Video: Resist 2010: 8 Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics

Back in February, a contributor wrote about the 2010 Olympics that are being held in Vancouver and the inspiring organizing being done to oppose the Olympics by a broad coalition of social justice groups.

As a follow-up to that piece, we are publishing a fifteen minute documentary produced by anti-Olympic activists about the 2010 Olympics and the impact that the games will have on the city of Vancouver. The organizing in Vancouver is particularly relevant because a nearby midwestern city–Chicago–is currently working to host the 2016 Olympics. Like the Vancouver Olympics, there is already organizing against the Chicago games via the group No Games Chicago.

Resist 2010: Eight Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics. (LOW RES) from BurningFist Media on Vimeo.

Olympic Resistance Network Exposes Negative Consequences of the Olympics

Organizing against the 2010 Olympics

Since the 2010 Olympic bid in Vancouver began in 1998, organizing against the games has been strong. Activists are resisting for a variety of reasons, such as the long history of colonialism/racism associated with the Olympics, or the fact that the 2010 Games are set to take place on stolen land (unceded Indigenous territories). The Games will virtually destroy this land by cutting down tens of thousands of trees and blasting mountaintops in order to build Olympic facilities and infrastructure. As a result, Vancouver has already lost over 850 units of low-income housing and homelessness has increased exponentially, from 1,000 to 2,500 since 2003, and is estimated to rise to 6,000 by 2010.

With the Olympics come a Host of Negative–and Often Overlooked–Consequences

It is common for host cities to criminalize the poor – in Vancouver, as part of Project Civil City, new laws have passed to make begging for money and sleeping outdoors criminal acts, new garbage cans make it difficult to dig through, and new outside benches make it impossible to lie down. In 2010, Vancouver will become a virtual police state, with about 12,500 police, military and security personnel to be deployed.

The Games will also increase public debt in the area – although officials claim the cost of the 2010 Olympic Games will be $2 million, this figure does not include the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion, the Canada Line Skytrain to the airport, the Vancouver Convention Center, or the lower mainland Gateway Project, which were all necessary to win the Olympic bid. In reality, the 2010 Olympics will cost Vancouver about $6 million, paid for through public debt (money that could have been used on social services, housing, health care and other programs to build community.)

The Olympics also have a negative impact on women in Vancouver – the event will draw thousands of spectators and cause large increases in prostitution and trafficking of women. There are already 68 women in the area who are murdered or missing – most of them were reportedly involved in the sex trade. This violence against women will only increase in 2010.

The Olympic Games are also used as a means of increasing corporate investment. The government in BC has offered incentives such as tax cuts to increase industries such as mining, oil and gas drilling, and ski resorts. This will not only cause further destruction to the local environment, but also result in greater corporate power and influence over the area.

Varied Resistance to the 2010 Olympics

Resistance to the 2010 Olympics has taken on a variety of tactics. In April 2006, environmentalists began a blockade of construction work for the Sea-to-Sky Highway – 24 protestors were arrested after blocking construction for one month. In fall 2006, the Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) occupied a number of vacant buildings and hotels to highlight the issue of homelessness in the area. Over 25 Committee members were arrested. On February 12, 2007, Anti-Olympic protestors disrupted the 2010 Countdown Event. When a large countdown clock was unveiled, a masked Native stormed stage and seized the microphone, yelling “Fuck 2010! Fuck your corporate circus!” A member of the APC also got on stage, yelling “Homes Not Games!” Some 80 protesters scuffled with police; altogether seven persons are arrested. The event was on live television. The following month, the Olympic flag at City Hall was stolen. In December 2007, the windows of several Royal Bank of Canada branches in Vancouver were smashed (RBC is one of the main sponsors of the 2010 Olympics).

Ongoing Organizing

The No 2010 Network was established in December 2007 to organize anti-Olympic resistance. A Native Anti-2010 Network was established to coordinate indigenous resistance. These organizers are preparing for a convergence during the games, “calling anti-colonial and anti-capitalist forces in Vancouver, Feb. 10-15, 2010, to confront and disrupt the 2010 Olympic Games.”

On the web site, one can find regular updates from Vancouver, a calendar of various events taking place in resistance during the next year, as well as links and resources for more information about the 2010 Olympic Games.

