One year ago, who would’ve believed any of this? When they say, you can’t make this stuff up, this is what they are talking about. 2016 ramped up the negatives, superlatives and expletives, in 2017 we are set to test the limits of good taste, common sense, human decency, anxiety and patience. First and most important of all, though, The Indians Won— not as in the 1970 book by Martin Cruz Smith, but pretty close.
In that book Crazy Horse leads all the gathered Indian Nations in the West to defeat a depleted American Army recovering from the Civil War. In 2016, the #NoDAPL Water Protectors of the Sacred Stone, Red Warrior camps, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the renewed Oceti Sakowin have not only beaten back and stalled in its tracks the Dakota Access Pipeline “Black Snake”, they have reduced the “tactically superior” North Dakota militarized police to admitting they are also beaten and exhausted and in need of assistance from the Federal Government, but they are not going to get it.
The last time the Oceti Sakowin gathered in these numbers was 140 years earlier and 400 miles to the west at Little Big Horn when George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry was defeated. Then thousands gathered to Sun Dance with Sitting Bull and now thousands came to Standing Rock to protect the Missouri River and sacred ancestral Lakota lands. Both were stunning victories, but still only battles in greater wars.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and DAPL were stopped at the Missouri River by the Army Corps of Engineers who said a full environmental impact study was needed. ETP was then ignominiously shut down in Federal Court by Judge James E. Boasberg who basically said, you brought this on by not conducting proper and legal environmental impact studies and going ahead with your investors’ money thinking you could do as you please. Now ETP has to wait until February 2017 for a ruling. This affects their own January 1, 2017 contractual obligations to pump oil or pay back investors. The Indians won.
And then this happened: a con man huckster convinces white working class voters that he is their long promised savior or an all-powerful white god who will save them from bondage and degradation. There’s something about “The Wizard of Oz” in this, some believe the writer L.F. Baum was a racist, others that his comments were sarcasm, but just like the Wizard, Donald Trump will descend upon his inaugural crowds in a helicopter. Within the parallel universe of some of these voter’s minds, Barack Obama represented the anti-Christ, was born in Kenya as a closet Muslim intent on establishing Sharia Law in America after taking your guns. This was pounded into them daily by Fox News, right wing radio, alt-right fake news and Trump himself.
If this sounds unbelievable, consider the last voting debacle and neo-con coup of 2000, when SCOTUS installed the Bush-Cheney regime and then permanently funded the right wing agenda with the Citizens United decision. The neo-cons used the pretext of the 911 terrorist attack to set off a pre-planned agenda and instigate a war to gain control of Middle Eastern oil in the guise of spreading democracy in an area of the world that had never experienced democracy. Meanwhile in passing the Patriot Act, this neo-con regime started to dismantle our democracy, freedoms and constitutional rights.
I’m sorry I digress, let’s get back to the most recent right wing coup. The “11.9” event in 2016 represented another coup with the “global” CIA backing Hillary Clinton and the “homeland” FBI backed Trump by delivering an “October Surprise” on his behalf. Both agencies had differing accounts on the Russian hack of the elections, then finally agreed with several other intelligence agencies on the Russian interference but well after “11.9”. Now the Manchurian Candidate Trump is ready to be installed after members of the Electoral College who asked to see the intelligence on the Russian hack were denied. This final safeguard of the constitutional democracy installed by the glorious Founding Fathers was treated as a useless relic and became meaningless.
All along Trump has denied Russian interference and is spreading his own “dezinformatsiya” by undercutting the nation’s intelligence community and the national media. Trump’s selection of the ExxonMobil corporate head, Rex Tillerson, for Secretary of State finally set off alarms among Republicans over his close relationship with Vladimir Putin and Exxon’s plans to drill for oil in the Siberian Arctic which was stalled with U.S. sanctions over Russian meddling in Ukraine. Obama just retaliated by expelling 35 alleged spies with sanctions to follow, which Trump can overturn only by opposing his own congressional majority. Interesting that Putin just decided not to expel any U.S. diplomats, as a carrot or a bone to his “bro” Trump.
Do falling stars portend a dark age? We certainly hope not but we lost bright lights and some of them really hurt. John Trudell, Jim Northrup, Jim Boyd, Rick Bartow, Annie Pootoogook, Muhammad Ali, Prince and Princess Leia, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, Harper Lee, Francisco X. Alarcon and so many others.
Although released in December 2015, “The Revenant” affected Indian country in 2016 as a Hollywood film that cast real Native actors in a script that turned the tables on the settler/native paradigm but the story was still 200 years old. A scene in the film caused a murmur among Native women hash-tagging #MMIW on social media to keep up the fight for the thousands of murdered and missing women. This finally came to fruition with the establishment of a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in September. The Indians won.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established to confront its legacy of the Residential School System which affected over 150,000 indigenous children and subsequent generations. The TRC closed in December 2015 but the necessary work of healing and institutional reform continues. In September 2016, Canadian icon, Gord Downie of the rock band Tragically Hip, pledged to donate the proceeds from his multimedia project, Secret Path, to support the work of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba. This was just weeks after Downie and The Tragically Hip said goodbye to Canada at the last stop on their last tour. Downie announced in the spring that he had brain cancer but he gave epic performances and the band is insistent this is not their last tour but that will be left to the future. And just a few weeks ago the Assembly of First Nations honored Downie for his work on reconciliation. The Indians won.
In 2016, we saw the nation at a tipping point over the shootings by police, after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killings of 200 black men (as well as Native men and women) by police this year. Then the police themselves became targets. We can pray for peace and organize our resistance to the coming darkness, but every time something hopeful and good and kind and decent and unifying occurs, please share these events on social media and not just the hate. Goodbye 2016.