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'It is complete:' Trends four years into the century

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One of our dear columnists, Mohawk midwife Katsi Cook, often reminds her
home audiences that the Mohawk word for the number "four," is also the same
word and expresses a related meaning for the concept, "thus, it is
complete."

In that vein, the past four cycles of the grandfather and elder brother,
the Sun, are coming to "completeness" with the first four years of the 21st
century, which turns within the beginning of the third millennium after the
birth of the Judeo-Christian Messiah. It is the season ...

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, believe that Jesus Christ is the
one, or just one of many noteworthy and luminary figures in human history,
it is proper to acknowledge Creation at this time of the year, which in the
northern latitudes ushers in a season of rest (under a white blanket of
snow) for Mother Earth, while in tropical latitudes the Four Winds hold
back the rains and assist the Earth to purify herself through a dryness
that cleanses plants and trees of many parasites.

If only human history had such predictable or orderly cycles. While nature
indeed does all it can to consistently harmonize the existence of the
multiple life and energy currents that it generates, the progression of
human events upon its surface manifests little such rhyme or reason;
rather, by and large, humanity's trajectory appears propelled by cultural
and religious distinctions and, all too often, hatreds, and by the lower
passions - mainly greed and fear - manipulated by those who seek to acquire
and sustain power. In reaction, what we are witnessing around the world is
the rise of the religious zealots who set out as defenders of their own
perfect utopias.

Signaled initially in America by the emergence of the Christian moral
majority this is a movement that all too easily takes the reins of power
with the election of George W. Bush in 2000. The ultra-conservative Texas
Republican began as a compassionate conservative and has ushered in an
American neo-conservative era in world politics. American supremacy in all
matters is now seen as the primary policy goal. Since Sept. 11, 2001, this
impetus takes on a global dimension and also near complete, unchallenged
dominion on how and where to direct the federal budget.

For Democrats and the whole progressive wing of America, a new definition
has begun, based on taking the fight to the finish line in 2004 and working
in unity for the first time in a generation, yet losing by a hair once
again. Vigorous "open-mind" (read liberal) dialogue is at a premium. But
harping and yelping will not do. Only sound alternatives and clear
positions that challenge negative trends in society will fuel this
movement.

Through the closely divided American body politic squeaks in the reality of
tribal existence; the Indian voting base exploded into action for the
election of 2004, impacting less than predicted yet growing in campaigning
skills and in the knowledge that participation in state and national
political currents is supremely important at this time in history. American
Indian tribal sovereignty, articulated and practiced in every possible way,
remains the goal of tribal nations and their governments. This recognizable
and self-identified sector of America needs to coalesce even tighter into a
collective approach to their common defense.

It will be a different century as a result of these past four years, a new
era is perhaps upon us, one that ushers in:

The Preemptive War Policy. The preemptive, and some would say perpetual,
war option has substantially escalated a climate of contempt of the U.S. by
most peoples in the world. In fact, the action of attacking a country that
had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 quickly reversed world
sympathy and alliance into world derision and opposition. Beyond the
natural and expected response to the 9/11 attacks from the U.S., the
current policy implies a much deeper and wider (and hugely expensive)
military imposition by the world's only superpower. The reaction by most of
the world, including many U.S. allies, has been extremely negative. America
itself now runs the risk of becoming a "pariah" nation whose mighty
economic power needs to be checked. This has never been so prevalent before
and it is not good news for Americans and any people associated with the
American interests internationally.

An America in hock. America is trillions of dollars in debt, and growing,
as hugely expensive devices are blown up in wars while corporate and
private wealth has become exempt from social responsibility at many levels.
American baby-boomers from the 1940s and 1950s are concerned about their
social security. Services that once could sustain an American safety net
for people through tough economic times are being seriously diminished.
Common citizens seem to be getting lost in the tumble.

Exported middle class. Out-sourcing as a concept goes from occasional
practice to major international trend. As so-called American corporations
increasingly look toward global work forces, American labor now must
compete directly with the rest of the world's low wage labor market. The
middle class runs the risk of shrinking as rapidly as the world's glaciers
as the disparity between America's rich and poor grows ever larger. The
average American family is squeezed while wealth continues to concentrate
in an ever smaller percentage of the people. American Indian businesses and
major tribal enterprises are notoriously of place and in place and highly
unlikely ever to migrate or relocate, once established and successful. They
stand in sharp contrast to the fickle loyalties practiced by many American
corporations.

Acute ecological devastation. Environmental consciousness and practice has
been set back, attacked as retrograde and anti-corporate. Maximizing
profits trumps just about any environmental concern in the current vogue.
The global warming trend and its clear causes in this era of massive fossil
fuel burning is obvious to the world and most of science, but not to the
political champions of industrial expansion now in power. Science be damned
on this question as "more research" is called for by ideological
economists.

