Category Archives: Red Lives Matter

There Are Big Problems Out There

Halloween is right around the corner. I have written about why you should not dress up in a Native American costume before on this blog, and there is no shortage of commentary out there on the Internet Machine about why doing so can be destructive, hurtful, stupid, and in bad taste. Dressing like indigenous peoples, and the appropriation of the outward manifestations of Native American culture by non-Indians: they are common complaints. You do not have to work hard to hear it or read about it.

The Pendleton Company, for instance, manufacturer of clothing for your grandparents, has recently come out with a line of Harry Potter-inspired blankets.  That they are ugly we will set aside for the moment. The blankets clearly appropriate Native American motifs and images. Pendleton, indeed, has long stood accused of appropriating Native American imagery in its designs, and despite my feelings about these particular blankets, I imagine they will sell lots of them to people who want to make their homes “feel like Hogwarts.”

We could come up, if we wanted to, with hundreds of pictures of tasteless Native American costumes, hundreds of instances where non-Indian corporations profit or attempt to profit by appropriating Native American culture. (Though dated, Michael Brown’s Who Owns Native Culture is still a useful introduction to the issues).

Cultural appropriation is in bad taste. It is hurtful to some and angers many others. I do not doubt the sincerity of those sentiments for a second.  But these instances of cultural appropriation are relatively easy to point out, criticize, and in some instances, to remedy through education . And, let’s be honest: there are more intractable problems out there and some of them result in more than hurt feelings and pedestrian American Studies papers.  People are losing their lives and peoples are losing their lands.  Some perspective might be in order.

Here is my point. Sometimes I wonder if cultural appropriation is so big a problem that it justifies the amount of time devoted to it. For some people, yes, it is a big issue.  It is an important cause.  But I feel like there are bigger fish to fry.

Is it a bigger problem than the growing number of missing and murdered indigenous women and children in North America, which has become a major public issue in Canada but has only recently begun to attract attention in the United States?

Does it pose a greater challenge than the disparities that have endured for far too long in nearly every measure of social well-being between native peoples and other Americans?  The gaps in many of these areas have closed gradually over the past few decades, but progress has been painfully slow.

Or the readiness with which militarized police forces deploy violence that has, at it has done among African Americans, given rise to expressions that “Native Lives Matter“?  I do not mean to refer solely to the grotesque violence meted out on the peaceful #NODAPL protesters at Standing Rock.  This problem is significant, and it leaves behind it broken lives and grieving people.

Or the avarice and determination with which state governments and the Interior Department under Secretary Ryan Zinke view Indian Country as a resource to be exploited, and which leads them to attempt to skim the cream off of whatever prosperity comes to Native America?

And the continuing assaults on Native American nationhood, the empty pledges made by the United States to honor the commitments that came with its belated acceptance of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

I could keep going.

I spend time in my classes talking about cultural appropriation. I want students to think about its consequences for native peoples, but also to engage with why non-native peoples have for so long felt the need to engage in this behavior, and how their justifications for it have changed over time.  I spend time on the mascot issue, too.

But, for me, there are some things I cannot change, and I have reluctantly come to accept over the years that no matter what I do, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and seven days in a week. I teach my three courses every week, hold office hours, prepare for my classes, and try to do a bit of my own research in addition to keeping up with the massive scholarship in my field. I meet with my advisees, attend the meetings I am required to attend where the many decisions that need to be made on a college campus are sometimes made.  On busy weeks, I spend my time wading through the take-home essays I assign in lieu of in-class exams.  With family obligations to boot, my time is pretty tight.

In other words, I have to choose my battles. The Washington Redskins and Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo? Yes, they are racist, and so are you, maybe just a little bit, if these images do not bother you. And the many instances of cultural appropriation brought to my attention on the Internet Machine? I can laugh them off, ignore them, work myself up and take offense, bitch and whine, or view them as an opportunity to set the record straight, a teachable moment as they say in the education industry.

I have made a similar point before about the “Mascot Issue.” Even if the NFL has been particularly unwilling to budge on this issue, mascots are relatively easy to do away with if you complain loudly enough, and in company with enough of your allies, to a school board, or a college, or a university.  Other issues–lack of protection for native peoples’ lives, liberties, and property in Indian Country; economic injustice and pervasive poverty; resource exploitation and environmental despoliation; attacks on sovereignty, and nationhood, and continuing injustice– these present much more difficult challenges, with progress slow and seldom guaranteed.  Historians will tell you that there are more dangerous racists than this dude to the left here, dressed up for a baseball game. Yeah, he’s an asshole, but there are far nastier people out there.

We who teach have limited resources at our disposal. Our time is limited. For the amount of education we have received, we earn relatively low salaries. If we are active researchers, as we should be, the hours we work are even longer. So we need to choose our battles.  You want to fight over mascots? Go ahead. Thanks to your efforts, and the efforts of your predecessors, these mascots have fallen out of favor nearly everywhere but in Washington, D. C. You want to get angry about Pendleton’s tacky blankets, or at Kylie Jenner for the name she gave to one of her new old lipstick colors, or other appropriations of native culture, go ahead. You have raised awareness, and thanks to your efforts, more people than ever understand that certain types of costume, display, representation, and marketing are hardly innocent.

But let’s not lose sight of the real enemies: racist police forces and law enforcement; the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; poor history and civics education that leaves most Americans entirely ignorant of their country’s Native American past and present; and the enduring colonialism of the American empire.  Do away with the mascots, reduce the amount of cultural appropriation, but let’s not exaggerate its effectiveness. Fewer Native American mascots, fewer Indian Halloween costumes, and less cultural appropriation will not increase life expectancy or  reduce the economic privation experienced by those living in Native American communities. Nor will quality of life improve in First Nations and Native American communities.  The number of young people, in the throes of desperation or enduring a legacy of intergenerational trauma, or the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women and children, will not be reduced one bit. Violence and suffering in Native American communities would not cease, police would not become more tolerant, and state and corporate interests no less avaricious in their desire to exploit Native American lands. And unpacking stereotypical representations of indigenous peoples will not help secure the lives, liberties, and properties of Native American and First Nations people.

