“No Arms, No Legs, No Worries” ~ Nick Vujicic
Love is amazing!
“No Arms, No Legs, No Worries” ~ Nick Vujicic
Love is amazing!
Monty Panesar – Image, http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Picture this: The Australian Cricket Board Chairman’s XI is playing against the visiting English team. The match is being played in Alice Springs. A spinner who has played for England 48 times in test matches, 26 times in One Day Internationals, and taken 188 wickets in these matches comes in to bowl his left arm spinners. The spinner is a 31 year old born in Luton in England. The ground announcer is David Nixon, a hitherto unknown individual.
David Nixon announces the spinner in a fake mocking Indian accent. Why? The spinner is Monty Panesar. Panesar’s parents are of Sikh religious faith and of Indian ethnic origin. Ironically the announcer is also the person who is required to remind spectators of the International Cricket Council’s Racism code which says in part: “anyone making “racially abusive comments and actions” will result in ejection from the ground”. Nixon then justifies his actions on Twitter that he is a fan of Panesar. Cricket Australia, on the other hand, does not tolerate the nonsense and stands down the announcer.
Really? I love Monty P – cult hero. He should bat 3. My style didn’t fit theirs. That’s all. RT@sjrohweder: ABC’s David Nixon stood down
I commend the actions of Cricket Australia. The scenario that played out herein reminded of two other incidents that I dealt with in recent times. The first of these was one that involved Nic Naitanui from the West Coast Eagles. What transpired on that occasion was that Tim Clarke then at WA Today Sports Department, contacted me at the then peak ethnic advocacy agency in this area to say that he had discovered a video that had been uploaded online that portrayed the footballer as a spear waving tribesman. After making the requisite enquiries I tracked the producers of the video to Tasmania where a trio of young school teachers and football enthusiasts admitted to having put together the offending video. Concurrently I had contacted the hierarchy of the West Coast Eagles who indicated that they had had a conversation with the footballer and he was offended by the portrayal in the video. Accordingly I spoke to the people who had uploaded the video and interestingly their response was also along the lines of that advanced by Nixon above and that they “were huge fans of Naitanui”. To their credit, the boys in Tasmania did not attempt to justify putting the video up and pulled it off the websites as soon as they could. They then issued public apologies to Naitanui. However, newspapers all around the world ran the story close to or at the front page as an example of the racism that exists in this country. Details of some of the news coverage can be found here:
The second incident that occurred that I was involved in related to the WA Parliament. As I recall it Margaret Quirk and Peter Watson on the Labor side of state politics chose to mock Michael Sutherland about his South African accent. Details of that incident are here:
I wrote to the local newspaper pointing out that the mimicking of other’s accents was racist. A number of agencies involved in the area of assessments of racial vilification and discrimination have examined this issue. The University of British Columbia is one of those that has examined the issue and this is their analysis that I have used in the past. They define racial harassment in these terms:
I hasten to add that in the case of the state politicians my letter emphasised that I found it quite out of character for someone like Margaret Quirk to have done what is claimed herein. I had had the good fortune to work with her when she was the Minister for Multicultural Interests in the state government. At a later date she went to great lengths to indicate to me personally that she had been suitably chastened by my letter to the editor.
The latest incident that occurred over the weekend in Alice Springs is simply further proof that we have much to learn in so far as these issues are concerned. The mimicking of people’s accents and styles of speech is something that is unacceptable. It is far from funny and can be considered offensive by many. Somehow, I have never understood the justification that because the perpetrator is a “fan” of the victim the actions are somehow acceptable. As a fan I would consider it completely inappropriate to mock my idols. So why would it be acceptable for others to do so?
If there is a lesson that we can learn from the events of the weekend, it would simply be that we need to be mindful of our comments and actions when dealing with anyone. A second thought as to what the impact of our comments are going to be, would be a worthwhile thing.
Sydney Morning Herald Coverage
When actor Aaron Pedersen says that half the population of Winton came to a preview screening of Mystery Road, the tense new Australian thriller he stars in, he’s not exaggerating. Almost 400 people crammed into the Queensland town’s outdoor cinema, watching a compelling story of corruption, denial and murder, which was filmed mainly in and around Winton and featured local Aboriginal youths as extras.
”They turned up dressed to the nines and got to see themselves on the big screen with their families there,” says Pedersen. ”It brings a bit of pride to the local people and gives them an understanding that anything is possible, especially breaking out of such an isolated place. Things don’t always have to appear inaccessible.”
It’s a simple story, but it’s layered with complexity. You want to believe that the world is intelligent enough to understand that.
The 42-year-old indigenous actor, best known for roles on television shows such as Wildside, The Circuit and City Homicide, knows a thing or two about escaping isolation himself, having grown up in Alice Springs before taking up acting via a stint as an ABC journalist in Melbourne.
Collaborating with writer-director Ivan Sen on Mystery Road, a work Pedersen is deeply connected to and proud of, is a statement of intent after years of success.
”He wrote it for me and I’m grateful for that, but he’s also grateful that I was able to do it right. It’s a responsibility, but responsibility has always been on our shoulders. If you don’t have responsibility in a journey, then the journey becomes selfish.”
Mystery Road takes place in an unnamed outback locale, where the discovery of a teenage Aboriginal girl’s body begins an uneasy investigation for local police detective Jay Swan.
A product of the town who’s been away for years, Swan is estranged from his indigenous community and his teenage daughter because of his job, yet treated with wariness by many of his colleagues.
Swan is a continuation of the tracker figure, or turncoat, the Aboriginal torn between two cultures, and Mystery Road is an examination of the contemporary racial divide in Australia. But it’s also, Pedersen emphasises, a genre piece, a police procedural that slowly uncovers a conspiracy that obsesses Swan.
”It’s a simple story, but it’s layered with complexity,” Pedersen. says. ”You want to believe that the world is intelligent enough to understand that, but there are a lot of people out there set in their ways. If you make something that makes people feel connected to the piece, as opposed to challenged or ostracised, then that’s the sign of a good story.”
Often on the shoot Pedersen would finish work for the day and then meet the next member of the ensemble supporting cast, who had flown in to shoot their scenes, so they could rehearse together.
Ryan Kwanten plays the belligerent son of a local farmer, Jack Thompson is an ageing retiree, and Hugo Weaving brings genial wariness to a fellow police officer. Each interaction is a taut showdown that advances the plot against a backdrop of black and white Australia.
”It makes it much more complex,” notes Pedersen, who cites films such as Norman Jewison’s 1967 Hollywood hit In the Heat of the Night as a precursor to Mystery Road.
”It’s about a young girl, irrespective of colour, turning up dead, and a policeman having to do his job. Because of who they are and where they are, it’s much more dangerous. Jay’s outnumbered in some ways, but he persists.”
The film also taps into the iconography of the western, with characters framed against a vast and unyielding landscape dotted with sites of past and present violence. Swan’s white cowboy hat and holstered gun echo previous screen lawmen as part of Sen’s and Pedersen’s intention to make an Australian movie that could appeal to an international audience.
The two encountered racism on an initial 10-day location scouting trip they took together. ”We’ve seen it before and we know what it looks like,” notes Pedersen coolly, but they’re focused on what they’ve achieved with Mystery Road.
”It’s not just about dollar signs and fame. It’s about our people and the truth in our storytelling. That’s what you’re meant to do: change people’s lives by educating and empowering them. We believed we could do it and we have. The ancestors were with us on this one.”