Mumbo-jumbo policy making based on religious faith. Scientific methodology
is under attack in many parts of America and around the world. Politicians
and even religious leaders denigrate it and try to inject their ideologies
into it. Admittedly science is not perfect, but the scientific method,
informed by common sense, rational inquisitive processes and human
intellectual values, is nevertheless humanity's best common standard for
human development and advancement. We say this with the highest respect for
all religious philosophy and practice that values enlightenment and
tolerance, but we also greatly value the scientific method for its ability
to discern rote belief from determined fact.

Corporate media increasingly geared to affluence, power and political
persuasion. The poor and dispossessed are not in vogue but out of sight and
out of mind. American Indians, always on the media margins, grow in
relevance with the growth of financial means. The concept of Native tribal
rights has been projected into the public discourse as tens of millions of
mainstream Americans visit and spend both time and money at Native-owned
casinos. American Indian tribal political power, for decades a mere
concept, now asserts itself with economic clout. This is new. Indian
people, the most fiercely independent of Americans because of their
inherent and preexisting governmental sovereignty, are now found among the
country's economic power brokers. But huge problems persist, challenges
remain for the communities to overcome, in both business management and
governance that could and should help tackle social misery. The story of
American Indian resurgence is wonderful and uplifting if incomplete, but
the tribes are being recast again as America's enemies in a manipulated,
and sometimes compliant, media as despicable "rip-offs" and greedy "special
interests." The battle for America's hearts and minds about Indian country
must be won by the tribes. This is the key campaign of the next four years.

Coalitions of groups opposed to American Indian governance and cultural
rights surface nationally once again. This time they are more sophisticated
than ever and tied in to larger political machines. In an era of constant
attack against ethnic forms of social and political organization as
"special interests," the concept and practice of Indian rights within
American jurisprudence has many vigorous enemies. This is nothing new to
any American Indian student of history, but nonetheless, ignorance fueled
by hatred of American Indians is again on the march in America. Tribal
leaders are warned to take this development very seriously.

States of the Union pull off the surgical gloves and grasp for the butcher
knife as governors come after Indian financial gains with a greed lust not
seen since the Termination Era of the 1950s. New York, California,
Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma are among the states putting Indian
tribes against the wall and shaking them down, often successfully pitting
Indian nation against Indian nation. It is a shameless conduct by some of
the world's largest economies to grovel after Indian money, considering the
great need nationally by tribal communities. It is also confusing as to why
some Indian governments would so willingly hand over millions, if not
billions, to the states when so much of Indian country needs those
resources more.

Tribal investment and philanthropy begins to grow. This is crucial. There
needs to be a lot of it going on. The "Top 100 Club" of American Indian
nations - in the context of tribal revenues - needs to float a major "no
tribe left behind" national development bond - in the billions. They need
to encourage and sustain the move to business and self-help initiatives
among disadvantaged tribes. "Buy Indian" emerges as a must-do operational
directive to all tribal establishments. This is not easily done, even by
the strongest of tribal leaders. They are often reluctant to interfere in
their own tribal enterprises. Proper and efficacious purchasing is a
crucial part of running a profitable enterprise and is understandably
guarded. Nevertheless, the "Top 100" Indian economies must reach out and
build the capacity for other Indians to do business, always.

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian opens
to great enthusiasm. Finally, there is an Indian place on the Washington
Mall. It is a place of culture which the communities can inform and which
employs many superlative Indian people. An expected four million visitors
will experience the museum every year. The NMAI opening was dampened only
by some critiques of the opening exhibits and core messages, but its
prominent position as a fixture of Indian experience and existence in the
nation's capital combined with its ongoing commitment to excellence, serves
as a powerful symbol of a hemispheric recognition and honor long overdue.

The plight of Indian corn. At once symbolic and completely necessary the
survival of the open pollinated corn varieties developed over millennia by
Indian farmers, particularly those within Mexico and Meso-America, is
seriously in jeopardy. Hybrid varieties created in North American labs are
beginning to contaminate the open varieties propagated by local farmers for
millennia. Here is a case of science, corporate science, going awry of the
current and ultimate needs of humanity, how to live on the land with
respect and spiritual balance.

In many Indian communities, concurrent with the greatest higher education
initiative in the history of Native peoples, going back to the roots of
cultural tradition is still the mode for many young people, as interest in
the longhouse, the Sun Dance and the kiva grows; the effort to appreciate
and build the families that make community is palpable. Intense and loving
attention to the proper growth and development of the upcoming generations
- this is the message of this season.