Article Responses, Articles/Information, Sports and Entertainment

Native People are coming into our own in American pop culture.

MTV has been stepping up to the plate in the acknowledgement of indigenous people in North America. Last week, MTV premiered its first episode of the new season of the show, ‘Rebel Music.’ Last year, the series made a huge impact on audiences. This season’s premiere, just shy of 20min features, Indigenous musical artists and activists from the US and Canada. Amongst the artists featured is Redbud Souix rapper, Frank Waln, First Nations singer Inez Jasper, and Souix rappers, Nataanii Means and Mike “Witko” Cliff.

The musically talented individuals are all teaming up to create a more inspired native youth. Like many in this generation believe, they feel that it is time for today’s “7th Generation” of Native people to take the torch from the elder’s and speak up about social issues in Indian country; give back to the community; bring positive feelings to indigenous people; and reach out to those who don’t know of indigenous struggles.

These “rebel” leaders are using their words and music to send teachings and motivation to carry on the culture and strength so precious to indigenous survival.

Watch the full length premiere on Facebook, or below.

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Article Responses, Personal Experiences

Discrimination against Indigenous students.

Discrimination-3As a native woman and student that has attended years of private, public and boarding schools, I have seen my fair share of bullies from all social classes. I have also found that bullying can be from adults towards their students. This situation is one that I have experienced personally as well.

My professor at the time had suggested I should get my learning capabilities tested to determine whether I was a visual learner, a student that focused better via lecture, or if just by reading.

I at first didn’t understand why I would need this done at all, since I knew what I could retain and how I learned from my own life experiences, so in confusion I called my mother asking her opinion. It infuriated her to find that they were doing this to me alone as well as to the one native student they had attending the school. She explained further to me that in the previous years they did this to native students as a way of demeaning them and passing them off with mental issues, such as retardation or with attention deficit.

These issues concerned, so I decided to talk to my adviser at the school about her thoughts, considering she was not only an academic adviser but had experience in therapy. She had also recalled that this was what had happened in the past but thought that it most likely wasn’t the teacher’s intention. I had previously had issues with the teacher and wanted to believe the best but had constantly had feelings of the worst possible scenario believing that she was fully capable of something along the historical lines.

In the end, I had to take the daylong test with a psychologist, who had told me everything I already knew about myself. For the rest of the year however, I had all of these thoughts and became very aware of how different this teacher treated me in comparison to the other students. Even visiting the school was uncomfortable when I ran into the teacher; while the encounter was cordial she was not as enthused to greet me as much as she was to my friends and classmates.

Solfdo-o-dachi (Uchi) Gali Garcia, first grade native student from California. Source: Indian Country Today.
Solfdo-o-dachi (Uchi) Gali Garcia, first grade native student from California. Source: Indian Country Today.

In a related article done by Indian Country Today, on September 24, a first grade native boy from Northern California was reported that his teacher punched him in the arm after he didn’t immediately sit down when the class was told to do so.

No matter what race the child is, violence against children is wrong, especially from those who are being employed to be role models to children.

However, what makes this story important for native people is that this is not the first instance that violence and discrimination has happened in the Northern California schools.

Being targeted by students, teachers and administrators is one of the most common and historic issues for indigenous students around the world. While there are plenty of awareness programs provided by the government, religious groups, and town communities, discrimination almost always comes down to a person’s level of respect and education.

The fact that both of these situations have involved a teacher, is it the education system at fault? Or is it just these individuals?

Articles/Information, Movements and Organizations

Leonard Peltier’s fight for funds.

Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier

The Indiegogo fundraiser has begun on July 10th to raise funds for the legal fees Leonard Peltier, Native American Activist and federal court wrongful prisoner has acquired. The funding is reported to go to the Leonard’s legal team. Currently the group has raised $26, 468 with a goal of $175,000 by August 4th.

With donations starting at $5 contributors can receive a “Freedom” bumper sticker and the highest perk being at a $1000 donation and your name on the Wall of Freedom to show your support along with two Leonard Peltier Fine Art Prints.

While the guarantee that Peltier will be freed from his long (39 years) and wrongful imprisonment this is said to be his final chance at fighting for freedom.

Being close to 70 years old, in poor and diminishing health his justice is crucial. The freeing of Peltier will be impactful for him and his as well as the example that America will set in realizing its mistakes on its indigenous people.

Organizations like Amnesty International as well as celebrities and people of influence such as Susan Sarandon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama have been active supporters of Peltier’s journey and hope to see him free in his lifetime.

For more information on Leonard Peltier go to www.leonardpeltier.info and check out a previous article here. In order to donate go to this Indiegogo site.

Articles/Information, Personal Experiences, Sports and Entertainment

Older than America: Awards don’t make a movie.

Browsing through Netflix, I remembered hearing about the movie “Older Than America” from a bunch of people in Indian Country. Adding it to my queue I decided to check out the trailer first before watching.  “Older Than America,” from the trailer looked like a promising film so I hit play. After watching it, I realized that the trailer did precisely what it was meant to do, attract you to the movie. The trailer was better than the film.

“Older Than America” is a Native American thriller based on the trauma that native residential schools have left on today’s society. Starring skilled native actors such as Adam Beach, Wes Studi, Tantoo Cardinal, Georgina Lightning and featuring Bradley Cooper in a supporting role, I was surprised by the under acting in the film. All of the actors seemed as if they weren’t even trying to perform well. It was shocking the lack of fluidity in lines and emotions in some scenes with Beach and Lightning.

