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Topic: Native Americans (Read 6245 times)
March 07, 2007, 05:51:14 PM »
March 7, 2007
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION, Ariz. - A fresh footprint in the dirt, fibers in the
mesquite. Harold Thompson reads the signs like a map.
They point to drug smugglers, 10 or 11, crossing from Mexico. The deep
impressions and spacing are a giveaway to the heavy loads on their backs.
With no insect tracks or paw prints of nocturnal creatures marking the
steps, Mr. Thompson determines the smugglers probably crossed a few hours
"These guys are not far ahead; we'll get them," said Mr. Thompson, 50, a
strapping Navajo who follows the trail like a bloodhound.
At a time when all manner of high technology is arriving to help beef up
security at the Mexican border - infrared cameras, sensors, unmanned
drones - there is a growing appreciation among the federal authorities for
the American Indian art of tracking, honed over generations by ancestors
Mr. Thompson belongs to the Shadow Wolves, a federal law enforcement unit of
Indian officers that has operated since the early 1970s on this vast Indian
nation straddling the Mexican border.
Tracking skills are in such demand that the Departments of State and Defense
have arranged for the Shadow Wolves to train border guards in other
countries, including some central to the fight against terrorism. Several
officers are going to train border police in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,
which border Afghanistan, and in several other countries.
In the renewed push to secure the border with Mexico, the curbing of
narcotics trafficking often gets less public attention than the capturing of
But the 15-member Shadow Wolves unit, part of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, is recruiting members to reach the congressionally authorized
complement of 21. And the immigration agency is considering forming a sister
unit to patrol part of the Canadian border at the Blackfeet reservation in
Montana, where concern about drug trafficking is growing.
"Detecting is one thing, and apprehending is something entirely different,"
said Rodney Irby, a special agent in Tucson for the immigration agency who
helps supervise the Shadow Wolves. "I applaud the technology; it will only
make the border more secure. But there are still going to be groups of
people who penetrate the most modern technology, and we need a cadre of
agents and officers to apprehend them."
The Shadow Wolves have seized nearly 30,000 pounds of illegal drugs since
October, putting them on pace to meet or exceed previous annual seizure
amounts. They routinely seize some 100,000 pounds of illegal drugs a year,
Mr. Irby said.
They home in on drug smugglers, who use less-traveled cattle tracks, old
wagon-wheel trails and barely formed footpaths to ferry their loads to roads
and highways about 40 miles from the border.
The Tohono land, which is the size of Connecticut and the third-largest
reservation in area in the country, has long vexed law enforcement. Scores
of people die crossing here every year in the searing, dry heat of summer or
the frigid cold of winter. And its 76-mile-long border with Mexico, marked
in most places with a three- or four-strand barbed-wire fence that is easy
to breach, is a major transshipment point for marijuana, Mexico's largest
Adding to the challenge is that drug smugglers have enlisted tribal members
or forced them into cooperation, sometimes stashing their loads in the
ramshackle houses dotting the landscape or paying the young to act as
guides. Several tribal members live on the Mexican side, and those on the
American side have long freely crossed the border, which they usually do
through a few informal entry points that drug traffickers, too, have picked
How much the Shadow Wolves disrupt the criminal organizations is debated.
Officials said they believed the group's work at least complicated drug
smuggling operations - the Shadow Wolves have received death threats over
the years - but they said they could not estimate the amount of drugs making
Marvin Eleando, a Tohono who retired from the unit in 2004, said he believed
the Shadow Wolves got just a small fraction of the drugs moving through the
Tohono lands. Mr. Eleando estimated it would take about 100 Shadow Wolves to
truly foil the smugglers, who employ spotters on mountaintops who watch for
officers and then shift routes accordingly.
Still, he said, the unit must keep up the effort because the drugs, and the
gun violence often associated with trafficking, imperil tribal members.
"The kids get mixed up in this and then don't want to work anymore," Mr.
Lately, according to the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, drug seizures in Arizona, and especially around the reservation
and the Tucson area, have surged, and the size of the loads found has
Officials said it was too soon to tell whether the uptick signaled a
long-term pattern. But they believed it could be partly explained by the
additional staffing on the border. Law enforcement officials said that there
also appeared to be a bumper crop of marijuana in Mexico and that smugglers
seemed to be trying to ship tons of it ahead of government crackdowns there.
"We never know how much is being pushed in our direction," said David V.
Aguilar, the chief of the Border Patrol, though he added that it seemed the
amount was "higher at this point."
Alonzo Peña, the agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in
Arizona, said investigators had many theories but little concrete
information to explain the increase in trafficking.
"Is this marijuana that has been sitting in warehouses, and they are trying
to get rid of it now that there is a strong hand in Mexico?" Mr. Peña said.
"We just don't know other than that we are seeing more loads and bigger
loads in many areas."
The Shadow Wolves, established with a handful of officers in 1972 as part of
what was then the United States Customs Service, were the first federal law
enforcement officers allowed on Tohono land.
The federal government agreed to the Tohono O'odham Nation's demand that the
officers have American Indian ancestry, a requirement still in place.
Members are at least one-quarter Indian, and the current group represents
seven tribes, including the Tohono.
While other law enforcement agencies, including the Border Patrol, use
tracking, the Shadow Wolves believe that their experience and their Indian
ancestry give them an edge, particularly here.
"I speak the language, so when we are dealing with elderly members in
particular I can make them more comfortable," said Gary Ortega, a Tohono who
has been in the Shadow Wolves for nine years. "They are willing to tell us
things they know or see that they may not tell another federal agent or
There is also, of course, the thrill of the hunt.
On a recent day, Mr. Thompson picked up the track around 3 a.m. and, with
Mr. Ortega, stayed on it for nearly 12 hours through thorny thickets and
wide-open desert. As the terrain grew craggy, Mr. Thompson kept a brisk
pace, with Mr. Ortega and other officers leapfrogging ahead to help find the
"Every chase is just a little different," Mr. Ortega said, barely pausing as
he followed the prints in the sand.
It grew easier as the sun rose and the smugglers kept bumping into thorny
bushes and stopping to rest, leaving their food wrappers behind and coat
fibers in the cat-claw brush. By midafternoon, Mr. Ortega and Mr. Thompson
were tiring, too. But the scent of the men's burlap sacks perked up Mr.
Ortega, and he quickened his pace, finally catching sight of the smugglers
and prompting them to bolt from their resting spot.
Left behind were 10 bales of marijuana, 630 pounds in total, a fairly
typical bust, with a street value of more than $315,000.
With the weight off their backs, the smugglers showed new speed dashing to
hiding places and easily outmatched their pursuers. Other Shadow Wolves
drove out to pick up the load, finding their colleagues resting on the bales
and grinning in satisfaction.
"When we get the dope or the guys," Mr. Thompson said, "that's when it
Re: Native Americans
Reply #1 on:
March 14, 2007, 07:57:12 PM »
Decorated American Indian Veteran Dies
Associated Press | March 12, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. - Billy Walkabout, a native Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him among most decorated Soldiers of the war, died March 7, his stepdaughter said Sunday. He was 57.
Walkabout received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He was believed to be the most decorated Native American Soldier of the Vietnam War, according to U.S. Department of Defense reports.
Walkabout, who lived in Montville, died of pneumonia and renal failure at a Norwich hospital, said his stepdaughter, Randi Johnson of Norwich. He had experienced complications related to his exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam conflict, she said, and he had been on a kidney transplant waiting list and undergoing dialysis three times a week.