So what do you want to fight about? Be honest. Some causes are easier than others, and some will require of you a greater investment, and involvement in them will carry heavier consequences.  Some of these issues are quite literally matters of life and death.  And some of these problems might hurt your feelings.  Others, and you know this if you have read Native America, can break your heart.  It is up to you to decide.



I posted about the Senate Indian Affairs Committee meeting on human trafficking in Indian Country last week.  The upshot of the hearings was disappointing.  All acknowledge a problem exists but there is little data on its scope.  At the hearings, the Justice Department seemed uninterested to committing the resources necessary to gather that data.  Anyone who studies Native American history closely will note, however, that the Justice Department has never prioritized crime committed in Indian Country. Though the Obama Administration’s revision of the Violence Against Women Act was significant, the reform went only so far.  Fortunately, more attention is being drawn to this problem.

Some important work is being done and some media are beginning to take notice.   The National Collaborating Center for Aboriginal Health in Canada has published a report, Indigenous Communities and Family Violence: Changing the Conversation, that presents domestic violence in Indian reserves as one more of the bitter fruits of an enduring colonialism.   They offer a powerful list of recommendations calling upon provincial and national officials to recognize indigenous perspectives, the continuing process of colonialism and dispossession, and the many values that inhere in native cultures to remedy the problem of violence on Indian reserves. It is a powerful report, and worth reading.

To get a sense of the problems that occur, both from within indigenous families and from the outside, it is worth looking at the recent report from Red Power Media. While Americans are reeling from yet another explosion of gun violence, and the disaster that has struck Puerto Rico made worse by the nation’s disaster of a president, an indigenous community in British Columbia is worried.   In response to the growth of “man camps,” so-called,  a British Columbia indigenous community tribe is  stocking up on rape kits in anticipation of the expected wholesale assault on Native American women.

“Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation is nestled on the banks of Stuart Lake in north-central British Columbia, surrounded by rolling foothills and tall trees.

It is a relatively remote community, breathtaking in scenery and dependent on economic opportunities in forestry, mining, and pipeline development. It is a community bracing for major change.

Over the next decade, as many as 6,000 new energy industry workers could descend upon the region. The prospect of such a big influx of workers living in nearby “man camps” has aroused fears of increased violence and drug use.

The influx could more than double the population of about 4,500 in the Fort St. James area, which includes the municipality, rural communities and First Nations. Nak’azdli has just 1,972 members living both on and off reserves. The nearest city, Prince George, is 160 kilometres away.”

The threat is significant.  The Lake Babine First Nation and the Nak’azdli Whut’en commissioned a study, funded by the British Columbia provincial government.  The evidence they found demonstrated

that industrial camps are associated with increased rates of sexual assault and violence against Indigenous women, along with addiction, sexually transmitted infections, and family violence.

“The potential for sexual assault, violence, disappearances, (sexually transmitted diseases), increases with the number of trucks on the road,” study author Ginger Gibson told National Observer. “There’s a whole whack of issues that don’t get considered until construction is happening and that’s too late.”

Meanwhile, in North Dakota, after the murder of pregnant Savanna La Fontaine Greywind, (that’s her in the picture to the right) her family hired attorney Gloria Allred to represent them in a search for answers.  LaFontaine-Greywind’s murder–her body was found in the Red River, her newborn baby in the hands of one of the suspects-along with the hiring of Allred created enough pressure at last to get officials in North Dakota to expand their investigation.  North Dakota’s state senate has finally decided to look into the “epidemic” of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Under pressure, the Justice Department has announced grants programs to investigate the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as violence against women and children in Indian Country.  $130 million has been directed to addressing these challenges.  According to Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand, “these awards stand as a clear expression of our support for Native American women and tribal self-determination and reflect the vital role we believe American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages play in ensuring the safety of all our citizens.”

Another way to get at the scope of this enormous problem, is to follow it on social media, using the hashtags #IdleNoMore and #MMIW.  A Facebook page exists to help in locating and, in some instances, identifying missing and murdered indigenous women.   If you know of additional resources, please forward them to me and I will be sure to distribute them as widely as I can.

Human Trafficking in Indian Country

“Human trafficking, the exploitation of a person typically through force, fraud, or coercion for such purposes as forced labor, involuntary servitude, or commercial sex,” Gretta L. Goodwin of the Government Accountability Office told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs yesterday, is “occurring in the United States.”  Drawing upon evidence from the Office of the Attorney General,  traffickers seek out vulnerable individuals.  This vulnerability, Goodwin said, “comes in many forms, including age (minors), poverty, homelessness, chemical dependency, prior experiences of abuse, involvement in foster care programs, and lack of resources or support systems.”

Native Americans, she argued, are indeed such a vulnerable population.  Goodwin cited statistics familiar to those of us who study Indian Country.  28 percent of native peoples live in poverty nationwide, compared to 15% of the general population.  According to “the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 27 percent of Native American women have been raped in their lifetime compared to 18 percent of American women overall.”  Native American children are twice as likely as other children to enter the foster care system.

These figures, and their significance, were underscored by Nicole Matthews, the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Woman’s Sexual Assault Coalition.  The Native American women she and her associates interviewed demonstrated that historical trauma and childhood sexual abuse “were a precursor or antecedent for the women who were used in trafficking.” Indeed, Matthews testified, “79% of the women we interviewed were sexually abused as children, by an average of four perpetrators; and 67% of victims reported that they had family members who were sent to boarding schools, and most were abused in those boarding schools.”  Matthews’ research is available here.  It is a stunning document.

Cindy McCain, who participates on the Arizona Governor’s Council on Human Trafficking, spoke last at the Committee hearing. She told the senators that she would soon participate in an anti-trafficking roundtable in North Dakota. She wanted the senators to know that the remoteness of the Bakken area in that state, and

“the high unemployment rate of nearby Indian reservations, combined with the oil and gas boom, have created a hotbed for trafficking.  Victims are mostly Native American women and girls transported to the region specifically for sex trafficking. Many of these victims are under the age of 18. Children being sold for sex. Outward and organized child abuse and rape.”

McCain pointed out that human trafficking had enslaved more than 41 million people worldwide.  It is, she said, an organized crime.  But it is also a crime of opportunity for, she argued, “Native American girls and women are all too often trafficked by their own relatives.” McCain had seen herself six small girls “lined up against a wall in an Indian casino outside of Phoenix on display for customers.”

