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Remember the important things

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This particular holiday season has us reflecting on the gifts of Creation, and resolving to carry the messages of Indian country forth with renewed passion. The numerous issues and causes in which we immerse ourselves every day ñ language, human rights, education, economic development, self-determination ñ have a common thread running through their intricate weave. It is the belief that we can thrive as Indian people, to fulfill similar hopes and dreams while celebrating our own distinct cultures. Recognizing that we are able to achieve this is a gift in itself.

This year, two notable elders passed on to the Spirit World. Esther Martinez, a 94-year-old Tewa storyteller and linguist of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico, was killed in a tragic car accident just days after receiving a prestigious award in Washington, D.C. Martinez was honored with a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts for her dedication to the Tewa language. As our Washington analyst Jerry Reynolds reports in this weekís ìLegislative review,î the tragedy ìaltered the emotional dynamicsî behind what would come to be known as the Esther Martinez Native Languages Preservation Act.

On Dec. 14, President Bush signed the bill into law, reaffirming the most important legacy of our ancestors and giving hope to Indian nations that fluency is not an unattainable dream. We all owe a great debt to Esther Martinez. It was her lifeís work of encouraging people to learn their Native languages that made the impossible seem possible. She cleared a path for generations to follow.

We also pay respect to John C. Mohawk, a ìbeloved man of wisdom,î so-called by his friend and former editor of Indian Country Today, Jose Barreiro. Mohawk was the major force behind ìA Basic Call to Consciousness,î a classic manuscript that runs through the veins of every Native scholar and activist. He used the loving words of the Haudenosaunee to describe our duties as human beings, as Ongwhehonwe, or ìreal people,î to support life as part of Creation. Many of Mohawkís devotees express their gratitude for Mohawkís life and work in this special issue, and we thank them for doing so.

This season we saw the adoption of the United Nationsí Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples delayed, despite its June 2006 adoption by the U.N. Human Rights Council. Outcries by indigenous peoples worldwide of continued colonialism and racism followed initial reactions of bitter disappointment. Sadly, the African nations that opposed the declaration are themselves embroiled in constant strife, a legacy of their own colonization. The onus is upon the U.N. General Assembly to reconsider and adopt the declaration at the ìearliest possible momentî: so says the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, who echoes the sentiment of millions of indigenous who do not have a voice. And where there is no voice, there can be little hope.

We leave 2006 with hope that our friend, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., continues on his road to recovery. The political drama that has unfolded subsequent to his fall appears to be engrossing for its participants, but it does not pass the test of sensitivity to his well-being or that of his family.

In times of illness or bereavement or good fortune, we must remember the important things ñ recognizing and appreciating the gifts we have in this world. ICT wishes friends and family good health and happiness for the coming year.

This particular holiday season has us reflecting on the gifts of Creation, and resolving to carry the messages of Indian country forth with renewed passion. The numerous issues and causes in which we immerse ourselves every day ñ language, human rights, education, economic development, self-determination ñ have a common thread running through their intricate weave. It is the belief that we can thrive as Indian people, to fulfill similar hopes and dreams while celebrating our own distinct cultures. Recognizing that we are able to achieve this is a gift in itself.This year, two notable elders passed on to the Spirit World. Esther Martinez, a 94-year-old Tewa storyteller and linguist of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico, was killed in a tragic car accident just days after receiving a prestigious award in Washington, D.C. Martinez was honored with a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts for her dedication to the Tewa language. As our Washington analyst Jerry Reynolds reports in this weekís ìLegislative review,î the tragedy ìaltered the emotional dynamicsî behind what would come to be known as the Esther Martinez Native Languages Preservation Act. On Dec. 14, President Bush signed the bill into law, reaffirming the most important legacy of our ancestors and giving hope to Indian nations that fluency is not an unattainable dream. We all owe a great debt to Esther Martinez. It was her lifeís work of encouraging people to learn their Native languages that made the impossible seem possible. She cleared a path for generations to follow. We also pay respect to John C. Mohawk, a ìbeloved man of wisdom,î so-called by his friend and former editor of Indian Country Today, Jose Barreiro. Mohawk was the major force behind ìA Basic Call to Consciousness,î a classic manuscript that runs through the veins of every Native scholar and activist. He used the loving words of the Haudenosaunee to describe our duties as human beings, as Ongwhehonwe, or ìreal people,î to support life as part of Creation. Many of Mohawkís devotees express their gratitude for Mohawkís life and work in this special issue, and we thank them for doing so.This season we saw the adoption of the United Nationsí Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples delayed, despite its June 2006 adoption by the U.N. Human Rights Council. Outcries by indigenous peoples worldwide of continued colonialism and racism followed initial reactions of bitter disappointment. Sadly, the African nations that opposed the declaration are themselves embroiled in constant strife, a legacy of their own colonization. The onus is upon the U.N. General Assembly to reconsider and adopt the declaration at the ìearliest possible momentî: so says the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, who echoes the sentiment of millions of indigenous who do not have a voice. And where there is no voice, there can be little hope.We leave 2006 with hope that our friend, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., continues on his road to recovery. The political drama that has unfolded subsequent to his fall appears to be engrossing for its participants, but it does not pass the test of sensitivity to his well-being or that of his family. In times of illness or bereavement or good fortune, we must remember the important things ñ recognizing and appreciating the gifts we have in this world. ICT wishes friends and family good health and happiness for the coming year.