Walkabout, a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan, was an 18-year-old Army Ranger sergeant when he and 12 other Soldiers were sent on an assassination mission behind enemy lines on Nov. 20, 1968, in a region southwest of Hue. However, they ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came under fire for hours, during which he was seriously wounded. Several of the other 12 men were killed at the scene, while the rest later died of their injuries. Walkabout's citation for the Distinguished Service Cross said he simultaneously returned fire, helped his comrades and boarded other injured Soldiers onto evacuation helicopters.
"Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sgt. Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one Soldier's severe chest wound and reviving another Soldier by heart massage," the citation states.
In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Walkabout said his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and memories that refused to fade.
"War is not hell," Walkabout said. "It's worse."
He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self-isolation when he would spend six months at a time alone. Over the years, however, he found solace in the Native American powwows where he often was an honored guest.
At the time of his death, Walkabout and his wife, Juanita Medbury-Walkabout, lived in a portion of eastern Connecticut that is home to many American Indian tribal members. His family is in the process of requesting a military burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Johnson said.
Re: Native Americans
Reply #2 on:
April 04, 2007, 07:34:13 AM »
A post from the Warrior Talk forum:
Been reviewing some of my old books on the Apaches as I have been spending a lot of time in Apache country lately. While there are mountains of books written on Geronimo, I'd highly recommend the book "In the Days of Victorio" by Eve Ball. Victorio, and his equally impressive sister Lozen, get little coverage from the historians. The author Eve Ball lived in New Mexico during the 1950's and knew many of the last warriors who fought on the trail with Geronimo and recorded their stories firsthand. Great stories that you can glean volumes from on unconventional tactics and strategy.
Excellent accounts of escape, evasion, survival on the run, and guerilla tactics used by Victorio, who was probably the greatest strategist the Apaches ever had. The book is published by Univ. of Arizona Press which puts out many books on western history. Another good one, and the most comprehensive on the man himself is- "Geronimo" by Angie Debo.
E & E lessons to be gleaned from this reading for the modern bug-out situation:
-Know your terrain well- study maps of your immediate area and know every crossing point, water source, secondary roads, and other geographic advantages for hiding or taking off. The Apaches had topo maps in their heads from a lifetime of living on and traveling the landscape. General Crook, who was the commanding officer in charge of ending the Apache Wars, knew that to catch an Apache you had to use another Apache, such was their knowledge of their surroundings. He enlisted rival Apache trackers from other bands which was the key to Crook's success.
-Be in the best aerobic conditioning you can be in. During the Geronimo campaign, there were many stories of Apaches running 120 miles in 12 hours. Friends of mine at Hopi today who are now in their 70's have told me the same thing about their accomplishments in the "old days." These men can outhike and outrun me still despite my best efforts at keeping in shape-and we are amazed at modern marathons! Endurance is a critical factor to be able to stay ahead of your pursuers, so keep up a high level of aerobic conditioning.
-Victorio always had his warriors sleep with their mocassins on and their bags of food/water strung around their necks so they could flee at the first sound of enemies approaching. Your BOB has to be on you as well as your boots when you rest and not slung on a tree. He also made two camps each night- one was a decoy camp to distract pursuers and the other, nearby but well hidden, was where they holed up for rest in view of the first camp. This saved their hides many times from approaching trackers.
-Learn to live with discomfort when in the wilds and on the move. Something not mentioned in the books but it comes across and is something one experiences on long survival courses. For E & E, you're not going to be sleeping on a comfy bed each night after a steak & lobster dinner and a hot shower. Hunger, fatigue, thirst, discomfort, and did I mention fatigue, are going to be your constant companions on a real evasion as you travel cross-country with a bag of gear and the stress of heightened awareness that is stretched to the limits over a few days or more.
-Next time you go on a walk in the woods, see how little sign of your passage you can leave. Take note of what soils leave the most tracks, what signs of prints you leave when you walk off trail or on leaves, and what spots would make good lay-up positions or hides that are off the beaten path.
We'll be covering this in greater detail in the June Complete Warrior Class in Prescott but in the meantime, check out the book on Victorio- worth it's weight in tactical gold.
Re: Native Americans
Reply #3 on:
May 07, 2007, 04:53:07 PM »
I thought this might belong in this thread, no disrespect intended.
"Homeland Security Fighting Terrorism Since 1492"
Maybe the best selling t-shirt ever to hit Indian Country, this Original Homeland Security t-shirt has taken the powwow circuit by storm. Not only is it the funniest Native American t-shirt we've seen in a long time, it also drives home a point. And, Local Yokel® is proud to bring it to the American public at large...well, up to size 3X.
100% cottom. Available only in black. The shirt is imported, but it's printed right here in the U.S.A.
Local Yokel® is an American Indian owned business. We support other Indian owned businesses whenever possible.
"You see, it's not the blood you spill that gets you what you want, it's the blood you share. Your family, your friendships, your community, these are the most valuable things a man can have." Before Dishonor - Hatebreed
How the Incas leapt Canyons
Reply #4 on:
May 08, 2007, 08:50:00 AM »
I saw that shirt when Chester, my host at my Albuquerque seminar took me to the Navajo Reservation. Tough to be the butt of the joke, but it had to be acknowledged
Anyway, here's this from today's NY Times:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.
Yet the suspension bridges were familiar and vital links in the vast empire of the Inca, as they had been to Andean cultures for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. The people had not developed the stone arch or wheeled vehicles, but they were accomplished in the use of natural fibers for textiles, boats, sling weapons — even keeping inventories by a prewriting system of knots.
So bridges made of fiber ropes, some as thick as a man’s torso, were the technological solution to the problem of road building in rugged terrain. By some estimates, at least 200 such suspension bridges spanned river gorges in the 16th century. One of the last of these, over the Apurimac River, inspired Thornton Wilder’s novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”
Although scholars have studied the Inca road system’s importance in forging and controlling the pre-Columbian empire, John A.Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology here said, “Historians and archaeologists have neglected the role of bridges.”
Dr. Ochsendorf’s research on Inca suspension bridges, begun while he was an undergraduate at Cornell University, illustrates an engineering university’s approach to archaeology, combining materials science and experimentation with the traditional fieldwork of observing and dating artifacts. Other universities conduct research in archaeological materials, but it has long been a specialty at M.I.T.
Students here are introduced to the multidisciplinary investigation of ancient technologies as applied in transforming resources into cultural hallmarks from household pottery to grand pyramids. In a course called “materials in human experience,” students are making a 60-foot-long fiber bridge in the Peruvian style. On Saturday, they plan to stretch the bridge across a dry basin between two campus buildings.
In recent years, M.I.T. archaeologists and scientists have joined forces in studies of early Peruvian ceramics, balsa rafts and metal alloys; Egyptian glass and Roman concrete; and also the casting of bronze bells in Mexico. They discovered that Ecuadoreans, traveling by sea, introduced metallurgy to western Mexico. They even found how Mexicans added bits of morning-glory plants, which contain sulfur, in processing natural rubber into bouncing balls.
“Mexicans discovered vulcanization 3,500 years before Goodyear,” said Dorothy Hosler, an M.I.T. professor of archaeology and ancient technology. “The Spanish had never seen anything that bounced like the rubber balls of Mexico.”
Heather Lechtman, an archaeologist of ancient technology who helped develop the M.I.T. program, said that in learning “how objects were made, what they were made of and how they were used, we see people making decisions at various stages, and the choices involve engineering as well as culture.”
From this perspective, she said, the choices are not always based only on what works well, but also are guided by ideological and aesthetic criteria. In the casting of early Mexican bells, attention was given to their ringing tone and their color; an unusually large amount of arsenic was added to copper to make the bronze shine like silver.