Columbus and other Cannibals

Jack D. Forbes’ Columbus and other Cannibals is a powerful book that will challenge readers’ basic assumptions about western civilization.

Click on the image to purchase this book through Purchases help support

Jack Forbes’ Columbus and Other Cannibals was one of the early books to come out of the anti-civilization movement. That milieu–dedicated to the destruction of civilization and all that comes with it–offers an often difficult, yet lucid critique of what is wrong with the world. Arguing that problems are more than governments, economic systems, or individual systems of oppression, the movement argues that problems arise specifically from the very notion of civilization and that problems in society are ingrained in the fabric of society. First published in 1978 and reprinted this year by Seven Stories Press (containing additional chapters), Columbus and other Cannibals introduces readers to this challenging theory.

Forbes–a longtime Native American activist and professor–roots his critique of civilization in the perspective of the indigenous peoples who were subjected to genocide, ecocide, and terrorism at the behest of European conquerors. To explain this, Forbes introduces readers to the Native American concept of the “Wetiko” psychosis–the disease of cannibalism:

“Wetiko is a Cree term which refers to a cannibal or, more specifically, an evil person or spirit who terrorizes other creatures by means of terrible evil acts, including cannibalism.”

Forbes argues that Columbus–the first conqueror–carried this “terribly contagious psychological disease” and introduced it to the Americas. He argues that western civilization is built on imperialism and exploitation, which are essentially forms of cannibalism. Forbes defines cannibalism as “the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.”

Throughout the book, Forbes explores different aspects of the Wetiko psychosis including the aforementioned genocide of the Native Americans, the rise of patriarchy, authoritarianism, state terrorism, and the state itself. Forbes weaves historical examples into his writing, discussing the Israel-Palestine situation, 9/11, US intervention in Central and South America, and the Roman Empire. He analyzes different aspects of the Wetiko psychosis including lying, sadism, and arrogance–all of which are necessary traits. He also argues that the primary beneficiaries of Wetiko societies are the wealthy and those who rule, but that it is also organized, systemic behavior that depends on the support of those living within Wetiko society. Forbes argues that the system often uses the promise of material prosperity to stifle dissent and gain supporters, some of whom do the dirty work of the ruling class. As examples, Forbes explores colonialism and class conflict.

However, while Forbes is a strong critic of much of what the western world has done, Columbus and other Cannibals is not without hope. At the end of the book, Forbes talks about the possibilities for curing western culture of the Wetiko disease. He stresses the importance of a spiritual movement to confront the insanity of the Wetiko psychosis, as it is a “sickness of the spirit.” He rejects Christianity, explaining that it has all to often allowed or aided Wetiko destruction. Instead, Forbes speaks positively of Native spirituality and a dramatically different way of living in relation to the Earth and other living things. He argues that people need to realize that they are part of the Earth and advocates for a form of animism or “life-ism” that has respect for life, respect for the living, and a respect for all forms of life. Such a worldview would fundamentally change how western culture sees the world:

“But this earth of ours is not ugly. Nor this sky, nor this sun, nor this moon. Nor are the animals and the plants ugly. We live in a mysterious, marvelous universe and it offers us a chance to be cured by its loving embrace.”

Columbus and other Cannibals offers an important critique of the insanity of western civilization, while also offering a possible path for renewal. It is the kind of book that has the potential to greatly expand people’s consciousness and foster a great understanding of the world and what needs to be changed. At the same time, it challenges the basic assumptions of western culture and forces the reader to explore the very foundations of society. Readers who stick through the book will be greatly rewarded.

Jack D. Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals, (Seven Stories Press, 2008).

College Newspaper Defends Agema’s Native American Tuition Plan

The Lanthorn–the student newspaper at GVSU–has come to the defense of West Michigan area Representative Dave Agema’s plan to abolish the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver. Like Agema, the paper completely ignores the fact that the Waiver is guaranteed in legally binding treaties signed in the 1890s and 1900s.

The Lanthorn, the student newspaper at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), has come to the defense of West Michigan area representative Dave Agema’s plan to abolish the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver. The Waiver, codified in 1976 but guaranteed in treaties signed with legally sovereign Native American nations in the 1890s and 1900s, give many Native American students free tuition at state run colleges and universities in Michigan.