Mystery Road opened October 17
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/tense-showdown-20131010-2vav0.html#ixzz2mTmL7eBC
Dennis Eggington – Image, http://www.caama.com.au
The Aboriginal Legal Services Western Australia (ALSWA) has endorsed a recent report by a parliamentary inquiry committee into police services and custodial situations. ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington however said that endorsement is one thing and implementation of the recommendations another matter. If the recommendations are not followed through then the report is more waste.
Earlier this year, ALSWA presented its own findings to the Community and Justice Standing committee. ALSWA’s legal services director, Peter Collins criticised not only the police, whom he accused of disproportionate arrest rates and maltreatment when it came to Aboriginal people, but also slammed Government legislation – mandatory legislation, move on orders, curfews, three strike behaviour policies – and described cultures of rampant racism.
“There is no doubt in my experience that Aboriginal people are policed far more harshly in this State,” said Mr Collins.
Mr Collins is correct – WA arrests, sentences and incarcerates Aboriginal people at the nation’s highest rates. Mr Collins criticised police for arresting Aboriginal people for something as benign as swearing.
“It is hard not to think that similar language used by a non-Aboriginal person would go through to the keeper,” said Mr Collins. He was disgusted by the Government’s push for a law that would punish repeat offenders by “naming and shaming them.” He said if this “insidious legislation” was passed it would be a racist disgrace.
Mr Collins described the Prohibition Behaviour Orders Act 2010 as “a form of ethnic cleansing” targeted at Aboriginal peoples. He said that orders of this nature were not behaviour management strategies but an obvious agenda to remove Aboriginal peoples from various precincts.
The In Safe Custody report made 22 recommendations from replacing ageing infrastructure (some of the watch houses should be condemned) to enforcing requirements for a minimum two police officers and 24/7 medical staff at watch houses, and that a number of cultural training programs should be implemented for police.
Mr Eggington said that the report merely validated many of the concerns that had been held for many years by the ALSWA.
“We endorse the findings and recommendations, along with those from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).” He said that the RCIADIC findings, now 22 years old,
“need to be implemented once and for all.”
“There are such simple steps that can be taken, such as providing ALSWA with a properly funded phone service for Aboriginal people to contact for legal advice if they’ve been taken into custody.”
“It also makes good sense that the WA Police expand their cultural training for recruits and sworn police officers.”
Mr Eggington said that the Aboriginal Visitor’s Scheme needs to be supported with access to all Aboriginal people in all lock-ups. According to a former 20 year AVS officer, Joyce Capewell, the AVS has been neglected by police and prisons services and far too many towns and communities have no AVS.
Mr Eggington pushed that no time is wasted in implementing the report’s recommendation 17, that amendments are made to the Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003 to enable the Inspector to assume oversight responsibility for all police lock-ups. Mr Eggington also supports that amendments should be made to the Criminal Investigations Act 2006 to ensure that detainees in lock-ups receive timely access to legal services, and in particular ensure there is immediate notification of, and access to, legal services by Aboriginal detainees. He said that evidence should be made inadmissible in court where a detainee’s right to legal access has been deliberately suspended.
One of the report’s recommendations urged for the State Government to supplement Federal Government funding to ALSWA given the unmet demand (of Aboriginal detainees).
Mr Eggington said State Premier Colin Barnett should expedite the implementation of the recommendations and that he should “resource the development of a national Indigenous interpreters framework through Western Australia.”
Mr Eggington said that if common sense prevails there is “the capacity to put to an end unnecessary injury or loss of life within police lock-ups.”
For the first time in movie history, audiences will truly see and feel what it was like when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS is the ultimate immersive, big screen adventure for families. Meet dinosaurs more real than you’ve ever seen as you take off on a thrilling prehistoric adventure, where Patchi, an underdog dinosaur, triumphs against all odds to become a hero for the ages.
Curious and optimistic, Patchi is the hero of our movie. Patchi, a Pachyrhinosaurus, is one of our guides to the Late Cretaceous, the prehistoric period during which our story takes place. We fall in love with him as a tiny hatchling and share his adventures and challenges as he grows to adulthood. He is not the biggest or the toughest guy in the herd, but he uses his head and his heart to do the right thing. He survives some very dramatic situations on his way to becoming leader of the herd and to winning the affections of Juniper. He’s not an aggressive guy by nature, but he will dig deep within himself and even risk his own safety to save Juniper or Scowler, his brother. He is the classic underdog hero, who finds his inner strength to prove his worth.
Image – indigenousjesus.blogspot.com
Hypothetically there is a correlation between the failure of Indigenous politics to achieve its goals and the sway of what Thomas Paine refers to as the false doctrine of Christian dogma. Unremitting evangelism and Christian hegemony has led to silencing or compromising authentic grassroots voices of too many Indigenous people. High conversion rates have weakened opportunities for resistance to colonialism and the loss of vital traditional values. (I suggest that a similar problem may relate to the failure of contemporary black politics.) It is important at this critical time for human civilization to reflect carefully on the influence of dominant worldview assumptions as relates both to the tragic problems facing Indigenous Peoples as well as to the broader consequences globally of having dismissed Indigenous understandings about the world. Overcoming the problems of religious hegemony does not require wholesale rejection. It includes possibilities for a complementary relationship between Indigenous spiritual understanding and alternative interpretations of Biblical Gospel that have existed for centuries. Moving to a different location is a simple process, though it often takes courage. One merely decides what to take and what to leave behind. What man makes, whether computers or religions, requires consumers to critically and intuitively consider both positive and negative potential outcomes. We must engage dialectically about likely universal truths and those that we invent about how best to live in flowing balance. All of us, Indigenous as well as those far removed from their Indigenous ancestors, however, can learn to again trust in the laws of Nature on which Indigenous worldviews are based.
Keywords: Indigenous Peoples, religious influences, Christianity, political will, collapse of civilization, Thomas Paine revisited
“The imminent and expected destruction of the life cycle of world ecology can be prevented by a radical shift in outlook…Making this shift in viewpoint is essentially religious, not economic or political”—Vine Deloria, Jr. (1973, p.290).
We must be compelled to hold this doctrine to be false, and the old and new law called the Old and new Testament, to be impositions, fables and forgeries”—Thomas Paine (1996, p.134).
Indigenous Political Will and Christian Hegemony
As I write this essay, the Bougainville Independent Indigenous People’s Foundation is preparing to once again stand against an effort to reopen the infamous Panguna gold mine. The first stand against the devastation of the mind on land and people that continued in a ten-year war between a coalition of Indigenous Peoples on the island and the military force of Papua New Guinea that was supported by Australia led to widespread human rights violations and 20,000 Indigenous fatalities (Ambassador, 2012). The Bouganvillians survived a gunboat blockade around the island that prevent anything from reaching the people by using their Indigenous wisdom to survive completely off the land. A number of documentary films have been made about all of this, referring to it as the first modern ecological revolution. Bernadine Kama, a leader of the foundation and daughter of one of the leaders of the original resistance is quoted in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:
I just cannot comprehend why we must continue to suffer at the hands of our leaders and our government, which has been negotiating to re-open the mine when a lot of issues which resulted from previous mining activities in Panguna remain unaddressed. Can we not be left alone to live our own lives in peace on our land? Many people are going where the wind blows them and they will not even consider the dire consequences of mining. Once mining begins it will not end in Panguna: the whole island will be affected and no amount of legislation or law will stop it, once money starts flying around. President Momis tries to equate mining with independence. I don’t see any logic in that, simply because we are the most independent people in the world as we are now, because we live off our land; and if we were cut off from the rest of the world, surely we would find a way to survive. We have done it before and we will do it again (August, 2013).