“If people use materials in different ways in different societies, that tells you something about those people,” Professor Lechtman said.
In the case of the Peruvian bridges, the builders relied on a technology well suited to the problem and their resources. The Spanish themselves demonstrated how appropriate the Peruvian technique was.
Dr. Ochsendorf, a specialist in early architecture and engineering, said the colonial government tried many times to erect European arch bridges across the canyons, and each attempt ended in fiasco until iron and steel were applied to bridge building. The Peruvians, knowing nothing of the arch or iron metallurgy, instead relied on what they knew best, fibers from cotton, grasses and saplings, and llama and alpaca wool.
The Inca suspension bridges achieved clear spans of at least 150 feet, probably much greater. This was a longer span than any European masonry bridges at the time. The longest Roman bridge in Spain had a maximum span between supports of 95 feet. And none of these European bridges had to stretch across deep canyons.
Published: May 8, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
The Peruvians apparently invented their fiber bridges independently of outside influences, Dr. Ochsendorf said, but these bridges were neither the first of their kind in the world nor the inspiration for the modern suspension bridge like the George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges in New York and the Golden Gate in San Francisco.
In a recent research paper, Dr. Ochsendorf wrote: “The Inca were the only ancient American civilization to develop suspension bridges. Similar bridges existed in other mountainous regions of the world, most notably in the Himalayas and in ancient China, where iron chain suspension bridges existed in the third century B.C.”
The first of the modern versions was erected in Britain in the late 18th century, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The longest one today connects two islands in Japan, with a span of more than 6,000 feet from tower to supporting tower. These bridges are really “hanging roadways,” Dr. Ochsendorf said, to provide a fairly level surface for wheeled traffic.
In his authoritative 1984 book, “The Inka Road System,” John Hyslop, who was an official of the Institute of Andean Research and associated with the American Museum of Natural History, compiled descriptions of the Inca bridges recorded by early travelers.
Garcilasco de la Vega, in 1604, reported on the cable-making techniques. The fibers, he wrote, were braided into ropes of the length necessary for the bridge. Three of these ropes were woven together to make a larger rope, and three of them were again braided to make a still larger rope, and so on. The thick cables were pulled across the river with small ropes and attached to stone abutments on each side.
Three of the big cables served as the floor of the bridge, which often was at least four to five feet wide, and two others served as handrails. Pieces of wood were tied to the cable floor. Finally, the floor was strewn with branches to give firm footing for beasts of burden.
More branches and pieces of wood were strung to make walls along the entire length of the bridge. The side covering, one chronicler said, was such that “if a horse fell on all fours, it could not fall off the bridge.”
Still, it took a while for the Spanish to adjust to the bridges and to coax their horses to cross them. The bridges trembled underfoot and swayed dangerously in stiff winds.
Ephraim G. Squier, a visitor to Peru from the United States in the 1870s, said of the Apurimac River bridge: “It is usual for the traveler to time his day’s journey so as to reach the bridge in the morning, before the strong wind sets in; for, during the greater part of the day, it sweeps up the Canyon of the Apurimac with great force, and then the bridge sways like a gigantic hammock, and crossing is next to impossible.”
Other travelers noted that in many cases, two suspension bridges stood side by side. Some said that one was for the lords and gentry, the other for commoners; or one for men, the other for women.
Recent scholars have suggested that it was more likely that one bridge served as a backup for the other, considering the need for frequent repairs of frayed and worn ropes.
The last existing Inca suspension bridge, at Huinchiri, near Cuzco, is virtually rebuilt each year. People from the villages on either side hold a three-day festival and gather stiff grasses for producing more than 50,000 feet of cord. Finally, the cord is braided into 150-foot replacement cables.
In the M.I.T. class project, 14 students met two evenings a week and occasional afternoons to braid the ropes for a Peruvian bridge replica 60 feet long and 2 feet wide. They were allowed one important shortcut: some 50 miles of twine already prepared from sisal, a stronger fiber than the materials used by the Inca.
Some of the time thus gained was invested in steps the Inca had never thought of. The twine and the completed ropes were submitted to stress tests, load-bearing measurements and X-rays.
“We have proof-tested the stuff at every step as we go along,” said Linn W. Hobbs, a materials science professor and one of the principal teachers of the course.
The students incorporated 12 strands of twine for each primary rope. Then three of these 12-ply ropes were braided into the major cables, each 120 feet long — 60 feet for the span and 30 feet at each end for tying the bridge to concrete anchors.
One afternoon last week, several of the students stretched ropes down a long corridor, braiding one of the main cables. While one student knelt to make the braid and three students down the line did some nimble footwork to keep the separate ropes from entangling, Zack Jackowski, a sophomore, put a foot firmly down on the just-completed braid.
“It’s important to get the braids as tight as possible,” Mr. Jackowski said. “A little twist, pull it back hard, hold the twist you just put in.”
No doubt the students will escape the fate of Brother Juniper, the Franciscan missionary in Wilder’s novel who investigated the five people who perished in the collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey.
Brother Juniper hoped to discern scientific evidence of divine intervention in human affairs, examples of “the wicked visited by destruction and the good called early to Heaven.”
Alas, he could not; there is some of both good and evil in people. So his written account was judged heretical. He and his manuscript were burned at the stake.
If the students’ bridge holds, they will have learned one lesson: engineering, in antiquity as now, is the process of finding a way through and over the challenges of environment and culture.
Classic Book About America’s Indians Gains a Few Flourishes as a Film
Reply #5 on:
May 09, 2007, 09:03:28 AM »
LOS ANGELES, May 8 — When the historian Dee Brown published “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” in 1971, it became an instant sensation. In an age of rebellion, this nonfiction book told the epic tale of the displacement and decline of the American Indian not from the perspective of the winners, but from that of the Indians.
But the fact that Mr. Brown’s work has been translated into 17 languages and has sold five million copies around the world was not enough to convince HBO that a film version would draw a sizable mainstream audience. When the channel broadcasts its two-hour adaptation of the book, beginning Memorial Day weekend, at its center will be a new character: a man who was part Sioux, was educated at an Ivy League college and married a white woman.
“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.
The added character is based on a real person: Charles Eastman, part Sioux and descended from a long line of Santee chiefs but who was sent away by his father to boarding school and then held up as a model of the potential assimilation of 19th-century Native Americans. But the film fictionalizes significant portions of his life. In the HBO version he dodges bullets at the Battle of Little Bighorn. In reality he was far away, in grade school in Nebraska.
Fictionalizing history has long been standard in Hollywood. But rarely do filmmakers directly hitch their historically inaccurate projects to revered works of nonfiction. Dick Wolf, an executive producer of the film who is best known for the “Law & Order” television franchise, defended the fabrications.
“This was not an attempt to do the Ken Burns version of the Indian experience,” Mr. Wolf said in an interview. “It is a dramatization, and we needed a protagonist.”
(The chief executive of HBO, Chris Albrecht, announced yesterday that he was taking a leave of absence after being charged with assaulting a girlfriend in a Las Vegas parking lot early on Sunday.)
At the time it was published, Mr. Brown’s epic, subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” struck a chord in a country embroiled in a divisive war in Vietnam and still shuddering from the American military’s massacre in the village of My Lai. Segregation was dying hard in the South, and the American Indian Movement was ascending.