In an article titled “Legislator: State should cut Indian Tuition Waiver,” The Lanthorn reports that 101 students at GVSU qualify for the waiver. The article quotes a student, Josh Leask, who receives the waiver as saying “(The waiver) helped me out so much, and I wouldn’t even consider myself bad off… he said. “But there are definitely some disadvantaged people out there that need that money … by (removing the waiver), it will cut the legs out from a lot of students who depend on this to better their lives.”

However, this comment seems lost on The Lanthorn‘s staff, as they instead call for abolishing the waiver in an editorial titled “Wave it goodbye.” The Lanthorn portrays Native Americans as getting a “free ride” and portrays the Waiver as being in violation of the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative Proposal 2. The Lanthorn writes:

“Minority scholarships are one thing, but singling out an entire nationality based on a 30-year-old waiver just isn’t fair. Native Americans, along with all nationalities, deserve the right to receive higher education at little to no cost, but it should be based on merit and not skin color.”

Of course, The Lanthorn misses the fact that the Indian Tuition Waiver exists due to treaty obligations. Treaties that were signed between sovereign nations. Moreover, The Lanthorn fails to take into account the legacy of more than 500 years of colonialism and genocide. To a large degree, the Waiver exists because the conquest of the Americas devastated the Native American population.

Film: The Canary Effect next Wednesday

Next week, is co-sponsoring the film “THE CANARY EFFECT” with the Bloom Collective. The film explores the genocide of Native Americans and the ongoing effects of colonialism.

June 25 – 8pm


115 S Division

$2 Suggested Donation

THE CANARY EFFECT is an eye opening documentary uncovering the hidden

genocide and continuing struggle of the American Indian way.

The film is sponsored by The Bloom Collective and


West Michigan Legislator wants to Renege on Obligations to Native Americans

West Michigan area representative Dave Agema of Grandville has made the news again, this time stating that he believes that the state of Michigan should no longer give Native Americans free tuition. In an article in The Kalamazoo Gazette, Agema says “Casinos are making billions of dollars for Indian tribes. But we are paying for their kids to go to college” and recommends that the state stop paying for Native Americans to attend public universities and community colleges in the state. Agema introduced a bill seeking to abolish the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, but it has not been moved out of committee despite his protests. He says that:

“The college tuition waiver isn’t necessary anymore since casinos and their revenue sharing with tribal members are thriving despite Michigan’s economic malaise. In fact, the tribes likely have more reserve funds than the state of Michigan.”

He further argues that the waiver program violates the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 passed in 2004 that makes it so no public university or community college can give preferential treatment on the basis of race. Agema says that “I’m not against Native Americans, but you’re picking out one particular group and giving them something for free when no one else can get it.”

However, Agema is apparently quite ignorant of the fact that these tuition payments exist in part as a means–however limited–of compensating Native Americans for the fact that white European-Americans like himself stole their land and continue to act from a colonial mentality in dealing with Native Americans. The Kalamazoo Gazette article points out that the tuition payment requirement is included in treaties–with legally sovereign nations–signed in the 1890s and the 1900s. However, as is par for the course with the government’s treaty obligations, Michigan failed to formalize the agreement until 1976.

Unfortunately, this level of ignorance is no surprise coming from Agema. In the past, he has held hearings promoting anti-immigration views, has said that he wants to make Michigan “a more difficult place for illegals to survive,” has advocated bombing mosques, and has called for public school teachers to be armed.

Interview with Donna Lee Van Cott

Earlier this month, sat down with Donna Lee Van Cott to talk about indigenous movements in the Americas. Van Cott is a professor at the University of Connecticut. She was in Grand Rapids to give the opening talk at Grand Valley State University’s “Persistent Divides: Marginalization and Exclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean” symposium. also wrote an article on Van Cott’s talk.

Interview with Donna Lee Van Cott

Indigenous Politics in Latin America: From Movements to Parties to Power

On Friday, Donna Lee Van Cott gave the opening talk at GVSU’s Latin American Studies Symposium. Van Cott discussed the recent mobilization and ascendancy of indigenous peoples in the Americas.

On Friday, Donna Lee Van Cott gave the opening talk for Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Latin American Studies Symposium, “Persistent Divides: Marginalization and Exclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean“. She began by saying that the recent mobilization and ascendancy of indigenous peoples is pretty amazing considering that even as recent as the 1980s these movements didn’t really exist. This is manifested in part by indigenous people being elected to local office, and in the case of Bolivia, to the presidency.