The driving force behind the Indigenous protest and demand for sovereignty was the common worldview shared from the different Indigenous groups. This encouraged the original resistance and the ability of everyone to join together to live totally off of and in harmony with the land. One group, “Damien Dameng’s Me’ekamui Onoring Pontoku,” (very roughly translated from the Nasioi language as “government of the guardians of the sacred land.”) started resisting against colonialism and missionary imposition in the 1950s. They declared that, in spite of an estimated 80 percent of the population then belonging to the Catholic Church, the traditional egalitarian social structure and values were superior (Reagan, 2010). I contend that without this consciously discussed basis for opposing the hegemony of the Christian worldview and its indirect affiliation with the forces of economic oppression and ecological destruction, the remarkable achievement of the Bougainville revolution would not have come about.
Consider Boliva as another example in support of this claim. Before the 1990s, the Bolivian Indigenous Peoples had the same relatively absent political voice that exists in most of the other Latin American countries, even in those few that have managed to gain Indigenous political parties and representation in their governments. Chaplin’s article, “Social Movements in Bolivia: From Strength to Power” reveals Indigenous solidarity around their traditional worldview led to the landslide election of Evo Morales, who earned 54% of the vote in contrast to a historical 2 percent (2010, p. 346-355). “By strategically arranging and enacting elements of traditional narratives and myth, like the notion of pachakuti, these political actors have been able to produce consensus about the kinds and forms of change that are appropriate and possible in the complex historical conjuncture of contemporary Bolivia” (Postero, 2007, p.4). I participated in some of the discussions prior to the election and know that respectful but nonetheless strong challenges to Christian doctrine and the cultural hegemony stemming from it were significant, something that has largely not occurred in Mexico where I live and that may ultimately be partially responsible for the ineffectiveness of the Zapatistas.
Contrasts between the United States and Canada also may support my contention that Christian hegemony stifles Indigenous political strength. In both countries Indigenous rights and well-being are inadequate, but Canadian Aboriginals have somewhat more political voice than American Indians, not enough to brag about but perhaps enough to support my argument.) From the relatively successful effort to give the tribes in British Columbia control of their own educational curricula to the existence of the growing “Idle No More protest movement, Aboriginal efforts in Canada can easily be viewed as stronger than those in the United States. It may not be a coincidence that Canada is significantly less Christianized, not so much in terms of claimed affiliations, but in attitudes. For example, a 2005 Gallup poll showed 28% of Canadians consider religion “very important” compared to 55% of Americans.
Evangelism in Indian Country
Starting with the United States government’s violation of the church-state separation contentions with its “kill the Indian, save the man” policies, a less violent but equally enthusiastic evangelism remains strong in “Indian country.” On the Navajo and Lakota reservations, Christian missionary strategy work, churches and input into education seems more prevalent than ever, even though some reports say fewer individuals claim being Christian. As for my own Cherokee relations,
By the twentieth century Christianity was a major faith in the Oklahoma Indian community. The Methodist Oklahoma Indian Mission Conference, for example, reported in the year 2000 that it had seventy-two hundred members worshiping in eighty-nine churches in Oklahoma, Kansas, and north Texas. Baptist and Methodist congregations outnumbered the rest of the field, but there were sizeable numbers of Catholics and a growing number of Pentecostals as well (Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History).
One of many examples of this evangelical movement comes from a seminary student’s paper that is posted on the Internet. In his thesis paper during his senior year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, William Cornelius concludes, “I cannot imagine a people more in need of the gospel than the Lakota” (N.D., p 9). His paper, based on missionary work and research on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is titled, “Evangelizing the Lakota: Understanding the Differences in Order to See the Opportunities.” Referring to the high rates of disease, substance abuse, poverty and violence among the Lakota, he says it is wrongheaded for the many competing churches on the reservation to attempt to “harmonize” with the Lakota culture, such as having dance rings for traditional dances located on church property. Rather, he asserts that the Gospel “has changed cultures before and can change this one as well” (p.14).
Although my hypothesis that Christian hegemony continues to stifle Indigenous political will is seldom debated in politics, education or culture, the general idea has a long-standing and somewhat illustrious history. Criticism of religion in general dates back thousands of years to ancient Greece when Diagoras Melos, the poet, criticized Greek religious beliefs. Karl Marx’s famous quote, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” (2009, n.p.) comes closer perhaps to describing effects on Indigenous Peoples I offer here. Even closer, however, is the most influential of America’s founding father’s, Thomas Payne. He had visited the “wild Indian” and contrasted the European worldview with the life and perspectives of the Indigenous People he observed. “Among the Indians, “ he wrote, “there are not any of those spectacles of misery that poverty and want present to our eyes in the towns and streets of Europe” (Foner, 1995, p.610). Worried deeply about the influence of Christian religion on the manifestations of democracy, he wrote his famous text, The Age of Reason, an act that cost him dearly for the rest of his life. He writes, “It is the reverse of truth, and I become so tired of examining into its inconsistencies and absurdities, that I hasten to the conclusion of it, in order to proceed to something better” (Paine, 2010, p.31).
Professor David Gabbard writes in “Before Predator Came,” about the importance of examining how “Christianization” played an important role in the conquest of both European Indigenous cultures, as well as in the colonization of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. He says that our collective ignorance or denial about this contributes to continuing ethnocide today (2006, p. 229). He does not mention such ignorance or denial exists among Indigenous individuals themselves, but of course I am making this point. When a professor at NAU, I taught reservation Navajo, Apache and Hopi seniors about the true history of Christopher Columbus by assigning primary source documents about his atrocities in the name of Christian doctrine. Over the years, many came to me after class shocked to finally have realized that celebrating such a person could be such a horrible and damaging practice. I was not all that surprised. When I was Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College, I saw how teachers at the Christian school presented a history class one day when I was observing an Oglala student teacher handing out copies of something to the 4th grade Lakota children. It was a reading assignment created by her non-Indian mentor teacher. The handout was titled, “The First Americans.” It was about Davy Crocket, Kit Carson and Daniel Boone!
Of course, the sacred authority of Biblical scripture (should I capitalize “scripture” as well?) is at the heart of Christian hegemony. Robert Allen Warrior, a member of the Osage Nation, writes in “Canaanites, Cowboys and Indians” that the Bible will always be incompatible with authentic Indigenous ways of seeing the world. “The Bible is part of the heritage and thus the consciousness of people in the United States. Whatever dangers we identify in the text and the god represented there will remain as long as the text remains” (1989, p.263).
Red and White Partnering?
My position is sympathetic but differs from Warrior’s in that I see a potential for complementarity between the two worldviews as long as blind acceptance of Biblical inerrancy on the part of the Christian partner is not invoked. I have written about such a partnership as relates to solar and lunar twin hero myths from around the world (Jacobs, 1998, pp.144-148; Four Arrows, 2006 and Four Arrows 2013). (See also the work on this by archetypal psychologists, Howard Teich (2012).) In essence, I offer that Western myths have split the metaphorical twins, making dominant the solar one who either kills or diminishes the lunar twin. In Indigenous twin hero stories, the two work in complementary harmony. I suggest that Christianity has emerged as the “solar” twin- active, heroic, intent on mastery and physical, materialistic outcomes. I do not believe this split originated with the teachings of Jesus (the man), but to the subsequent politically based interpretations set forth in the Bible, interpretations that rejected alternative realities. Thus, the dominant, assertive “above Nature” cultures, under the banner of Christian fundamentalism (and related Islamic and Jewish versions as well) may be the “twin” of the more reflective, creative, mystical Indigenous spiritual traditions that focus on the complex and mutually supportive interconnections with Nature.
