In 1997, as part of President Clinton's "One America Initiative," a seven member panel was formed to discuss race issues in America. John Hope Franklin was appointed to chair this panel.
As this panel convened public meeting across the country many asked why there was no Native American/American Indian representation on this panel. At a public meeting in Denver in March of 1998, the Race Advisory Board was confronted by a group of Native People, among whom was Glenn Morris, a professor of Political Science at CU-Denver and a member of the American Indian Movement.
Essentially this question was ignored by Franklin and his group and no Native Person was ever appointed to serve on the race panel.
Now it is September 2003 and John Hope Franklin is making political hay out of his Native roots. (NY Times article, text only)
Franklin never mentioned his Native roots while he chaired the race advisory board.
Why is that, I wonder?
Continuing thoughts on "A Presidential Sham"
Reading the commentary/essay below one might be inclined to think that because it was written in response to the insult launched at the First Nations by former President Bill Clinton, that it is an issue of the past.
I make the argument here that these comments are timeless; the insults to the First Nations are a daily occurrence. I offer, for example, the continuing lack of resolution concerning the "lost" billions in Indian Trust money. The Native American Rights Fund law suit against the BIA was initiated in the summer of 1996. There has been no settlement, no effort to return to Indian People the money that is theirs. The heads of the DOI past and present have been held in contempt of court for refusing to deal honestly with the court.
Clinton, before he left office, visited the Pine Ridge reservation and proclaimed it an "enterprise zone, " an area in great need of economic stimulus and job creation. The Alex White Plume family has tried for the last two years to grow a crop of industrial hemp that would have had the potential to be a model for the beginning of economic self support. The Federal Government in the persons of ATF agents put an end to that prospect when they destroyed the hemp plants growing on Pine Ridge - on Indian land.
Disease and suicide are the handmaidens of the poverty that threatens to smother many of the First Nations, a condition that existed in the last century and exists today, with little change.
The fact that the First Nations were ignored by "One America" does not represent a moment in time, but reflects a sad and indefensible insult that characterizes the relationship between the U.S. government and the First Nations.
Sonja Keohane, November 2001
"...Our way lies, not over trampled nations, but through desert wastes, to be brought by our industry and energy within the domain of art and civilization. We are contiguous to a vast portion of the globe, untrodden save by the savage and the beast, and we are conscious of our power to render it tributary to man. This is a position which must give existence to a public law. The acquisition of Texas, commencing with the earliest settlements under Austin down to the last conclusive act, may be admitted at once to be aggressive. But what then? It has been laid down and acted upon that the solitudes of America are the property of the immigrant children of Europe and their offspring. Not only has this been said and reiterated, but it is actually the basis of public law in America. Public sentiment with us repudiates possession without use, and this sentiment is gradually acquiring the force of established public law It will come to pass that the confederated democracies of the Anglo-American race will give this great continent as an inheritance to man. Rapacity and spoilation cannot be the features of this magnificent enterprise, not perhaps, because we are above and beyond the influence of such views, but because circumstances do not admit of their operation. We take from no man; the reverse rather we give to man. This national policy, necessity or destiny, we know to be just and beneficent, and we, therefore, afford to scorn the invective and imputations of rival nations. With the valleys of the Rocky Mountains covered into pastures and sheep-folds, we may with propriety turn to the world and ask, whom have we injured?"
John L. O'Sullivan
October 13, 1845 issue of the New York Morning News
When President Clinton's seven member advisory board of Race Relations met in Denver, Colorado this week [March, 1998], Glenn Morris and members of the American Indian Movement were there to ask why American Indian people, members of this country's First Nations were not represented on the Presidential Advisory board. Indeed, Clinton's failure to appoint a Native person to this board is appalling in it's insensitivity and unbelievable in it's disrespect.
President Clinton in formulating his Advisory board on Race Relations in June of 1997, established the following guidelines:
"The seven member Race Initiative Advisory Board was established to counsel the President on ways to improve the quality of American race relations. Currently, the Board is working with the President to: Promote national dialogue on race issues; Increase the nation's understanding of the history and future of race relations; Identify and create plans to calm racial tension and promote increased opportunity for all Americans; and Address crime and the administration of justice".