McCain did not provide evidence for the involvement of Native American families in the trafficking of their young relatives, and her claim that Native American girls fetched a high price because of their “exotic beauty” is painful to read.  Still, she and the other witnesses raised some important issues.

There is a dearth of evidence.  Of the 132 tribal law enforcement agencies (LEA) that responded to the GAO’s request for information, 27 reported that they had conducted investigations between 2014 and 2016 that involved human trafficking.  And, according to Goodwin,

“Nearly half of tribal LEA respondents (60 of 132) reported that they believe human trafficking is occurring on tribal land in their jurisdictions beyond what had been brought to their attention. Officials from two tribal LEAs told us during in-person meetings that in their experience some victims do not come forward to report their victimization because they are embarrassed or feel ashamed. Several survey respondents also indicated that they suspect there is more human trafficking than what has been reported to them because of the presence of casinos on their land (14 of 60). For example, officials from one LEA explained that the tribal casino hotel may be used as a venue for sex trafficking. Some respondents (13 of 60) suspect that sex trafficking may be occurring as part of some of the drug crimes that they investigate. Officials from one county LEA we visited near a tribal community told us that officers may not recognize that human trafficking is taking place, particularly when it occurs alongside another crime like drug trafficking.”

The Justice Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Homeland Security–all of them provide grants to help combat human trafficking, but the problem remains ill-defined, one of great magnitude but hazy borders.  More resources are needed still.  Jurisdiction is a critical issue, as well. Much of the trafficking is supported by non-Indians who are in all but a few instances beyond prosecution by tribal authorities.  More information is needed. Tracy Tolou, the director of the Office of Tribal Justice in DOJ said that data limitations are significant.  It is hard to know the scope of the problem when it remains so difficult to investigate and prosecute.  According to Jason Thompson, the acting director of the Office of Justice Services in the BIA, only twelve investigations by his office have been conducted over the past four years, with only 23 defendants prosecuted.

This is crime on the margins. When I discuss problems related to the issues the Senate Committee confronted in my Indian law class, there is a sense among some of my students that this sort of exploitation and violence is inevitable.  Native communities are poor.  They are isolated.  The Supreme Court has made the prosecution of non-Indians by tribal law enforcement officers difficult where it is not impossible. I ask the students what might be done.  They struggle to think of answers.  I understand the difficulties.  I appreciate their efforts to think of solutions.

Native American history is a story of tragedy, of violence, of crime, of theft and plunder. It is, at other times, a story of blundering goodwill.  Even those who want to do right often do damage.  I have made my career teaching students this history and writing about it.  I once got involved in an argument with a conservative friend who said that if these problems went away, I would be out of a job. That I want to find things to bitch about.  It is a stupid argument, and I told my friend this.  I am a historian. I would love for these problems to be part of the past.  And that might be my insight on this story, as a historian.  We, as a nation and as individuals, have choices.  We are not doomed to repeat the past, and we do not have to continue walking that ragged path that we have walked for so long. There are choices here. Write your representatives and senators.  Write the Attorney General and the President. Given the people currently occupying many of those offices, it is difficult to be optimistic, but these are problems that can be ameliorated.  It is a choice.  We can do more.

On Charlottesville, and Our National Character

In what ways does the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville matter?

In the past two weeks I have listened to the Attorney General of the United States announce his determination to investigate discrimination on college campuses against…..wait for it….white people.  This move was endorsed by a President who has called Mexicans “rapists” and “animals,” and who has in as many words endorsed police brutality against African Americans and other people of color.  A sheriff’s deputy in Oklahoma, meanwhile, who gunned down an African American man who was walking away from her with his hands raised was rehired by another law enforcement agency.  And Friday night, and again on Saturday in Charlottesville, white supremacists marched in an American city, on an American college campus founded by Thomas Jefferson.  That flawed hypocrite whose moral cowardice was so great, who fathered children with his slave mistress while owning many other African Americans, who denounced native peoples as savages and spent much of his presidency trying to dispossess them, proclaimed his support for the premise that “all men are created equal.”

Saturday morning I sold a broken down flat-screen TV to a scrap-dealer.  Found a dude on Craig’s List who bought and sold dead flat-screens, and who included in his rapid-fire text messages a reference to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  He showed up. Never shook my hand. Never made eye-contact, and never acknowledged my wife who also was standing outside.  He had on an Infowars T-Shirt.  “Ideas are bulletproof,” it read, with the letters imposed over an image of the Constitution. And the stickers on the back window of his truck?  A gun, pointed right at me, with the caption “Not This Truck;”  a  “F–k Cuomo” sticker, with the “f” and the “k” fashioned from the outlines of assault rifles; and a seal for some sort of militia group to which he pledged allegiance (I wish I could remember exactly what it said).

I sold a broken down television, in other words, to a guy who loudly proclaimed his embrace of Christianity in every text he sent, while at the same time announcing to all whose path he crossed that he not only would use violence to protect his personal property, but that he expected somebody to try to take it.  What a dark, frightened, and violent way to look at the world.

These views, expressed on my driveway by a frightened but well-armed scrap-dealer/militia member, or acted upon by the vicious nerds, gun fetishists, racists and thugs in Charlottesville, and described as moral equivalents to the views held by those who believe in justice, equality, and that black lives do matter by our babbling President, are of course nothing new in American history.  We have seen this before.  Too many times over too many years.  Nearly all of us who study this nation’s history for a living, I suspect, were shocked, angered and dismayed, but we were not surprised.  Sick and tired, but not surprised. The racists and white supremacists appeared in Charlottesville, but they had never, every, really gone away.

And that is a lesson, I believe, that must now inform my courses in Native American History even more than they have done in the past.  Hatred and fear of a racialized other.  It runs through the colonial period of American history. You cannot miss it if you look at the sources: from the treatment of native peoples by a frontier population intent on extracting a livelihood from ground seized from native peoples, to the slave owners, and the the lawmakers and legislators and founding fathers who regulated and policed the expropriation of native peoples’ lands and African peoples’ labor.   As I make my way slowly through Robert Parkinson’s magisterial The Common Cause, the best book I have seen on the American Revolution in some time, it is abundantly clear how important a fostered hatred of warlike native peoples and rebellious African slaves was to give shape to the “common cause” for which American patriots fought during the Revolutionary war.  Racism was there at the outset, fundamental to the formation of American national identity.  There have been, of course, many courageous people who have spoken out against this blight at the heart of the nation–some of them were mowed own by a white supremacist’s car on Saturday–and this heroic tradition is important.  But to deny the centrality of its opposite–racial antipathy–is to fail to examine closely the entire content of our nation’s character.