I hold to this possibility for complementarity between the Indigenous and the Christian worldview perhaps because the former embraces all forms of diversity and sees complementarity and reciprocity in everything. Still, Warrior may be more accurate in realizing that there is a difference between respecting another’s right to contrary beliefs and allowing such beliefs to cause harm to future generations. I am reminded of what Alice Walker told me when I proudly gave her a newly released copy of my book, Differing Worldviews: Two Scholars Argue Cooperatively about Justice in Higher Education (2012). I thought she would complement me on having invited my philosophical “enemy,” a scholar who truly believes only humans have intrinsic value, to co-author the book with me so we might find common ground. Instead she scoffed, saying that I was “in bed with the devil.” Bruce Wilshire, in his chapter for Unlearning the Language of Conquest, may have more eloquently captured a more appropriate sentiment:
It is difficult to imagine any of the three great Western religions seconding Black Elk’s insight that the roundness of teepees corresponds to the roundness of bird’s nets: “Birds build their nests in circles for there’s is the same religion s ours.” From this primal original point emanate salient features of the West’s worldview.” It is hierarchical, dualistic, exclusivist, and divisive (p.266).
This ironic phrase (“Being in bed with the devil”) itself stems from the dualist, punitive features of dominant Christian orthodoxy. Perhaps a better phrase to describe what Alice meant and what I am presenting here is Audre Lorde’s, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I interpret this to mean that when good Christian activists use Biblical references and concepts to argue for the environment, for woman’s equality, against slavery or punishment or in behalf of “primitive” worldviews, contradictions ultimately surface that weaken one’s position. As Warrior notes, whatever dangers exist in the Bible that caused the genocide and contribute to continuing culturcide of Indigenous Peoples are still there. They likely touch some portion of our unconscious psyches, no matter what we consciously pick and choose to believe.
Even my friend and colleague, the late Vine Deloria, Jr., in spite of his life-long critique of Christianity and his tireless work in behalf of Indigenous worldview and justice for American Indians (Time Magazine named him one of the most important religious thinkers of the world in the early 1970s), may have been compromised by his close affiliation with Christian evangelism. His family were among the earliest Sioux converts to Christianity, in the 1860′s, and his grandfather and father were ministers. Vine himself received his master’s degree in theology in 1963 from the Lutheran School of Theology in Illinois.
If such a champion of Indian rights and supporter of Indigenous mythology over Christian mythology might be compromised by his Christian background, this would be another possible indicator that one cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools. Well, Ed McGaw (Eagle Man) feels strongly that Deloria was guilty of offering “implicit accommodation to the colonialism of the West (Four Arrows, 2013, p. 260).” Eagle Man has much in common with Deloria. Both are Oglalas from Pine Ridge; both practiced law; both wrote books on Indigenous spirituality; and both were Marines (although Deloria never saw action and Eagle Man flew 110 missions in an F-14 over Viet Nam.) Eagle Man believes that Vine’s affiliations with Christianity, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, kept him from being a true ally in the struggle against the missionaries and the government during a crucial time when the Civil Rights Movement gave American Indians who wanted to reclaim their traditional spiritual ways a fighting chance to do so. Discussing the control of the missionaries and the struggle to reclaim Lakota spiritual paths, Eagle Man largely dismisses Deloria’s many published challenges to doctrine and dogma in Western Christian traditions:
Vine Deloria offers no such exposure or such writing nor involvement with we who were in the Trenches of Change back in the 60s and 70s. His family, leading Missionaries, knew of the existence of Canton yet nary a word from Vine. It was I whom Chief Fools Crow sent to invite AIM to come to the Sun Dance and protect it from its detractors….Vine never danced with us (Personal email, August 10, 2012).
Vine Deloria wrote a book called Singing in the Spirit. It is dedicated to his great grandfather, Saswe, whom God allegedly told he had to kill four Indians before becoming a Christian. Two of these fellow tribal people were innocent Indians. One was simply sitting on a hill and was shot point blank: Justifiably so, according to Deloria. Singing in the Spirit never includes one Medicine person of Native background for references that he personally knew! He describes Sun Dance and Vision Quest from a narration by a white woman who had absolutely no spiritual respect for her subject. She claimed, like Deloria’s influencing Aunt Ella- our Spirit calling ceremonies were ‘Devil influenced’. Odd! We don’t have devils or Satans! He was an Indian Academic like so many who never told about boarding school, our many struggles, or our dedicated heroes. I have yet to read about one Indian academic to report on South Dakota’s greatest secret- the Federal Indian Insane Asylum at Canton, SD and this includes those 4 academic Indians who presently sit on South Dakota’s Humanities Commission. Our Medicine Men and Women were conveniently sent there- forever as evidenced by the surrounding graves. This was at a time when the Delorias, Rosses, and Jesuits were at the height of their missionary power in league with the government over the people (McGaw, 2010).
Whether or not Deloria’s Christian upbringing made him a somewhat weaker promoter of Indigenous worldviews at the grassroots level or not cannot be known. Nor, if Eagle Man is accurate, can we say much about him not Sun Dancing or not talking about his family’s knowledge of the horrors of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians? If Eagle Man is right, could Deloria, with his academic clout and reputation, have done more to move Indigenous Peoples closer to authentic sovereignty? Was he using the master’s tools somehow to too great a degree for making the highest possible contributions to gaining sovereignty? Such questions merely serve to give us more possibilities for seeing merit in my thesis.
It also may be that Deloria understood the risk of not working within and with the system. Colloredo-Mansfeld’s writes about how an authentic community focus by Indigenous grassroots organizers can sometimes get in the way of more collaborative Indigenous groups who have gained access to political machinery by at least partially “playing the game” (2007). This is why this discussion must be on the table. If the evidence exists that in the long term staying within the boundaries of the system as a way to change it ultimately does not work, however, then we must have the courage to change strategies?
The African American Example
I now briefly look at how the failure of black politics may be correlated to uncritical acceptance of Christian dogma as it is generally understood in the United States (Christian hegemony). African Americans have Indigenous roots that were also initially destroyed by force and were later suppressed or forgotten via evangelism. African Americans, however, unlike American Indians, went full tilt with Christianity. I have not researched to see if freed slaves in America wanted to reclaim tribal values and ways of life, instead of preferring to own a piece of the pie created by their previous owners. However, it is rare to see African American writers arguing for their Indigenous worldview in political discourse, a common occurrence among Indigenous writers and academics. Certainly a number of civil rights activists turned away from religion totally. Some turned to communism. Malolm X turned to another of the Abrahamic religions- Islam- perhaps feeling the need to offer some spiritual perspective for the movement. All seemed wary of Christianity, but none spoke of returning to African Indigenousness. In his grassroots speech three months after Martin Luther King, Jr. led the famous march on Washington, D.C., in November of 1963, Malcolm X is clear that he does not want to be in bed with the devil, so to speak:
They controlled you, but they never incited you or excited you. They controlled you; they contained you; they kept you on the plantation. They invited a priest, a rabbi, and an old white preacher. Yes, an old white preacher. The same white element that put Kennedy in power — labor, the Catholics, the Jews, and liberal Protestants; same clique that put Kennedy in power, joined the march on Washington. It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak (1963)
We know from his autobiography that Malxolm X believed that Christianity was strategically used to brainwash African Americans and fill them with self-hate by making them worship a “blond, blue-eyed God” (1964, p. 319) and rob them of political power. “Christianity had made black men fuzzy, nebulous, confused in their thinking” (p.424). He chose Islam perhaps because, well, it was there for him and shared his negativity about Christianity. His activism, however, was about black people creating their own society, there own rules and values and this is what made his grassroots organizing powerful. He understood that one does not sell out one’s deepest values for a colonial model that opposes them.