The story is a relentless tragedy, tracing the history of American Indian nations from 1860, shortly after the first new states extended into the “permanent Indian frontier,” through 1890 and the massacre at Wounded Knee, in what is now South Dakota. It became a blockbuster best seller and helped shape the way the history of the American Indians has been interpreted ever since.
For decades the book eluded attempts to turn it into a film, partly because of Mr. Brown’s distrust of Hollywood. At least two attempts by potential moviemakers to adapt the book failed. When the current producers optioned the book five years ago, Mr. Brown was in the last years of his life and, according to his grandson, did not believe anything would come of the project. (Mr. Brown died in 2002 at 94.)
Tom Thayer, the executive producer who originated the project, said the HBO team wrestled for months with how to boil down a book that spans 30 years and dozens of tribes into a 130-minute film.
“The book is basically an editorialized textbook,” Mr. Thayer said. “It doesn’t have a single narrative; it’s anthropological and episodic.” Therefore, he added, “we felt that to tell a story of that size, the Eastman character would be a great hand-holder for the audience.”
Many literary critics, and millions of readers, however, had little trouble following Mr. Brown’s story. Writing in The New York Times Book Review in March 1971, N. Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, emphasized that the book was a story, “a whole narrative of singular integrity and precise continuity; that is what makes the book so hard to put aside, even when one has come to the end.”
The film largely restricts itself to the late 1880s, the time of the Ghost Dance, a messianic movement that swept through the Plains Indian tribes. Within that period it weaves together three strands: the story of Sitting Bull, the legendary chief of the Sioux, who fought against Custer’s forces at Little Bighorn in 1876; that of Henry L. Dawes, the Massachusetts senator who pushed into law a plan to allocate portions of Indian land to individual tribe members; and Eastman, who was taken from his tribe by his father and attended Dartmouth and then Boston University School of Medicine.
It is in the last two stories that the film begins to bend history.
“Eastman was the most well-known, well-educated Indian at the beginning of the 20th century,” said Raymond Wilson, a professor of history at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., who wrote what is considered to be the definitive biography of Eastman. “When I heard they were doing the film,” he said, “I joked with a couple of people that I hoped they didn’t have Charles Eastman shaking hands with Sitting Bull at Pine Ridge.
(Page 2 of 2)
Not quite, but almost. The film’s climactic scene has Eastman watching as Sitting Bull addresses a group of Sioux in Pine Ridge at a meeting of which Dawes is the chairman. Sitting Bull tells them not to accept the government land allotments. In fact, the chief lived 200 miles away at the Standing Rock agency, and the meeting never happened.
As for placing Eastman at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Mr. Giat, the screenwriter, defends that choice by noting that some members of Eastman’s tribe were there.
The film also shows Eastman courting Elaine Goodale, a Massachusetts poet and teacher who oversaw schools for Indians in the Dakota territory, over a period of years, beginning while he was in college. In fact, Eastman met her when he arrived at Pine Ridge less than two months before the Wounded Knee massacre. Nor was Goodale anywhere near the reservation in 1883 when Sitting Bull arrived, as shown in the film; she was in Virginia.
HBO executives said they saw no problem with the inconsistencies. “When we look at historical accuracy, we look at history as it plays in the service of a narrative,” said Sam Martin, a vice president at HBO Films in charge of production on the project. HBO has at times gone the opposite route; last year it publicized the pains it took to ensure the factual accuracy of its Emmy-winning miniseries “Elizabeth I.”
To its credit, HBO’s version of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” does not glamorize Sitting Bull, but rather portrays him as he was: an egotistical, often brutal leader whose pride endangered members of his tribe as they suffered through famine, drought and disease.
Some people who have seen advance screenings of the HBO version have praised it. “This is the first time I’ve seen a film so accurately portray the impact of federal policy on our people,” said Jacqueline Johnson, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, which is cooperating with HBO on educational projects featuring the film. “You see the beginning of issues and policies whose effects we are still dealing with today.”
But others are dismayed. Nicolas Proctor, Mr. Brown’s grandson and one of three people who oversees his estate, as well as an associate professor of history at Simpson College in Iowa, said that as a historian he was “always kind of shocked that history is not moving enough, is not evocative enough and rich enough to keep people from having to get in there and start monkeying around with it.” He said that the estate had no control over the film’s content.
Mr. Proctor said his grandfather wouldn’t necessarily be surprised by HBO’s tinkering. “I don’t think he ever thought anything historically accurate would come out of any film version,” he said. Still, before this, “nobody had ever before gone and gutted it and turned it into a love story.”
Re: Native Americans
Reply #6 on:
November 22, 2007, 06:51:29 AM »
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Navajo Code Talkers in World War II: A Bibliography
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Reminiscences of Seattle...Sloop of War Decatur During the Indian War of 1855-56
20th Century Warriors: Native American Participation in the United States Military
(Prepared for the United States Department of Defense by CEHIP Incorporated, Washington, DC, in partnership with Native American advisors, Rodger Bucholz, William Fields, Ursula P. Roach. Washington: Department of Defense, 1996.)
A Long Tradition Of Participation
American Indians have participated with distinction in United States military actions for more than 200 years. Their courage, determination, and fighting spirit were recognized by American military leaders as early as the 18th century.
I think they [Indians] can be made of excellent use, as scouts and light troops. --Gen. George Washington, 1778
Many tribes were involved in the War of 1812, and Indians fought for both sides as auxiliary troops in the Civil War. Scouting the enemy was recognized as a particular skill of the Native American soldier. In 1866, the U.S. Army established its Indian Scouts to exploit this aptitude. The Scouts were active in the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s, accompanying Gen. John J. Pershing's expedition to Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa in 1916. They were deactivated in 1947 when their last member retired from the Army in ceremonies at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. Native Americans from Indian Territory were also recruited by Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and saw action in Cuba in the Spanish-American War in 1898. As the military entered the 20th century, American Indians had already made a substantial contribution through military service and were on the brink of playing an even larger role.
Contributions In Combat
It is estimated that more than 12,000 American Indians served in the United States military in World War I. Approximately 600 Oklahoma Indians, mostly Chotaw and Cherokee, were assigned to the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division. The 142nd saw action in France and its soldiers were widely recognized for their contributions in battle. Four men from this unit were awarded the Croix de Guerre, while others received the Church War Cross for gallantry.
The outbreak of World War II brought American Indians warriors back to the battlefield in defense of their homeland. Although now eligible for the draft by virtue of the Snyder Act, which gave citizenship to American Indians in 1924, conscription alone does not account for the disproportionate number of Indians who joined the armed services. More than 44,000 American Indians, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, served with distinction between 1941 and 1945 in both European and Pacific theaters of war. Native American men and women on the home front also showed an intense desire to serve their country, and were an integral part of the war effort. More than 40,000 Indian people left their reservations to work in ordnance depots, factories, and other war industries. American Indians also invested more than $50 million in war bonds, and contributed generously to the Red Cross and the Army and Navy Relief societies.
Battle-experienced American Indian troops from World War II were joined by newly recruited Native Americans to fight Communist aggression during the Korean conflict. The Native American's strong sense of patriotism and courage emerged once again during the Vietnam era. More than 42,000 Native Americans, more than 90 percent of them volunteers, fought in Vietnam. Native American contributions in United States military combat continued in the 1980s and 1990s as they saw duty in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and the Persian Gulf.
Native Americans As Warriors
As the 20th century comes to a close, there are nearly 190,00 Native American military veterans. It is well recognized that, historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. The reasons behind this disproportionate contribution are complex and deeply rooted in traditional American Indian culture. In many respects, Native Americans are no different from others who volunteer for military service. They do, however, have distinctive cultural values which drive them to serve their country. One such value is their proud warrior tradition.