About 11% of Latin Americans are indigenous, with Bolivia and Guatemala having 71% and 66% of their populations of indigenous origin. The general stereotype of indigenous people, Dr. Van Cott said, is that they are subsistence farmers, but the reality is that many must migrate for work both within their own country and at times outside of their homeland, particularly to urban areas.

Historically, there were 50-100 million indigenous people prior to the European invasion. The colonial rulers did provide some protection for native people, but with greater independence from Europe the new Liberal governments began to encroach upon native lands. There was also a push to forcibly assimilate indigenous people as well. Beginning in the 1960-70s indigenous people became the target of numerous brutal military regimes throughout Latin America. Even in countries that had formal elections, there remained roadblocks for indigenous people who were often disenfranchised by the political structure.

Early on in the electoral era for indigenous people, they would often vote for candidates who made promises for services to the community. Indigenous people also used to join leftists parties, but often were excluded from any decision-making and were only used by the parties to achieve party goals. Because of this exclusion indigenous groups formed in the 1970-80s that were specifically indigenous focused. Their demands not only included land rights, but cultural rights and even sovereignty rights. In the 1980s, many of these groups broke off from the traditional groups that were organized through the entities like the unions or the church.

During the 1980s, indigenous movements did make significant changes. Some groups got bi-lingual education passed in their countries and in some cases ran those programs. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that indigenous people began to see some improvements on living conditions. Part of this was due to greater NGO (non-governmental organization) interest and international lending institutions. Transnational links began to be formed, which helped in sharing information about indigenous groups.

One of the biggest changes in the 1990s, according to Dr. Van Cott, was the constitutional reforms that favored indigenous rights. Colombia and Bolivia in particular were implementing these changes. To some degree elites in countries were beginning to pay attention to indigenous rights, with the hope of modernizing the constitution. “If the most excluded are not included, then it demonstrates the benefits of the rule of law,” said the speaker in reference to how elites saw the indigenous question at the time. In Colombia, indigenous groups began to be more a part of the electoral process, giving speeches and traveling abroad and this model influenced other countries in the region such as Bolivia and Venezuela. These success were not realized everywhere. For instance, in Guatemala, the government did not ratify the indigenous rights accords after the 1996 cease-fire. Even in Mexico, with the EZLN, the government stalled and then only adopted a watered down version of what indigenous people put forth.

What was significant for indigenous people in some of these constitutional changes were that indigenous people were now formally recognized. Secondly, they were granted the right to resolve internal problems their own way. They also gained more land rights and more cultural rights in the 1990s. She cites Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela as the countries that made more changes in favor of indigenous groups. Other countries such as Bolivia and Brazil have made only moderate changes. The speaker did mention recent constitutional reforms in Bolivia, but they still haven’t been fully realized despite having an indigenous president.

One outcome during this push for constitutional reform was the creation of indigenous political parties. She gave examples of indigenous groups or movements that eventually formed political parties. The average length of time was 14 years from organization development to forming political parties. Dr. Van Cott gave examples from Colombia, where numerous local electoral races were won and several Congressional seats were also gained by indigenous political parties. In Ecuador, the indigenous groups won 10 seats in congress in their first participation in electoral politics. In Bolivia, the indigenous groups in coca-growing regions got involved in electoral politics and won several seats. In 2002 their party came in second in the election and then in 2006 Evo Morales was elected President.

The rise of these indigenous movements in certain countries was really tied to the growing influence of the Left in those countries. This new Left was providing a better critique of neo-liberalism and had been forming better alliances. As indigenous movements have moved from social movements to political parties, to actually being decision makers with governments, it has created new tensions and in some cases divisions. People who were traditionally movement organizers are leaving to be political candidates, which means movements have suffered by having their best spokespersons leave.

Dr. Van Cott concluded by looking at some challenges that indigenous movements face, particularly now that they are more involved in electoral politics. She said that they have to minimize the divisiveness, not dilute resources and must not allow hierarchies from forming in these parties. At the same time, these indigenous parties do promote social justice more than traditional parties, they stand up to international entities and they promote equality.

An interview with Van Scott was also published by

Delegation of Lakota Peoples Withdraws from Treaties with the U.S.

Last week, a delegation of activists from the Lakota people announced that it was withdrawing from all treaties negotiated with the United States.

