'America is Indian country'
In a packed lecture room at the City University of New York Graduate
Center, editors and columnists from Indian Country Today shared anecdotes
and analyses of current events. The occasion, sponsored by the Flying Eagle
Woman Fund and Fulcrum Publishing, was the publication of the book "America
is Indian Country: Opinions and Perspectives from Indian Country Today." It
convened old friends who recalled mileposts from the Indian consciousness
movement of the 1970s to today.
"America is Indian Country" represents a collective production of the core
group of editorialists and columnists who write for these pages. Twenty-one
contributors of editorials and perspective pieces ranged through myriad
topics and themes in the book; and five of these, Katsi Cook, John Mohawk,
Associate Editor Jim Adams, Executive Editor Tim Johnson and Senior Editor
Jose Barreiro, attended the Manhattan event. Mohawk, Cook and Barreiro
recounted anecdotes from their 30 years of collaboration, which goes back
to the early publishing of the Indian movement publication called Akwesasne
In the introduction to "America is Indian Country" the reader is invited to
consider Indian country from the viewpoint that American Indians -- our
families, peoples and nations -- hold in common principles of community and
tribal ways, and have many jurisdictional matters to defend. These concerns
deserve the clearest of thinking. They also deserve a wide-ranging
discussion, where all well-argued positions are considered openly and
respectfully. We believe that our points of view must rightfully range and
sometimes clash, tribally and nationally. This must be possible without
destructive approaches. The widest reporting and deepest debate comprise
exactly the recipe needed to establish the kinds of solutions-oriented
discussions that make achievement possible.
From direct experience, the generation that refashioned this newspaper
carries in its memory those times when poverty was endemic and, even worse,
when most governments responded to Indian demands with police or military
action. Little hope prevailed. Within this generation, disadvantage has
begun to turn toward advantage. So it is that we shared and respected the
vision that a high-quality national American Indian newspaper must be of
benefit to all Indian peoples, each of whom can learn from each other's
Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell wrote in his preface to the book:
"Indian country has needed good, serious journalism, one backed by
intelligent curiosity, always with tough, penetrating questions and yet
always, too, consciously respectful in the handling of people and
information. We all benefit from professional reporting and crisp
At the event, Mohawk noted the urgency of the Indian movement era. He
recalled having to choose either an early career in academia or, in
recognition of the potentials of the times, throwing his lot in with the
movement. Akwesasne Notes, which Mohawk described as a precursor to the
modern ICT in terms of carrying the crux of the national Indian discourse,
became the Indian information vehicle in the 1970s. Mohawk recruited
Barreiro, Cook and many others to that work.
The term "sovereignty," which became the driving wedge of the Indian
movement, was heard increasingly in the mid-'70s. Cook, a midwife and ICT
columnist, recalled a meeting of traditional Haudenosaunee chiefs, clan
mothers and activists which took place at Loon Lake, N.Y., in 1977. "Some
of the most interesting thinking about how to prepare for our future came
out of those days of meetings," she said.
Applying some of the best thinking from among the people, the folks in
attendance at Loon Lake sought an Indian definition of sovereignty. In its
most encompassing approach, what is sovereignty? When can a people in fact
assert their inherent freedom to be who they are?
A useful framework that outlined five major areas of sovereignty emerged
from that meeting. In order for a people to be sovereign, they have to have
control of these main areas of community or nation life: governance, land
and economy, education and socialization of young people, health and
reproduction and psycho-spiritual definition. "In each of those areas,
people could work toward sovereignty. It was the one on health and
reproduction that caught my attention. I understood then that my work on
midwifery had everything to do with sovereignty," Cook said.
Barreiro stressed the importance of the Native self-expression explosion of
the past 20 years -- in the arts, literature, academic research and
journalism. Education, once a weapon used to destroy Native culture, is now
increasingly in line with pride in culture. Educated Native professionals
are now present in every walk of life, while the international indigenous
work at the United Nations dovetailed the need to create alliances for
remote Indian communities.
At the event, this newspaper's editors spoke of the collaboration principle
of the group that reworked ICT into a national Indian newspaper while
Adams, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, let it be known that his
association with ICT is the most prized of his long and distinguished
career. A traditional conservative, Adams has a keen appreciation for the
injustices still suffered by Indian peoples.
While "America is Indian Country" is not a comprehensive volume of every
major American Indian event that had national ramifications in the years
2000 through 2004, the new book provides readers with a contextual view,
framed by American Indian editors, of events and ideas that shaped American
Indian opinion at the beginning of a new century.