Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Savage Family/Medicine Word Poets Concert

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Saturday, 25 November 2006 • 7 pm (NDN Time) • 4 Winds American Indian Center • 201 W. 5th Avenue • Denver

Join us after the Sand Creek Memorial Run (see previous post) -- for an evening of music and spoken word from an NDN liberation perspective

Never Forget the Sand Creek Massacre

One of the essential events that ensured the creation and expansion of Colorado as a colonizing project was the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864. The number of innocent Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were slaughtered at the hands of Methodist minister John Chivington's 3rd Colorado troops will never be known. Chivington bragged that over 500-600 were murdered -- contemporary historians place the number at from 200-300. Regardless, the reality is that the massacre was the result of an invading people, attacking and massacring defenseless elders, children and women. The attack was deliberately genocidal -- prior to riding to Sand Creek, Chivington was asked if the Native children should be killed. His response was "Kill and scalp all, big and little, nits make lice." His troops complied.

Two elements of Sand Creek are often obscured. One is the fact that a few days prior to the annual anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre, the people of the U.S. engage in their annual festival of gluttony and excess, also known as Thanksgiving. U.S. zombies wander in a total amnesiac stupor, oblivious to the carnage (such as at Sand Creek) that allows them today to occupy First Nations' homelands. The second obscured element is the consistent sanitation of the horrific, sexualized violence that Chivington and his American patriots inflicted at Sand Creek. Often, the massacre is described as the "killing and the mutilation" of the innocent victims -- nowhere approaching (as you will see below) the actual depravity of the troops.

As with Columbus and other genocidal actors, contemporary apologists attempt to minimize criminality with the justification that Chivington and Co. were simply "products of their own time," as though there were some irresistible 19th Century genetic code that was being obeyed. We know that such was not the case, because some troops refused to participate in the massacre. One heroic figure was Captain Silas Soule. Soule not only refused to follow Chivington's lead at Sand Creek, but he ordered his troops not to participate in the attack. Later, Soule would testify against Chivington and the 3rd Colorado Volunteers. On April 23, 1865, three days after Chvington was released from custody, Soule was assassinated on the streets of downtown Denver, reportedly by Chivington's agents.

Kneeling: Maj. Edward Wyncoop (left) and Captain Silas S. Soule (without hat); Seated, from left: White Antelope, Bull Bear, Black Kettle, Neva, and Notanee. Standing, unknown, unknown, John S. Smith, Heaps of Buffalo, Bosse, Dexter Colley, and unknown.

Soule's eyewitness accounts of the massacre are recorded for posterity in letters that he sent to his commanding officer, Major Edward Wyncoop. Soule's graphic testimony provides damning evidence against not only Chivington and the Colorado 3rd, but also of those who incited the massacre in Denver: Rocky Mountain News owner and publisher William Byers and John Evans -- who would become Colorado's first governor.

Soule wrote to Wyncoop on December 14, 1864:

"I told him [Chivington] that I would not take part in their intended murder....I refused to fire, and swore that none but a coward would, for this time hundreds of women and children were coming toward us, and getting on their knees for mercy. *** The massacre lasted six or eight hours...it was hard to see ittle children on their knees, have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. *** One Squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives, of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing -- when one succeeded in hitting the Squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife out and cut the throats of both children, and then killed herself. *** [t]hey were all scalped, and as high as a dozen taken from one head. They were horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open, and a child taken out of her, and scalped. White Antelope, War Bonnet, and a number of others had Ears and Privates cut off. Squaws snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there, but every word I told you is the truth, which they do not deny."

This short excerpt, of a much longer and disgusting account, indicates the genocidal foundation upon which Denver and Colorado is constructed. In order to ensure that Denver and Colorado never forget the bloody origins of the state, Colorado AIM will join our relatives from the Northern Cheyenne Nation in the Sand Creek Memorial Run. Everyone is welcome to join us. The details are:

Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run participants gathering Nov. 23-25, 2006.

DENVER—The Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run on Nov. 23–25 will serve as sobering reminder, and a time to heal from one of Colorado’s darkest moments in history: the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. On November 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington led the Colorado Volunteers to Sand Creek and initiated a gruesome attack that killed over 200 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women and children. The Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run started in 1999 to address the need to educate people about the travesties of the horrific incident and to commemorate the victims and survivors.

Public is welcome. Media are encouraged to cover the following event(s).

Thursday, November 23
7 AM Sunrise Ceremony at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, located 18 miles northeast of Eads in southeastern Colorado
9 AM Commencement of Healing Run from the Sand Creek Massacre Site through Eads, Colorado to Denver
Friday, November 24
7 AM Sunrise Ceremony – TBA
Continue Healing Run to Denver

7 PM Candlelight Vigil at the Denver Art Museum Wheel sculpture, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver
Saturday, November 25
8 AM Honoring Ceremony at Riverside Cemetery, 5201 Brighton Boulevard, Denver, for Captain Silas Soule, Company D 1st Colorado Calvary, U.S. Army and Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer, Company K 8th Ohio Calvary, U.S. Army

9 AM Continue Healing Run from Riverside Cemetery to the Colorado State Capitol Building
9:50 AM At 15th and Arapahoe —the site where Silas Soule was assassinated—a walking portion of this years event will begin. The walkers will join with runners and continue the remaining 1 mile to the where the run/ walk will conclude.
11AM Presentation at the Colorado State Capitol Building, Denver (West side)
NOON Reception for Sand Creek Healing Run participants at the Colorado History Museum, Boettcher Auditorium, 1300 Broadway, Denver
Contact: Bill Tall Bull, Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run, (303) 329-7390, sandcreek@rangeweb.net

The Lie of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a Lie
by Tommi Avicolli Mecca‚ Nov. 21‚ 2006

Thanksgiving is a lie. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

There's no more truth to the Hallmark moment of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast of squash, corn and turkey than there is to Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. According to my favorite history text, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, it was all manufactured to create a feel-good beginning for this country.