In part, the warrior tradition is a willingness to engage the enemy in battle. This characteristic has been clearly demonstrated by the courageous deeds of Native Americans in combat. However, the warrior tradition is best exemplified by the following qualities said to be inherent to most if not all Native American societies: strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom. These qualities make a perfect fit with military tradition.
To be an American Indian warrior is to have physical, mental, and spiritual strength. A warrior must be prepared to overpower the enemy and face death head-on.
We honor our veterans for their bravery and because by seeing death on the battlefield, they truly know the greatness of life. --Winnebago Elder
American Indian soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have fought heroically in all of this century's wars and armed conflicts. They have not only been formally recognized for their bravery through military decoration but through anecdotal observation as well.
The real secret which makes the Indian such an outstanding soldier is his enthusiasm for the fight. --U.S. Army Major, 1912
More important, however, is the warrior's spiritual strength. Many traditional cultures recognize that war disrupts the natural order of life and causes a spiritual disharmony. To survive the chaos of war is to gain a more intimate knowledge of life. Therefore, military service is a unique way to develop an inner strength that is valued in Native American society.
Having a strong sense of inner spirituality is also a part of the Indian character. Many Native Americans are raised on rural or remote reservations, an environment that fosters self- reliance, introspection, and a meditative way of thinking. These character traits can be very beneficial when adapting to the occasional isolation of military life in times of both peace and war.
Honor, Pride, Devotion
Warriors are honored - honored by their family and their tribe. Before going into service and upon their return, warriors are recognized by family and community. Recognition takes place through private family gatherings, or through such public ceremonies as tribal dances or intertribal ceremonies.
My people honored me as a warrior. We had a feast and my parents and grandparents thanked everyone who prayed for my safe return. We had a "special" [dance] and I remembered as we circled the drum, I got a feeling of pride. I felt good inside because that's the way the Kiowa people tell you that you've done well. --Kiowa Vietnam Veteran
Being a warrior in traditional American Indian society gives one a sense of pride and a sense of accomplishment at a time in life when self-esteem is just developing. Becoming a warrior brings status to young men and women in their culture. The ceremonies that honor the warrior create a special place in the tribe's spiritual world.
After I got home, my uncles sat me down and had me tell them what it [the war] was all about. One of them had been in the service in World War II and knew what war was like. We talked about what went on over there, about killing and the waste, and one of my uncles said that God's laws are against war. They never talked about those kinds of things with me before. --Cherokee Vietnam Veteran
United States military service provides an outlet for Native Americans to fulfill a cultural purpose rooted in tradition -- to fight and defend their homeland. This purpose is particularly important since it comes when young people of the tribe are normally not old enough to assume a leadership role in their traditional culture. The cultural expectation to be a warrior provides a purpose in life and is an important step in gaining status in Native America culture.
When I went to Germany, I never thought about war honors, or the four "coups" which an old-time Crow warrior had to earn in battle....But afterwards, when I came back and went through this telling of war deeds ceremony... lo and behold I [had] completed the four requirements to become a chief. --Crow World War II Veteran
Native American warriors are devoted to the survival of their people and their homeland. If necessary, warriors will lay down their lives for the preservation of their culture, for death to the American Indian warrior is but another step in the advancement of life. It is understood that the warrior's spirit lives on eternally. So, warriors do not fear death, but rather regard it as the ultimate sacrifice for their own and their people's continued survival.
The warrior seeks wisdom. Wisdom, as used in this context, means the sum total of formal learning and worldly experiences. In wartime, those Native Americans seeing heavy combat had to learn how to survive, often using skills that may unit commanders thought were inherent to the American Indian's cultural background. A Sac and Fox/Creek Korean veteran remarked:
My platoon commander always sent me out on patrols. He. . . probably thought that I could track down the enemy. I don't know for sure, but I guess he figured that Indians were warriors and hunters by nature.
Many American Indians (as well as non-Indian volunteers) joined the military in World War I to satisfy their sense of adventure. Most had never left the confines of their hometown, much less marched on the battlefields of Europe. These experiences provided a wisdom through exposure to other people and cultures. This was sometimes threatening to the elders of a tribe, who feared that this newfound worldliness would cause unwanted change to their culture. Over time, however, this wisdom of worldly events and peoples was accepted by tribal leaders. Today, Native Americans are increasingly exposed to the non- Indian world through movies and television. Although the military is still an avenue for seeing the world, it has, in the latter half of the 20th century, also provided other types of wisdom. Military service offers excellent educational and job skill opportunities for Native American me and women who frequently come from educationally disadvantaged communities.
Wisdom can also be gained from interaction with others. Military policy in the 20th century has preferred assimilating the American Indian into regular units. Although some divisions had more Native American troops than others, there were never all-Indian units. This meant that Indians and non-Indians were placed in close-knit groups, perhaps each experiencing each other's culture up close for the first time.
There was a camaraderie [in the Air Force] that transcends ethnicity when you serve your country overseas in wartime. --Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Cheyenne Korean veteran
Similarly, intertribal relationships were developed, sometimes with a person who was a traditional "enemy." Many times these intercultural and intertribal contacts broke through stereotypes and resulted in lifelong friendships, friendships that otherwise might never have been cultivated.
Thanks to my military service [in the Navy], I now have friends in 500 tribes. --Lakota Korean veteran
The Warrior Tradition Carries On
The requirements for successful military service -- strength, bravery, pride, and wisdom - match those of the Indian warrior. Military service affords an outlet for combat that fulfills a culturally determined role for the warrior. Therefore, the military is an opportunity for cultural self-fulfillment. By sending young tribal members off to be warriors, they return with experiences that make them valued members of their society. Finally, the military provides educational opportunities, which allow Native American veterans to return to their community with productive job skills to improve their quality of life.
With the 21st century on the horizon, the United States military can be expected to provide continuing opportunity for Native American men and women. For their part, Native Americans can be expected to carry on their centuries-old warrior tradition- serving with pride, courage, and distinction.
Re: Native Americans
Reply #7 on:
May 29, 2008, 05:09:19 PM »
Taking Back the Land
Native Americans bid to reclaim what was once theirs.
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 10:24 AM ET May 29, 2008
Flames leap up 20 feet around her. White smoke curls into the air and the heat hits her face as Victoria Ranua torches Canada thistle, foxtail and reed canary grass. Ranua is a botanist on an unusual mission. She's trying to burn up any invasive weeds that European settlers brought with them 150 years ago, when they stampeded onto land once belonging exclusively to American Indians.
Ranua, who works for the Mdewakanton Sioux Community near Minneapolis, is clearing the ground in a patch of suburban Shakopee to make way for big blue stem, prairie blazing star, purple coneflower and other native plants, which, she hopes, will lure back meadowlarks, raptors, voles and other creatures that once inhabited the territory. "If you're going to preserve the culture, you have to have a landscape," says Stan Ellison, the tribe's land manager. "The Dakota culture--especially the Mdewakanton, their food, their fiber, their spiritual relationships--were based on the land they lived on." The Sioux are also planting sage and sweetgrass as well as chokecherry and wild plum trees, which tribe members have used for generations for medicine and food.
