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Native perspectives since September 11
Not in My Name
(from a Native perspective)
By Emmanuel Ortiz ,
Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.
And if I could just add one
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S. embargo against the country.
Before I begin this poem, two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where homeland security made them aliens in their own country
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Viet Nam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war ... ssssshhhhh .... Say nothing ... we don't want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.
Before I begin this poem,
For the hundreds of millions
of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,
So you want a moment of silence?
A moment of silence
Before I begin this poem,
And the rest of us hope to
hell it won't be.
Because this is not a 9-1-1
This is a 1492 poem.
And if this is a 9/11 poem,
This is a September 14th poem
for Somalia, 1992.
And still you want a moment
of silence for your dead?
Before I start this poem we
could be silent forever
If you want a moment of silence
If you want a moment of silence,
You want a moment of silence
Is smallpox as a weapon unthinkable?Not according to ancestors of decimated Montana tribes
By CAROL BRADLEY Tribune Staff Writer
That bioterrorists might hatch a plot to spread the lethal smallpox virus across the United States likely seems farfetched to some Americans, but not to the Blackfeet, the Assinboine, the Crow and the Gros Ventre.
Montana's Indian tribes know only too well how deadly the disease known to their ancestors as "Rotting Face" can be.
Since 1980, smallpox has all but disappeared around the globe. But in 1837-38, the highly contagious virus decimated tribes in the Northern Plains, killing nearly 20,000 Indians and helping open the doors of the West to white settlers.
"With Indian tribes, the evidence can be unrefutable that germ warfare can actually exterminate a whole group of people, so it's frightening," Joe McGeshick, a history professor at Fort Peck Community College, said.
One hundred and sixty-five years later, tribal members know only the time-worn tales of how entire tribal villages suddenly contracted itchy rashes and mysterious blister-like lesions on their faces. Of warriors returning home not to cheers and celebration but to bloated bodies. Of tribal members shooting themselves and their children to avoid smallpox's wrath.
In a matter of weeks, Indians "lost their philosophers, their botanists ... a wide spectrum of people in the tribe," said Darrell Kipp, founder and director of the Piegan Institute, a private research facility in Browning.
"As a result, the remaining survivors lost a large body of knowledge," Kipp added. "Consequently, you could probably say the disease had not only a profound impact on them physically but also impacted their cultures, their whole being."
Whether the U.S. government deliberately issued blankets infested with smallpox to western tribes is a matter of debate.
It is known that during the French and Indian Wars of the 1760s, British soldiers distributed blankets used by smallpox patients to native Indian populations back East. The resulting epidemics killed as many as half of those tribes.
In his 1985 book "Atlas of the North American Indian," author Carl Waldman writes that a British captain, Simeon Ecuyer, sent blankets and handkerchiefs contaminated with smallpox to Indians surrounding a fort. He did so at the suggestion of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, commanding general of the British forces in North America.
"Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?" Amherst wrote another subordinate in 1763. "We must of this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them."
Many modern-day tribal members believe steadfastly that western Indian tribes also were contaminated intentionally with smallpox. Legend has it that in the 1860s white men distributed to the Gros Ventre little strips of infected cloth or materials that spewed the virus in a mist when opened, tribal member Harold Main says.
Scholars maintain the 1837 epidemic was accidental -- the result of infested linens carelessly packed aboard a steamboat that made its way up the Missouri in the summer of 1837.
According to the federal Indian Health Services, health services for Native Americans began in the early 1800s when Army doctors worked to stave off smallpox and other contagious diseases among tribes living near military posts.
The 1837 plague wasn't the first or the last, only the worst.
Crow Indians escaped huge losses. Having gotten wind of smallpox's spread, they steered clear of their trading post, Fort Van Buren, along the Yellowstone River, and lost just 20 percent of their population.
Although Gros Ventre Indians -- many of whom now reside on the Fort Belknap reservation -- were said to have developed partial immunity as the result of an earlier smallpox epidemic, Main says three quarters of the population died from the disease. That's the number Chief Old Lame Bull quoted in the late 1800s. Main's grandfather served as his interpreter.