This is the lesson I hope for Indigenous Peoples and others who can influence political power to understand. Andrea Smith offers this warning in a published interview entitled, “Building Unlikely Alliances.” She says,
Native people focusing on settler colonialism sometimes don’t see how it intersects with capitalism and white supremacy. Consequently, things get articulated as sovereignty projects that really are not that great. Your sovereignty comes to be defined as economic development by any means necessary – let’s exploit the resources, let’s build a class structure within Native communities – and that ends up destroying the land as much as multinational corporations are doing. That goes against the principle of having a radical relationship with the land. And it’s self-defeating ultimately, because multinational corporations are not going to let you do what you want to do with the land because they want the resources. It ends up hurting your communities. Khan, S, Hugill, D. and McCreary, T., 2010, p.4)
This has been a difficult piece to write. It has not been my intention to pull anyone’s faith from them as relates to the strength it gives them to live and die in this and future worlds. I only want to get people to use emotional, logical, and intuitive reflection to better understand the impact of their beliefs on the world. My targets are first the intellectuals and activists likely to read an essay such as this, for they can perhaps be encouraged by it to continue similar reflections and dialogues. My second target, though I wish it were first, are the grassroots Indigenous Peoples from around the world who have suffered and are suffering away their greatest legacy and their greatest strength- their Indigenous worldview, a worldview that if reclaimed will not only help them rise above their current plight, but can help everyone possibly reverse the current downward trajectory of our species. My third hoped for audience are Christians themselves who may not yet realize how their ideas and actions have been influenced directly from Christian teachings or indirectly via Christian hegemony.
Whomever the reader of this piece may be, I know that truly hearing what I am trying to say requires courage and fearlessness. It is not easy to stand before a Christian society and respectfully exclaim that we can no longer stifle honest, reasonable and scholarly concerns about the negative influence of organized religions on the problems facing Indigenous Peoples. Or to go further and say we cannot afford to suppress the conversation because of its effect on human survival. For the Indigenous reader who has lost his or her cultural bearings, fighting in support of an Indigenous worldview relatively unknown will take special courage. If you do not speak the language, do not feel inadequate for the job. Speak from the language of your heart and DNA! The same goes for the many non-Indians willing to speak out.
With this in mind I begin my closure with some concise words from a respected and truly courageous colleague and co-author. Waziyatwawin is a Wahpetunwan Dakota from the Upper Sioux Reservation in Minnesota. She is currently a professor at the University of Victoria. The following is from her article, “The Paradox of Indigenous Resurgence at the End of Empire.”
In the twenty-first century, we are facing the unprecedented convergence of human-created crises. Climate chaos, fossil-fuel resource depletion, overpopulation, and the ongoing destruction of ecosystems threaten the very foundation of colonial empire, both creating emancipatory potential for Indigenous societies struggling against colonial subjugation and wreaking devastating havoc on the lands, waters, and ecosystems upon which our people must survive. While the vulnerability and unsustainability of empire is clearly exposed, Indigenous people must wrestle with the continued cooptation of our people into civilization’s fallacies and
destructive habits as well as the increasing threats to our homelands that jeopardize our capacity for a land-based existence. Thus, just when liberation may be within our grasp, the ecological destruction may be so complete that Indigenous lifeways may be impossible to practice. In this context there is a simultaneous and urgent need for both the restoration of sustainable Indigenous practices and a serious defense of Indigenous homelands (2012, p.68).
…The desanctification of non-human life was certainly codified in the Genesis hierarchy and embodied in Judeo-Christian teachings. While this hierarchy of creation is conveyed throughout the Old Testament, it is best elucidated in the Book of Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” This mandate for human (and male) domination over all other beings has contributed to the relentless pursuit of resources without substantive regard to the impacts on eco-systems and all the beings who inhabit them. Indigenous Peoples recognized the dangers inherent in that worldview, especially as the consequences of that worldview were materially manifested within our territories through the destructive actions of the colonizers (p.71).
Most Indigenous Peoples collectively recognize the inherent dangers of the “civilized worldview” of Western culture. Too many individuals and too many tribal governments, however, have embraced, bowed to or acquiesced helplessly in wake of the world’s most dominant and dominating religion. Some are too engaged with mere survival to think of these matters. Others who are more able may be choked with fear in a world that has pulled no punches in its effort to suppress Indigenous beliefs and values (Four Arrows, 2013). Nonetheless, I say to my brothers and sisters, the urgency of the ecological situation we all face in the world today we all face makes this conversation about the role of religion in politics and power a matter of life and death. As Waziyatwawin asserts, it may be too late for such Indigenous resurgence. Yes, we are losing our Indigenous languages rapidly and with them the culture. Yet hope is always a good excuse for taking action, so I continue to have hope.
Ambassador of Bougainville (2012). “The real story of ougainville islands.” http://www.ourbougainville.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/The-Real-Story-of-Bougainville-Islands-2012.pdf
Acs, G., Braswell, K., Sorensen, E. and Asustin Turner, M. (2013) “The Moynihan report revisited” The Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412839-The-Moynihan-Report-Revisited.pdf
Bowers, C. (2006) “The language of conquest and the loss of the commons” in Unlearning the language of conquest; Scholars expose anti-Indianism in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
Chaplin, Ann. 2010. “Social Movements in Bolivia: From Strength to Power.” Community Development Journal 45 (3):346-355.
Cornelius, W. (n.d.) “ Evangelizing the Lakota: Understanding the differences in order to see the opportunities. http://www.wlsessays.net/files/CorneliusLakota.pdf
Deloria Jr., V. (1973). God is red. New York: Delta Books.
Ellis, C. (N.D.) Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society Oklahoma State University.http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/A/AM011.html
Foner, E. Ed. Paine: Collected writings. Vol 1. New York: Library of American.
Four Arrows (2013) Teaching Truly
Four Arrows and Block, W. (2011). Differing worldviews. Two disagreeing scholars argue cooperatively. Netherlands: Sense
Gabbard, D. (2006) “Before predator came.” In Four Arrows (ed) Unlearning the language of conquest: Scholars expose anti-indianism in America. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
Malcolm X (1963) “Message to the grassroots” http://xroads.virginia.edu/~public/civilrights/a0147.html
Marx, K. (2009) “Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the Right 1844.”Marxists.org. n.p.,
McGaw, E. (2010). “Expose” in Native digest at http://nativedigest.com/expose.html
Pagels, E. (1979) The gnostic gospels. New York: Random House
Paine, T. (1996). Thomas paine: Life and works. New York: Routledge.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) Post-Courier (August 22, 2013). “Opposition to reopening Bougainville Mine Growing.” Port Moresby. Accessed on August 28, 2013
Payne, T. (2010). The age of reason: Writings of Thomas Payne. Ed. Moncure Daniel Conway. New York: Merchant
Postero, N. (2007) “Andean Utopias in Evo Morales’s Bolivia” in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, Vol.2, No.1, April 2007, p.4.
