“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.
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.”
“Caring, Sharing, Nurturing, Love and Respect, these things need to take front and centre in all of our thought processes, actions, conversations and everything we do. Each and every person within our immediate circle needs to feel loved, valued and appreciated for the shift in consciousness to occur and create the ripple effect out into our societies. When we do this and our motivations are for nothing more that the betterment of human condition, the sky really is the limit.” ~ Nicola Butler 2013
“Aboriginal People are the skeleton in the cupboard of Australia’s national life …. outcasts in our own land.” ~ Sir Doug Nicholls, National Day of Mourning speech, 1938.
“All we want is to be able to think and do the same things as white people, while still retaining our identity as a people.” ~ Sir Doug Nicholls
On the 23rd January 2012, Uncle Brian asked 2 questions of the Facebook community across the country.
1. All of you who know what lateral violence really is please LIKE – 110 responses and counting.
2. Now all of you who know what the opposite of lateral violence is…Please LIKE – 36 responses and not counting quite so well.
The point of this exercise was to gage the community response regarding the awareness and understanding of lateral violence.
The legal definition of Lateral violence as found via USLegal is: Lateral violence happens when people who are both victims of a situation of dominance, in fact turn on each other rather than confront the system that oppresses them both. Lateral violence occurs when oppressed groups/individuals internalize feelings such as anger and rage, and manifest their feelings through behaviors such as gossip, jealousy, putdowns and blaming.
And another one taken from Paul Memmott’s Community Based Strategies for Combating Indigenous Violence 2001 ‘unresolved grief that is associated with multiple layers of trauma spanning many generations’. Some of these ‘layers of trauma’ include: colonial aggression; genocide; racism; alienation from tribal lands; breakdown of social structure; loss of spirituality and languages; removal of rights and responsibilities; labour exploitation; and large-scale removal of Aboriginal children from their families (‘stolen generations’). These and other factors have contributed to the erosion of social structures and traditional values, and a range of social problems in current Aboriginal communities’ (Memmott et al. 2001).
The Frequent manifestations of lateral violence which we all understand too well include:
• nonverbal innuendo (raising eyebrows, face-making), • bullying, • verbal affront (overt/covert, snide remarks, lack of openness, abrupt responses, gossiping), • shaming, • undermining activities (turning away, not being available, social exclusion), • withholding information, • sabotage (deliberately setting up a negative situation), • infighting (bickering, family feuds), • scapegoating, • backstabbing (complaining to peers and not confronting the individual), • failure to respect privacy, • broken confidences, • organisational conflict, • physical violence.
In a moving email received from Cheri Yavu Kama Harathunian proud Kabi Kabi, Gurang Gurang, Terabalang Bunda Elder, Lateral violence is perfectly described in a way that resonates with us and the definition we are talking about.
Cheri states that “Lateral violence is more than behaviors such as gossip, jealousy, putdowns and blaming, resentment, spite, envy, suspicion, distrust, protectiveness, bitterness, hatred, antipathy, racial superiority, taking on of another cultural expression – the Americanisation of Aboriginal youth – because of self shame, offence, umbrage, anger, acrimony, animosity, hostility, enmity, and other negative expressions is the fact that these expressions often have their basis in oral histories, those negative stories of our past that are handed down to us and that are projected into our present living’, she also goes on to talk about the types of violence we know a lot more about and the way that Lateral violence is often ignored because of this…’the strategies that are making a difference with regards to ‘domestic violence; personal violence; community violence and corporate violence have very little if any impact upon ‘lateral violence’.
Often, the symptoms are or can be considered to be expressed as one of the above. But the motivators for lateral violence are embedded deeper in the psyche of Aboriginal and Islander peoples than behavior or cognition. What is missed is the spiritual scars that motivate the cognitive systems to the connection that is demonstrated in the behavioral outcome.’
Every behavior and situation is tarnished by Lateral violence, we need to understand this.
What to do about the situation?
Well we have started the process. The process in place to be followed is to call together learning circles/yarning circles within your communities, families and networking groups.
Create these from the absolute grassroots level and continue them all the way through to all levels of society.