To get back to the garden that existed before Europeans ravaged their lands, Native Americans are cultivating with an unnatural resource--casino riches. Across the country, Native American tribes are snapping up property with the cash that's flowing in from slot machines, blackjack tables and roulette wheels. Last year, tribal gaming revenue hit $27 billion. Since Native Americans won the right to build casinos on their reservations in 1988, the lucrative business has caught fire. Of the 562 federally recognized tribes, about 220 have gaming operations. And they're using their new-found fortune to invest in land for housing, businesses, farming, hunting and fishing grounds, grazing lands for cattle and buffalo-or simply returning it to the wild. With earnings from its Wildhorse Resort and Casino, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservations in northeast Oregon spent $20 million to acquire roughly 30,000 acres, about a third of which they are returning to its natural conditions, said Bill Tovey, the tribe's director of economic development. Part of the grounds harbor plants and roots the nation uses for ceremonial purposes. "If you don't have land, you don't have culture," he said. "You don't own your destiny."
That may be true, but many people who've arrived over the last century and a half see this Native American land grab as a drain on their tax base and powers of economic development. That's because tribal leaders are increasingly removing the land from tax rolls by placing it into federal trust. It's a perfectly legal maneuver dating to the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, passed to re-establish Native American parcels lost through legislation in 1887. That obscure law was invoked sparingly--until Native Americans had the wherewithal to go on a real-estate spending spree. Now government officials and critics are trying to fend off the Native American's land rush. "I don't think in the modern world it makes any sense to tie any individual rights to a tribal entity that is unaccountable," said David Vickers, president of Upstate Citizens for Equality in Verona, New York, an organization which disputes the notion of Native American sovereignty. "It's possible to maintain cultural identity without establishing a separate land base."
Vickers is part of a battle heating up in central New York state. Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior sided with the Oneida Indian Nation of New York by allowing 13,004 acres owned by the nation to be put into a tax-free trust. The designation also makes the land an independent territory, subject to most federal laws but not all state, city or county regulations or taxes. The tribe—which operates the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, a golf course on the PGA Tour, gas stations, convenience stores, government buildings, a 1,200-head Angus beef farm, and cultural facilities--said it planned no changes for the property.
That decision was the latest round in a long-running tussle. After the tribe bought land in the 1990s, the city of Sherrill, N.Y. tried to collect property taxes, and the two sides went to court. In March 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the tribe but suggested that the land would be tax-exempt if it were in trust. In April 2005, the nation applied for trust status for almost all of its land holdings. In ruling last week, the Interior Department said putting the land into trust would address the Oneida Nation's "need for cultural and social preservation and expression, political self-determination, self-sufficiency, and economic growth by providing a tribal land base and homeland."
To Kandice Watson, a member of the Oneida Wolf Clan, the ruling is a long overdue move to preserve her tribe's heritage. "The land is important so we can survive as a community," she said. "Seven generations from now we will still have an Oneida Nation here in central New York….We want to be able maintain our traditions and culture, including our language."
In the frontier days, a dispute like this might well have been settled at the point of a gun. These days, it's heading for court. Vickers' group and the two counties in which the land is located--Madison and Oneida--are likely to file suit to seek to overturn the Interior Department's decision. Local municipalities contend the nation owes at least $22.5 million in back taxes on the land and also should be responsible for the approximately $340 million assessed on the 19-story casino and resort buildings. "The loss of the tax base, that's significant," said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. But the Oneida nation counters that federal courts have ruled that Indian gaming sites and land cannot be taxed.
The Oneidas aren't the only ones trying to make up for past inequities. For more than 100 years, tribes lost huge swaths of land via treaties, legislation and, most famously, by force. In 1881, Native American tribes owned about 138 million acres; today that figure is down to roughly 55 million acres, according to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. "Some of our sacred areas we don't own anymore," said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has been generally supportive of tribes reclaiming their land and placing it into public trust. "It's like somebody owning your temple or your church. It's just not right."
Skirmishes are breaking out even over tiny parcels. Some residents in Santa Barbara County, California, are angered that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, with one of the smallest reservations in the country, now at about 150 acres, aims to put 6.9 acres of tribally-owned land into trust and then build a cultural museum, park and retail space. Opponents, who are suing the federal government to change the land-to-trust approval process, say they are only trying to protect their rural quality of life in objecting to any expansions in the tribe's business operations or trust lands. "Whether it's 6.9 or 69 or 699 (acres), the local community doesn't have a say," said Steve Pappas, a founder of Preservation of Los Olivos.
For the Shakopee Sioux Indians in Minnesota, resistance has come from officials who contend that the tribal land buys impede economic development. In addition to restoring the land, the tribe wants to place 760 acres in trust and use much of it for housing. "We're running out of land for our community members," said Glynn Crooks, the tribe's vice chairman. "We're buying land to fit the needs of our tribe." The tribe, which owns the profitable Mystic Lake Casino, also wants to put up a cultural center, fire station and powwow grounds.
The city of Shakopee opposes the trust application and has filed a federal appeal. Mayor John Schmitt says the city will lose tax revenue-and argues further that the land buy gums up long-held plans to develop nearby properties into a park, a housing development and a commuter park-and-ride facility. "It puts the Native Americans in control of one-third of the community's developable land," Schmitt says. "They were able to disrupt the orderly development of the community."
But with all those casino dollars rolling in, Native Americas finally see an opportunity to take back what they contend was always rightfully theirs. "We see more economic ability now in Indian Country than ever before," said Cris Stainbrook, president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. "We'll be able to continue reacquiring land. That's our mission." But just as before, there will be a fight over that land.
"You see, it's not the blood you spill that gets you what you want, it's the blood you share. Your family, your friendships, your community, these are the most valuable things a man can have." Before Dishonor - Hatebreed
Re: Native Americans
Reply #8 on:
May 30, 2008, 09:58:36 AM »
Robert, very interesting post. It grabbed my attention because I live near there. A small number of native people and tribes are extremely wealthy from the gambling industry. The money goes to take care of a limited number of members of that specific tribal family, not native people in general. Of course, the gambling is made profitable by the fact that gambling is illegal unless you are a tribe or the state. The Governor tried to get the casino revenues onto the state tax rolls by threatening to open or license competing casinos. That didn't happen.
The good news in the story from my viewpoint is that they are buying property with money rather making demands or claims. The bad news to the state and the community seems to be that if they buy land they no longer have to pay their share in property taxes. State and local taxes are a big deal here. If not for that, it wouldn't any legitimate issue who buys property and certainly a good thing that they invest their profits wisely.
I envy them. I would also like to sucede from state and local tax authorities and still receive federal military protections etc. The county where I live has grown to be larger in population and income than 8 states. Hardly a local government. Our county without its largest city, Minneapolis, is still larger than several states. Yet there seems to be no way to split off a non-urban piece and secure the right to have local government.
Re: Native Americans
Reply #9 on:
July 16, 2008, 04:00:12 AM »
PBS aired an interesting program last night titled: "The Last Conquistador"
John Houser is a man with monumental sculpture in his blood. He can remember his father working as an assistant carver on Mount Rushmore. Enthralled with the power of art, he has dedicated himself to making history come alive in large-scale public sculptures. So when the El Paso City Council commissioned a larger-than-life statue of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, Houser conceived his grandest project yet: the largest bronze equestrian statue in the world. He envisioned a magnificent and long-overdue tribute to the contributions of Hispanic culture and history to the United States.
But as recounted in the new documentary The Last Conquistador, all was not well as the statue's dedication approached. The area's Native Americans had their own very personal memories concerning Oñate. They recalled massacres, slavery and terror. They remembered that Oñate's foray into New Mexico in 1598 led to the deaths of two out of every three Indians there and nearly caused the extermination of Native culture across the region.
