Thank you for this article. Last week my rez brother and I took out our rifles for shooting, both as sport but also to recheck our dope for the season. On our drive home I got to thinking about the right to bear arms in Indian Country. While no verbatim language in treaties or in law exist protecting 'the right to keep and bear arms" within Indian Country, I settled on treaty hunting rights as place in Indian law that might protect us guys for owning guns to "hunt" with. And still the question lingered, what about guns unrelated to hunting? Say pistols, assualt rifles, and shotguns intended for personal protection. Some years ago, while riding for the Navajo Nation Council brand as a legislative advisor for the Publc Safety Committee, a well intentioned council delegate entertained legislation requiring tribal members to register firearms, primarily for gun control and safety purposes, i.e. minimum age requirement, no felons may possess a fire-arm, loss/theft, and safety training as a requirement for ownwership/registration. After an hour or so of discussing the proposed tribal law, the conversation among the half dozen Navajo lawmakers focused on hunting and personal protection as the only uses and possession for firearms within the Navajo Nation. You may be asking aren't these the only two reasons for owning firearms within an Indian reservation? (On the national level (outside Indian nations) the debate rages on between these reasons and another that is "necessary to the security of a free state.") But Indian culture (like 5-10 mph wind's effect on a bullet at 800 yards) tends to change what should be a straight shot nonsecular discussion. Enter Navajo cultural religious use of firearms in Navajo healing ceremonies like the Enemy Way or Nine-Night Chant. Now, not intending to give out details of the sacred (you can pick up a book for that on amazon.com), firearms are used in this and other ceremonies. Back to the Navajo law makers in deep thought and talk... I interrupted and asked, "What about the ceremonies where firearms are used? How do you all want handle that?" Faces dropped and the only thing making noise was the wall clock's second hand. "I hadn't though of that," said the well educated, progressive and younger Navajo council delegate sponsoring the Navajo gun control law. Long story short, the bill was tabled and we moved on to other compelling like the need for dog catchers at the Navajo fair and rodeo. I share this experience because I was reminded about it when I read the Siouan word "Maza Wakan." And like all good long winded tribal leaders out there, my point, finally, is that... we should not lose sight of the cultural and religious aspects of the use of Be-Al-Doh, or what we Navajo speakers call the gun, in the drafting of tribal gun control laws.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 18:16