The Assiniboine also lost thousands. The Blackfoot Nation lost an estimated 6,000 members -- nearly two-thirds of its population.
Stories are still told of Assiniboine bodies being tossed into the Missouri because the ground was too frozen to dig a burial pit. Legend tells of two Crow warriors who, after discovering their village depleted by a later smallpox epidemic, committed suicide by blindfolding their gray horse and riding it off the cliff located behind where the Metra Expo Center in Billings now stands.
To this day, Crow Indians recount the lives of famous leaders who were able to fend off every threat but smallpox, said Tim McCleary, head of general studies at Little Big Horn College on the Crow Indian Reservation southeast of Billings.
"One man was named Two Face or Double Face," McCleary said. "He had gone against the enemy a number of times and never been injured. ... The oral tradition talks about him because (his death) was such a great loss."
Greg Campbell, a professor of anthropology and head of the University of Montana's anthropology department, is fascinated more by how Northern Plains Indian tribes managed to rebound and rebuild viable societies despite the onset of a major disease every 8.3 years.
For example, when smallpox all but wiped out the Mandan tribe in what's now North Dakota, the survivors -- mostly women -- married men from other tribes. The Mandans traced their descent through women, so the children born to the couple were raised as Mandans, Campbell said.
By the time Indians were cordoned off on reservations, epidemics like smallpox began to be replaced by more chronic diseases such as diabetes, Campbell said.
McGeshick, who has a Ph.D. in American studies from Washington State University, says smallpox left an enormous legacy, not just physically but spiritually.
Most Indian populations attribute sickness, death and bad luck to a moral breakdown in their community, McGeshick said. When Indian people watched their own dying by the thousands at the same time white people were multiplying, "they probably felt white people had more power," he said.
That would explain why so many Indians were willing to convert to Christianity not long afterward, McGeshick added.
Given the past, it's also not surprising that Blackfeet tribal members willingly lined up to receive smallpox vaccinations when he was a child, recalled Kipp, who's now 57.
Vaccinations were "very common in those days," he said. "It was something no one argued with."
Doctors stopped giving smallpox vaccinations altogether in the United States in 1971. That means there's at least one generation of Americans that has no clue about this treacherous disease.
"I think we've really become complacent in terms of the impact of what smallpox had," Kipp said. Today, "we're probably more cognizant of the impacts of AIDS than what smallpox could do."
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 15:05:03 -0600
September 22, 2002
New York Times magazine
by Gregg Bourland as told to Susan Burton
A Pox on Our House
I'm the tribal chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. We're in west-central South Dakota, probably farther away from civilization than any other reservation in the United States. You would think that being out here, we wouldn't be so worried about potential terrorist attacks. I don't think that Al Qaeda is the least bit concerned about Native America. But smallpox is highly contagious. A lot of the tribal council members are jet-setting around the country. One carrier could travel to 10 major cities in the United States in just a couple days' time and spread it God knows where.
I was reared by my grandparents on the reservation. My grandmother would tell me how she had lost uncles and her grandma to the disease, how it had devastated our family. The recent talk about smallpox brought back those horror stories.
It's estimated that smallpox and European-borne diseases killed at least half of the Native Americans on this continent. Of course, some diseases also had devastating effects on the European populations. Native Americans had virtually no tolerance, no immunity, to smallpox. It's a historical fact that in the 18th century, some Europeans deliberately tried to infect Native Americans with the disease. In 1763, British officials gave Native Americans blankets that had been used in a hospital for people with smallpox. The rest of the world just might get a taste of what Native Americans went through when conquistadors planted their feet on our soil.
I wrote a letter to Senator Tom Daschle. Because his office had an anthrax attack, I felt that my letter would be very close to his heart. I was asking that vaccines be provided for every Native American who wishes to be immunized. I'm all for the health-care workers, doctors, nurses, people on the front lines, soldiers -- I'm all for them getting it. But the Native American people have always been the last to get anything. Our feeling is that we better start shouting now. What are the plans in the event of an outbreak? None of the politicians want to talk about it. Native America wants to talk about it. We all need to be aware of the symptoms. If I came down with smallpox today, I wouldn't even know what the heck it was.