As the film shows, the prospect that a murderer's image would be looming over El Paso, Texas, drew increasing anger and protest. One artist proposed a companion sculpture of a giant severed foot, commemorating Oñate's method of cutting off feet to terrorize the native inhabitants. Houser saw his grand conception transformed in a way he had not intended, caught up in a whirlwind of unresolved conflicts between races, classes and historical memories.
Neither Houser nor El Paso's city councilors had intended any offense or controversy. The statue of Oñate was intended as part of a sculpture walk through history that would memorialize the region's dramatic but often unrecognized history. When the storm of protest arose, they were taken by surprise. But should they have been? Had they too easily accepted a conqueror's version of history in which the daring exploits of pioneers and colonists are celebrated, and the sins of violence are avoided or excused?
In that history, Oñate set out in 1598 from Mexico on a thousand-mile journey seeking new lands and Christian converts for Spain, along with riches for himself. He was the first governor of New Mexico and the bringer of wheat, horses, metalworking and Western civilization to what became the American Southwest. But Oñate's brutality was well understood by his contemporaries. He was eventually recalled, tried and convicted by his own government for what today would be called crimes against humanity. He was banished forever from New Mexico, and ended up moving to Spain.
Native Americans are deeply offended by the sculpture, but many wealthy whites and Hispanics throughout the region — who trace their ancestry back to the Oñate expedition — welcome the monument and defend the bloodshed, saying that the Indians were the aggressors and that Oñate brought peace and stability to the region.
Caught in between are the Mestizos, Mexican Americans like El Paso City Councilman Anthony Cobos, who make up about 75 percent of El Paso's population. The sons and daughters of both the Spaniards and the Indians they subjugated, Mestizos must struggle with a conflicted heritage that is both prideful and humiliating. Councilman Cobos eventually withdraws his support for the statue and pays a heavy political price.
John Houser, who had worked on his labor of love for 10 years, learns that he has glaucoma and may eventually lose his eyesight. Haunted by the heavy moral burden of his own creation and his failing health, he apologizes for being blind to the social implications of his work. "I have developed my own trap," he says, "and I think about it day and night."
But the damage is done. Deep wounds have been opened, and a bitter divide has deepened. In the end, many Hispanics are elated, Mestizos are frustrated that valuable public money has been used for the sculpture, and Native Americans feel that the genocide of their people matters little to the city of El Paso or to white people who walk the corridors of power.
John Houser is proud of his work, but dismayed by how it is perceived. But resilient and determined as ever, he is planning to make up for it with a statue commemorating pre-Columbian Indian life — a human figure 28 times life-size and five feet higher than the Statue of Liberty.
Behind the Lens:
Read an interview with the filmmakers and submit a question of your own »
"It was a challenge to try to step back and not bring our own bias or prejudice to the mix, to try to be fair to all sides and to try to recognize that everybody's perspective is legitimate... ”" says filmmaker John Valadez.
The Last Conquistador is a co-production of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), produced in association with American Documentary | P.O.V.
"You see, it's not the blood you spill that gets you what you want, it's the blood you share. Your family, your friendships, your community, these are the most valuable things a man can have." Before Dishonor - Hatebreed
Last man of his tribe in Brazil
Reply #10 on:
August 23, 2010, 08:27:42 AM »
The Most Isolated Man on the Planet
He's alone in the Brazilian Amazon, but for how long?
By Monte Reel
Posted Friday, Aug. 20, 2010, at 7:08 AM ET
The most isolated man on the planet will spend tonight inside a leafy palm-thatch hut in the Brazilian Amazon. As always, insects will darn the air. Spider monkeys will patrol the treetops. Wild pigs will root in the undergrowth. And the man will remain a quietly anonymous fixture of the landscape, camouflaged to the point of near invisibility.
That description relies on a few unknowable assumptions, obviously, but they're relatively safe. The man's isolation has been so well-established—and is so mind-bendingly extreme—that portraying him silently enduring another moment of utter solitude is a practical guarantee of reportorial accuracy.
He's an Indian, and Brazilian officials have concluded that he's the last survivor of an uncontacted tribe. They first became aware of his existence nearly 15 years ago and for a decade launched numerous expeditions to track him, to ensure his safety, and to try to establish peaceful contact with him. In 2007, with ranching and logging closing in quickly on all sides, government officials declared a 31-square-mile area around him off-limits to trespassing and development.
It's meant to be a safe zone. He's still in there. Alone.
History offers few examples of people who can rival his solitude in terms of duration and degree. The one that comes closest is the "Lone Woman of San Nicolas"—an Indian woman first spotted by an otter hunter in 1853, completely alone on an island off the coast of California. Catholic priests who sent a boat to fetch her determined that she had been alone for as long as 18 years, the last survivor of her tribe. But the details of her survival were never really fleshed out. She died just weeks after being "rescued."
Certainly other last tribesmen and -women have succumbed unobserved throughout history, the world unaware of their passing. But what makes the man in Brazil unique is not merely the extent of his solitude or the fact that the government is aware of his existence. It's the way they've responded to it.
Advanced societies invariably have subsumed whatever indigenous populations they've encountered, determining those tribes' fates for them. But Brazil is in the middle of an experiment. If peaceful contact is established with the lone Indian, they want it to be his choice. They've dubbed this the "Policy of No Contact." After years of often-tragic attempts to assimilate into modern life the people who still inhabit the few remaining wild places on the planet, the policy is a step in a totally different direction. The case of the lone Indian represents its most challenging test.
A few Brazilians first heard of the lone Indian in 1996, when loggers in the western state of Rondônia began spreading a rumor: A wild man was in the forest, and he seemed to be alone. Government field agents specializing in isolated tribes soon found one of his huts—a tiny shelter of palm thatch, with a mysterious hole dug in the center of the floor. As they continued to search for whoever had built that hut, they discovered that the man was on the run, moving from shelter to shelter, abandoning each hut as soon as loggers—or the agents—got close. No other tribes in the region were known to live like he did, digging holes inside of huts—more than five feet deep, rectangular, serving no apparent purpose. He didn't seem to be stray castaway from a documented tribe.
Eventually, the agents found the man. He was unclothed, appeared to be in his mid-30s (he's now in his late 40, give or take a few years), and always armed with a bow-and-arrow. Their encounters fell into a well-worn pattern: tense standoffs, ending in frustration or tragedy. On one occasion, the Indian delivered a clear message to one agent who pushed the attempts at contact too far: an arrow to the chest.
Peaceful contact proved elusive, but those encounters helped the agents stitch together a profile of a man with a calamitous past. In one jungle clearing they found the bulldozed ruins of several huts, each featuring the exact same kind of hole—14 in all—that the lone Indian customarily dug inside his dwellings. They concluded that it had been the site of his village, and that it had been destroyed by land-hungry settlers in early 1996.
Those kinds of clashes aren't unheard of: Brazil's 1988 Constitution gave Indians the legal right to the land they have traditionally occupied, which created a powerful incentive for settlers to chase uncontacted tribes off of any properties they might be eyeing for development. Just months before the agents began tracking the lone Indian, they made peaceful first contact with two other tribes that lived in the same region. One tribe, the Akuntsu, had been reduced to just six members. The rest of the tribe, explained the chief, had been killed during a raid by men with guns and chainsaws.
If you go to Rondônia today, none of the local landowners will claim any knowledge of these anecdotal massacres. But most aren't afraid to loudly voice their disdain over the creation of reserves for such small tribes. They will say that it's absurd to save 31 square miles of land for the benefit of just one man, when a productive ranch potentially could provide food for thousands.
