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Kudos and consequences: Indigenous Games, United Nations and perpetual war

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Strongest of kudos to the organizers of and participants in the indigenous Olympics held in Denver in early July. More than 7,000 Native athletes from 34 delegations (23 American and 11 Canadian) from 500 different nations competed in dozens of sports. From archery and wrestling to lacrosse, basketball and baseball, it was great to see so many healthy, well-disciplined and well-disposed young Native people put their minds and bodies to the task. A great deal of training and conditioning was apparent and the place exuded enthusiasm and healthy orientations. At a time when Indian country is riddled with diabetes, the evidence of a potential world of hope and strength based on physical effort was plentiful in Denver.

The Southern Utes of southwestern Colorado and the Ute Mountain Utes are among the most appreciable contributors to the games: $1.2 million. The IHS provided medical and emergency services at events. They joined as well to promote health and wellness at the games. Again, congratulations to the whole movement of an indigenous Olympics. What a great sight to see the many gold, silver and bronze medal winners and to rejoice in actual camaraderie and good sportsmanship based on American Indian cultural courtesy and grace.

Jodi Rave, writing in The Missoulian, reported on Willie Littlechild, a co-founder of the North American Indigenous Games, who envisions a foundation for a World Indigenous Nations Games. Littlechild, according to Rave, ìwould use sports to bring attention to the issues of 300 million indigenous people from all corners of the planet.î The Canadian leader is joined by Billy Mills, the Oglala Lakota 1964 Olympic gold medalist (10,000-meter). Mills, the only American to ever win the event, is a major motivational figure in Indian country.

We encourage all tribal leaders to look up and join the Indian Olympics movement, to support their young people and the future of these wonderful games that are clearly signaling the hope of our youth to healthy and successful lives.

Polemic of the sides

Here is an unintended consequence that might be avoided. Indigenous organizations and individual international observers and activists have, of late, been debating the pros and cons of recent positions over the fate of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Antagonistic e-mails are buzzing with arguments ranging from international issues and the parsing of specific phrases in the declaration approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council, to determining proper credit for work performed. In one case, a spokesman for one organization blasts away at all manner of Native institutions because they get more funding than others do, etc. We propose that folks engaged in this important work talk directly to each other, as individuals and as organizations, before they blast away with dozens and hundreds of copied ìothersî in a shotgun-blast approach that blathers the senses and communicates poorly.

Understandably, the pressures of sustaining engagement in the zigzag world of international institutions, with the constant writing, analyzing and rewriting of position statements and the many tiresome trips and interventions necessary to effect the outcome of important language, can take its toll. Antagonisms can fester and tempers can flare. This can lead to public polemics between groups and individuals that too often descend into insults and personal attacks.

We would caution all who participate in the international work to refrain from such attacks, at least in the highly public nature of such arguments, and communicate directly with each other and principally on the particular issues that impact indigenous peoples. At every step of the way, the push and pull between those who demand immediate results of the most fundamental type and those who measure gains in the incremental steps toward improvements is felt.

We congratulate and continue to appreciate the many organizations of community leaders and activists and the international lawyers who have devoted large doses of time and labor to push indigenous positions forward in the international arena. This is extremely important work. Clear and respectful communication is required if the small and large populations of indigenous peoples would understand and benefit from the monumental effort of the past 30 years.

Deadly consequences of

limited thinking

To continue on the international, certainly few kudos are visible ñ only the consequences of major acts guided by limited capacity. Conflicts around the world that used to be handled with more realistic, if always crude, management approaches now flare weekly into full-out bombings of whole countries and targeted civilian populations, wars of genocide left unattended and civil wars based on religious sectarianism exploding in the so-called Iraqi democracy, where the killing weekly increases. Once the worldís expectedly rational superpower signals war and military might as its central message, the whole world ñ already fearful and aggressive ñ will surely follow.

Simpleminded American dictums of war as policy, of war as the solution to the problems of violent tensions in the world, are generating disastrous, if perhaps unintended, consequences. War as perpetual metaphor of life in our times, the spectrum of war forever, signals of increased and unimpeded drive to military power: this American message of the current administration blankets a gloomy dread onto to the world.

Declarations of ìwarî upon everything from poverty to drugs to terrorism are the hands of men of high intellectual (and every other kind of) power but of very limited thinking. Peoples with affinity for the future generations based on the wisdom of the grandfathers and grandmothers recoil at the lack of foresight in an international policy that offers no hope ñ that limits the partners in every dialogue ñ so that enemies are actually kept from talking to one another while world events descend into bloody chaos.

What might have been a police action, even of massive scale, to roll up al-Qaida and take down its support base in Afghanistan and everywhere ñ something that the whole Middle East and the world would have assisted ñ was turned into fundamentalist chaos, a hurricane of bloody passions and for America, a lonely and deadly quagmire of unlikely return. War forever as the declaration of our times is the answer to nothing.