Reagan, A. (2002, Fall) “Bougainville: Beyond survival.” Cultural survival quarterly 26.3
Sharmeen K., Hugill, D. and McCreary, T. (2010) “Building unlikely alliances: An interview with andrea smith. In Upping the anti. Journal #10. http://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/10-building-unlikely-alliances-an-interview-with-andrea-smith/
Teich, H. (2012) Solar light, lunar light: Perspectives in human consciousness. Genoa House Publishers
Warrior, R.A. (1989). “Canaanites, cowboys and Indians: Deliverance, conquest and liberation theology today” in Christianity and Crisis 49.
Wilshire, B. (2006) “A worldview and alternative worldviews” in Four Arrows (Ed) Unlearning the language of conquest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
 Realizing it is not a scholarly reference, I borrow here from a wiki offering for “Christian hegemony” that suitably describes my use of the phrase: describes the ways in which the dominant group, in this case U.S. Christians in general and predominantly Protestants, successfully disseminate dominant social constructions as being common sense, as normative. Christian hegemony supposes that Christianity is part of the natural order, even at times by those who are marginalized, disempowered, or rendered invisible by it.Thus, Christian hegemony maintains the marginality of already marginalized religions, faiths, and spiritual communities.
 For example, some of the Gnostic texts question whether suffering derive from human sin, others speak of the feminine element and see God as both father and mother, etc. (Pagels, 1979).
 A June, 2013 report shows many situations are worse for African Americans than those exposed in Daniel Patrick Moynihans 1965 report to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In spite of the civil rights movements, family breakdown, income inequality and poverty, imprisonment rates, segregated schools, domestic and gang violence, police brutality and the loss of voting rights (Acs, G., Braswell, K., Sorensen, E. and Austin Turner, M., 2013)
 Most of our Indigenous languages are rapidly disappearing, along with them the cultural wisdom. Complementary conversations are thus going to be more challenging. Chet Bowers writes, “The lack of awareness that language encodes the deepest and most taken-for-granted assumptions bout culture marginalizes the awareness that other cultures are based on different assumptions- and that some of these cultural ways of understanding human nature account for their smaller ecological footprint” (2006, p. 186). Bowers is not referring to Indigenous languages per se, but to how presumptions behind words like “tradition” or “progress” are not carefully considered. Such problems are less likely when thinking in Indigenous languages, however. They reflect a view of the world as interdependent and in constant motion. For example, in Lakota the word for “dirt” or “soil” is “ma ka.” “Ma” means essentially the essences of oneself and “ka” means that which came before. In other words, when a Lakota speaker to refers to the soil in a field, garden, riverbank or garbage dump, he may be understanding that “Here exists the essence of all that has contributed to who I am becoming,” knowing from other beliefs that the “all” especially refers to other than human contributions, including the DNA and epigenomes of the ancestors.
Traditional Owner Rita Augustine – Photo, Aaron Bunch
Goolarabooloo Elders and community leaders fought all the way to save the pristine Country they call home but on which the Western Australian Government wanted to develop a $40 billion gas precinct – the largest in the world. The Woodside-led joint venture, ferociously supported by the State Government, was dumped in May by Woodside Petroleum but with this so have the hopes extinguished of impoverished Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr peoples who had signed a Native Title agreement with the State Government and the resource companies.
Despite all those among the Aboriginal communities who fought against the industrialisation of James Price Point (Walmadany) there were many who fought for it because they knew that waiting for Governments to help their peoples, their children out of impoverishment is in other words waiting forever and a day.
Former Kimberley Land Council (KLC) CEO Wayne Bergmann who was in the thick of all the negotiations with the State Government and the Native Title holders is disappointed that nothing at all was leveraged for the local peoples who he feels have been stranded once again in chronic poverty. He blames the “environmental do-gooders”. He said they “failed” the Aboriginal peoples of the region and their economic and social rights.
WA Premier Colin Barnett who threatened compulsory acquisition if the Native Title holders did not sign an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) also threatened earlier this year that if the venture folded that the promised $1.5 billion Native Title package would disappear. The venture did fall t through and weeks ago it was formally announced so did the Native Title benefits package. Mr Bergmann is upset for the local peoples. It was Mr Bergmann who brokered the financial package, what would have been the most lucrative Native Title deal yet anywhere in Australia – such is the poor state of Native Title agreements and the weaknesses of the oversight bodies.
Mr Bergmann slammed the many high profile figures who campaigned against the gas hub in order to protect the pristine James Price coastline, the nearby breeding waters of whiles, and the Song Cycles of the Goolarabooloo. He said these individuals are nowhere to be seen when impoverished Aboriginal peoples need them, and that their one-sided campaigning has condemned long suffering communities to their poverty. “They have retreated to their beautiful houses, while our people endure utter poverty.”
“It is incomprehensible that the Native Title agreement has been abandoned.”
“The $1.5 billion benefits package would have been life-changing.”
Mr Bergmann also hit at the diehard environmentalists and activists and asked where are they since the collapse of the gas hub proposal. He asked why are they not campaigning for the impoverished communities. The Kimberley is a tourist mecca, and is resource rich, quite of some of it is being mined but poverty is widespread. The population of the Kimberley is 42,000 with 14,000 comprised of Aboriginal peoples. However seven per cent of the Kimberley is homeless and 90 per cent of that homelessness comprise Aboriginal peoples. This is one of the world’s worst homelessness rates. Governments and all sorts of public and private institutions have neglected the region’s Aboriginal peoples and the endemic homelessness problem soars. It barely gets a mention in Western Australian and national media.
With this backdrop a bitter Mr Bergmann slammed high profile figures like Dr Bob Brown, Telstra director Geoff Cousins, musicians Missy Higgins and John Butler all who campaigned among many others to save the Kimberley coast from industrialisation.
“These do-gooders are still sitting back in their beautiful Sydney houses while our people continue to suffer the worst living conditions in Australia.”
He pointed out that many Kimberley Aboriginal peoples “are living in tents.” This is true. While with The National Indigenous Times and with The Stringer I have visited the Kimberley, met with many within the endemic poverty that is rampant within and on the outskirts of Broome. There are third-world conditions for Aboriginal communities in the tourist mecca of the Kimberley.
Some of those Mr Bergmann has criticised have argued that the impoverished communities should be assisted by the State and Federal Governments, and that much of the Native Title Agreement should have been lived up to despite wherever the resource companies took their mining. In this case the drilling and production of liquefied natural gas will now go relatively a little offshore from James Price.
Dr Brown and Mr Cousins argue the now broken-record that Governments should ensure the equivalent opportunities, services and health for Aboriginal peoples but we all know this does not happen, despite Aboriginal peoples comprising only less than 2.5 per cent of Australia’s total population. Dr Brown should know, he was part of the Australian Senate for 16 years, and therefore part of an Australian Government that has failed Aboriginal peoples. He knows it just does not happen.
The Woodside-led joint venture had intended the $1.5 billion benefits package to the local peoples for a 30 years use of the land at James Price Point (Walmadany).
Woodside will now build an offshore floating LNG plant to tap into the Browse Basin gas reserves. Therefore there will be less employment opportunities for the local peoples when the plant is ready.
But to the surprise of everyone, former Woodside CEO Don Voelte spoke up for the local peoples last week and said the Woodside group should honour the benefits package that Bergmann had brokered and that there should be no escape clauses. He said the whole purpose of the package was to share the benefits from the natural gas development. He said that the region’s resources would still be extracted and therefore the relocation of the actual production site should not matter.
Mr Bergmann agrees with Mr Voelte and said that Woodside has a “social responsibility to pay the benefits it promised.”