Three times more Africans migrated to the English American colonies than white people between 1630 and 1780.  Slavery was fundamental to the settlement and growth of the Anglo-American empire.  That dynamic and expansive process of enslavement, as historians like Brett Rushforth, Alan Gallay, Linford Fisher, Christina Snyder and many others have recently shown, ensnared many native peoples, too.  Slavery was central.  So was the systematic and organized dispossession of native peoples. I have tried to write about all of this in the second edition of Native America.

“This was all in the past,” you might say.  That is what Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to think.  The President, too, ever-ready with insult and slur, has proven himself time and again incapable of denouncing the white supremacists who believe strongly that he endorses their views.  This all is heartbreaking, you might say.  You might say that what we are seeing in Charlottesville is inconsistent with who we are as a nation.  You may respond to the news  by tweeting out a message of hope or inspiration under the hashtag #thisisnotus.  That is naive.  Dispossession. Discrimination.  Police forces, armed and militarized to the hilt, locked and loaded to protect the lives, liberties, and property of white people from what  they perceive as the threat posed by people of color, slay African Americans and Native Americans largely without fear of the consequences.

I have seen an increasing number of “Police Lives Matter” flags in the Rochester area, and “Blue Line” American flags.  I see on the news stories about how a Canandaigua woman quickly sold out of the shirts and signs she printed proclaiming that “I Support the Police,” or something like that. It’s a tough job. I get that. If you cannot do it without fearing or discriminating or murdering people of color, please for the sake of humanity do something else.

Is it worse than it has been in the past? We have talked about this as a family. We live in a small suburb of Rochester, a faculty ghetto of sorts where most residents like to think of themselves as tolerant and open to diversity.  My wife, whose skin is dark, is pulled over frequently by our local police; in nineteen years living here, I have never been pulled over.  It has been bad in the past.  There is no denying that.  But it is bad now, and it is getting worse even in the short time since the last election.  For too many white Americans, black lives do not matter.   Native lives, for too many of them, matter not at all. Too many white people view programs like affirmative action, intended to address past systematic injustices, as a threat.  And the people who hold these views? They know the president has their back.

I would like to think that we historians can make a difference, however small, by discussing this history in our classes. I do not see how one can understand American history in its complexity without doing so.  Few people read our work, I know.  But if we are to be effective educators, we must reach out.  We must have faith in the power of knowledge and reason and dialogue and debate.  We must write and teach with the urgency that comes from knowing that our words matter.  And in African-American History, or Native American history, we have the opportunity to explore the structural inequalities and profound injustices that have always rested at the core of this nation’s story.  We must be straight with our students.  Most of my colleagues are already doing this, but the urgency for doing this is growing. Cast away the comforting myths.  It is not our job to instill love of country, patriotism or civics.  We must counter this argument every chance we get. Leave that to the hacks and the partisans, the liars and the myth-makers and the members of the PTA.  We must defend what we do. We must be honest.  Look the evil in the eye.  Expose it to the light of day.  Name the evil, and show our students where it has manifested itself in the past, and the many forms it can take, the contortions and distortions it demands and justifies.  We will take some heat in doing this.  The dingbats and the right-wingers and some of the most conservative evangelicals and others will say that we are not doing our jobs, that we must stick to the facts.   And we cannot take these foolish charges sitting down. We must challenge those who denounce what we are doing with the meaningless and stupid epithet, “politically correct.” Debate these people.  Call them out, politely, professionally, but persistently. Only by standing tall can we help to inspire in our students the courage to speak out, to ask tough questions, and demand reasoned and relevant answers.  Only by doing so can we, in some small way, encourage them to confront and to resist the rottenness that has plagued this nation for far too long.

Red Lives Matter-Recent News

An Ontario First Nations man, Romeo Wesley, was beaten by police in 2010, blasted with pepper spray, handcuffed, and stepped on. He died.  On the 20th of July, a coroner’s inquest ruled his death “accidental.”  According to the CBC report, Wesley had approached the nursing station at a medical facility in the Cat Lake First Nation, well north of Thunder Bay.  He was, according to the nurses, acting erratically. Police were called.  Then, “two officers pepper sprayed Wesley, tackled him to the floor, then used a baton to beat on his arms so they could handcuff his hands behind his back. He stopped breathing while they were holding the 34-year-old face down on the floor with their boots on his back, head and neck.”  The entire sordid episode was captured on the hospital’s security cameras.

I have posted on stories like these before on this blog.  In light of the important activism of the Black Lives Matter movement, stories like that of Romeo Wesley are worth discussing in your classes.

Indian-Bashing in Syracuse? The Crisis at the Onondaga Nation School

This is a story worth watching.  Laura Lavine is the superintendent of the Lafayette School district, which operates with state funding the Onondaga Nation School.  She is also the Republican Party candidate for mayor in the city of Syracuse. 

Lavine runs on the slogan that she is “Progressive, Professional, and Prepared,” and there is scarce mention of the Grand Old Party on her website. She has pledged to get tough on crime in the city, improve its schools, and improve the quality of life in Syracuse neighborhoods.  She clearly attempts on her website to cast herself in a more open, welcoming, and tolerant manner than the national Republican party.  From my perspective, it does not appear to be working.

Onondagas have fought for this school.  The Onondaga Nation has placed on its website this 1978 video highlighting some of the school’s history. The founding of the school is a central part of the story of the awakening of Onondaga activism beginning in the early 1970s.  There have been Onondaga and non-native principals, and the relationship between the Nation School and the Lafayette school board has long been tense.  Onondagas have boycotted the school before.  They have debated intensely among themselves what they want the school to achieve.

