2012

Letters

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Ponca Tribe and all Oklahomans deserve clean environment

To those who have visited the Ponca City area (in Oklahoma) it is apparent that the people there are virtually inundated with industrial pollution. South of Ponca City on Highway 177 is a small housing addition owned by the Ponca Tribe situated in the shadows of a Taiwanese-owned corporation called Continental Carbon Company. Continental Carbon makes a petroleum-based product used mostly in tire production called carbon black.

Continental Carbon's operations forces carbon black dust down the throats of its workers while spewing it into the air and onto the little Ponca housing addition and other nearby neighbors. The trees and grass are black. The houses are covered with black soot. The black dust settles inside the houses on furniture and food. Clothes hung on the clothesline become gray with this soot. Farmers say the tongues and mouths of their livestock are black from chewing the grass coated with carbon black soot. Little toddlers come in from playing outside, their sweaty little faces, hands and smiles black and sooty. When you visit there don't wear nice shoes if you plan to walk around in the yards. I ruined a new pair of brown boots in an afternoon.

Discarded carbon black and chemical barrels have been found in the woods behind the plant with the contents seeping toward the Arkansas River.

Documentation shows that since the 1960s the Ponca Tribe and nearby non-Indian farmers have complained to the state of Oklahoma about the pollution. The workers inside also complained for years.

Continental Carbon has proved true the saying that companies that care little for their employees also care little for their neighbors and the environment. In May, 2001, the company locked most of its union work force out of their jobs. The state of Oklahoma, acting through the Department of Environmental Quality, has repeatedly sided with the company and ignored the complaints of the Ponca Tribe, the union, and the farmers. For many months, state enviromental officials refused to meet with these groups and halted investigations of their complaints.

After years of complaining to Oklahoma state officials who seemed to be more concerned with protecting the company's profits, the citizens groups joined forces and turned to our courts for help. Together, they have filed several legal actions and permit challenges to stop the pollution.

In response to a water pollution lawsuit against the company brought by the Union and the Ponca Tribe, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality joined with Continental Carbon in seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed - even before the evidence was presented to a jury.

Also stepping on citizens' rights is what apears to be a front group for industry, The Environmental Federation of Oklahoma. The EFO also asked the federal court to throw out the lawsuit and effectively deny citizen, worker and tribal rights. Farm Bureau, the largest member of the anti-Indian sovereignty group One Nation is a member of EFO. Two EFO Board members, Jack Hoffman and Jody Reinhart sit on our Oklahoma DEQ Board/Council. Talk about the proverbial bedfellows!

If the OK DEQ is successful in its endeavor to get the federal court to throw out the citizen lawsuit and thereby ignore the offending behaviors of this foreign corporation, it will set a dangerous precedent for all states to do the same.

If the state of Oklahoma is allowed to go on ignoring workers' rights, citizens' rights and tribal authority to determine environmental quality standards on Indian lands, we will become even more of a dumping ground for corporate polluters.

So on Friday, March 26 we are asking all Oklahomans to please take a stand with labor groups, Oklahoma citizens and Tribal Nations against the state's attempts to curtail our rights to legally address industrial pollution of Oklahoma lands, air and water!

Oklahomans must take a stand against corporate contamination of our Oklahoma communities! We are not the dumping grounds for foreign corporations! We must take back our state offices from the owners of Continental Carbon, and others who will sell our right to a clean environment in order to protect the bottomless pockets of polluting corporations against Oklahomans!

Please join our diverse coalition of concerned citizens on March 26 at 1pm, on the South Plaza steps of the OK capitol to protect citizen rights and Indian sovereignty!

Sincerely,
JoKay Dowell,
Tahlequah, OK

OutKast
missing context = missed irony

I think the biggest problem with the Outkast’s performance at the Grammy’s was that they expected too much context and intelligence from the audience.

I was checking my email when I heard traditional Native music coming from the television in the other room where my roommate was watching the Grammy’s. I saw a television screen on the stage with a head that was giving a speech that I couldn’t decipher, but I noticed a glowing green tipi in the background.

Andre3000 then came out in a money green-colored spandex half-jumpsuit with a band around his head and arms to sing "Hey Ya!" He was followed out of the tipi by an onslaught of dancers who were dressed similarly with a green-dyed turkey feather stuck off-center, like a baseball cap, on their head. Any dancer with long hair had her hair braided like the woman on the cover of a Land O’ Lakes butter package. Near the latter third of the song, a marching band came out with layered green and white stripes painted on their faces like "Chief Osceola" who "opens" the Florida State University football games, the costume of which has only recently been giving any nod of historical accuracy due to outcries by many in the Native community.

To me, however, the costuming of the dancers and the brass marching band that followed Andre3000 resembled more of the New Orleans-styled Mardi Gras "tribes" (http://www.mardigrasindians.com/). Outkast, who are from Atlanta, is within an arm’s reach of New Orleans and in the heart of a territory in which African-American slaves have long been intermarrying with Native people. The Mardi Gras Indians claim that their choice of appropriated costuming is to recognize the local Native people of the area that harbored escaped slaves. The style of the Mardi Gras Indian regalia is a very distinct cultural evolution of more traditionally-based regalia, but, with a twist of a different kind of Carnival-esque "glamour." Additionally, Andre3000 looked to be wearing a wig coiffed circa late 70’s -- the heyday of funk, a genre that has traditionally encouraged performers to wear garish costumes.

