"We've proved that we can turn out Indians to elect non-Indians. Now we
need to turn out non-Indians to elect Indians."
-- Kalyn Free
In all regions, some good news emerges, some good work that makes learning
possible and advances the future potentials of American Indian peoples:
ARMS OPEN AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
Kudos and salutations this week to Syracuse University in central New York,
in recognition of its willingness to back up its good words with great
deeds. This quality university recently stepped up to the plate on Indian
education, inviting all students of merit among the peoples of the
Haudenosaunee to enroll at school there -- all expenses paid. This signal
is clear and apparently without private agenda. As a result, it has quickly
become a source of hope for many a bright Haudenosaunee student within the
United States and Canada. While other universities in the region have had
vigorous American Indian programs, none has approached this unprecedented
and generous outreach decision to the Native communities by SU.
Seneca attorney and professor Robert Odawi Porter, a guiding hand in SU's
enlivened commitment to Six Nations students, is conducting a series of
open forums with Haudenosaunee academics and community leaders at the
university. Reminiscent of the open forums on Indian/New York state
taxation issues and conflicts held at Cornell University in the late 1990s,
in which Porter played a prominent role, a recent SU forum pondered the
huge change of fortune in land claims litigation which was nearly
decapitated by a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year. We commend
the effort to involve the Native intellectual and leadership circles in
service to the communities.
Indian Country Today correspondent Tom Wanamaker reported that Angie
Barnes, grand chief of the elected Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, brought
this bit of perspective to the assembly: The contemporary siege is "more
insidious than in the past." Barnes noted that divisions within the greater
Mohawk community hurt the people as a whole. "Elected councils are seen as
repressors of traditional councils," she said. "We have to discuss this
relationship. The original Haudenosaunee Confederacy likely took decades to
sort out [when it was first formed]. We need to do this again [through]
discussion on all the territories."
A whole lot of positive, clear-thinking energy is required at a time when
the assertion of tribal economic and political power can bring the racists
out of their cellars. Taking up the challenge of producing respectful, open
forums, where Native minds can meet and ponder their common future,
regardless of past divisions, is a commendable direction.
WIND ENERGY OF THE PLAINS
Another commendable direction is the current of work on alternative energy
futures by tribal and other collaborators in the northern Great Plains. As
reported by ICT's David Melmer on Nov. 18, a "most unlikely partnership
between tribes and cities may be in the offing, and the connection could go
a long way toward saving the environment by providing clean and renewable
The occasion was a Native Renewable Energy Summit, held in Denver Nov. 15
-- 17, where the tribes and urban activists brainstormed "for ways in which
the cities and tribes can partner to achieve their individual goals." The
intention was to stimulate practical moves "toward a cleaner environment
while overcoming pitfalls and generating economic opportunities."
As "cities ... have pledged to reduce their dependence on carbon-producing
power ... tribes could lead the way by showing their commitment to clean
air and water, and creating the potential to expand the distribution of
power," wrote Melmer. The plan hopes to enlist clients from among the 180
energy-conscious cities across the country that have agreed to participate
in the principles of the Kyoto Protocol for fighting global warming and
climate change. Apparently three cities -- Boulder, Colo., Aspen, Colo. and
Seattle, Wash. -- are exploring partnerships with tribes.
The stimulating dialogue follows years of planning and activity by tribes
and energy-systems visionaries, among whom Robert Gough, secretary of the
Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, is commendable for his experienced
enthusiasm. In particular, the pilot efforts to generate wind-turbine
energy systems on the Rosebud Reservation have led the way. The region
provides various prime "corridors" for wind energy production, and thus a
very exciting and potentially successful proposition is growing that could
ultimately include all of the reservation communities in the Plains region.
Kudos to the thinkers and shakers in the Plains Indian circles who are
instigating these wonderful directions. They deserve attention, support and
OPENING THE BODY POLITIC
Indians are establishing their presence at various political levels.
Democrat or Republican, Green or otherwise independent, we encourage all
extension of Indian experience into all potential avenues to empowerment.
Kudos and salutations this round go out to Kalyn Free, who lost a
congressional election last year but has gone on to found INDN's List
(Indigenous Democratic Network), an organization to recruit and train
Indian candidates for state and local office. As ICT Associate Editor Jim
Adams recently reported, INDN's List -- modeled somewhat on the famed
"Emily's List," which supports female candidates -- launched with a
resounding assembly, materializing an excellent circle of Native political
activists and leaders.
A Choctaw and longtime active Democrat, Free and her network brought in
Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, and other luminaries,
including political commentator Al Franken, to address the new group in
Minneapolis in October. Three Democratic congressmen, Stephanie Herseth of
South Dakota, James Oberstar of Minnesota and Mike Honda of California,
joined Dean in the learning and teaching dialogue with tribal leaders and
From all reports, the meeting resonated with strategic information and the
potential for enlightened partnerships. Dan Jones, chairman of the Ponca
Nation of Oklahoma, one of the more than 200 people from 50 tribal nations
at INDN's inaugural Campaign Camp, captured the mood: "For years tribal
nations have been flexing our political muscle through the economic support
of candidates as a means to influence local state and national politics ...
It is now time to elect our own," Jones said, as reported by Gordon
Reguinti of The Circle. "It's a brilliant and clever way for Native tribes
to utilize their new found wealth to benefit all Native people."
Glenn Crooks, vice chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,
which hosted the gathering, acknowledged Dean's leadership in reaching out
to Indian country with such determination. Many others as well worked to
make this invigorating process possible. But it is least difficult to
appreciate the energy of Free's vision. Her persistence has opened a wider
space for American Indian issues in Democratic Party circles.
Dean recently appointed Free to the DNC. Congratulations. We salute and
celebrate Free's effort to open a stronger beachhead for Indian
representation in American political life.