That argument wilts under scrutiny, in part because thousands of square miles of already-cleared forest throughout the Amazon remain barren wastelands, undeveloped. The only economic model in which increased production absolutely depends on increased clearing is a strictly local one. The question of who'd benefit from clearing the land versus preserving it boils down to two people: the individual developer and the lone Indian.
The government agents know this, which is why they view the protection of the lone tribesman as a question human rights, not economics.
He eats mostly wild game, which he either hunts with his bow-and-arrow or traps in spiked-bottom pitfalls. He grows a few crops around his huts, including corn and manioc, and often collects honey from hives that stingless bees construct in the hollows of tree trunks. Some of the markings he makes on trees have suggested to indigenous experts that he maintains a spiritual life, which they've speculated might help him survive the psychological of being, to a certain extent, the last man standing in a world of one.
But how long can his isolation last? I get Facebook updates telling me what people half a world away are eating for breakfast. Corporations and governments are pushing deeper and farther than ever in search of bankable resources. How can it be that no one has flushed this man out already? In 2010, can anyone realistically live off the grid?
Some Brazilians believe that the rapid spread of technology itself might protect his solitude, not threaten it. The agents who have worked on the lone Indian's case since 1996 believe that the wider the story of the man's isolation spreads—something that's easier than ever now—the safer he'll be from the sort of stealthy, anonymous raids by local land-grabbers that have decimated tribes in the past. Technologies like Google Earth and other mapping programs can assist in monitoring the boundaries of his territory. Instead of launching intrusive expeditions into the tribal territories to verify the Indians' safety, Brazilian officials have announced they will experiment with heat-seeking sensors that can be attached to airplanes flying high enough to cause no disruption on the ground.
I first heard of the lone Indian a little more than five years ago, when I was the South America correspondent for the Washington Post and was interviewing a man who headed the federal department responsible for protecting isolated tribes in the Amazon. He mentioned the man as an aside, giving me a rundown of the latest attempt to force contact with him—the expedition that ended with an agent getting shot in the chest with an arrow.
I traced a huge star and three exclamation points in the margin of my notebook as he moved onto another subject. Those flags—don't forget to come back to this!—were pointless, because I couldn't stop thinking about the lone man and those daredevil expeditions to contact him.
Now, what I keep coming back to is a little different: the lone man and the unprecedented restraint the agents are showing in choosing not to repeat history.
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Monte Reel is the author of The Last of the Tribe: The Epic Quest To Save a Lone Man in the Amazon.
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
Reply #11 on:
July 15, 2011, 11:26:09 AM »
"Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian Tribe in American History"
I just finished reading the extraordinary book. The research, the story itself and its telling are quite remarkable. Gwynne is a tremendously gifted writer who not only turns the history into an exhilarating page turner, but captures the POV of both sides and the pathos of this remarkable and remarkably unknown history.
Truly a special book.
Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 10:32:33 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
Reply #12 on:
July 15, 2011, 04:51:52 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on July 15, 2011, 11:26:09 AM
"Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian Tribe in American History"
I just finished reading the extraordnary book. The research, the story itself and its telling are quite remarkable. Gwynne is a tremendously gifted writer who not only turns the history into an exhilirating page turner, but captures the POV of both sides and the pathos of this remarkable and remarkably unknown history.
Truly a special book.
Cool. On my list.
The Death Song
Reply #13 on:
June 17, 2012, 01:48:50 PM »
Amongst my readings about Native Americans, I have noted that many tribes had a tradition of "the death song"-- a song to be sung when it was one's time to die. Myunderstanding is that each warrior had his own song, which he himself prepared during his life.
I would like to explore this further. Does anyone have anything to share or good citations?
WSJ: R.I.P. Russel Means
Reply #14 on:
October 24, 2012, 10:10:55 AM »
‘Last of the Mohicans’ Director Michael Mann Recalls Russell Means.Search Speakeasy1 .
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By Christopher John Farley
TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
Russell Means, 1992, in “The Last of the Mohicans.”Russell Means, to director Michael Mann, had always symbolized the courage and determination of indigenous people fighting for their rights. But before Mann cast Means in his Oscar-winning 1992 movie “The Last of the Mohicans,” he wasn’t sure if the charisma of the famed activist would translate to the big screen.
Means, an Oglala/Lakota Sioux Indian who became an activist for American Indian rights, passed away today at the age of 72 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Known for being a prominent member of the American Indian Movement and for his leadership when AIM members occupied Wounded Knee, S.D., as a political statement in 1973, Means was also an actor, appearing in such films as “Natural Born Killers” (1994), and lending his voice to the Disney animated movie “Pocahontas” (1995).
But it was Means’s role as Chingachgook in “The Last of the Mohicans” that was his breakthrough into Hollywood. Based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper, the movie grossed more than $75.5 million at the domestic box office, according to the movie site Box Office Mojo.
Speakeasy talked to Mann this afternoon about working with Means on “The Last of the Mohicans.”
What gave you the idea to cast Russell Means in “The Last of the Mohicans”?
He was an early hero of mine politically in the 1960s, and so he was one of the four or five people I wanted to be in touch with when talking about the movie, along with people like Wilma Mankiller [the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation]. But the two most prominent men were Russell Means and [American Indian leader] Dennis Banks… So Russell came to L.A., and we sat and talked for two days, and he read the screenplay and very much wanted to participate in the picture, and so then the next thing was, could he act? And obviously he did a great job. The second thing was, could he do the work? He was [in his fifties] at that time, and he knocked himself into shape in about three and a half weeks and then he was able to do all that work.
Did he share with you any insights about American Indians and American history?
The picture is all about that. Magua [played by actor Wes Studi] plays the function of a villain, but he’s a tragic hero. The picture is thematically about what is the perspective of an indigenous people when you’re facing extinction of one form or another.
What kinds of conversations do you remember having with him on the set?
The conversations are not on the set. They’re about the execution of a scene, and how this particular scene we’re shooting on Tuesday is related to the whole. The big conversations are early on, in terms of his relationship with his son, with his adopted son Hawkeye. ..[The actors] had been living within their culture as it existed in folklore, in tales, in research, in books, but they hadn’t actually been in a place where they could look 360 degrees and see nothing but what their culture would have looked like to their ancestors 200 years ago. We had constructed a complete village, not as a set, but in reality. So it was very moving for Russell, for Dennis Banks, for a lot of people, to actually be in that place that had only existed in myth prior to that point, down to the real crops they would have planted. So in the reconstruction for making a motion picture, it all kind of came alive again. So people came up to me, Russell included, and talked about the impact that had upon them.
What was he like as an actor? What was he like as a presence in front of the camera?
He was not a trained actor. His process was to imbue himself with whatever the significance of that relationship was…Every time there was a take, it was new for Russell. He was determined. He absolutely one of the most determined people I ever met. When he decided he was going to do something, that was it. And that determination also played out in his life as well.
What were your thoughts when you found out he had passed away?
Well, I knew it was coming about a week ago. Because there had been an email exchange with his wife. He wanted to get back and die at Pine Ridge…First of all he was way too young. 72 is young. Way too young to pass away. He’s an iconic person. He’s lived through so much…What this guy stood for, the courage he had, and who they took on, in the 60, 70s and 80s—[American Indian activist Leonard] Peltier is still in prison. It’s a struggle that’s 400 years old. And Russell was fighting that battle every day of his life.
Mystical Life of Native Americans
Reply #15 on:
February 04, 2013, 05:08:14 PM »
This talk is eighty one minutes. I haven't listened to it yet, but it looks promising:
Eagle feather kerfluffle
Reply #16 on:
June 01, 2013, 07:19:23 PM »
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