Political Matters
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Thursday, January 31 2013
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Idle No More
I just got back from the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, where an Idle No More flash-mob round dance took place. What is Idle No More?
Well, it originated in Canada, and, in late December, it appears to be a grassroots movement spreading quickly and in solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, who was entering the third week of a hunger strike in a teepee outside of the Canadian Parliament, in her quest for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Pamela Palmater, chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University and an indigenous activist, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen: "Idle No More is a coordinated, strategic movement, not led by any elected politician, national chief or paid executive director. It is a movement originally led by indigenous women and has been joined by grassroots First Nations leaders, Canadians, and now the world. It originally started as a way to oppose Bill C-45, the omnibus legislation impacting water rights and land rights under the Indian Act; it grew to include all the legislation and the corresponding funding cuts to First Nations political organizations meant to silence our advocacy voice."
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Wednesday, November 21 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Minnesota's wolf hunt In late October, the hunting and trapping of wolves is underway in Wisconsin; and Minnesota hunters will start shooting wolves on Nov. 3, after the state Supreme Court rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the wolf hunt under rules established by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Two groups, Howling for Wolves and the Center for Biodiversity, argued that the DNR did not allow a sufficient period for public comment last summer, after issuing its "Adopted Expedited Emergency Game and Fish Rules: 2012 Wolf Season." The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hold a hearing at a future date on the lawsuit's underlying argument; but state courts decided that the wolf hunt did not pose the threat of "irreparable damage" to Minnesota's wolf population. The Wisconsin DNR reported that 25 wolves have been killed during that state's hunting and trapping season, which started in mid-October, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's encouraging for outdoor enthusiasts," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp commented, regarding the first 10 days of the wolf hunt in Wisconsin.
Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Wednesday, October 17 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Sexual predators
My February 2011 column concerned a "plague of sexual violence" on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (South Dakota). My writing followed up on a story by Kathy Dobie in Harper's Magazine, which examined the epidemic of rape and sexual molestation on the sprawling reservation, and the grossly ineffectual response to these crimes by both tribal and federal authorities.
This deplorable situation in Indian Country continues to fester. In late September, a front-page story in the New York Times, "A Tribe's Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years," reported horrific accounts of the sexual molestation and rape of children on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation (North Dakota).
"Federal officials are now moving to take over the tribe's social service programs, according to members of the tribe, government officials and documents," the Times reported. "The action comes after years of failure by government and tribal law enforcement officials to conduct proper investigations of dozens of cases of child sexual abuse, including rape."
The article noted that these "crimes are rarely prosecuted, few arrests are made, and people say that because of safety fears and law enforcement's lack of interest, they no longer report even the most sadistic violence against children. In May 2011, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were killed on the reservation after being raped and sodomized."
While the U.S. government apparently is now taking action at Spirit Lake, Timothy Williams, the Times reporter, wrote that federal agencies "have sought to minimize the extent of the problem, including disciplining employees who have spoken publicly about sexual abuse and questioning the competence of others, according to federal and tribal officials."
Poverty and alcoholism are cited as factors behind the high incidence of sexual abuse and rape on these reservations. In any case, more resources clearly are needed to deal with this dire situation on the rez, a blight on the future of Indian life on the land.
Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Friday, August 24 2012
Written by by Mordecai Specktor,
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Contemporary Indian life
In his "Author's Note," at the end of "Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life" (Atlantic Monthly Press), David Treuer writes: "Like reservations themselves, this book is a hybrid. It has elements of journalism, history, and memoir.... It is meant to capture some of the history and some of the truth of reservation life."
Treuer, who has written three novels and a book of literary essays, has penned a worthy book, which illuminates contemporary Indian life on the rez - in particular, Leech Lake, his ancestral home, and other Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin. "Rez Life," as Treuer notes, weaves together bits of history from Indian country, discursions on federal Indian law, personal commentaries by the author's friends and informants, and his own experiences on the land. Again, the book is replete with stories from Minnesota reservations, and the Minneapolis urban rez.
I found Treuer's latest work most compelling in the passages about his own remarkable family. Treuer is the son of Robert Treuer, an Austrian Jew who escaped the Holocaust, and Margaret Seelye Treuer, a lawyer and tribal judge. In one chapter, the author accompanies his mother to the tribal court at Bois Forte, and watches her dispense justice - "It is a strange thing to doff my cap and rise when my mother enters the room," Treuer writes. And the author's older brother, Anton Treuer, a major figure in the resurgence of the Ojibwe language, is profiled in the chapter about the late revered spiritual leader Archie Mosay, from Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. After finishing college, Anton apprenticed himself to Mosay, who was about 90. "Archie and my brother were friends," David Treuer writes. "During the time of high ceremonies my brother worked for him, sang for him, helped him into and out of his wheelchair, translated for him, and listened to him - every day for at least fourteen hours a day, for weeks on end. Deep affection, respect, and tenderness ran in both directions. And it changed my brother's life."
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