Last week, members of the Lakota people announced that they are withdrawing from all treaties negotiated with the United States. The declaration was read in Washington, DC by a delegation consisting of veteran Native American activists Russell Means, Phyllis Young of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), Duane Martin Sr. of the Ogala Lakota Strong Heart Society, and Garry Rowland of the of the Big Foot Riders. Means, Rowland, and Martin Sr. were all involved in the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee.

The declaration is reprinted below:

Lakotah Unilateral Withdrawal from All Agreements and Treaties with the United States of America

We as the freedom loving Lakotah People are the predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory as evidenced by the Treaties with the United States Government, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie.

Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States Government on the Lakotah People.

Lakotah, and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally.

Lakotah rejects United States Termination By Appropriation policy from 1871 to the present.

In addition, the evidence of gross violations of the above referenced treaties are listed herein.

Lakotah encourages the United States of America, through its Government, to enter into dialogue with Lakotah regarding the boundaries, the land and the resources therein. Please contact the Lakotah Interests Section, Naomi Archer, at (828) 230-1404 or

Should the United States and its subordinate governments choose not to act in good faith concerning the rebirth of our nation, we hereby advise the United States Government that Lakotah will begin to administer liens against real estate transactions within the five state area of Lakotah.

Lakotah, through its government, appointed the following representatives to withdraw from all the treaties with the United States of America based on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties entered into force in 1980 and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007:

Teghiya Kte

Heretofore known as Gary Rowland

Canupa Gluha Mani

Heretofore known as Duane Martin Sr.

Oyate Wacinyapin

Heretofore know as Russell Means

Mni yuha Najin Win

Heretofore known as Phyllis Young

The declaration was accompanied by a summary of Lakota treaties and interactions with the United States and its government. The summary helps explain why the Lakota reservations are among the most impoverished areas in North America. Lakota has the highest death rate in the United States and Lakota men have the lowest life expectancy of any nation on Earth-excluding AIDS-at approximately 44 years. The infant mortality rate is five times the U.S. average and teen suicide rates are 150% more than the national average. 97% of the people live below the poverty line and unemployment is near 85%.

The summary:

Lakotah – Political and Diplomatic Relations with the United States of America

The first official contacts between Lakotah and the government of the United States of America began in earnest after the United States conducted a commercial transaction with France, commonly known as the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803. Prior to that time, Lakotah exercised complete and unfettered freedom and independence in their territory.

According to the fantasy of United States’ history, the Louisiana Purchase was a purported sale by France to the United States of 530 million acres (2.1 million for $15 million. Part of this sale included the territory of Lakotah who, of course never had knowledge of, nor gave consent to, the sale of their national territory.

The first treaty between the U.S. and any segment of Lakotah occurred in 1805, , and various other treaties of “peace and friendship,” between Lakotah and the U.S. As citizens of the U.S. began to invade and encroach on the territory of Lakotah in increasing numbers, tensions and violence erupted. To prevent full-scale war, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was requested by the U.S., to allow a transportation route through Lakotah territory. The treaty did not impair the sovereignty or the independence of Lakotah. In fact, the treaty expressly recognized Lakotah as an independent nation, and the treaty respected “all national business” of Lakotah.

After repeated violations by the United States of the 1851 Treaty, warfare broke out between Lakotah and the U.S. Lakotah defeated the U.S. in the so-called “Red Cloud War,” leading to the U.S. to call for another treaty conference at Fort Laramie. The second treaty agreed for the U.S. to abandon the Bozeman Road, and the accompanying military forts that had been built along it, and promised to keep U.S. troops and settlers out of Lakotah territory.

Almost immediately, the U.S. began violating terms of the treaty, allowing railroad and mining interests to trespass and steal Lakotah resources and territory. In 1874, the infamous U.S. military commander, George Custer, led an invasion of the most sacred part of Lakotah territory, the Paha Sapa (Black Hills), prompting an invasion of gold seekers, and provoking another war between the U.S. and Lakotah. As a result of the war, Lakotah territory was illegally occupied by the U.S., and billions of dollars of natural resources have been stolen from the occupied territories of Lakotah.

The United States has engaged in multiple military, legal and political strategies for more than a century to deny Lakotah our right to freedom and self-determination. In 1876-77, in violations of the treaties that it had signed with Lakotah, the U.S. engaged in a sell-or-starve policy to coerce Lakotah to sell our national homeland. Lakotah refused, and has consistently refused to the present time.