“Woodside have turned their back on the community. It is a huge opportunity lost. (Chairman of Woodside’s Board) Michael Chaney could have provided leadership,” said Mr Bergmann.
“It has made Aboriginal people more cynical and less trusting of companies, governments and environmental groups.”
A Woodside spokesperson responded, “Woodside has made, or is in the process of making, $25.6 million in payments in accordance with agreement provisions. This includes funding for the Reading Recovery childhood literacy program, business development organisation and education, healthcare and cultural assistance through a trust established for the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr people.”
The spokesperson said developing the Browse resources “will make a contribution to the Australian and West Australian economies.”
It had been known for quite some time that the Native Title Agreement would not be honoured. At the time of the collapse of the venture Woodside Petroleum’s CEO Peter Coleman said that $18 million in Native Title payments would still be made, that $3.7 million had been made in advance payments, and that Woodside would honour what was in the contract.
“The agreement was very clear,” said Mr Coleman.
“We do not expect to be making ex-gratia payments to them.”
At the same time Mr Bergmann said, “During the negotiations, the State Government, and Woodside put the Traditional Owners under extreme pressure. The extreme pressure produced the agreement.” He said the Traditional Owners were not “dealt fairly” and that because the deal was pushed through while circumventing normal Native Title processes that the venture partners are morally bound to deliver the benefits package.
“You have to consider the savage way in which Aboriginal people had to negotiate. There were threats of taking the land without a compensation package.”
Jabirr Jabirr Elder Rita Augustine who signed off on the agreement and who last year wrote to the nation about the plight of her peoples’ chronic poverty and the sense of hopelessness they feel and hence why the gas hub should go ahead, said she “feels betrayed by Woodside.”
Jabirr Jabirr Elder Cissy Djiagween said Aboriginal youth suicide rates in the Kimberley were among the highest in the nation, that the region’s homelessness was an unheralded national disgrace, unemployment high, illness rampant and untreated.
Ms Augustine said, “Woodside had our spirits up. But now our children will not benefit with education, jobs, good health.”
The natural gas market is in strong demand and according to Mr Coleman will remain strong for several more years. Up to 13 trillion of cubic metres of Browse gas will be extracted and processed, many will get richer. Native Title is not recognised in terms of seas, and therefore the loophole. This though means that at least for another generation there will be entrenched impoverishment for the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr peoples.
It must be threaded into every piece of journalism on impoverished Aboriginal communities that yes indeed Governments, State and Federal, utterly neglect, and hence discriminate, against Aboriginal communities, but that resources companies have utterly failed them too. They profit more than enough and do have the capacity to have returned vibrant economic communities and townships in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Western Desert, Goldfields to Aboriginal peoples, and indeed all over Australia. Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy and is powered by the resources sector, with the multinational resource companies in Australia returning some of the world’s highest company gross and net returns.
Image – larapublica.pe
While carrying out peaceful actions to defend their territory from the illegal exploitation of natural resources and forest clearing, three Indigenous Tolupan from Yoro district in Honduras, María Enriqueta Matute, Armando Funez Medina and Ricardo Soto Funez, were murdered on Sunday.
At the time, the Tolupan community of San Francisco de Locomapa was carrying out apeaceful demonstration to protest the installation of a mine in their territories. Exercising their legitimate right to the protection of their environment and their livelihoods, the community organized a roadblock, preventing all vehicles from gaining access to any minerals.
According to The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y Justicia, MADJ), The National Preventive Police Force along with government officials in Yoro were informed ahead of time that the Tolupan were receiving death threats and that armed men were brazenly walking around Locomapa, provoking fear in the residents of the area.
However, in January of 2013 the Honduran government passed a mining law that blatantly gutted the right of consultation and consent held by Indigenous Peoples. This law added to and even legitimized the attitude of impunity towards Indigenous Peoples of Honduras. Days before these murders, eight Indigenous protesters were charged and prosecuted for defending their forests four years ago.
The National Coalition of Environmental Networks of Honduras has condemned the reprehensible act and are demanding justice for its perpetrators. They have demanded an end to the indifferent attitude supporting the treatment of Indigenous Peoples in environmental and territorial conflicts. Where communities have expressed their total rejection of mining and hydroelectric projects and despite allegations of persecution, harassment, and death threats, impunity reigns. Recognizing the community of San Francisco de Locomapa and those murdered as victims of the greed of the mining companies and state indifference, they have also called on all social organizations to join this struggle for the defense of life, access to justice and respect for the Rights of Peoples.
The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice also demands justice for Indigenous peopledefending their territory and demanded urgent investigation and punishment for those responsible for these murders. They also demand the prompt intervention of the Human Rights Prosecutor to proceed with due inquiry, and that the State of Honduras comply with ILO Convention 169 which is an authoritative international treaty recognizing the aspirations and rights of Indigenous Peoples to take control of their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live.
The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice has set up a petition calling on:
Article by Curtis Kline. First published in Intercontinental Cry Magazine.
Image – http://www.cameronreilly.com
Two years ago, as part of my academic research into the prevalence of suicides in Australia, particularly among Aboriginal youth, to my horror I discovered that Aboriginal youth suicides are tragically at record high levels – that spates of Aboriginal youth suicides are proportionately the world’s highest rates. Aboriginal youth is suiciding at the world’s highest rates.
I should not be shocked but I was despite my first-hand knowledge of the continuous neglect by Australian Governments – State, Territory and Federal – of Aboriginal peoples. 671,000 Australians identify as Aboriginal but if we standalone the poorest 150,000 of our Aboriginal peoples, a significant proportion of them are living in third-world akin conditions in the world’s 12th largest economy. Per capita Australia has the world’s highest median wages and once again per capita Australia is the second wealthiest nation in the world. These statistics underwrite research I have titled “The Aboriginal Clock.”
Since releasing my findings that Aboriginal youth are dying at the world’s highest rates it was sad to note that it did not make an impact on the Australian consciousness. The chronic neglect and maltreatment of Aboriginal peoples are matter-of-fact in Australia. We accept much with very little outcry; the news media and Governments despite highlighting chronic problems do not prioritise Aboriginal peoples and the underlying issues. Racism has many veils and layers.
Thirty years ago Aboriginal youth was not killing itself at the rates we have today, nor was this the case twenty years ago, and ten years ago the suicide rates were much lower than today. The suicide rates are on the rise, the median ages of suicides are getting younger – this evidences the sense of hopelessness felt by many. Much of the hope of previous generations invested in the Black Power movements, in the Land Rights movements, in the striving for Treaty and equality has dissipated for many Aboriginal peoples who have waited and nothing positive has eventuated for them, and for many the belief is that they have less now than they did two decades ago. I have interviewed more than 100 Territorian Aboriginal Elders, and similarly more than 100 Aboriginal Western Australian Elders for research titled “Climate of Death” and “People are not the Property of People; the Northern Territory is a prison built brick by brick by the Commonwealth” and the overwhelming majority described beliefs that all that they or their parents struggled for two and three decades ago has now vanished. They despair at being effectively forced into surrendering culture, their homelands, their right to their historical identity. They were prepared for integration and the best of both worlds but they reject assimilation. No other cultures in Australia despite the various xenophobia that prevails contemporaneously have been so harangued as Aboriginal peoples are to let go of their historical and cultural identities – that is beyond the insulting tokenism we are prepared to allow.
