Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne: Tribal Law and Order Act Does not go far enough

 President Obama signs the Tribal Law and Order Act into Law. Photo from

Many people (including yours truly) have been lauding the recently passed Tribal Law and Order Act for the steps it takes towards solving the sexual assault crisis on Indian Land.  An article posted today to the Social Sciences Resource Network by Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne begs us to take a second look.  Painter-Thorne lucidly argues that the TLOA does not go far enough in changing the basic jurisdictional "knot" that has caused the law enforcement problems on Indian land.  She writes that the crisis will continue because
Ultimately, the TLOA perpetuates a broken jurisdictional scheme by continuing to vest law
enforcement responsibility in the hands of remote federal officials who
have proven unlikely to investigate criminal complaints, to arrest suspects,
or to prosecute offenders.
I brought news of the TLOA to you regarding the pandemic of sexual assault on Indian land.  One in three Native women will be sexually assaulted in her life time, compared to one in four non-Natives.    In 2007, NPR covered this story, an example of how the jurisdictional knot that Painter-Thorne's article addresses, results in a lack of justice for Native women. In the story, which Painter-Thorne's article opens with, the victim of a brutal rape is questioned by the FBI, gives a statement, identifies her assailants and witnesses, and then succumbs to her injuries.  Her case is never investigated.  No one even interviewed the named witnesses or interrogated the named assailants.  Why?  A jurisdictional clustermug. 

According to Painter-Thorne's article, entitled "Tangled Up in Knots: How Continued Federal Jurisdiction Over Sexual Predators on Indian Reservations Hobbles Effective Law Enforcement to the Detriment of Indian Women" the TLOA does not take any steps towards addressing this problem.

One of the more disturbing reasons she presents regarding federal officials' tendency to not follow through on investigations is:
Off the record, federal law-enforcement officials admit that U.S.
attorneys view prosecution of reservation crime as a waste of prosecution
resources. Many simply find sexual assault cases insignificant compared
to their usual cases involving terrorism, organized crime, drug offenses,
and racketeering. According to former U.S. Attorney Margaret Chaira,
federal attorneys often balk at taking sexual assault cases, complaining that
they “did not sign up for this,” but instead had planned to handle whitecollar
crime, conspiracy, and drug cases.
Painter-Thorne goes on to criticize the provisions of the Act that supposedly create incentives for federal officials to investigate crimes on Indian land, and the liaison system set up by the bill as poor substitutes for locally based law enforcement and jurisdiction. She points out that evidence sharing is made even more convoluted by the Act. She concludes that this is not only an issue of sovereignty, as has often been argued, but that
local control of law enforcement makes practical sense and is
more likely to repair the broken tribal law enforcement system by placing
responsibility for policing Indian communities in the hands of those most
accountable to their communities.
 You can read the full article here: "Tangled Up in Knots: How Continued Federal Jurisdiction Over Sexual Predators on Indian Reservations Hobbles Effective Law Enforcement to the Detriment of Indian Women"

While it is clear that the Tribal Law and Order Act is a step in the right direction, it is only ONE step.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Analyzing 8/28 Rallies and Marches Part II: Racism and Anti-Racism at "Restoring Honor"

Yes, the long awaited 2nd installment of my three part series on the Glenn Beck rally of 9/28/2010 is finally here!  Why did it take so long?  Well.. it just so happens that yours truly has managed to get a life!  I know, it's a miracle, but this city (Washington, DC) has a way of doing that to young people like me.  Anyhooooooooo here it is for your reading and viewing pleasure:


One of the most striking things about the Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" rally was the rather monochrome appearance of its attendees.  In plain English, the rally was attended by mostly "white" people (technically pinkish beige right?), that is, Americans of European descent.  Now, before you get all crazy on me and start telling me off about all the "minorities" on the stage and at the microphone and at the front of the audience (where the major news network cameras are pointed), consider for a moment not the question "how many 'people' of color attended the event?" but "why were they all up front?" because dear readers, that's exactly where they all were!  Ok ok, yes, I occasionally saw a person of an historically oppressed ethnic/"racial" make up in the crowd, but I can easily estimate they made up less than 1% of the attendees.  So why were there soooo many on stage if they are so underrepresented in the actual crowd of Glenn Beck supporters?  Because Glenn Beck is WELL AWARE of his reputation as a... let's say racial ignoramus... and knew good and well he needed to combat that unflattering image.  It was the media event equivalent of saying "One of my best friends is black BUT..."  and you can guess what sort of statements follow that but.

Undoubtedly, some of you readers are gonna be Glenn Beck supporters, and maybe one or two of you are thinking about writing a comment something to the effect of "Well I was there and I saw plenty of black people at the rally".  Well, maybe your definition of "plenty" is a little different than mine, but just to be sure, take a look at some of the footage I took there:

In case you didn't get it, the African-American woman in the clip is PROTESTING the rally.


