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May 30, 2005


We'll probably rectify these problems...at the current rate, sometime in the next century.

These problems you cite are even more troubling when one considers that, per capita, native Americans have and still serve our country at higher rates than any other groups in America. The serve our country, even though their ancestors get no credit for their battles in previous centuries in defending their nations.

I was listening to commentary on WBAI this weekend about one of Ward Churchill's books on property rights arguments in the US (from what I gleaned, the thesis was that native populations were not even cheated out of their land, which would imply a shady or misleading contract, but that there is no property rights claim at all - even a shady one - for the land the US claims as hers).

Worth reading? Or other recommendations?

Today, we will hear lots about liberty, freedom and sacrifice associated with American wars, but nothing, I will wager, about the plunder, rapine and machinations associated with some of those wars, including the Indian Wars.

Well, not nothing, but nothing where it matters most.

Emptypockets, do you remember a title? The thesis as you state it seems a little overgeneralized for Churchill. There are certainly plenty of acres that were stolen outright, including the land on which my house sits. But there were a few contracts and treaties that ceded some land - most of which were then disregarded by the whites in subsequent years.In such cases, there could be argument for the treaty equivalent of "breach of contract," but "no claim at all" sounds a bit hyperbolic.

emptypockets, in the early 1980s, Ward Churchill and I spent a lot of time together drinking and arguing into the deep hours of the night. We were for years in the American Indian Movement together. We long ago had a parting of the ways, so I am not an objective critic and don't feel comfortable commenting on his views about this subject or most others.

Two sources of material about Indian property rights are The American Indian Policy Center and my longtime favorite, The Native American Rights Fund.

But, like water law, Indian law is a complex, ever-changing, never-quite-completed-defined subject.

CC & MB, thanks for responses.

Chris, it was certainly a simplified generalized hyperbolic version of whatever Churchill actually was arguing -- that is typical for WBAI here ("your peace & justice radio station") and the summary wasn't given by the man himself but by the show's host, recounting a confrontation he had while protesting the West Point graduation ceremonies and reading that book (he then riffed on the book itself for 10 or 20 minutes). I was trying before my first post to figure out the name of the book itself, but none of his titles on amazon (or subtitles, or sub-subtitles) are ringing a bell. I think that is more due to my decaying synapses than anything else.

MB, those are not encouraging words for a young enthusiast (albeit with prematurely decaying synapses) just learning politics & trying to understand things! But probably accurate ones. Thanks.

And yet we have no problem honoring "our Confederate war dead." IMO, George Carlin best described US foreign policy, from 1789 on--"If you're brown, you're goin' down."

>But those they killed - the ancestors of us original Americans - have no national memorials commemorating the futile but unhesitating sacrifice they made for the freedom of their people.<

I suppose that we could detail some Justice Department lawyer to write a memo on whether they were actual enemy solders or "unlawful combatants" not entitled to even the minimal dignity accorded under the laws of war.   But I fear I know what the answer would be from them.

Fred: Those were the good old days, because you didn't even have to write memos to get around the Geneva conventions, because they hadn't even been written.

You're thinking in the right direction, though. After all, with loonies like Janice Rogers Brown ascending to the bench, with their desire to go back to Lochner era jurisprudence, in which the federal gov't can't do much of anything. After all, what can the federal government do to prevent its soldiers from having a little fun with some "unlawful combatants." Besides, the ones who did it were just a few "bad apples."

Very moving piece, MB. I admit that I had never before considered the appropriate tribute for First Nations war dead -- here in Canada we didn't have the scale of Indian Wars as you did in the states, but our Riel Rebellion in 1885 would qualify. On Canada's next Rememberence Day (which is like your Memorial Day, except ours is November 11) I will remember and honour the First Nations and Metis who fought and died in the rebellion.

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