I have not watched Lavine’s candidacy closely, and I know little firsthand about the tone of politics in Syracuse. But I have been studying Native American history for a long time, and my next book will be a history of the Onondaga Nation. I have spent my free work time reading its history.  When the current principal announced her retirement, the Nation hoped that the district would hire Simone Thornton, a teacher at the school with 20 years experience, an Onondaga, and a member of the community. Instead, the district hired Warren Smith, a vice-principal from nearby Fayetteville-Manlius who was not Onondaga.  Smith ultimately turned down the job, but Lavine announced that the district would not hire Thornton, the clear preference of the Onondaga leadership.  Onondaga Nation parents then withdrew their children from the school.

If you have watched any of our politics over the past few years, you will likely note that race and racism and their consequences are at the center of our debates, and the Republican Party, in places, has enjoyed great success in stirring up white resentment to the “complaints” made by people of color.  The language of race was woven through the Trump candidacy, and he skillfully deployed racist and anti-Semitic dog whistles to attract voters.  White voters, in many places, it seems are tired of  affirmative action, and important movements like Black Lives Matter, and the burgeoning Native Lives Matter movement I have written about on this website.  Lavine, I suspect, was unlikely to have received many Democratic votes in Syracuse, but she certainly can shore up her base (and stir up the dingbats) by playing tough with the Onondagas.  It is unfortunate, and it is ugly.  But in our tense political climate, that a Republican Party candidate engaged in Indian-bashing is not surprising at all.  It is up to Superintendent Lavine to explain her thinking and do the right thing.  If she truly wants to run as a “progressive,” a word that seemingly has lost all meaning, she needs to think about the consequences of her actions.



Two important stories came across the line yesterday, and those of us who teach Native American history need to do a better job of following them.  On June 5, police officers killed Zachary Bearheels, a twenty-nine year old man with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Bearheels was punched in the head and shocked by a taser several times.  Omaha police have admitted that the officers’ conduct was a violation of departmental policy and that two of the officers involved would be terminated. 

According to the story reported on the Indian Country Today Media Network, Bearheels had been traveling from South Dakota to Oklahoma City aboard a bus. After a passenger complained about his conduct, he was kicked off and left stranded in Omaha.  Bearheels was behaving in a manner that police were called by witnesses.  He was attacked and abused by the police. Witnesses, and the internal reports of the Omaha Police Department, both indicated that Bearheels posed no threat and that the violence was entirely unjustified, and “egregious violations of the Omaha Police Department’s policy procedures and training on the use of force and the use of a taser.”


Bearheels’ death at the hands of the Omaha Police is one more example of the larger problem reported in a story looking at “The Police Killings No One is Talking About” that appeared In These Times. The story was written by Stephanie Woodard, and the evidence she presents is harrowing.  Police killed twenty-one Native Americans in 2016, up from 15 in 2014.  According to a 2014 study from the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other demographic in the United States. Native Americans are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans.

Joseph Murphy, for example, a thirty-three year old veteran of the Iraq War:  He died of a heart attack in a holding cell in a Juneau jail.  He had called for help, but guards yelled “Fuck You” and “I don’t care” in response to his pleas for medical assistance. Others were shot sitting in cars, or while holding knives, or while distraught and unwilling to listen to police demands that they comply. In nearly every case, the homicides were ruled justifiable.

And the parallels to what we have witnessed in the African-American community are clear.  Many reservation border towns are rife with racism and discrimination against native peoples.  I saw this first hand in Hardin, where I attempted to conduct interviews nearly twenty years ago. I had heard some of my Crow students describe the racism they faced at Hardin High School. I wanted to get at relations between the Crows and their white neighbors.  I was not able to immerse myself in the community deep enough to get white people to talk to me, but the problems were not hard to see there.   And in Billings, sixty miles from Crow, where I lived, and where native peoples were a despised and unwelcome minority.  Expressions of racism towards native peoples were, to me, shockingly common and public.

I have spent a large part of my career, in a sense, writing about white violence against native peoples. In my first book, I looked at the violence of the Anglo-American frontier, and the sources of the racial antipathy that took route there .  I wrote about the race wars pitting native peoples against land-hungry settlers in New England and the Chesapeake in the seventeenth centuries.  I wrote about the murder of an Algonquian weroance near Roanoke Island in 1586, and the consequences of that violent act.  In my relatively recent book on Canandaigua, I wrote about the violence on the Pennsylvania and New York frontier, where the unpunished murder of Senecas by frontier whites served as one of the major grievances American officials and Haudenosaunee diplomats needed to address.   I could teach my courses in Native American history focusing on acts of violence every day if I wished, from Roanoke to Jamestown, to Marblehead to the Lancaster Workhouse to Gnaddenhutten and Sand Creek, from Wounded Knee to Omaha and border towns throughout Native America where, too often, law enforcement officers are ending the lives of native peoples.  It is an old, old story, this, and it needs to stop.

Black Lives Matter has brought massive attention to the slaughter of African Americans at the hands of police.  The entire Black Lives Matter movement has done such important work in focusing attention on racism and discrimination and violence perpetrated by police against African Americans. At the same time, as Woodard points out, “a larger narrative is at play: racial issues in the United States tend to be framed as black and whites, while other groups are ignored.”

I plan on assigning Woodard’s piece when I teach my Indian law class again next spring, and spend some time on this issue.  Students come to college inclined to think of native peoples as being part of the past.  Their understanding of civil rights and discrimination and race relations is, as Woodard points out, too often limited to thinking in terms of matters black and white.  They can only benefit by reading closely these powerful stories, and learning that the police, in all too many instances, are viewed as a threat by the people they are supposed to protect and serve.


On The Way of the Human Being

Yesterday one of my very good students told me that he was driving through New York’s Finger Lakes region, not all that far from my campus.  He was enjoying a nice spring day, noticing the signs remaining from the heyday of the Anti-Indian group Upstate Citizens For Equality, and listening to one of the blowhards on right-wing radio.  Slim pickings, sometimes, in the Finger Lakes.  Whoever it was that he listened to argued that Native Americans need to move on and “Get Over It.” Stop whining and stop complaining. The injustices they suffered occurred a long time ago.

It is the end of the semester here at Geneseo.  All of us, I suspect, students and faculty alike, are limping into finals week.  The weather is turning nice, the flowers are blooming. It is difficult sometimes for students to focus on schoolwork. I get this.  The last reading I give to the students in my American Indian Law and Public Policy course is Harold Napoleon’s essay, Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being.  It is, in places, a beautiful book, but a small number of my students were pretty hard on it. Disappointingly so.

