2012 Hall of Fame and Mantle of Shame Awards
HALL OF FAME: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for winning second terms by a whopping 332 electoral votes to 206 for Republican challenger Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, confounding most of the Democrats’ critics and supporters, who predicted the closest election ever. Few publicly forecast an Obama-Biden victory by a large margin, but their top campaigners, especially political consultant David Axelrod, were confident about turnout and the 2 million new voters they registered. Nate Silver merged polls and emerged as the most accurate predictor anywhere, and his New York Times FiveThirtyEight blog became a political must-read. On election eve in the battleground state of Wisconsin, Songwriter/Musician Bob Dylan interrupted “Blowin’ in the Wind” to say, “Don’t believe the media. I think it’s going to be a landslide.”
MANTLE OF SHAME: Governor Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan for trying to win ugly. Voter disdain and white lies marked their campaign, and a secret tape of Romney dissing the “47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what” may have been the tipping point against his candidacy. He said the 47 percent believe they are victims and entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to not pay income tax: “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Projections by GOP advisors Karl Rove and Dick Morris were so wrong they disputed news of their candidates’ loss and had meltdowns on TV, while Donald Trump tweeted for “revolution.” Author Ann Coulter commiserated with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, taking up a “makers and takers” mantra after the Ryanism that the country is “a majority of takers versus makers.” They and Ryan, who remains House budget committee chair despite Republican term-limit rules, continue to cast half the electorate as freeloaders in the spending/taxing tug of war that threatens to take the economy over the “fiscal cliff.”
HALL OF FAME: President Obama for keeping campaign promises to meet with tribal leaders annually. In closing his fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 5, he said, “And today, because we’ve made sure that the conversations here have translated into action, we can point to signs of real progress. We’ve focused on justice and tribal sovereignty….But we’ve got more to do. With domestic violence so prevalent on reservations, we’re pushing Congress to restore your power to bring to justice anyone—Indian or non-Indian—who hurts a woman. [Applause.] With some tribal nations unable to put their land into federal trust, we’re pushing Congress to pass the Carcieri fix right away. [Applause.]” He referenced expanding economic, educational and health care opportunities for Native Americans, and called for rebuilding infrastructure and support for small businesses: “That’s the future we need to build. And I’ve never been more hopeful about our chances.”
MANTLE OF SHAME: Perpetrators of Violence Against Native American Women. All who work against protecting Native women in the Violence Against Women Act for intentionally maintaining the jurisdictional gap on reservations that allows perpetrators to remain free. Tribal police and courts need statutory authority to hold violent offenders accountable, because Native nations were stripped of that jurisdiction by federal law, but federal and state authorities do not vigorously pursue non-Native predators on tribal lands. One in three Native women is raped during her lifetime; non-Natives commit 88 percent of all violent crimes against Natives and about 67 percent of sexual assault cases are not prosecuted. Representatives Darrell Issa of California and Tom Cole of Oklahoma are to be commended for introducing legislation that addresses concerns of other Republicans, who do not know that tribal jurisdiction regarding nontribal defendants is constitutional.
All the prominent white men who opined about rape and women, notably: Representative Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin of Missouri (Akin and Ryan co-sponsored with around 200 other House members an earlier bill proposing a new legal category: “forcible rape”); GOP candidate for Senate from Indiana Richard (rape pregnancies are a “gift from God”) Mourdock; the Virginia legislators who wanted to force women to have “transvaginal ultrasound” probes before abortions and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who asked for and signed into law “less invasive” jelly-on-the-belly ultrasounds; and tax reformer Grover Norquist, whose antitax pledge led to the GOP “fiscal cliff” stand, reportedly said, “Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”
HALL OF FAME: Author/Poet Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) for writing The Round House and winning her first National Book Award for it. She won in the fiction category, but her novel is ripped from headlines about rape on an Indian reservation, where Native women are victimized primarily by non-Natives and by federal politicians who fail to allow tribes to bring them to justice. In accepting the award for her 14th novel and third NBA nomination, she recognized the “grace and endurance of Native women.”