They have no trust in ministries of Aboriginal Affairs or in a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, they do not believe any longer in the presumption these perceivably affirmative actions will deliver what is now long overdue. The majority of those I have spoken with, hundreds, inherently fear these ministries which they believe are responsible for corralling them and extinguishing many of their rights and freedoms. They see these ministries, as I do too, as covert, whether inadvertent or not, social engineering attempts by Governments and their bureaucracies, and that the colonialist attitudes continue.
The majority of Aboriginal peoples, especially those among the poorest 150,000, and which my cluster surveys clearly indicate, are all for a Treaty, and without a Treaty they do not believe they will be rightly respected as Aboriginal peoples and allowed to be free in their own Country.
The majority have said that rather than ministries of Aboriginal Affairs they would prefer Aboriginal peoples in parliament. In New Zealand seven of the 70 parliamentary seats are reserved for Maoris. The majority of those whom I have interviewed, once again in the hundreds, would prefer for instance 7 or 8 of the 76 Senate seats for Aboriginal people. They also want to see all major political parties ensure Aboriginal representation. This would be inspiring electoral reform, something to which I too, for more than a decade, have been calling for. However the resistance will be huge but it can be achieved. In one University I worked at, I was on their peak academic planning council and also on the University Senate (the Board of the University) and in 2008 I lobbied quite hard to introduce a unit of compulsory Aboriginal studies to all undergraduate students. It was met with huge resistance and from those I least expected. In the end I managed to secure the fifth recommendation, substantive Aboriginal studies by Aboriginal scholars as a component of the introductory unit to all undergraduate students – an Australia-first.
Seven years ago during the second of my two Masters, both which studied the veils and layers of racism, and the ways forward, I was shocked by the discovery from comparative global data research that Australia jails Aboriginal adult males at more than five times the rate apartheid South Africa jails its Black adult males. Then I found that Australia imprisons its Aboriginal adult males marginally higher than the mother of all jailers, the USA, of its own most incarcerated peoples, African-American adult males. This upset me so much that I skewed my Master’s thesis into a study of this comparative data and the Australian consciousness. My findings explored racialised imprisonment, because indeed this is what is occurring in Australia. But once again other than affected Aboriginal peoples and grassroots supporters upset by these findings the rest of Australia barely gave it a mention, and just coldly accepted my mantras that we incarcerate Aboriginal peoples at rates higher than apartheid South Africa, as is the case once again that we accept without too much fuss that Aboriginal youth are suiciding at the world’s highest rates. I write that we accept all this because the fact is few, if anyone with capacity, are responding with sincere acknowledgment and remedy. My research and investigations have surprisingly come up with very little evidence of Government funding, next to nothing in the scheme of things, to address the unparalleled tragedy of Aboriginal youth suicide, nor the rising incarceration rates that now see one in every 70 Aboriginal persons in this nation in jail on any given day. Let us not even tinker at this time with the shocking statistics in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which make the national averages look good!
In the Kimberley, one of the regional hot spots for Aboriginal youth suicide, Aboriginal homelessness, high arrest rates, rates and levels of impoverishment, one of its communities hosted a ‘March for Life’ last week, an event organised to advocate for unity on proactive approaches to suicide prevention. The Kimberley has a regional population of 42,000, of which one-third, 14,000 are Aboriginal peoples. The Kimberley records one of the world’s highest rates of homelessness – seven per cent of its population is homeless, with 90 per cent of that homelessness comprised of Aboriginal peoples. Yet the wealthiest State in the nation has allowed this to continue. The fact is this is because they are Aboriginal peoples, and the State and Federal Governments can say what they like, but they do not care enough, because indeed Aboriginal peoples do not matter to them as much as do non-Aboriginal peoples. The colonial past is still recent, and origins-of-thinking that led to the apartheid and eugenics imposed upon Aboriginal peoples have permeated inter-generationally. Ninety per cent of our parliamentarians are Anglo-Celtic, with 90 per cent of them with at least a century of familial history in Australia, one that has its origins in the recent colonial past.
Mary Victor – O’Reeri, Josie Farrer, Stephen Victor
Josie Farrer is the Member for the Kimberley, elected in March, she is a Kija woman and like most Aboriginal families she has endured loss from suicide – not long ago she lost her 16 year old grandchild. Ms Farrer attended the Beagle Bay event and was a guest speaker.
“Changes need to be made. The Government needs to assist by investing more resources and funding into preventative support programs, especially into remote communities.”
Remote communities are enduring higher rates of youth suicide than in big towns and metropolises, though Aboriginal suicide rates are disproportionately high Australia-wide. But the Kimberley has been host to recent spates of suicides that initially shocked right minded Australians – the multiplier rates reaching more than 100 times the national average. Kimberley communities like Mowanjum, Balgo and towns like Wyndham and Derby have become known for the first time to many Australians because of the horrific rates of Aboriginal youth suicide. In the weeks ahead I will unfold a number of news stories on how little Governments have done to try to address these suicide rates.
Employment, education, health and community infrastructure are invaluable to reducing both imprisonment and suicide rates but with suicides it is not just underlying issues related to impoverishment – my research and investigations have found that disempowerment is a major contributor. Despite the majority of Aboriginal youth suiciding or attempting suicide who are unemployed and dejected by the sense of hopelessness, far too many despite not being the majority were indeed employed but they too reported a sense of hopelessness or crippling dejection – the situational trauma of ones cultural identity rubbished by the majority of Australia, by do-gooder bureaucratic programs, by the forces of assimilation, by the impost that they should leave forever their homelands is soul destroying. Cognitively, all this generates situational trauma, and degenerates into a continuing traumas and stress disorders and disempowers far too many into a sense that their historical and contemporary identities are a liability.
Beagle Bay Community members
Beagle Bay community does not have any out of school activities such as AusKick, youth services or a swimming pool but it is also not supported by Government funded respect for cultural identity and its highlighting, for bilingual education, for the documenting and disseminating of its history and nor is there any funding to ensure access to Country. The young grow up watching their Elders struggle for the right to express their identity, they grow up watching few non-Aboriginal peoples respect their cultural identity, and watch far too many patronise what little of their cultural identity they allow them to express.
A symbolic baton carved by local Dunba Nunju from a special medicine tree, a tree considered to have healing qualities for the local people was handed to Ms Farrer – ‘the baton of life’.
Elder Mary Victor-O’Reeri who handed over the baton said, “I humbly ask you, during your time as the Member for the Kimberley that you do the honour in continuing the movement in saving lives and bring with you the ‘baton of life’ to the people so that they too can bring together their own communities to ‘March for Life.’ Please help us to save the save lives of our Kimberley children, our mob, black and white.”
The community requested of Ms Farrer that she take the baton to every community, every town, to Parliament House, to the world, to continue what had been started in Beagle Bay last Tuesday – a movement to save lives – young Aboriginal children are now dying at the world’s highest rates.
“How many suicides, how many more deaths will it take to open our eyes, and open our ears to the silent screaming that is coming from the hearts, and souls of those who are gone, and of those who grieve and keep screaming, ‘Help’…” said Bishop Christopher Saunders in closing the Beagle Bay gathering.
The writer of this article, Gerry Georgatos, has completed two Masters on what constitutes racism, on Aboriginal imprisonment rates, on racialised imprisonment and he has produced papers and reports on Aboriginal suicides. He is a PhD researcher on Australian Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody. Gerry’s journalism on Aboriginal youth suicides has been recognised with a number of journalistic prizes including most recently Best Coverage of Indigenous Affairs at the National Multicultural and Indigenous Media Awards, where he also picked up for the second time Best Investigative Reporting and the Journalist of the Year awards.