When I was a kid, the entire reservation was inoculated for smallpox. I remember the day that I got it because the big to-do was that it always left a little round mark on your arm. But when they vaccinated me, it didn't leave the little round mark. It left no mark at all. So I always used to wonder if I was really vaccinated or not.
Last November, I was on a radio talk show, ''Native America Calling.'' Quite a few people called in. One lady said, ''Maybe Native Americans built up an immunity; maybe you guys are more immune than the rest of us.''
I told her, ''It would be nice if your theory would work, but how do you test that?''
On the same show, I chastised one guy, a Native American, who was ready to give up. He said, ''If smallpox hits . . . well, we're at war; people will die.''
I told him: ''That's not a warrior's attitude. That's a defeatist's. When you go to war, you're going to have your weapons to fight back. Smallpox is preventable. We can fight back.''
Smallpox is personal for me because of the stories my grandmother told me as I was growing up. My grandma's grandma, my great-great-grandmother, her name was Blue Earrings. She was a powerful Lakota medicine woman. They say that she drank water all the time. She got sick from smallpox, and when she was getting ready to die, she asked for a bowl of water. She said, ''I'm going to show you part of my powers, and why I'm sick.''
They put the bowl in front of her, and she spit into it, and out of her mouth flew four little water creatures. Here in the Dakotas, around the edge of lakes, there are these insects. They look as if they can walk on the water. They skitter. Three of them were jumping around in the bowl, and the other was dead. She pointed and said: ''See, that one got sick from this white man's disease, from smallpox. If that one can't live, I can't live, either.'' And she died.
I don't know if you believe in spiritual things. But I think Blue Earrings would want me to do what I'm doing right now, fighting for my people, for their right to survive in a world free from smallpox. These stories are very real to us. They're vivid in our memory yet. Unfortunately they're not vivid in the memory of the general populace.
In our Lakota way, the children are the future, and the elders are the keepers of wisdom. I am very concerned that the elders and the children are protected first, then the rest. If there isn't enough vaccine to go around, fine, I've lived 45 years, I'll be glad to donate mine to some child or elder. I don't want to see anyone suffer. I just hope that they come up with enough vaccine for everybody in our country. I don't want to seem selfish just for Native Americans. But I have to defend my people first.
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 15:05:03 -0600
Afghanistan to Big Mountain -
We Are All Native Americans Today
Sept. 15, 2001
Terror and death filled the air.
The attack was totally unpredictable, and our people taken completely by surprise.
One minute, we were living our peaceful, ordinary lives, savoring a beautiful morning, playing with our children or going about our "business as usual." In the next moment, explosions, balls of fire and smoke, the air filled with the screams of helpless men, women and children, the bodies of friends and family falling torn and lifeless at our feet.
And the children. What about our children?
In the first moments of the attack, brave ones charged forward in valiant efforts to rescue the wounded and hasten survivors to places of safety. Then another vicious and cowardly attack, explosions rock the air, and our world comes down in fire, taking the lives of the rescuers as well.
Through the horror, the chaos and the savagery of these assaults on our people, we know that our lives � our very way of life � will never be the same again. Attacked by a foreign and hateful presence, the lives of innocent people torn from our hearts on our own native soil, we wrestle with emotions and decisions heretofore unknown to us. Ones that we thought we were forever insulated from.
We have been violated.
And what about our children? Will they ever feel safe again?
We need time to find our relatives, for some might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of our people. We need to gather what food we can find, find our weapons and find our ponies scattered in the hills. Above all, we need to gather together and pray for the future of our people.
You see, this account of horror could've been written dozens of times throughout the brief and glorious history of our nation.
Perhaps after the Baker Massacre of the Blackfeet Indians. Innocent men, women and children killed senselessly and brutally.
Perhaps after the Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyennes in Colorado. Again, innocent noncombatants slaughtered beneath not only a white flag of truce, but an American flag as well.