MANTLE OF SHAME: Representative Mary Bono Mack of California for casting her opponent—Representative-elect Raul Ruiz, a Democrat—as “anti-American” because of what she saw as his support of Native American issues. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a Tea Party Republican, is leaving the Senate after serving only one third of his term to run The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has opposed Native rights since its inception in 1973.
HALL OF FAME: Senators-elect Mark Begich of Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Senator Jon Tester of Montana for winning and Native voters for helping them do it. Begich and Heitkamp will take seats on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Tester will remain on it. They join Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, who will chair the SCIA in the 113th Congress.
MANTLE OF SHAME: Poarch Band of Creek Indians for building a casino on top of Hickory Ground in Wetumpka, Alabama, a sacred place and the last capitol of the Muscogee Confederacy before being
forced to move to Indian Territory. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Ocevpofv People of Hickory Ground Tribal Town in Oklahoma implored Poarch leaders to stop the desecration, but the Band accelerated construction. On December 12, the Nation and the tribal town filed a federal lawsuit against Poarch and other developers that are desecrating Hickory Ground and those who are permitting them to do it.
HALL OF FAME: Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo, Seminole/Creek, for using his time and considerable talents to make, “The Battle for Hickory Ground,” a film about Ocevpofv and Muscogee efforts to save Hickory Ground. Principal Chiefs of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, representing more than 750,000 Native citizens, for their October 12, 2012 resolution supporting the lawful efforts of Ocevpofv “to halt the desecration and all future desecrations of (Hickory Ground in Alabama), as should be afforded protection under Federal Laws.”
MANTLE OF SHAME: U.S. Forest Service and Department of Agriculture for desecrating San Francisco Peaks, Mount Graham and other sacred places; for demeaning Hopi, Navajo, Apache and other nations’ efforts to protect them in and out of court; and for stalling for four years before releasing a final report on Indian sacred sites that makes recommendations, but does nothing to stop harming or start helping Native Peoples or sacred places.
HALL OF FAME: Native People in the Obama Administration for working across federal and tribal governments to achieve the modest, but honest commitments in the formal agreements of November and December 2012 regarding: (1) Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites, signed by the secretaries of Defense, Interior, Agriculture and Energy, and the chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; (2) Native Languages, signed by the Bureau of Indian education director; Administration for Native Americans commissioner; and White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education executive director; and (3) National Reimbursement Agreement for Native Veterans to Access Care Closer to Home, between the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Affairs Department. Language Warriors for working to reauthorize the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act.
MANTLE OF SHAME: Washington Football Team Owners and FedEx for another year of clinging to the team’s disparaging name; opposing all major national Native organizations that have called for an end to it and all racist stereotypes in American sports; and fighting Native young people in Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc. This year marks 20 years of active Native litigation against the R word and the last time that Washington went to a Super Bowl.
HALL OF FAME: Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin leaders for ending “Native” sports references in their public schools. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, NCAA & Native Students at UND for succeeding, despite threats, hostility and abuse, in ending the race-based “Fighting Sioux” name of the University of North Dakota’s athletic program.
MANTLE OF SHAME: Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren (and her Indian-snubbing staffers) and Senator Scott Brown (and his tomahawk-chopping staffers) for playing “Indian,” Indian politics and a pack of race cards. Actor Johnny Depp for not trusting his audience enough to do something other than that awful “Ugh” Tonto accent and for not trusting that Native people would think he was way cool just for being a terrific actor, with or without talk about long-ago Cherokees in his Kentucky family and even though he was adopted by a Comanche family. Model Karlie Kloss for cat-walking nearly naked in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, wearing a feathered headdress trailing on the floor and dripping in silver and turquoise, with fringed suede accenting her stilettos and hips. Victoria’s Secret later apologized as did Kloss; her ex-boyfriend, St. Louis Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford, Cherokee made no public statements.
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee, is an award-winning columnist and a poet, writer, curator and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples to protect sacred places and recover more than one million acres of land. President of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., she is a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians and past news director of the American Indian Press Association.