In 1871, the U.S. decided no longer to enter into treaties with indigenous nations, but the U.S. treaty-ending legislation made explicit that the new policy of the United States would in no way impair or limit those treaties already in force between indigenous nations and the U.S. Lakotah have consistently relied on the sanctity of the

treaty between the U.S. and Lakotah.

As mentioned above, the United States has consistently violated the treaties between Lakotah and the U.S., resulting in the loss of life, resources, and territory for Lakotah. Although the United States was willing to take the benefit of its bargain (i.e., territory and natural resources) in signing treaties with Lakotah, it was almost immediately unwilling to respect the mutual bargain to the Lakotah. The U.S. began to use U.S. law and policy to attempt to diminish the political, economic and cultural freedom of Lakotah.

After signing the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the U.S. allowed its military, and its civilian citizens to invade Lakotah territory to steal gold, silver and other natural resources. The U.S. unilaterally violated the 1868 Treaty throughout the 1870s and 1880s by coercing alterations in the Treaty onto Lakotah, without the required 2/3 agreement of Lakotah, as required in the Treaty.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the ongoing freedom and independence of Lakotah in the landmark case of Ex Parte Crow Dog (1883), two years later, the U.S. Congress attempted to steal Lakotah independence through the passage of the Major Crimes Act, that unilaterally extended U.S. criminal jurisdiction into Lakotah territory.

These actions were followed by more arrogant actions of the United States, culminating in the shocking Supreme Court Case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903). Although Lone Wolf involved the Kiowa and Comanche Nations in what is now the State of Oklahoma, its impact adversely affected Lakotah. In Lone Wolf, the United States not only said that it could violate, change or abrogate treaties with Indian nations unilaterally, but it also said that the U.S. Congress possesses plenary (absolute) power to legislate in any way in indigenous affairs without the consent or consideration of indigenous nations.

By extension, Lone Wolf has been used to violate hundreds of treaties between the U.S. and indigenous peoples, including Lakotah. Through the operation of Lone Wolf, the U.S. stole the sacred Black Hills, allowed the mining of billions of dollars of gold from them, admitted that the Black Hills were taken in violation of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and then offered to compensate Lakotah at 1874 land values. Lakotah have, to this day, rejected the offer of payment, and continue to insist on the return of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills).

An overview of violations follows:

* Homestead Acts

* Allotment Acts

* Citizenship Act forcing United States citizenship upon all American Indians

* Indian Reorganization Act a.k.a. Howard Wheeler Act (the first Apartheid Act)

* Forced relocation during the decades of the 1950’s over the 1960’s.

* Supreme Court decision disallowing our religions.

* Even though we are citizens of the United States of America, we are denied protections of the United States Constitution while living on Indian reservations, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The operation of the United States in the nefarious ways outlined above are a violation, not only of the sovereignty and independence of Lakotah, not only of the solemn treaty signed between the U.S. and Lakotah, but it is a violation of the fundamental law of the United States itself. Article Six of the United States Constitution explicitly states that treaties signed by the United States are the supreme law of the land, and must be respected by every court and by every lawmaker, as such.

Film and Panel Discussion address Native American Genocide

On Wednesday, the GVSU School of Social Work and the Native American Student Association hosted a film and panel discussion looking at Native American genocide and how it has continued to and continues to shape the Native experience.

The Grand Valley State University (GVSU) School of Social Work and the Native American Student Association hosted a screening of the newly released documentary, The Canary Effect last night in Grand Rapids. This documentary, produced by Bastard Fairy films, is a powerful critique of the genocidal policies that Euro-Americans have committed against Native North Americans. The documentary deals with the various the various forms of genocide as have been defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention, policies like outright extermination policies, forced removal from Native land, government boarding schools, and the ongoing consequences of these policies – alcoholism, poverty, and suicide. The film features several scholars, such as Charles Abourezk, Troy Johnson, and Ward Churchill, the last of whom was mentioned by one of the panelists as being a controversial figure even in the Native community.