Before I can begin a discussion about "racism" at the Glenn Beck rally, I first have to get a few definitions out of the way.  First, please understand that "race" has no biological basis.  Our categories of "race" are completely based in social constructs.  HUH?  Well consider for a moment that Irish immigrants to this country originally were not considered "white".  Consider the fact that a person who has 1/8th African ancestry and 7/8 European ancestry is still considered "black" in this country.  How many times have you incorrectly guessed a person's "race", perhaps mistaking a Native American for an Asian American or Latino?  Our society has created "racial" categories over several centuries.  With each category comes certain assumptions, and after centuries of these assumptions sinking in, adapting to changing ideas, and influencing our economic and political structures, they're pretty well ingrained.  The problem with racial categories (aside from the fact they are biologically fictional), is that they emerged from a desire to create and rationalize a hierarchical system.  In this country, that system emerged over time through westward expansion and slavery and placed "white" at the top, so we call it "white supremacist".   The result was a system of "race"-based oppression.  Today, we refer to this system as racism.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Latest on NY Cigarette Taxes

The battle to protect Native Nations' sovereignty in NY state still rages.  You'll recall that the state is attempting to tax cigarette sales on cigarettes manufactured on reservations in an effort to close the state's huge deficit.  Unfortunately for the state of NY, this is a clear violation of federal law.  As such, injunctions to temporarily prevent the taxation have so far uniformly gone through.  The Seneca nation successfully filed an injunction that expires Sept. 28th and are now seeking to extend it.  Most recently, the Oneida Nation filed an injunction stating that the cigarette taxes  “conflict with federal protection of tribes from state taxation and from state imposition of more than a minimal and reasonably necessary burden with respect to collection of sales taxes on cigarettes sold by tribes to non-members”.

This situation prompted New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to make a controversial statement on his radio show several weeks ago suggesting to the Governor ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun . . . “If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips – the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.’”  This was not only an insensitive remark in historic context and in the stereotypes it draws upon, but also an attack on tribal sovereignty.  The courts will no doubt bare this out in the weeks to come.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

Leave it to Jon Stewart and friends at The Daily Show to come up with this!!  The Rally to Restore Sanity, a clear spoof of the Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" rally, is being held October 30th on the National Mall!

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?

Seriously, who?

Because we're looking for those people. We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.

Watch the official announcement:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Of course, Steven Colbert can't stand idly by.  He's having his own counter "March to Keep Fear Alive" the same day!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Petition in Support of NY Tribal Sovereignty


Monday, September 6, 2010



State of New York, United States


President Barack Obama, New York Governor David A. Paterson


When the United States government signed treaties with tribal nations, it affirmed the inherent sovereignty of the tribes. American Indian tribes have always been sovereign nations and controlled their own destiny. The United States Congress acknowledged this under House Concurrent Resolution 331. Among the attributes of sovereignty are American Indian control of the land and inherent powers. The inherent powers include: the power to determine the form of government; to define conditions for membership in the nation; to administer justice and enforce laws; to tax; to regulate domestic relations of its members; to regulate property tax.

Since 1794 the U.S. has acknowledged Indian independence, and the Treaty of 1842 for example clearly says the Seneca Nation will not be taxed by any US government. Including New York State.

The U.S. Constitution calls treaties "the Supreme Law of the Land." And yet New York State is about to violate U.S. treaties that have lasted over 200 years. The state is seeking to implement regulations that would impose sales tax on petroleum and tobacco products sold on Indian lands. These regulations would violate sacred treaties between the U.S. and Indian tribes.

I the undersigned,
  • Believe it is of the utmost importance that the federal government honor its treaty commitments, and further, that New York State recognize and honor those treaties as the Supreme Law of the Land.
  • Urge New York Governor David A. Paterson to honor the supreme law of the land. Because if you break a treaty, you break the law.
  • Urge President Barack Obama to enforce U.S. treaty commitments on behalf of all tribal nations.

Click here
to sign this petition in support of the NY Indian Nations.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Analyzing 8/28 Rallies and Marches Part I: Restoring Honor and Reflections on the Native American Presenter

So, I realize it has taken me a long time to finally write about my experiences this past Saturday at the Glenn Beck Rally etc.  I want to take a moment to explain why.  I actually covered three different movements that day: The Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor Rally", the Al Sharpton led "Reclaim the Dream" rally and march, and the Progressive Labor Party's anti-teaparty and anti-racism protest of the Restoring Honor Rally.  I talked to dozens of people, interviewing quite a few on video, from many walks of life and political perspectives.  In full disclosure of my bias, I am in severe disagreement with Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and the conservative movement in general both politically and theologically.  My first instinct, in fact my first reaction to the Glenn Beck-organized rally was one of contempt and sarcasm.  I planned to create a humorous posting on the event, complete with video and sound.  However, after spending hours with the people attending the rally, and having reflected on an event I attended just two days earlier (posting soon), I have decided to approach these viewpoints with a kinder tone.  One of the main reasons for this is a lengthy interview I did with a Vietnam Vet who was attending the Restoring Honor Rally.  I have tremendous respect for veterans, so my encounter with him forced me to set my beliefs aside and listen.  He was extremely emotional.  I am still struggling with whether or not to post the interview, because he was so emotional.  He made me realize that there are people attending these rallies and adhering to the Tea Party movement, because they honestly and deeply believe that our country is in serious trouble, and that these venues provide answers.  It brought home the seriousness of the situation to me, as frightened people are easily manipulated.  I have spent the last several days trying to come to terms with all of this, and deciding how to present my experiences.  What follows is the first installment of a three part series.

I arrived just a block from the Lincoln Memorial at approximately 8:45 on the morning of August 28th.  I was scheduled to meet up with the Progressive Labor Party, a communist, anti-facist, anti-racist organization, at 9am in front of the Einstein Memorial.  They were late.  I set up my video camera and began shooting the crowds that were already pouring into the area for the Restoring Honor rally hosted by Fox's Glenn Beck.  There was a constant stream of people coming down the hill from the George Washington University area where the closest metro was located.  Many were decked out in the sort of outfits you'd expect to see on July 4th.  All appeared to be of European decent.  This was exactly what I expected, and I began to feel very self-satisfied.

Oil Rig Explodes off LA Coast

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