It’s time to review the year for the shameful and shameless, with a warning: there aren’t a lot of yuks this year. The Mantle of Shame Awards are the written version of collections of stereotypical stuff I once kept on a fireplace mantle to represent the worst that society had to offer.
With appreciation to all who nominated noxious things, persons, ideas and activities, here are the winners of the Mantle of Shame Awards for 2006 (not necessarily in order of shamefulness):
You and me – For not doing all we can do to relieve poverty and suffering, reduce energy consumption and heal Mother Earth and all her children.
U.S. and us – For not doing all we can do to assure the future of Native peoples and cultures.
Meth carriers and other violent offenders – For infecting and enslaving Native peoples with this new plague. For jeopardizing Indian people, territory and rights with this invasion. For every Indian or non-Indian bully – pusher, profiteer, druggie, boozer or enabler – who causes the physical or emotional abuse of a child, elder or woman in Indian country or communities.
Legal-fiction writers – Those judges, lawyers, politicians, reporters and others who invent laws, histories and loopholes to allow people, businesses and governments to take, keep or sell stolen Indian lands, waters, resources, ancestors, rights and reputations.
Defilers – Those scientists, grave robbers, vandals, vacationers and others who defile, desecrate, commodify and disrespect sacred places and ancestors. The morons and money-grubbers who stole the Morongo Rock, defaced the petroglyphs, robbed Spirit Cave and are “developing” burial and ceremonial grounds at Bear Butte, Hickory Ground, Little Cedar Mountain, Medicine Lake, Mount Graham, Mount Shasta, Ocmulgee Old Fields, Quechan Indian Pass, San Francisco Peaks, Snoqualmie Falls, Wakarusa Wetlands and many others. And policy-makers who won’t establish a cause of action to protect Native American sacred places.
Deniers – All decadent gamers who deny the existence and effects of the following: Global warming and climate change that are threatening the world. Subjugation and inhumane treatment of any people. The Holocaust, during which the Nazis killed one-third of the Jewish people. Janjaweed militias who are systematically murdering and raping black people in Darfur, Sudan. The invasive nightmare that drove myriad Native peoples to extinction and left us to deal with today’s open wounds, injustices and white-gloved racism.
Department of Energy – For failing to complete the containment facility at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington and allowing radioactive waste to come within 12 miles of the Columbia River. The unfinished container is intended to hold two tanks of 53 million gallons of waste, which is seeping into land and groundwater, threatening people and resources of the entire Northwest. Congratulations to the Yakama Nation for utilizing the U.S. – Yakama Treaty of 1855 to force environmental protection and restoration of the entire site.
Team Abramoff – For all the reasons they swept the 2005 Awards: taking Native nations’ monies, undermining Indian rights, insulting their tribal clients and greasing their pals’ palms. For the comedy stylings of responses by Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon and Ralph Reed to court complaints filed by the Tigua and Alabama and Coushatta tribes, wherein the three K Street stooges claim they did not conspire to injure Indians or take their money. This award also goes to their faithful Indian companions and scouts who cashed in on the Team’s tribal “moolah.”
Ex-Reps. DeLay, Foley, Ney et al. – For their special contributions to the Republicans losing and Democrats winning the leadership of Congress. But, wait. They don’t deserve all the credit. Vital roles were played by ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ex-White House staffers, ex-Interior officials, ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown, ex-marksman Vice President Cheney and the excellent adventure in Iraq.
Senate Republican leaders – For failing to act on most funding bills passed by the House, even though they had sufficient time before the midterm elections and in the lame-duck sessions.
“Indian-fighters” – Those who fight Indians to avoid accounting for Indian trust monies; to undo Indian preference; to keep from hiring Indians; to diminish Indian programs; to cut Indian services; to wipe out Indian budgets; and to prevent the elevation of Indian jurisdiction, authority, structure, people or power in any branch of federal, tribal, state or local government.
“Indigena-fighters” – For all those who are suppressing, disappearing and killing indigenous peoples in Oaxaca, Mexico, and targeting the communicators who are documenting it. Respect for Zapotec Filmmaker Damian Lopez-Castillo, who showed footage at the Native American Film and Video Festival in New York City on Nov. 30 and said, “We know there are murders – we’ve filmed them.” He praised the indigenous women who took over a public station in Oaxaca, broadcast the first news from the communities and encouraged the indigenous communicators to document what was happening.
“Indigenous-fighters” – The African Union, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and all others who had a hand in the late-November maneuver to delay the United Nations’ adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is long overdue for passage.
“Indian Fight Club” – Those who fight living Indian peoples over fictional “Indian” sports references – such as the University of North Dakota, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Washington professional football club – and who fight Native peoples in courts and Congress in order to keep “honoring” us with their disparaging names, imagery and behaviors.
“Indian giver” – The University of Utah, which begged the Ute peoples to let them keep their “Ute” sports references, then reneged on its promise of scholarships for Ute students.
Retro Dartmouth Review – For its full front-page “cartoon” of a scalp-waving “Indian on warpath.” For its relentless effort to bring back the good old days of Dartmouth College’s “Indians” sports references, which it dropped over 30 years ago. Kudos to the Native Americans at Dartmouth (Go NADs) for withstanding indignities with dignity and to those administrators and faculty members who backed them.
Director/actor Mel Gibson – For demeaning Mayans (“Apocalypto”), Jews (“Jews are responsible for all of the wars in the world”) and women (“Sugar Tits”). For substituting stereotypes, fictions and his own alcoholic dementia for the known history, culture and reputation of past and present Mayan people. For Disney and “Mad Mel” using the Cabazon pow wow and Chickasaw casino as backdrops of support for this anti-Maya movie.
Potty Mouth Hall of Famers – Sen. George (“Macaca”) Allen (who also double-crossed Virginia tribes on federal recognition). Author Ann (“Godless”) Coulter. Actor/comedian Michael (“I’m not a racist”) Richards. Sen. Conrad (I heart DC) Burns. Comedians Larry the (“Skank”) Cable Guy and Drew (I love “Chief Wahoo”) Carey. One Nation United’s anti-Indian lobbyists and supporters. For reminding us that bigotry isn’t below the surface, but sometimes doesn’t win enough votes, laughs or games to carry the day.
Actor Russell Means – For going to the Supreme Court to undermine the jurisdiction of Navajo Nation, because it charged him with beating his wife and her Navajo father, a disabled World War II veteran (Means lost). And for mocking the sovereign prerogative of Cherokee Nation, Keetoowah Band and Muscogee (Creek) Nation to determine their citizenry when they disputed author Ward Churchill’s claims that he was Cherokee and Creek.
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.