Napoleon, a Yup’ik, wrote his essay in the late 1980s from a penitentiary in Alaska.  During a state of intoxication that he cannot remember, he killed his child. Napoleon wondered in Yuuyaraq not only how his story ended in prison–college-educated and capable, he had served his community by holding a number of leadership positions–but the larger story of what had happened to his people.

Yuuyaraq was, for Napoleon, a beautiful way of living. Indeed, his essay directly inspired the historian Calvin Luther Martin‘s beautiful but flawed meditation on the experience of native peoples in a book he wrote, also entitled The Way of the Human Being.    The human beings lived in a world in which they interacted with a range of spiritual forces, malevolent and otherwise, and a host of human and other-than-human beings. Ritual allowed this world to work.  Hunters made requests; hunters treated the animals they pursued with courtesy and so long as the animals were accorded the proper respect, no misfortune could befall the people. (Gregory Evans Dowd twenty-some years ago did a wonderful job of showing how these beliefs informed native peoples’ conduct and understanding of the cosmos in the first chapter of A Spirited Resistance, a book I sill assign in my classes).

Look at the primary sources.  Look at the extant accounts.  You cannot miss it. Napoleon discusses the primary sources. Following upon his work and that of a host of scholars and writers, Native American and non-native, I attempted to present this world of ritual and spiritual power in the opening chapter of Native AmericaIt is a world where native peoples paid close attention to ritual in order to deflect the wrath of malevolent forces whose ire could spell ruin for indigenous farmers, hunters, and warriors.

You also cannot miss when you look at these accounts how fragile all of this was.  Epidemic diseases tore gaping, jagged holes in the fabric of native community life.  For Napoleon’s people, the experience was a relatively recent one.  He writes of what his elders called the “Great Death,” which struck Alaska Native communities at the very beginning of the twentieth century.  60% of the people, the real human beings, died.

Wreckage. That is what Napoleon describes, and it is a painful read.  Other native peoples, whether recorded in white sources or in their own writings, have described the resulting chaos and pain in similar terms.  I think here of David Silverman’s searing portrait of Christian Indians in central New York who, when their white neighbors celebrated their independence from Great Britain and acted on their voracious appetites for Indian land, became convinced that they were a people cursed by God to suffer for all of eternity.  Or spelatch, the term Skokomish artist Bruce-subiyay Miller used to describe the world of change that came to his people after the arrival of Europeans.  The Skokomish “fell into disarray,” Miller wrote, his ancestors’ experience akin to that of “a shipwreck where everyone was trying to find something to cling to, to save their lives.”  As with Napoleon’s people, many turned to alcohol.  Some tried to assimilate, or turned to Christianity.  All of them struggled, for they found that “the things that they venerated, that gave them their vital life force and their strength for survival, suddenly were condemned as evil.”

A small number of my students, four out of the thirty in the class, thought that Napoleon was blaming the victims, but they badly misread his work.  The epidemic produced wreckage that most of us, mercifully, can only struggle to imagine.  The epidemics destroyed Yuuyaraq.  The survivors, Napoleon said, with their traditions , their customs, their networks of kin, and their very way of comprehending the cosmos destroyed, began to listen to missionaries who described their culture as sinful and demonic, their ways of living wicked.  Napoleon clearly did not blame the converts.  They were trying to get by, to make sense of a horrifying new world.  He described his people as victims of something very much like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as victims of “cultural genocide” and a historical process that he described as “evil.”

When I teach Napoleon, I think often of the long poem that runs through Leslie Marmon Silko’s masterful novel Ceremony, which in its manner conveys something very powerful about the historical processes described in Yuuyaraq.  If you have not read it, you must. Though a work of fiction, Ceremony can work well in a history class. If you are a student, you can learn much from Silko about the horrifying new world the arrival of Europeans created for native peoples.

In the novel, Silko’s witches begin to duel, and conjure a horrifying vision.


Long time ago

in the beginning

there were no white people in the world

there was nothing European.

And this world might have gone on like that

except for one thing:


Silko’s witches told the story of the arrival of white people on American shores.  It was a horror story, for these newcomers

grow away from the earth.

Then they grow away from the sun

then they grow away from the plants and animals.

They see no life.

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead things for them,

the trees and rivers are not alive.

The deer and bear are objects

They see no life.

They fear

They fear the world

They destroy what they fear

The fear themselves.

The white people would bring a New World to native peoples. The newcomers, Silko’s witches warned,

will kill the things they fear

all the animals

the people will starve…

They will fear what they find

They will fear the people

They will kill what they fear

Entire villages will be wiped out

They will slaughter whole tribes.

There were survivors, but they struggled with the horrifying consequences of this witchery.  Napoleon told his story, after all, from a prison full of Alaska Native who suffered from what one recent report labeled “Intergenerational Trauma.”  Martin, who taught at a penitentiary during a portion of the time he spent in Alaska, met men and women who found themselves incarcerated after committing horrible acts they could not remember.  They were struggling to carry the burden imposed by a legacy of unresolved grief.

Napoleon proposed solutions. He was not an expert, he claimed, nor a wise man.  But he had seen a lot and experienced a lot.  Talking circles, to open up, to restore shattered bonds, to heal.  It is hard to disagree with what he suggests. He was a humble man, and he has continued to struggle to meet the challenges communities like his face since he was granted parole.

Still, the problems remain.  In Canada, too, as the enduring epidemic of suicide in Nunavut attests.

Trauma.  An absence of well-being. Communities still struggle.  Get over it, they are told.  These are the words of white critics who are racist and stupid, and they can be dismissed as such.  But what to do?  In the United States, much of the talk about Native American communities focuses on economic development, sovereignty, self-determination.  Like justice, democracy and pizza, everyone is for these things, but what, really, do they mean?  And with the measure of self-determination and sovereignty determined by the governing structures of the settler state, or decided, as Roger Echo-Hawk put it in his too-long book of several years ago, in “The Courts of the Conqueror”?  How much can the governments of settler states do? What are they willing to do?  How much can their experts achieve?