As Georgina Lightning’s directorial debut she was successful in creating an entertaining set for a tragic aspect of Native people’s history. While the aspect was well thought out it was carried out in a surprisingly mediocre fashion.

Lightning played the main character, Rain, has been subject to visions about a secret past of the reservation and its boarding school. In the beginning of the film the audience is shown that after a mysterious earthquake arises near the abandoned boarding school, a geologist (Cooper) comes to investigate the strange occurrences. He befriends John Goodfeather (Beach), a reservation police officer and Rain’s fiancé. The rest of the film is a battle between Rain, her Aunt Apple (Cardinal), the local priest and discovering the truth about Rain’s visions.

In analyzing the film, Cooper’s character plot and the rest of the film, don’t merge properly; Luke (Cooper) was a side-plot that never had a true conclusion that lead to the rest. I felt compelled by the history of the boarding school that had caused its students to be “broken and bruised with scars that never healed” but I was left left questioning the background and future of the characters.

The film had won two awards from The American Indian Film Festival, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Wes Studi). However, it most likely had to do with the historical content of the film. I thought Studi’s role, Richard Two Rivers, the reservation’s radio host, was a minimally contributing role in the film. Which also makes Cooper and his character as being used merely for his worldwide acting success to bring attention to the film.

While the film tries at an interesting storyline its main point was to bring attention to the travesties that occurred across indigenous communities from forced removal of children and their placement into residential schools. It succeeded in this aspect but not as fulfilling entertainment. The film itself seems confused with its identity as a documentary versus a film with a compelling fantasy storyline, which can be the reason for the sub-par acting from skillful actors.

Articles/Information, Movements and Organizations

The Future of Leonard Peltier: Freedom or Continued Wrongful Imprisonment?

Leonard Peltier in the US Penitentiary
Leonard Peltier in the US Penitentiary
The United Stated has wrongfully imprisoned Leonard Peltier for 38 years. Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota was a leader of the American Indian Movement.

The American Indian Movement was founded in Minneapolis, MN to fight and protect the rights of Indigenous nations that were agreed upon in treaties, sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution and laws. AIM also focuses on the support of traditional spirituality, culture, history and language amongst Indigenous people.

In the 1970s AIM’s activism had grown popular during major conflicts between the United States regarding American Indian rights. During a time of extreme violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota, a shoot out occurred for unknown reasons between over 40 Native Americans, the FBI, a team of SWAT members, BIA police and vigilantes resulting in the death of a young Native man (Joe Stuntz) and two FBI officers (Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams). While three deaths occurred, only the deaths of the FBI agents were ever investigated.

Those involved in the shooting, and the only three brought to trial were AIM members Bob Robideau, Darrelle Butler and Leonard Peltier. Robideau and Butler’s trial were held in front of a federal jury in Iowa in June 1976. Both were acquitted in July of the same year on both the shoot out and the murder of the FBI agents on grounds of insufficient evidence and self-defense.

Peltier’s trial was not held until 1977 after his fleeing to Canada in his accurate fear of being unfairly tried in the U.S. court system. After being extradited from Canada with a falsely acquired affidavit, Peltier was brought to Fargo, North Dakota for trial under U.S. District Judge Paul Benson. It was later discovered that the trial was supposed to be held in Sioux Falls under Judge Edward McManus, the same judge who presided over Robideau and Butler’s trial, but by an unidentified circumstance the judges and locations were switched.

During Peltier’s trial there were countless illegal actions done by the prosecutors representing the FBI. The actions included: withholding evidence from trial, intimidating witnesses into false testimony, manipulating federal investigatory documents, and intimidation/misleading of the jury and public. Judge Benson however allowed and supported the “evidence” that was used within the court for Peltier’s conviction. Thus leading to Peltier having to serve two life sentences (one for each of the dead officers) for a crime that he did not commit.

In the following video you hear of Peltier giving his testimony and argument to Judge Benson and the courtroom during his 1977 trial. He knows his fate in the judicial system and continues to state the wrongs and misconducts of the case. The video later explains that the court allowed for his conviction and the manipulation of laws in order for the government to not allow a new trial for Peltier’s freedom. In the corner of the video there is a count through the 36 years. It is now 38 years he as been in prison.

Currently, in the media hash tags, #leonardpeltier, #freeleonard and #freepeltier, have been trending in a flurry all over the Internet in recent years. However, the fight for the justice and freedom of Leonard Peltier has been going on for over 20 years and has now become more pressing due to Peltier’s dwindling health. Petitions and other countless movements have been created and held for Peltier’s freedom and righteous justice. Peltier’s trial has exemplified the corruption of the US government and judicial system among the rights of the Native American people. If freed and to have justice be served it would create a great and improved standing between the US government and the Indigenous people of America and the continent.

If you would like more information on Peltier and the trial or to sign one of the petitions for his freedom you can go to www.leonardpeltier.info/petition and join the movement.

Supporters for Peltier’s freedom include the Dalai Lama, Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, the now late Nelson Mandela, Pete Seeger, and Mother Theresa as well as Amnesty International.

I also highly recommend watching this video on the case and petitions for Peltier: