Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Little Pigs - Standing Rock Edition

Once when people lived in lodges, a Native leader wanted to help his people. They were having a hard time. They didn't yet know how to live a good life. The leader looked to the animals that lived in the forest. They lived without wars or hunger or illness. This leader thought that if he could talk to one of the mighty animals of the forest, he (or she) could teach the people how to live a good life.

Early one morning he set off into the woods alone to find an animal spirit that could guide him. Soon he came across the tracks of a mighty deer. The tracks sunk deep in the forest loam telling the man that this was an old and mighty buck who had survived many harsh winters. As the man tracked the deer he became oblivious to where he was going, and he walked right through a spider web.

The leader flung his arms and brushed his face to rid himself of the webbing. He said some words in anger. 

"Why are you angry?" asked the Spider. "I am the one with the ruined home."

The man tried to hide his blunder in a bluff of importance, "I am tracking a Grandfather deer. The people are struggling. They need a spirit animal to show them a good way to live."

"What about me?" said the spider. "can show the people a good way to live." The man wanted to laugh, but the spider stopped him. "Look at how I live. I plan. I build. And I wait. and good things come to me."

I was surprised when I heard this spider story. I was used to farm animals being the heroes in stories. This spider story helped me rethink some of the fairytales I tell my children and reinterpret them to more closely align with their Native values.

Culture is passed on through stories. It is our stories and our actions that teach our children the values we want them to hold. Through the eyes of culture the same event has many different interpretations.

Once lightning struck my backyard. That is an event. To make sense of the events of our lives, we spin them into stories.

Here's a short story from the State of North Dakota.

"Forty below keeps the riff raff out."

It seems the state forgot that the Standing Rock Sioux have always been there. The first winter storm hit and instead of running, the Oceti Sakowin camp played. 

There is a Gathering near Standing Rock. That is an event. The stories of Standing Rock will be told for generations to come. The odds are stacked against us, but we are determined to join those at Standing Rock with more than just words and money. We will travel to Standing Rock where we too can stand as stone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Police State - Standing Rock Edition

I am pro law enforcement.

I can't help it. I blame it on my job. I work in Dixie State University's Computer Crime Lab where day in and day out I analyze digital devices like phones and computers and write forensic reports for investigators from rural county sheriff's to the FBI; from SLC homicide to the Secret Service. I've done phones for the BIA, the military, the DOJ, the DEA, the SBI, homeland security, airport security... And I love assisting these investigators. I love it so much, that I work overtime. I volunteer my time on holiday's and weekends. When I am told, "Can you rush this? We have a hearing on this on Monday. We'll overnight it to you!" -- and I am examining the phone of a suspect in an officer involved homicide -- how can I say, "Sorry, I have next week off. You'll just need to wing it."

I am also an instructor in DSU's criminal justice department. Like it or not, I think about criminal justice a lot. I think about it when I travel overseas.  I meet with law enforcement agents from around the world. We talk and compare.

The United States does not have a national police force. We have jurisdictions over geographical areas and a myriad of different agencies with different missions. Clearly defined jurisdictions and missions work for the most part, except when it doesn't. And it has never worked on reservations.

Reservations are jurisdictions on crack. Tribal lands are sovereign so state police have no jurisdiction there. Unless an agreement is made, county sheriff offices have no jurisdiction there. Because reservations don't pay state taxes,  sheriff offices have little interest or motivation to help.

To make matters more difficult,  reservation jurisdiction isn't about geographical area - it's about people. Tribal and BIA police have jurisdiction over the the members of the reservation's specific tribe. So if a enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa is living on the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux reservation, the tribal police have no jurisdiction over her. If a white guy and a Sioux guy get into a fight, the tribal courts can only deal with the Sioux guy.

Remember when Trump said that a hispanic judge with Mexican heritage couldn't be non-biased in his university fraud case? American's still believe Native American law enforcement is inherently biased and therefore cannot be trusted to enforce law to all people in a geographical area. #TrumpsAmerica

Let me give you an anecdotal example. When I was living on the Fort Peck Reservation, I lived out in the country. It was a housing development with three houses. The middle house was a party house and change occupancy every two to three months. The house on the other side was home to a family. The father was Assiniboine. The mother Turtle Mountain Chippewa. She told me this story.

"One night in the middle of winter, I came home to find my back door open and my new washer and
dryer missing. I could clearly see the tracks in the snow where the washer and dryer and been dragged from my house to the neighbor's. I called the tribal police. They came out, but when they found out I'm Chippewa, they told me that they couldn't take my statement. They suggested I call the BIA police. The BIA police came and took my statement, but told me they couldn't do anything about it as I am not enrolled here. They suggested I call the sheriff. I called the sheriff, but they told me they couldn't spare anyone to come out to the reservation."

The Federal government is aware of this problem. That's why they assign FBI agents over the reservation. Reservations are federal not state. The problem is, FBI agents
are trained to only take on a select few cases. These cases are generally high profile with a preponderance of evidence already established. Agents therefore are not motivated to work reservation crime. Crime happens, people suffer. The Oceti Sakowin camp has developed a traditional model for grassroots law enforcement.

The governor or North Dakota recently indicated that the state will no longer be providing services to the Oceti Sakowin camp. This is nothing new to the Standing Rock Sioux, or any other tribe that joins their cause. They've gone without state help all this time, and judging how the State of North Dakota has treated the camp up to this point, they'll be better off without North Dakota's emergency services.

