This Week's Program: Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Gracie Horne announces the World Peace and Prayer Day 2005 at Paha Sapa, known to many people as the Black Hills, South Dakota. Sounds like it'll be a great time. This event is on June 21, and will be preceded by the Prayer Run for World Peace, which begins on May 15 and ends on June 15 in Piedmont, South Dakota.

Tama Waipara and Ataahua Papa visit the studio to promote the Pacifika - New York Hawaiian Film Festival and to share their Maori perspectives and wisdom with us. Ataahua has a sister showing a film that sounds very interesting. It provides on view on how New Zealanders were impacted by the events of 9/11.

Kent Lebsock comes down to the studio to speak about Globalization and Indigenous Peoples. Kent is Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance, an organization that has been committed to struggling for the rights of Indigenous peoples for the past 16 years. He discussed the nuances of globalization and highlighted that globalization is a concept that is not alien to many Indigenous societies.

Mac Suara Kadiwel, a Brazilian Indigenous Land Rights Activist, comes to the studio to speak about the racists policies of the Brazilian government and the disparities Indigenous peoples face regarding human rights and land rights. Amnesty International released a report on Indigenous peoples on March 30, 2005 and their treatment in Brazil.

It was a show brimming with brightness and awareness - Indigenous Voices cutting through the silence! We hope you can listen to our next show, which won't be until after the May fund-drive ends at WBAI. We will be on the air on May 11th to raise funds.

On Indians and Patriotism

April 28, 2005, Indian Country Today, Steven Newcomb - Indigenous Law Institute After the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, millions of Americans became more fervent in their patriotism toward the United States. In this era of the Patriot Act, those who dare to question ''patriotism'' are made to feel that they may be ''treading on thin ice.'' One American Indian leader even suggested that you can tell who a ''real'' Indian is because a ''real'' Indian is patriotic toward the United States.

This made me wonder about my own thoughts on patriotism. After considerable reflection, I have decided that because of my spiritual beliefs, and because of all that our Native ancestors have suffered at the hands of the United States, I consider myself to be a ''matriot.'' A matriot is someone who loves, is loyal to, and promotes the interests of Mother Earth. I consider myself deeply matriotic.

As a result of those who had a patriotic dedication to promoting the patriarchal interests of the American empire, entire Indian nations no longer exist: their ancestral lands that made their way of life viable were taken over by an imperial country. Look east of the Mississippi River, where highly intelligent and vibrant Indian civilizations once thrived on hundreds of millions of acres of land, with their own languages, cultures, economies and spiritual traditions. How many of those Native civilizations still exist there?

Thanks to U.S. patriotism and the Indian Removal Act, relatively few Indian nations exist east of the Mississippi, on extremely small areas of their once-vast ancestral lands. Almost all Indian nations west of the Mississippi have been squeezed into smaller areas of land, the vast majority of their ancestral lands stripped from them.

Look at all the lands where my matrilineal and matriotic Delaware ancestors once lived, in what is now known as Manhattan Island, Delaware, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. With patriotic fervor, first European colonists and later the United States took over our lands, thereby destroying our traditional world and spiritual way of life.

Think of the many thousands of years in which our respective indigenous languages evolved, accumulating knowledge and wisdom over eons. And think of all the patriotic effort that U.S. government officials and Christian missionaries dedicated to destroying our respective Native languages, right down to their cognitive roots.

In their patriotic fervor, such people had no regard for our rich heritage, only contempt for our cultural and spiritual knowledge. Their patriotic work involved an ardent and greed-laden desire to destroy us in order to fatten and enrich themselves, as ''God's chosen people,'' on our lands and resources, to which they felt eminently entitled based on the ''promised land'' narrative of their ''good book.''

Because our indigenous languages reflect our own indigenous conceptual systems, which are rooted in our brains, the systematic abuse of American Indian children by the United States in an effort to destroy our Indian languages affected those Indian children to their core. Those children were our ancestors, our aunts and uncles, our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers - relatives of all the members of our respective nations.

One of the things U.S. boarding schools beat into American Indian children was patriotism toward the American flag and devotion to the Bible, in part by working to make Indian children ashamed of their own Native spirituality. As a spiritual matter and as a matter of conscience, how can I feel patriotic toward a political entity that worked so hard to destroy us as distinct nations and peoples that have existed in this hemisphere for thousands and thousands of years?

However, I am extremely matriotic toward Mother Earth. Matriotism is entirely consistent with our traditional cultural and spiritual way of life. I believe that a society dedicated to the values of matriotism would honor and respect motherhood and ''the motherland.'' It would acknowledge women as a source of life. It would support women and help them to thrive and excel by powerfully nurturing their innate intelligence. It would not abuse them emotionally, physically or sexually. A matriotic society would not regard women, or men, as a kind of property.

A society dedicated to matriotism - a sacred regard for the Earth and all living things - also would not allow poisons, such as pesticides, petroleum and toxic nuclear wastes, to leach into the veins of Mother Earth.

One example of Mother Earth being poisoned is found in the town of Moab, Utah, on the edge of the Colorado River where, according to a recent report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, some 58,000 gallons of radioactive liquid leach each and every day into sacred waters upon which animals, fish and millions of people rely.

Another such example is the Columbia River. For generations, highly radioactive liquid has been leaching from decomposing steel drums at the Hanford nuclear facility into the groundwater that runs into the Columbia River and the fish that live there. Now the U.S. government plans to bury 77,000 tons of radioactive waste in Yucca Mountain in the Western Shoshone territory.