The world needs America to lead for peace.

Strongest of kudos to the organizers of and participants in the indigenous Olympics held in Denver in early July. More than 7,000 Native athletes from 34 delegations (23 American and 11 Canadian) from 500 different nations competed in dozens of sports. From archery and wrestling to lacrosse, basketball and baseball, it was great to see so many healthy, well-disciplined and well-disposed young Native people put their minds and bodies to the task. A great deal of training and conditioning was apparent and the place exuded enthusiasm and healthy orientations. At a time when Indian country is riddled with diabetes, the evidence of a potential world of hope and strength based on physical effort was plentiful in Denver.The Southern Utes of southwestern Colorado and the Ute Mountain Utes are among the most appreciable contributors to the games: $1.2 million. The IHS provided medical and emergency services at events. They joined as well to promote health and wellness at the games. Again, congratulations to the whole movement of an indigenous Olympics. What a great sight to see the many gold, silver and bronze medal winners and to rejoice in actual camaraderie and good sportsmanship based on American Indian cultural courtesy and grace.Jodi Rave, writing in The Missoulian, reported on Willie Littlechild, a co-founder of the North American Indigenous Games, who envisions a foundation for a World Indigenous Nations Games. Littlechild, according to Rave, ìwould use sports to bring attention to the issues of 300 million indigenous people from all corners of the planet.î The Canadian leader is joined by Billy Mills, the Oglala Lakota 1964 Olympic gold medalist (10,000-meter). Mills, the only American to ever win the event, is a major motivational figure in Indian country.We encourage all tribal leaders to look up and join the Indian Olympics movement, to support their young people and the future of these wonderful games that are clearly signaling the hope of our youth to healthy and successful lives.Polemic of the sides
Here is an unintended consequence that might be avoided. Indigenous organizations and individual international observers and activists have, of late, been debating the pros and cons of recent positions over the fate of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Antagonistic e-mails are buzzing with arguments ranging from international issues and the parsing of specific phrases in the declaration approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council, to determining proper credit for work performed. In one case, a spokesman for one organization blasts away at all manner of Native institutions because they get more funding than others do, etc. We propose that folks engaged in this important work talk directly to each other, as individuals and as organizations, before they blast away with dozens and hundreds of copied ìothersî in a shotgun-blast approach that blathers the senses and communicates poorly.Understandably, the pressures of sustaining engagement in the zigzag world of international institutions, with the constant writing, analyzing and rewriting of position statements and the many tiresome trips and interventions necessary to effect the outcome of important language, can take its toll. Antagonisms can fester and tempers can flare. This can lead to public polemics between groups and individuals that too often descend into insults and personal attacks.We would caution all who participate in the international work to refrain from such attacks, at least in the highly public nature of such arguments, and communicate directly with each other and principally on the particular issues that impact indigenous peoples. At every step of the way, the push and pull between those who demand immediate results of the most fundamental type and those who measure gains in the incremental steps toward improvements is felt.We congratulate and continue to appreciate the many organizations of community leaders and activists and the international lawyers who have devoted large doses of time and labor to push indigenous positions forward in the international arena. This is extremely important work. Clear and respectful communication is required if the small and large populations of indigenous peoples would understand and benefit from the monumental effort of the past 30 years.
Deadly consequences of limited thinking
To continue on the international, certainly few kudos are visible ñ only the consequences of major acts guided by limited capacity. Conflicts around the world that used to be handled with more realistic, if always crude, management approaches now flare weekly into full-out bombings of whole countries and targeted civilian populations, wars of genocide left unattended and civil wars based on religious sectarianism exploding in the so-called Iraqi democracy, where the killing weekly increases. Once the worldís expectedly rational superpower signals war and military might as its central message, the whole world ñ already fearful and aggressive ñ will surely follow.Simpleminded American dictums of war as policy, of war as the solution to the problems of violent tensions in the world, are generating disastrous, if perhaps unintended, consequences. War as perpetual metaphor of life in our times, the spectrum of war forever, signals of increased and unimpeded drive to military power: this American message of the current administration blankets a gloomy dread onto to the world.Declarations of ìwarî upon everything from poverty to drugs to terrorism are the hands of men of high intellectual (and every other kind of) power but of very limited thinking. Peoples with affinity for the future generations based on the wisdom of the grandfathers and grandmothers recoil at the lack of foresight in an international policy that offers no hope ñ that limits the partners in every dialogue ñ so that enemies are actually kept from talking to one another while world events descend into bloody chaos.What might have been a police action, even of massive scale, to roll up al-Qaida and take down its support base in Afghanistan and everywhere ñ something that the whole Middle East and the world would have assisted ñ was turned into fundamentalist chaos, a hurricane of bloody passions and for America, a lonely and deadly quagmire of unlikely return. War forever as the declaration of our times is the answer to nothing.The world needs America to lead for peace.