The Grammy’s had earlier celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1964. Coincidentally enough, the video for "Hey Ya!" is a tribute to the old television appearances of musicians on shows like Ed Sullivan in the 50's and early 60's with modernized changes. The costumes of Andre and the dancers were so offensive, that it invited the viewer to look deeper than the surficial appearance. The inspiration for the costumes seemed to be fueled by the costumes of the old Westerns on the movie and television screens of that same era that really did use triangle-speckled headbands and dyed turkey feathers to depict every tribe of North American Indians north of the Rio Grande. I was told that Andre has recently been found dressing as a "Jocko" statue of the Old South in a variety of public places, recently; I think to invite the beholder to question his intent of drudging up some old racist kitsch.

I missed the speech at the beginning that might have further contextualized Outkast's intention, but, I’m giving Andre the benefit of the doubt. He has shown provocation in the past and I think he was using the giant spotlight of the Grammy's to reproach yet another scion of racist kitsch. With real ceremonial music playing hauntingly at the beginning of the performance to be lambasted by a cheap imitation carrying the historical acts of conflict and defiance a la Mardi Gras Indians, I think he knew the difference between traditional regalia and racist distortion. I found it to be tongue-in-cheek irony, with the sad part being that the images would be lost on the ignorant masses who had no context -- and Andre wasn’t giving any. So, the meaning flew over most people’s heads and as one of my friends put it, "We were left scratching our heads, thinking, 'Gee, now that's pretty problematic'" for the lack of discussion on the perceived cultural appropriation.

Jennifer (last name withheld by request)
(Ojibway/Odawa)
Oakland, California

Employ America's Native people first before helping illegal immigrants

With hundred of thousands Natives unemployed, the governor of Arizona is out positioning Mexican Immigrants to work programs in Arizona...her agenda is not getting work from Mexicans, it is really for their votes. See story ...
~ Lewis Morgan

Putting faith in Diyin Dineh

You did not mention your clans, so I do not know if you are related to me or not. My clan is Naaneesht'eezhii T'aachiinii, born for Tsinsikaadnii. My chei is T'oodichiinii, my nullih is Tl'aaschii'. My name is Arthur Nesk'aahii (Neskahi).

I really appreciated Betty Reid's account of the conflicts between traditional Navajo, Christian and NAC beliefs [Shizhé'é, my father].

The reason is because I was raised in a strict, fundamental Christian Navajo home, my Chei, a devout Christian Reformed convert, made my mother promise that she would raise her children without any traditional Navajo teachings. So I was raised without my own Dineh language, culture, NOTHING! We were even secluded from our non-Christian relatives, both traditional Navajo and NAC, we didn't even know who they were. All we knew were our Christian relatives.

But in my later years, I found a desire to relearn where I came from and now I am doing my best to learn the prayers of the Diyin Dineh and how to conduct myself in their ways.

I guess I'm telling this to you just to show how far some zealous converts have gone. Some have probably gone even further.

Anyway, because of what I have experienced and what I believe many other Native people have gone through, my brothers and sisters and I have started a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and propagate Native American culture. One of our first projects is to implement a "Ceremonial Support Project" whose main function is to support Native families and individuals who need ceremonials for healings and blessings. We see that there are many families and individuals who have been cut off from the support of the traditional support systems to have ceremonies, due to various circumstances, (one of them is the Christianization of families).

Our organization is called the All Nations Medicine Lodge. We are located 6 miles south Cortez, Colorado, still within the sacred boundary of our northern sacred mountain, Dibeh ntsaa. Our long range goal is to create a Native American Cultural Preservation Center. We are inter-tribal because we know that other tribal people have experienced this as well as the Dineh people. We feel that we can help, in the NAC and other ceremonies that tolerate prayers from various tribes and their own dieties, and in traditional Dineh prayers.

Your writing has expressed what I believe many Native people are experiencing or are the descendants of parents who went through the same thing.

Again, please indulge me as I carry on: I think that you are right on when you mention the "two Gods" of the different religions. For us Navajos, many of our dieties are associated with the mountains in and around our homeland. In this view, my own personal thoughts are that the God of Moses, who claims also to be the God of Abraham, has his own mountain, the Sinai Mountain, where he gave Moses the Ten Commandments, where he has his "burning bush."
This God claims to be a jealous God, wanting to be the God of all gods. But, the continuing dismal record of his "chosen people, the Hebrews, seems to contradict his claims of All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Loving....

So I have chosen to put my faith in our own Diyin Dineh.

I want to thank you for expressing what most of our people have experienced and your own family's resolution to the problem.

Honoring our ancestors

Sounds like things are taken shape out in the Indian Country, now with your new Web site as addition to our electronic telecommunications the Natives are right in midst of high tech development of communication. From mirrors and smoke signals to now cyberoptics, I bet our ancestors are up there with their arms folded and nodding their approval.

We, the readers, will do everything we can to bring success to your new Web site. Thank you.
~ Lew Morgan/ Anoka, MN

Straddling a newly broken horse

I met Betty Reid once some years ago standing outside the Navajo Council Chambers, she was working for the Navajo Times, she was walking around the crowd asking questions about how the people felt about Mother's Day.

I see an eloquence in her words and in her life. Her mother and father did well in raising her, her actions
speak well of them and her family.

Her story about her father illustrates the straddling of a newly broken horse, trying to tame it and then wanting it to run free, trying to decide how to go
with it, yet needing it to get around with. It seems that how were raised and values taught to us, we seem to return to as time goes by, I am beginning to think it is not so much the name of the way we live, being baptized in so many churches but trying to find a balance, harmony and the sweet taste of life in each dawn.

This way of life is fast disappearing and I am glad to see that she writes about it so well.

~ rustywire
rustywire@yahoo.com

Giving strength

I've lived in North Carolina for 25 years and your article [ Remembering Father, Betty Reid ] has reawakened many feelings about the reservation life.  Remembering those feelings gives me strength to deal with life.  We truly have a rich heritage and a pool of wisdom to give us daily guide.  Thanks.

~ Helen Clark

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