Napoleon argued that communities needed to solve their own problems, to forcefully advocate for themselves to pursue changes in government policy but also to deal with the grief and heal.  In Wasase, Taiaiake Alfred, (who my students read as well) laments the limitations imposed by leaders who all-too-often act just like white politicians, administering the programs and policies put in place by the settler state.

Alfred, Napoleon, Martin–they are describing communities in the midst of complicated problems, and if we do not force our students to confront them we do a disservice to them as historians. Grief is a force in Native American history.  Read a bit, and you will find it hard to miss.

I know my students sometimes are asked why they are studying this or that field in the liberal arts.  What good is that? I’m willing to bet that if you are a student, you have heard it, too.  Maybe on our post-truth, alternative-fact world, history is not worth much to many of our leaders, but if we keep our eyes and our hearts open, and read with discipline, energy and compassion, we can arrive across the distance of time and geographic space at something close to understanding.  And that is no small thing.



The Trump Presidency and Indian Affairs: Let’s Read Critically, People

I recently was invited to speak at a Teach-In on my campus.  The purpose of the gathering is to support student-activists interested in countering the policies of the Trump administration.  At the time that invitation was extended, some weeks ago, the Dakota Access Pipeline and the #NoDAPL movement were still very much in the news.   Since then, the Trump administration has fulfilled its promises to the oil men and the businessmen and fossil fuel addicts among us, and the pipeline is sadly looking like a done deal.  I have written about the process here and here and elsewhere on this blog.

But there are still plenty of other issues to talk about.

This piece, for instance, has been circulating quite widely. It is produced by Alaska Indigenous, in order to provide “critical commentary on the pertinent social, economic, and political affairs of Indigenous peoples in Alaska.” The Trump Administration, and its policies, has awakened quite a bit of passionate writing, and those who feel that they stand to lose something from Our Bronze Creon’s policies, or who have the humanity to sympathize with those who might, are on high alert.  That is a good thing, in my view.  This particular post has shown up in my various newsfeeds a couple of times. And, earnest as it is, it did not sit well with me.

Yes, Donald Trump has shown that he is no friend to native peoples. His administration is staffed by men with little awareness or understanding of the problems faced by Native Americans and other peoples of color in the United States (or worldwide, for that matter, but I can only cover so much).  His visit to the grave of Andrew Jackson makes that clear enough.  In my view, we must remain vigilant with regards to the actions of this administration.  We must stay informed. We must be critical. We must continue to demand to see the evidence, and to continue to ask tough questions, even when it seems we are being ignored. That is what intellectually courageous students do.   But let’s not fly off the handle.

The author of this piece worries that the Trump presidency could result in a return to the failed and discredited federal policy of termination, a multi-faceted program driven by Congress aimed at eliminating any relations between the United States and native peoples as parts of sovereign political communities.

Termination was catastrophic for those native communities that fell victim to it.  But only a tiny percentage of the nation’s native population went through termination: indigenous activism and protest slowed and ultimately stalled the policy, and led to its replacement with a federal commitment to “self-determination,” a phrase used both by presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968 and Richard M. Nixon in 1970.  That is an important part of the story that is too often ignored: native peoples defeated the policy of termination.Their actions led the government to this historic shift in policy.

And termination is not coming back.  Take a look at the Republican and Democratic party platforms from the last election season.  They differ more in style than in substance, with the Democrats celebrating with good cause the achievements of Barack Obama’s consequential presidency. But both claim to support self-determination and tribal sovereignty. Trump’s administration might be bad for Native Americans, but it is hard to tell: we have as yet no Under-Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs.  But as I have pointed out elsewhere, Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has shown his commitment to learning about Native American issues in his home state of Montana.  One could argue, moreover, that Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has a better record on Indian rights cases than the Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has a good record for working together in a bipartisan manner, and there are significant challenges ahead in Indian Country where Republicans and Democrats might come together. Sure, Trump’s supporters say some crazy things, but we should read these statements critically and carefully.

The author of the blog post concentrates much of his or her ire on Oklahoma Republican congressman Markwayne Mullin.  Mullin is, the author contends, a “pretendian” who favors the privatization of Indian lands.  Statements to this effect were attributed to Mullin during the transition, but his actual position was a bit more complicated.  As an outsider, I do not engage in questioning claims to Native American identity. Mullin is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation (and for the complexities tied into this, see Circe Sturm’s brilliant Becoming Indian, a book which might work well in your courses).  And Mullin’s charge–that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal bureaucracy in general stifle enterprise and economic development in Indian country–is nothing new.  “Red Progressives,” like Charles Eastman, Carlos Montezuma, and Arthur Parker, made similar arguments frequently during the early twentieth century.  (For this subject, I use in my courses Frederick Hoxie’s Talking Back to Civilization, but you might like as well David Martinez’s The American Indian Intellectual Tradition, a more voluminous edited collection of writings).  There is nothing at all progressive in any of the policies Representative Mullin supports, but his complaint has been around for quite some time.

And economic development in Indian country and energy policy are complicated things. Coal, for instance.  Donald Trump has made a lot of noise about bringing coal mining jobs back to the United States.  The experts who I have listened to see this as a forlorn hope: coal is a dirty fuel with falling prices and a finite future.  Coal increasingly looks like it is part of the past, whatever the claims of the Trump administration.

Zinke came from Montana. He favors increasing coal production in Montana, and he would like Indian lands to be a part of that effort.  He said this as a congressman and he is saying it now as Secretary of the Interior. Environmentalists have legitimate reasons to be concerned about this. But here’s the thing.   The Crows, whose story I tell in Native America, are of course well aware that some of the richest coal seams in the American west are located on Indian land.  The Crows’ tribal leadership has looked to develop its own energy resources on their own land.  Sovereignty and self-determination, right?  Even though in recent years coal prices have fallen and opposition to coal as a “dirty” fuel has increased, the Crows see coal development as a means to combat poverty. Coal revenue could pay for schools and for roads. Noting that his people have survived warfare, epidemic diseases, and attempts to assimilate them and eradicate their culture, Crow tribal chairman Darren Old Coyote told an industry journalist late in 2015 that “we’re going to continue moving forward to survive, and the only way I know how now is to develop our coal.” The Crows, he said, “have the manpower,” and “we have the capability of being self-sufficient. There is no reason why we should be this poor.”   The Crows’ efforts to develop their resources, to exercise their economic self-determination, was affected negatively by the policies of the Obama administration directed toward reducing America’s reliance on coal.  We might not like coal mining as an economic activity, but it is worth debating how far we are willing to go when we speak of self-determination.  The third article to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, after all, guarantees to native peoples the right to self-determination, and with that the right to “freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.”  Does that include coal-mining on indigenous lands, when that nation’s leadership favors coal mining?

