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State of the ICTMN Opinion Section

Ray Cook, ICTMN Opinion Editor
2/18/13

In the Northeast among the forests and along the shores of Iroquoia we have a dance called the Women’s Shuffle Dance, or the Women’s Dance. The men sing an ancient song meant to honor and recognize the role of women and the female spirit.

As the men sing these old verses only the women would dance what can be described as an elaborate shuffle. Neither foot leaves the ground at any time during the dance.  And, that is not an easy thing to do. The men sing and provide a beat that at times seems to taunt the dancers to whoop it up and tease them to dare and lift their feet high. But, the women remain reserved and confident in what they are doing. That step is meant to symbolize that there is no disconnect between the human female and the mother they call earth. One is the other.

The men sing to assist. To sing the correct words so the women are able to express their regards to life’s cycles. And that’s all we do, assist. That is what we call, man’s work; to simply and reliably assist when needed and get out of the way the rest of the time. Sounds simple, but all around us there are cultures that have yet to get the hang of that, and we are all paying the price in war, greed and environmental degradation.

It has been over two years now since we (Indian Country Today Media Network) began our walk down this new trail. Everything everyone has done to create and maintain ICTMN over the decades has led us to this point in our work.

Our work is to interpret our collective political, social, economic, spiritual/medicinal and educational realities and examine all that can affect those 5 areas of sovereignty. We are doing that with an increase in women’s perspectives on the Op/Ed pages.

The increase in women’s voices happened literally over-night as the ICTMN owners gave breath to our Iroquois notions of what the woman’s role in our life is. Moral compass and practical guides.

Congratulations goes out to Billy Mills, for once again bringing our peoples worth to the fore front. The Rapid City Journal reports that, “On Friday [past], the Pine Ridge native will be in Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian award.” Billy has been working for years promoting the good health and well being of Native youth through his work at Running Strong for American Indian Youth. Billy has always been an inspiration, one of many within our community.

America’s Indian cheerleader squads are applauding the President’s choice of the nervous looking Sally Jewell to head the Department of the Interior. Those living in Indian country take a collective gasp as yet another unknown is chosen to stand at the helm of one of America’s largest bureaucracies. Sally will become the overseer of the BIA and thus, all things Tribal government. Federally recognized tribal government, that is. The rest of non-recognized Indian country remain free of that neck breaking whet stone as we all tread water in this game of survival.

Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is endorsing Sally. Let’s hope Billy is right.

We applaud the Navajo Nation in its attempts to wrestle control of its resources from big industry and their accomplice, the DOI. But, I caution our Navajo relations. Among the Iroquois there is a prophecy that showed us how the immigrants will unleash a two headed snake from the underground and each head would go in opposite directions and encompass the earth, eating everything and everyone in its path.

We thought once that the two headed snake represented gold and silver. And maybe it did at one time, but our interpretation of that vision has become clearer. The two headed snake is now fossil fuel and uranium. Either way, the lesson is that some things are better off left alone. There is a reason things are buried, and it has nothing to do with creating a challenge to find them.

During the end of the Indian wars, a great man said, “…what befalls us, will befall you.” The corporate government of the U.S. cares not for the common man, but cares for the men of power. The Occupy movement illustrated the discomfort the sons and daughters of corporate America are feeling as their system begins to fail them. And they have plenty to worry about, oil sands are a shaky foundation for any house of cards.

The Idle No More movement shows us the results of corporate greed and cunning. Canada has become a corporate owned government. Will Canada get away with abrogating its Treaty obligations initiated by their Guardian the United Kingdom? That all depends on the actors.

For the Idle No More enthusiasts, there is only one solution to the dilemma, it is found in a kid’s saying, a taunt really, ‘use it, or lose it’. Mohawk author Taiaiake Alfred writes what we have been saying for decades, "[T]he only way to keep this movement going is for us to see our actions in Idle No More as part of a larger and long-standing commitment to the restoration of Indigenous nationhood... In practical terms, we need to go beyond demonstrations and rallies in malls and legislatures and on public streets and start to reoccupy Indigenous sacred, ceremonial and cultural use sites to re-establish our presence on our land and in doing so to educate Canadians about our continuing connections to those places and how important they are to our continuing existence as Indigenous Peoples."

Tactically speaking, that is a brilliant thought. If indigenous people through out Canada began to occupy and utilize their sacred and historic sites for their intended purpose Canadian authorities would be too far stretched to bear down significantly on any one community or group at any one time.

The VAWA movement has tasted success last week. The U.S. Senate passed the law while keeping intact provisions that we hope will come to mean not a granting of authority, but a recognition of the inherent right of Native peoples to administer justice within our sovereign jurisdictions.  Brent Leonhard, the Deputy attorneys general for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in Oregon, says there exist several early treaties signed by many of America’s founding fathers that clearly acknowledge the inherent sovereign right of nations to enforce their laws over their jurisdictions including over non-Natives.

Congressional affirmation, that acknowledgment would be a great step in ensuring that the women can continue their Shuffle Dance as they weave their way through life’s cycles.

The winter has turned the corner and now heads into spring and planting season. The weather can still turn nasty well into March as winter slowly moves on. Now is the time to begin planning your gardens, those in warmer climes might be making plans in preparation for germinating their seed stocks for planting.

Just like those forward thinking people getting ready for spring, Indian Country Today Media Network also plans to provide you with enough news and information that you can implement your visions, by identifying the trends, to see what is just over the hill that lies in your path. Our goal is to inform, interpret and inspire. I hope that at the end of this year our people will remain with our sovereign individual identities intact and undiluted…better yet, uncompromised.

 

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