native peoples have both won and lost battles with Euro-Americans who dominated the U.S. and our society has changed. Both historical and modern incidents of gun violence are distinctly different and cannot be used as a comparison for what the current hot topic is today. Guns today do not guarantee safety Mr. 'Anonymous who thinks we should stand strong against those who would kill us.' Today we have common sense and the ability to raise our voices to the problems that affect all American citizens as a whole. We vote for those nut jobs in the democratic and republican parties who are supposed to represent the interests of the American people. If we want to avoid any tyrannical rule and government control we should speak up and let those in control know we do not agree. Btw.....having guns against the U.S. government if they for no reason whatsoever decide to decimate the human race occupying N. America will not save us against a nuclear bomb or any other heavy duty weapons..
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I find the billboard with Native peoples to be not apt. It would be if it said, "Turn in your arms, China's government will take care of you" or the name of any other nation.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I aware of the Sand Creek Massacre, one of many examples of genocide by an imperialistic government. I also think the government is beginning to implode, and like most revolutions, will begin to devour its own children. It just took longer. I interpreted the image to mean "if it happened to us, it will happen to you." I didn't think the image was to take away from or demean the significance of the atrocities committed by the American government, but to hold them up to the American people. This is your future.
Anonymous
stevef's picture
I must admit I get a certain amount of 'annoyance' when I read discussion about the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution and then go directly into 'if you need a 30 round mag to hunt, you need to be a better shot'. The 2nd amendment has NOTHING to do with Hunting. I strongly support the right to bear arms, and for me, a high degree does go to my hunting, but I have spend a great deal of my hunting with a Ruger #1, but the reason behind the 2nd amendment is not hunting. The logic of stating when the 2nd amendment was written it was muskets, would be like saying when Treaties were written, skins hunted with Bows & Arrows and therefore we had to still limit ourselves to bow & arrows? Logic disconnect? Steve
stevef

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