I have made it very clear on this site how I feel about the actions thus far of the Trump Presidency in the realm of education and Indian Affairs.  But we must couch our opposition in the evidence, especially when we are contending against the policies of an administration that plays so fast and loose with the truth.  We should take nothing on faith, and always read and listen critically.  Ask tough questions.  Look alive.  Stay informed and stay on your toes. Hell, study history.  That is sometimes easier to do if we keep ourselves firmly grounded in the evidence, and with an openness to the complexities of the issues that concern us.

Donald Trump to Native America: Go To Hell

Today comes news that President Donald Trump, the Creon for the new millennium, will sign an executive order authorizing the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.   Before the confirmation of his nominee for Secretary of Interior, before any nomination for a new undersecretary for Indian Affairs at Interior, before any consultation with Native American tribes, before the confirmation of the fool he nominated to head the Energy Department (and who owns stock and sat on the board of the companies most interested in completing Dakota Access),  Our Creon has told America’s Native Peoples, in essence, to go to hell. Damn your protests. Damn your water.  Damn you and your quality of life.  Stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, meanwhile, was up 4%.

This is disappointing news, but it is not surprising, for Donald Trump is no friend to American Indians, and it looks like his presidency is going to stand in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, in this as in so many other ways. Some have expressed the fear that he will bring back the Termination era.

Little Hands

Barack Obama’s presidency, after all, had been one of great consequence for the nation’s roughly five and a half million Native Americans, and he left large shoes for the man with little hands to fill.

Native peoples voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers, contributing to his landslide victory in 2008 and his reelection in 2012.  President Obama kept the promises he made to Native peoples. He worked with Congress to secure significant increases in funding for the Indian Health Service. He appointed a policy advisor to counsel him on Native American issues, and he held an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference in order to “strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives.” He signed legislation settling at long last the notorious Cobell case, involving the government’s terrible mismanagement of individual Indian trust accounts, and implemented a land buy-back program that has returned more than half a million acres to tribal control. And when President Obama signed legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, it included a new provision allowing tribes to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who committed acts of domestic violence against Native American women, a major problem when courts had held in the past that tribal governments lacked the power to prosecute non-Indians on reservations.  The bipartisan HEARTH Act, signed by President Obama in 2012, allowed tribal governments additional control over their lands. And in 2010, he announced his support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, allowing the United States to join the rest of the world community in a statement affirming the rights of native peoples to live their lives in their own way under institutions of their own choosing.  Read it, if you have not done so already.

As was his wont, President Obama was always cautious.  Too cautious for many of us. He took his time in intervening at Standing Rock, but the Army Corps of Engineers placed a hold on construction of the controversial pipeline while the project was given further review.  In this, as in so many areas of his presidency, President Obama did not go as far as many of his supporters wanted.  Construction might resume, as the thousands of protestors at Standing Rock pointed out.  Still, despite his caution, the record of accomplishment was a significant one.

I am not sure if the steps President Obama took, and the recent publication by the Army Corps of Engineers of its intent to begin the environmental impact process, will be adequate to stave off Our Creon’s executive order.  If you know environmental law, I would love to hear and learn from you.

Because I am not sure what will happen next.  I am not optimistic. And that I am not optimistic really bums me out, because there are a hell of a lot of problems out there that sane political leaders from our two major parties might be able to solve. If they wanted to.  It is a choice, really.  Solve them or not.  But no excuses. Our Creon has said nothing about Indian affairs. Perhaps, despite his record and the racial vitriol his campaign generated, there is room for those who know the issues to work together.  Sometimes I think so.  Ryan Zinke, who Trump nominated to head the Interior Department, made a point of reaching out to Native American communities in his home state of Montana during his brief congressional career.  Collaboration and cooperation between the federal government and Native nations is not only sound policy; it’s the law.  But Zinke did it, and some Native Americans appreciated his efforts.

Of course the Republicans’ promise to repeal Obamacare, aggressively exploit fossil fuels in Indian country, and drastically cut federal spending all bode ill for Native American communities.

But Our Creon campaigned in part on a promise to restore the nation’s aging infrastructure.  He could fulfill a campaign promise and aid Native nations by pushing through Congress a program to repair and replace roads, bridges, and dams on Indian reservations.

Senators and representatives from states with large Native American populations have urged caution in repealing the Affordable Care Act, noting that the progress made in reducing the still gaping health disparities between Native Americans and non-natives were indeed significant and much work remains to be done.

Republicans who supported their candidate’s call for “law and order” might support additional legislation to protect Native American communities, especially women and children, from domestic violence.

And Republicans who favor a smaller federal government might recognize the virtues of supporting the inherent sovereignty of Native American nations and cooperate with Democrats in providing them the resources they need to govern their communities, develop their economies, and tackle the myriad challenges they face.  This could happen.  But the initiative certainly will not come from the Executive Branch.

President Obama left office with significant achievements but with much in the realm of Indian affairs unsettled.  The new president has already weighed in on Dakota Access.  But there are many other challenges that still must be confronted.  Native peoples, for instance, will continue to face concentrated conservative assaults on important and successful pieces of legislation like the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. Poverty and a lack of opportunity in Indian Country remain vexing challenges to policy makers and tribal leaders alike. Racial violence remains a problem, with a “Red Lives Matter” movement slowly growing in the shadow of the Black Lives Matter campaign against police brutality.  And, of course, the slow burning insults of cultural appropriation and the use of Native American symbols and images as offensive mascots for sports teams continues.  Congress, in recent years, has found bipartisan support for programs and policies that have helped to close, ever-so-slowly, the enormous gaps between Native peoples and non-native peoples in health, education, and welfare, and President Obama played an immensely important role in that. We might have hoped that this slow but steady progress of the last eight years not be abandoned by our leaders.  But today’s unilateral and aggressive action makes that hope seem ever so remote.