Following the documentary, there was a panel of several area Native Americans, including Dr. Simone Jonaitis with GVSU, Shannon Martin, Lee Sprague, Roger Williams and Ben Williams. Levi Rickert moderated the panel and posed several questions. The first question asked the panelist for general reactions to the film. Several of the panelists said it was very painful to watch, but that it provided important information on the history of what has been done to Native people. Lee Sprague said that it speaks to the fact that we are still an occupied people. “I always tell people that I reside from the territories currently occupied by the state of Michigan.” Shannon Martin said she knew “what was coming next in terms of the conquest, forced relocation, to boarding schools to substance abuse, or what we call weapons of mass destruction.” She also said, “It is important that these truths are taught and that we unlearned what we have been taught.” Dr. Jonaitis said, “for me what was so painful was to be able to put names and faces of people that I know that are in my family that these policies have affected.” All of the panelists agreed that showing this kind of film is necessary for all people if any real healing is to take place.

The next question asked was “are we victims?” Ben Williams said, “we are not playing victims, we are suffering from the post traumatic effects of the history of what has been done to us. Every day we are being exposed to what the US has done to us.” Shannon Martin said, “what we are doing is truth telling to promote what really happened to us. In many ways looking at this history is another way of acknowledging what happened to our ancestors. I have family who were subjected to the Mt. Pleasant boarding school. For my grandmother to not be able to share her language with her daughter…. we are not victims, we are survivors.” Lee Sprague says that when he was younger he had a great deal of anger directed at white people. “I had to make a choice of what to do with my anger. I don’t know that we are the biggest victims, we have to get there together. We all have a responsibility of being human.”

Levi Rickert then asked, “What are the strengths of Native communities?” Shannon Martin responded first by saying, “it’s our resiliency and adaptability. Our people adapted when they were forcibly removed. We used whatever we can to adapt and that is one of our strengths. We use the materials around us to survive. Also, our humor is our strength. Our humor is not well known since there is this stereotype of natives being a stoic people.” Ben Williams said, “despite hundreds of years in attempting to assimilate us, we still have our teachings, our ceremonies and that many of us still practice the belief in the seventh generation.” Roger Williams added that “another strength is the land, what we call mother…we actually look upon you all as renters.”

The fourth question posed to the panel was “What does the future hold for our people?” Lee Sprague responded that it is “something we need to figure out together. I think we are seeing the beginning. Our people are starting to come back home. How are we going receive them? These are generational stories that are playing out and we need to continue that.” Ben Williams thinks, “it depends on what new fights are ahead of us. You look at the Grand Rapids Public School closing of our charter school or the state taking away funding. These are the fights that will probably determine our future.” Shannon Martin felt that “there needs to be quite a bit of healing in our own communities first. Until we do that our people are going to be slaves to neo-colonial thought and systems that enslave us. We need to talk about our clan practices. We don’t need to promote a nuclear family model. My family goes all the way to the tip of South America. Our language will play a big role in this, so we need to save our languages.” Dr. Jonaitis emphasized the importance of language as well, “it will help us to understand ourselves better. This land is also important and particularly in Michigan the preservation of water is critical.” Roger Williams stated, “when White people realize that the government policies are destroying the earth that will be a turning point. Our prophecy says that White people will look to us for teachings on how to live with the earth.” Lee Sprague also mentioned the importance of water for the future. “It is so screwed up when you have 20% of the world’s fresh water and our economy is bankrupt, as is our culture. We have holidays devoted to consumerism. It is all a symptom of the sickness of our society.”

The last question from the moderator asked, “What can non-Indians do to support the Indian community?” Roger Williams emphasized “something as simple as getting our curriculum to tell the truth. Look at what is still being taught about our history in schools and get that changed.” Dr. Jonaitis continued on that theme by saying “we all have been educated in a euro-centric way. How do we want our children to see the world? We have to tell our stories through a variety of lenses. We are all responsible to listen to each other and our stories.” Shannon Martin felt that “we need to find alliances. We need to have Native people in different capacities, as teachers, academics, writers, etc. We need Native people in all these fields. Ben Williams said, “re-educate yourselves. Make sure your kids are not being taught these same lies. We need to work against celebrating things like Columbus Day. I hope to have a rally next year against Columbus Day. We need to take on other issues like the use of Native mascots.” Lee Sprague concluded by making the observation, “Native people are not in the science fiction literature, meaning we are not part of the future of this country. So, we need to make sure that we are part of the future of this country in whatever way we can.”