Given such patriarchal desecrations, I am content to be matriotic like my Shawnee and Delaware ancestors. As they and all our indigenous ancestors knew, we only have one Mother Earth, and we are all her children.

Steven Newcomb is the indigenous law research coordinator at Kumeyaay Community College on the Sycuan Indian Reservation, co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and a columnist for Indian Country Today.

Congress: Make the streets safe for Indian women too!

April 28, 2005, Indian Country Today, Suzan Shown Harjo The streets of Indian country aren't safe for American Indian and Alaska Native women. Nearly 90 percent of the perpetrators of violent crimes against Native women are non-Indians - 60 percent are white men - and Native nations can't touch them.

Congress created this haven for non-Indian criminals on reservations and it's up to Congress to fix it. The 109th Congress has a chance to do that very thing this year, when it considers reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

VAWA 2005 is being drafted now to address the deplorable situation of women in America, where physical abuse is a feature of one-quarter of all marriages and where one-third of women who are treated in emergency rooms are victims of domestic violence.

While Native women also sustain injuries in abusive relationships, most of the men who assault Native women are strangers or acquaintances (80 percent) rather than intimate partners or family members (20 percent), according to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report, ''American Indians and Crime (1992 - 2002),'' issued in December 2004.

This statistical profile and a raft of other studies, including the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey, report that:

* American Indian and Alaska Native women are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as other women in America. * American Indian and Alaska Native women suffer sexual assaults at a rate of more than three times that of women of other races. * More than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped during her lifetime. * The rate of violent crime experienced by American Indian women is nearly 50 percent higher than that reported by black males, the second highest gender/race category victimized by violent crime.

Most violent crimes are committed intra-racially, as with white-on-white crime. This is not the pattern in Indian country, where 88 percent of the perpetrators of violent crime against Indians are non-Indians.

Why can't Indian governments punish these violent non-Indians and why should Congress step in? It's a long, complex history, but the short answer is that the federal government made this jurisdictional mess and should take every opportunity to clean it up.

Over a century ago in the name of ''Indian civilization,'' the federal government criminalized tribal traditions and took control of the reservations. When the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government did not have jurisdiction over Indian murders of Indians, Congress enacted the Major Crimes Act, authorizing federal jurisdiction over murder and other serious offenses involving Indian people.

Congress expanded federal jurisdiction, effectively restricting tribal authorities, under the Assimilative Crimes Act and myriad gaming, environmental, repatriation, arts and other laws. Tribal jurisdiction and remedies were limited under the federal tribal termination policy. Starting in the 1940s, Congress gave selected states certain criminal and civil authorities over Indian offenses. In the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, Congress restricted the sentencing authority of tribal courts to a one-year imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that Indian tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians in criminal matters.

That brings us to the present situation, where Native nations cannot punish non-Indians who harm Indian women in Indian territory, or can only give them a slap on the wrist. There are many reasons why the federal and state governments aren't doing a better job at bringing these bad men to justice. Basically, it comes down to geography and connectedness. The federal and state agents don't live where the crimes are being committed and the victims aren't their neighbors.

Only the reinstatement of tribal jurisdiction and remedies has a chance of reversing the epidemic levels of violence against Native women. In VAWA 2005, Congress can address the jurisdictional void that prevents Indian tribes from prosecuting non-Indians perpetrating these crimes. VAWA was signed into law in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000. VAWA 2000 mandates that protection orders from one tribe or state be afforded full faith and credit in outside jurisdictions. It also clarifies that Indian tribes have full civil jurisdiction to enforce protection orders, including authority to enforce any orders through civil contempt proceedings, the exclusion of violators from Indian lands and other ''appropriate mechanisms.''

Some states do not comply with the federal mandate and exhibit hostility toward affording full faith and credit to protection orders issued by tribal courts. Alaska's executive branch has challenged a state judge's decision allowing enforcement of a banishment order issued by the Native village of Perryville. The Minnesota Supreme Court in 2003 rejected a proposed statewide court rule for the consistent enforcement of all tribal court orders.

Advocates are working with legislators and staffers on the reauthorization of VAWA, which is set to expire this September. Advocates in Indian country would do well to work (and work fast) with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the judiciary committees to develop a bill that could stand alone or be folded into VAWA 2005.

A meaningful VAWA provision for Indian country would restore tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians in the area of violent crime against women. Proponents should be prepared for the inevitable discussion about review of tribal court decisions and opt-in/opt-out mechanisms.

At the very least, Congress should provide necessary funding to study full faith and credit implementation problems, in particular with regard to tribal domestic violence protection orders, and should withhold certain federal monies (unrelated to domestic violence prevention and response) from states that refuse to comply with VAWA's full faith and credit mandate.

VAWA's effect in Indian country would be strengthened by provisions ensuring tribal law enforcement officers' access to national databases that track criminal history; a national database of tribal protection orders and tribal adult sex offenders to track serial offenders who travel between different Indian nations; an increase in funding for tribal governments and programs providing infrastructure and services to survivors of rape, stalking and domestic and dating violence; and a tribal division within the Office on Violence Against Women to act as the liaison to tribal governments on issues unique to Indian nations and Indian women.

Congress can continue with the same jurisdictional system that devalues Native women and handicaps Native nations, or it can fill the jurisdictional void with something that might just work. If Congress fails to act, the reservation streets will remain safe for violent non-Indians - and the Indian women and their children and grandchildren will suffer. How is that good for anyone but the bad people?

Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.