Or perhaps the same could've been written after the "battle" of the Washita, where Black Kettle and the rest of his family and survivors of Sand Creek were cut down by Custer.
Need I even mention Wounded Knee?
Terror is not new to American soil, nor is our government a stranger to it.
This nation was begun, expanded, and founded on terrorism � but in those times it was cloaked in the shimmering mantle of "Manifest Destiny." Thousands of innocent Native American men, women and children were murdered in the name of this particular form of terrorism.
You may argue that was war, but does any war justify the killing of women? Of the elderly? The killing of babies?
Make no mistake, whoever attacked our nation last Tuesday certainly is at war with us, but does that justify the horrific deaths of so many innocent men, women and children?
Know our enemy
The point is, all governments, all people are capable of terrorism. The United States stands proudly as the world's defender of truth, justice, democracy and human rights, yet our government is not innocent.
Remember Kent State? Innocent people died.
Remember My Lai?
And if you DON'T think that thousands of innocent people have been killed so that we can put gasoline in our SUVs, perhaps you need to think again....
Our government and our nation is outraged, filled with righteous indignation, and rightly so. I am as hurt and angered and hungry to retaliate against those responsible as anyone else.
But we cannot go forward under the blind belief that our own government has not carried out acts of terror, on our own soil and around the world. We need to remember that our own government, throughout its brief history, has committed horrible acts of terrorism against innocent people, as well. In this way, we can begin to know our enemy, begin to understand the anger and the hatred they feel for us. It is not an unjustified anger. Not something that they've made up.
Native Americans have known that anger. Native Americans cannot help but remember certain moments in our history that stand out as events that forever changed our way of life, changed the way we look at the world, and changed the stories that we tell our children. Our history and destiny were forever altered by the terrorism of the late 1800s.
But we have survived.
And so shall our great nation.
For now, we need time to find our relatives, for some of them might still survive. We need time to mourn the loss of so many of our people. We need time to grieve.
We then need to solidify, gather our strength, unify behind our leaders, take steps to protect our people and our homeland and somehow punish the enemy.
For we are all one people now, we are ALL Native Americans.
And above all, we need to gather together as one and pray for the future of our people. Because, what about the children?
Mohawk Ironworkers See Terrorist Plane
The Day the World Stopped
Mohawk Skywalkers at Ground Zero, the heart of rescue effort to find survivors at World Trade Centre carnage
NEW YORK (CP) _ Mohawk steelworker Kyle Beauvais said he's seen things in the rubble of the World Trade Center that he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy. "We found 50 (bodies) in one area of the rubble," said Beauvais, who finished his third consecutive overnight shift early Friday searching for survivors and clearing the rubble.
"You see the wildest things. Half a head, half a hand, one finger with a ring on it." Such are some of the grim realities at what's being called ground zero, where Mohawk steelworkers from Quebec perform much of the difficult work.
They have to get on top of the rubble with acetylene torches to cut massive steel beams before they can be safely taken away by crane to give rescue workers access to what lies underneath.
Fifty Mohawks have participated in the relief effort since Tuesday's terrorist attack collapsed the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They hail from Kahnawake, south of Montreal, and Akwesasne, which straddles the Quebec, Ontario and New York State borders and Six Nations. Many helped build the twin 110-story towers 30 years ago.
"The first thing you think when you get there is that you're looking at what used to be 220 floors of steel, and you wonder where it all is," said Chester Goodleaf, 47.
Roy Phillips, 38, whose hard hat has a Mohawk Warrior logo on it, said the height of the rubble suggests that most of what was the twin towers has been compressed into it's seven basement floors. "It seems like the floors collapsed downward one on top of the other, while the exterior walls collapsed outward," he said.
Many of the Mohawk steelworkers were working on an overpass on the Bruckner Expressway in Bronx, when they suddenly found themselves at the epicenter of the biggest story of the young 21st century. It wasn't as if they were not used to pressure, given that many were Warriors who played active roles in the 78-day Oka standoff in 1990.
"Your adrenaline gets going," said Rusty Phillips, who predicted it will take months before the cleanup is completed and reconstruction can begin.
September 11th cont...
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