Come together as a group and openly discuss the realities happening for each and every one of you. Then with an open mind embrace the concept of lateral violence and how this has shaped the world as we know it in this space and time.
Then move towards discussions about what we can do to improve our situation by eliminating this negative practice through education, understanding and the emergence of mutual respect.
Resources are light on the ground, primarily because society has brushed this issue of lateral violence under the carpet for 200 years plus in this country.
Nobody has written about the damage that is done to families right throughout the Nation, and because of this, lateral violence has become the norm and generations have grown up with this as a normal part of life. So much so that the people who are doing the most damage to each other are mostly unaware of the causes and the long term repercussions of their actions.
We have dysfunctional families unable to cope with or find the answers to deal with the destructive nature of this type of violence.
We do not believe lateral violence is a new western sabotage or smoke screen, not the type of violence we am talking about.
Accepting, understanding and sharing is the key to us moving forward as a strong and healthy Nation and to do that we MUST examine lateral violence. It is not acceptable to keep blaming others for how we treat our own.
Understanding how we all got to this point is important for the healing to begin.
Some people have questioned the way to approach this topic when addressing Elders within their communities. To each and every one of you I say this, by tackling this taboo topic we are trying to alleviate lateral violence which is showing the highest respect for our Elders.
Every single Elders abuse case that we know of is derived specifically from unchecked trans-generational lateral violence. We need to encourage greater respect for Elders by the elimination of this negative practice and to get there we are all going to have to participate in some very open, confronting and frank discussions along the way.
Every single individual in our society has a role to play. Lateral violence is very personal and we need to start getting personal in eradicating lateral violence.
What have we tried to date?
In our opinion, we have failed miserably in our attempts at Cultural Awareness Programs throughout this Nation. We need to focus on educating and understanding the true meaning of lateral violence. By ‘true meaning’ we will share with you once again the wisdom of Auntie Cheri,‘the violence born from the outcomes of the manner in which our parents and their parents learned to survive, the historical violence perpetrated upon our ancestors from so called settlement, through the policies of the past and too you and to me in this present time. Our families’ oral histories are filled with smatterings of ways and means of survival that carried over from one generation to the next’. Every single issue we face today is underpinned by this negative collective consciousness and the well-known manifestations of this lateral violence. The effects are devastatingly apparent.
All of the millions of dollars poured into Cultural Awareness have not worked because lateral violence is on the increase.
Our young people have the right to live life to the full, not carry victimisation, or survival techniques that they watch their parents use and once again perpetrate the cycle of lateral violence upon themselves and others.
Please take the time to seriously consider lateral violence and what it means to you and your families.
Talk about it, talk to everyone and participate in this monumental shift, join your ancestors in this Spiritual Awakening.
If we want to seriously address the issues of youth suicide in this country, lateral violence MUST be acknowledged, understood and addressed!
Lateral violence knows no love, understanding or compassion!
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa
Driving in the car on the way to kindergarten listening to Mum and Dad talking about intellectual property and land rights, a young man pipes up from the back seat “You can’t just take things from people, it’s just not right” ~ Lateral Love Ambassador, Tyler Davis aged 3 and a half!
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle 2,300 years ago
Wednesday 30th October 2013
On this day in 1975 The Racial Discrimination Act came into effect (Lateral Love Australia’s Co-Founders & Directors William Brian Butler (aged 49) and Nicola Butler (aged almost 1 year) before this Act even came into effect).
The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 aims to ensure that people of all backgrounds are treated equally and have the same opportunities. The Act also makes discrimination against people on the basis of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin unlawful.
What is racial hatred or racial vilification?
Racial hatred (sometimes referred to as vilification) is doing something in public based on the race, colour, national or ethnic origin of a person or group of people which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate.
Examples of racial hatred may include:
- racially offensive material on the internet, including eforums, blogs, social networking sites and video sharing sites
- racially offensive comments or images in a newspaper, magazine or other publication such as a leaflet or flyer
- racially offensive speeches at a public rally
- racially abusive comments in a public place, such as a shop, workplace, park, on public transport or at school
- racially abusive comments at sporting events by players, spectators, coaches or officials.
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.
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 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.