Political Matters – February 2019

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By Mordecai Specktor

Clyde Bellecourt’s challenge
A legendary political activist and co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Clyde Bellecourt has been diagnosed with stage-four metastatic prostate cancer.
This is very sad news, and Joe Morales (Napé Wasté) reports that Clyde now faces $3,000 per month in bills for his medical treatment. On a GoFundMe page he set up, Morales notes that the cancer “is treatable, but not curable.”

If you’re able to help Clyde, who has dedicated his life over the past five decades to upholding treaty rights and creating a more humane world, go to: bit.ly/help-clyde.

Covington’s Nazi Youth
I’ve attended many AIM gatherings over the past 40 years. I recognize the AIM song and know that it’s a moment to doff your cap and show respect.

It was shocking to see online videos of Nathan Phillips (Omaha), an elder Native rights activist, playing a hand drum and singing the AIM song at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky mocked him. The students, many of them wearing red MAGA hats, did the tomahawk chop, jumped around like chimpanzees in the zoo, and generally behaved with the utmost disrespect.

One student, Nick Sandmann, attained infamy for standing right next to Phillips and smirking. Sandmann later appeared on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes,” and delivered his side of the story, a recitation apparently provided by a public relations firm hired by his parents.

Right-wing news outlets quickly began to spin the event, which brought together participants in the anti-abortion March for Life (including the Covington students) and the Indigenous Peoples March, on Jan. 18. One narrative pointed out that the mainly white teenagers, who were waiting for buses back to Kentucky, were provoked by a small group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters that hurled racist and homophobic slurs at the kids.
In an interview with CNN, Phillips said that he waded into the “really ugly” confrontation between the black protesters and the teens, trying to calm the situation. “I think that was the push, that we need to use the drum, use our prayer and bring a balance, bring a calming to the situation,” said Phillips. “I didn’t assume that I had any kind of power to do that, but at the same time, I didn’t feel that I could just stand there anymore and not do something.”

Phillips added that that he soon found himself in peril.

“When I was… standing there and I seen that group of people in front of me and I seen the angry faces and all of that, I realized I had put myself in a really dangerous situation,” he recalled. “Here’s a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that… all that anger and all that wanting to have the freedom to just rip me apart, that was scary.”

Amid the crowd of hyped-up teenage boys, Phillips decided to move on through, but Sandmann was blocking his path: “If I took another step, I would be putting my person into his presence, into his space and I would’ve touched him and that would’ve been the thing that the group of people would’ve needed to spring on me.”

I’m not sure what the lesson is here. Certainly, those expressing overt bigotry and racism have been emboldened during the Trump moment. The social fabric of this country has been ripped to shreds and it will take some time to repair.

#TrumpShutdown
As part of his corrupt and incompetent administration, Donald Trump engineered the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump wants $5.7 billion for his stupid border wall (or steel-slat barrier) and is willing to hold federal employees for ransom.

“While stress from the shutdown – including missed home and car payments, food handouts and burning through savings – affected all federal workers and contractors, it cut much deeper for American Indians,” Reuters reported Jan. 29.

From the Navajo Nation to the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation (So. Dakota), Bureau of Indian Affairs employees and federal contractors were out of work and had to scramble to pay their bills.

According to Reuters, “The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma used a GoFundMe page and its own money to feed its many members who were furloughed or worked without pay” during the shutdown.

Trump is threatening to do it again on Feb. 15, if he doesn’t get his wall.