Thanksgiving wasn't invented by the Pilgrims. By the time the Mayflower pulled up at Plymouth Rock in 1620, Native Americans in that part of the country already had a rich tradition of marking the fall harvest with a major fiesta. The day wasn't recognized nationally until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday. He had an entirely different motive than honoring the Pilgrims: Morale during the bloody Civil War. America needed a warm fuzzy holiday to make it feel good about itself again.

The Pilgrims were latecomers to the legend, not getting added to the mix until the 1890s.

Of course, some major revisions had to be done to make heroes of those guys. The truth is: When the Pilgrims arrived on the coast of Massachusetts, they found a deserted Native American settlement. Unburied human bodies were scattered everywhere. The survivors had vanished. The villagers had been wiped out by a plague, brought to the "new world" years before by the Europeans. The immune system of the native peoples had no defense against those diseases. Many in Europe couldn't be happier.

Good Christian that he was, King James of England called the death of millions of Native Americans "this wonderful plague." He thanked God for sending it. Other preachers of the day echoed this same sentiment. They believed that God had aided the conquest of the new land by sending disease to ravage the native populations, so that the English could have it. How convenient for them that God was on their side.

The Pilgrims, who were ill-equipped to survive in the harsh environment they found themselves in, immediately took advantage of the situation. They proceeded to rob food (including corn and squash) and pottery from the deserted Native village. They also stole from Indian graves. Within about 50 years of arriving, they had slaughtered most of the native population in the area that wasn't already killed by the plague.

Not the touchy-feelie story you'll see on TV this week.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, atheist, working-class, queer performer, activist and writer who bakes a mean tofu lasagna around this time of year.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thanks-taking Holiday Right Around the Corner

NOTE: In the indigenous world, we often refer to the U.S./Canadian holiday of "Thanksgiving Day" as "Thanks-taking Day," that is, the invader-state holiday where the dominating culture gives thanks for taking and colonizing our homeland -- and its thanks takes the form of unbribled gluttony, consumption, and self-righteousness. We post the insightful article below as an honor to our Wampanoag relatives (and other East Coast Native nations) who have resisted the invasion longer than most of us can even imagine. In addition to the article below, for those who would like a more accurate version of the Thanksgiving fallacy, we refer you to Charles Mann's book, "1491." especially Chapter Two, "Why Billington Survived." There, you will see the Plymouth colonizers for the avaricious, diseased, grave-robbing thieves that they were. -- Colorado AIM

A National Day of Mourning for Indians

By Moonanum James and Mahtowin Munro

Z Magazine Online
November 2006 Volume 19 Number 11

Every year since 1970, United American Indians of New England has organized the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth at noon on Thanksgiving Day. Hundreds of Native people and supporters from all four directions join in. Every year, Native people from throughout the Americas speak the truth about our history and the current issues and struggles we are involved in.

Thanksgiving in this country— and in particular in Plymouth—is much more than a harvest home festival. It is a celebration of the pilgrim mythology. According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.

The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective national myth. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod—before they made it to Plymouth—was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians’ winter provisions of corn and beans as they were able to carry. In doing this, they were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.

The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of people from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.

About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of their lands, and never-ending repression. They were treated either as quaint relics from the past or virtually invisible.

When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered unreasonable. When we speak the truth about the history of the European invasion, we are often told to “go back where we came from.” But we came from right here, our roots are here. They do not extend across any ocean.

The National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when Wamsutta Frank James, a Wampanoag, was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak in praise of the white man for bringing civilization to the poor heathens. Native people from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth that year where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated, and mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.

But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the circumstances of 1970. Can we give thanks as we remember Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed by the FBI and has been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of federal prosecutors and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. To Native people, the case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by the U.S. government against us. While the media in New England present images of the “Pequot miracle” in Connecticut, the vast majority of Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.

Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations, unemployment rates surpass 50 percent? Our life expectancies are much lower, our infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of white Americans. Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and countless local and national sports teams, persist.

Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native nations signed has been broken by the U.S. government. Bipartisan budget cuts have severely reduced educational opportunities for Native youth and the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused deadly cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services. Are we to give thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?

Perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged by the Mexican government against indigenous peoples there, with the military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other equipment? When the descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them “illegal aliens” and hunt them down.

We object to the “Pilgrim’s Progress” parade and to what goes on in Plymouth because they are making millions of tourist dollars every year from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.

Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to Thanksgiving (and such holidays as Columbus Day). They are coming to the conclusion that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first face the truth about the history of this country and the toll that history has taken on the lives of millions of indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.

The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work for many people in this country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience in America, “We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” Exactly.

Mahtowin Munro (Lakota) and Moonanum James (Wampanoag) are coleaders of United American Indians of New England (www.home.earthlink. net/ ~uainendom).