The Oceti Sakowin camp is on federal land. The dispute over the land is between a federal level sovereign nation and the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency. It is unfortunate that Morton County and the State of North Dakota feel it their responsibility to step in. They need to take a cue from the USACE and take a step back.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Yopp - Standing Rock Edition

Almost 15 years ago, my kids danced in the Salt Lake City Olympic opening ceremonies. We learned many valuable lessons from that experience. We learned that pioneer dancers get costumes and jackets and tents with kerosene heaters and Native American dancers wear their own regalia ("make sure you wear something warm underneath it") and are given hand warmers to fend off the January SLC weather. We also learned that Natives are tough and hand warmers rock!

Not only did my kids get to dance to 5 amazing drum groups, they got to dance while Robbie Robertson sang, "Making a Noise".

The SLC Winter Olympics was the largest gathering of Native Americans I had ever seen - and my kids played a part! It was empowering. My kids made a noise, and  I've been encouraging them to do so ever since.

Right now, Standing Rock is making that noise, and it is louder still.

 Edward S. Curtis called Native Americans, "The Vanishing Race." That was the United States' official policy for a very long time. Native Americans should assimilate and intermarry. By 1950, it was predicted, there would be no full-blood natives left, and the quintessential American would be able to  claim a little Native American blood in their veins (most likely from a Cherokee Princess).

Everybody knows Anglo-Americans make better Indians than Indians anyway. All you have to do is watch a Man Called Horse or Dances with Wolves or Little Big Man to figure that that out.

Sixty-six years past 1950 and Native Americans are still here. They still exist. They have out lasted 500 years of colonial occupation. Each nation has a culture that shapes how members think and feel. First Nations have a past as long as a squirrels tail and a future as wide as the Milky Way.

My native kids interact with people who don't either don't believe indigenous people still exist, or who think Native Peoples should conform to given stereotypes.

 Once when we were doing a cultural exchange at an elementary school, a student looked at my son dressed in his Native regalia and said, "Are you a real Indian?" My son replied, "Yes". The student then said, "No you're not. I can see your visitor's pass!"

Just as my children can be both Native and visitors, First Nation people can maintain both a rich heritage and promising future. Recently we participated at a Stand for Standing Rock Rally in Salt Lake City where my son Mason, AKA Wounded Knee, was asked to perform. On the fly the rest of the kids were asked to sing a traditional drum song. They sang Baha Sapa and dedicated it to Standing Rock.

When it was Wounded Knee's turn to perform, an Anglo-American approached my son Joseph and asked him to join her drum circle, playing near the street. When he politely declined, indicating he'd come to listen to Wounded Knee, she informed him that Wounded Knee's style of Native Rock was not really cultural -- inferring that her drum circle was?

Native Americans have been defined and pidgeon-holed. Native history has been construed and rewritten by oppressive forces. It is time for Indigenous people to make a noise. It is time for them to be seen. And this Christmas we will be adding our Yopp to Standing Rock.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Iktomi and the Buzzards - Standing Rock Edition

My children amaze me. Not just because of the people they've become, but also because of the people they have always been.

Our family moved to St. George in 1994. Prior to that we lived in HUD housing on the Fort Peck Reservation. When my oldest boy was around four or five, he came into my bedroom in the middle of the night to tell me that an eagle had been pecking at his window. He said the eagle came in through his screen and turned into a "maiden". I asked him what a "maiden" was and he described an older, heavy set woman. The "maiden" spoke to him in a language he didn't understand.

When a child wakes you up in the middle of the night to tell you this - and that child is concerned but not scared, you know that that child is spiritual in nature.

This same child (now a man) is dreaming again. He wakes up in the middle of the night to the sounds of people crying. He says he feels a call to go to Standing Rock. It is a call that causes an aching in his heart. I can see the same in my other children. Their hearts are broken, and their eyes are longing. We worry about our jobs and school and the millions of threads that tether us to our lives. We are pitiful beings, but we can give our pitiful offering of prayer, service, and time.

Six years ago I learned an important lesson about taking a leap of faith. Since that time, I have been working on strengthening my faith. I've been concerned because I used to have dreams and very solid answers to prayer. There have even lately been times when I have wondered why the Lord has abandoned me. As the family discussed our travel plans over the Thanksgiving holiday, the idea was brought forward that we all need a solid answer to our prayers before we trek halfway across the plains to the icy tundra.

I prayed. I'd been praying. But as I prayed that night for a solid answer, I was reminded that a solid answer is not a leap of faith. And I knew then that the Lord has not abandoned me or my family. We are strengthening our faith.

I am sharing another story today from Judea's screenplay. The animation above will make much more sense once you read the story. The story reminds us not to put our heads in dark places. And if we find our heads in places where the sun don't shine (whether ours or someone else's) we need to pull our heads out - even if it costs us our feathers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Turtle Goes to War - Standing Rock Edition

Several years ago Judea wrote a screenplay for an animated featurette she hoped to make. This screen play contained Native American stories, most are family favorites. These are the stories that have shaped our lives. As we prepare for a our trip to Standing Rock, we think of the story Turtle Goes to War and we remember how focused we need to be to make our preparations. The video above is Judea's mock up of the animation for this story. Below is the story as it appears in her screenplay. We were reading her screenplay as a family recently and the suggest was made to make this a live action musical. It's amazing how much fun we can have in our heads!