In announcing the formation of the Advisory board, the President said the following: "I will make periodic reports to the American people about our findings and what actions we all have to take to move America forward. This board will seek out and listen to Americans from all races and all walks of life. They are performing a great citizen service, but in the cause of building one America all citizens must serve."[Note provided by JS Dill:
...the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. [That] to leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness; to govern them as a distinct people, was impossible, because they were as brave and as high-spirited as they were fierce, and were ready to repel by arms every attempt on their independence. (Johnson v. M'Intosh - Supreme Court decision)]
Somewhat vague, but possibly worthy goals. The rallying cry of this initiative, if one might call it that, appears to be "One America in the 21st Century." This slogan appeared on the banner behind the podium when the board convened in Denver in March of this year.
The idea of "One America" is on the face of it a pleasant thought, until one lifts the corner of this pleasing fabric to reveal the ugliness of this country's relationship with the members of the First Nations. It is as if in unifying, melding, homogenizing the different cultures in this country one will be able to erase from the collective memories of its citizens, the death and destruction of the past. In his speech, Clinton speaks of "moving America forward." It is hard for me to think of moving forward when there is so much past yet unacknowledged and unresolved.
[Note provided by JS Dill:
Just as the Doctrine of Discovery which underwrote Wasichu's possession of this continent was based on fabrication, so to is the belief that the First Nations can expect justice under the Conqueror's sword. To expect justice from an Overlord who considered/considers the First Nations to be "essentially a simple, uninformed and inferior people," (United States v. Sandoval) who are "...semi-barbarous, savage, primitive, degraded and ignorant" (Clinton-Newton-Price) is to shout into the wind.]
The sense of this effort of Clinton's seems to say, forget the past, move forward, blend in, erase the differences and essentially disappear as individual cultures.
This asks the Cherokee people to forget the Trail of Tears, when in the winter of 1838 thousands of people either froze to death or died of starvation.
It asks the Plains people and their descendants to forget Sand Creek and the murder and mutilation caused by Col. Chivington and his men and to forget what happened on the banks of the Washita River, where Black Kettle a man faithful to his promises to the US government is murdered in his sleep along with his wife and many of his people.
It asks the Dineh to forget Kit Carson and the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, where thousands died while being herded like animals from Dineh land in Northern Arizona to Southern New Mexico.
It asks the Lakota people and the descendants of Sitting Bull to forget Wounded Knee, and the murder of unarmed people including women shot in their backs while running in fear, their small children at their sides. This, a massacre sanctioned by the granting of 20 Medals of Honor
[Note provided by JS Dill:
"There is nothing to conceal or apologize for in the Wounded Knee Battle... That women and children were casualties was unfortunate but unavoidable, and most must have been [killed] from Indian bullets...The Indians at Wounded Knee brought their own destruction as surely as any people ever did. Their attack on the troops was as treacherous as any in the history of Indian warfare, and that they were under a strange religious hallucination is only an explanation not an excuse." ...excerpts from an official investigation of Wounded Knee initiated at the behest of Congress, written by General E. D. Scott.]
It asks Indians to forget and it says to the rest of us in this country, never mind what happened, it was all in another place and another time, forget all of this...move on.
It says to the people of America, forget the intricate societies of Indigenous people, forget the gifts of knowledge provided by these people to all of us.
Indian people suffer from the general ills of our society as do many other cultures. There is poverty, sickness, hopelessness and too much death. In addition to these problems I see the problems facing Indian Nations as very different from the problems and solutions talked about by this board. This board addresses not one issue that is unique to Indian people, nor do I think that it is capable of doing such. Among all cultures in this country, Indians are singular in that:
- No other group mentioned here needs to deal with the concept of sovereignty and sovereign rights constantly under attack by Congressmen and many State Governors, or with mineral and water leases or with reservation land or with legal jurisdiction on reservation land.
- No other group has been victimized by broken treaties, numbering over 300 and the attendant loss of land and rights to a way of life much older than any other in this country.
- No other group can speak about genocide and the slowly rolling tide that for 550 years has swept this land in an effort to eliminate the Indian Nations.
- No other group has fallen victim to the devastation of Manifest Destiny, the destructive descendant of the "Doctrine of Discovery"
- No other group must carry a "card" to indicate blood quantum, in order to be considered a member of that group.
- No other group is owed billions of dollars by a government agency that can't account for where the money went.
- No other group has had rights assured by treaty only to be attacked on all sides by the amorphous concept of the Plenary Powers of the United States Congress.
If past performance is an indicator with the governmental mind, this board like many others is window dressing, a distraction, a sham that will accomplish little.
Those in government can travel the planet giving encouragement, financial support and kind words to others in other countries while the running festering wound that is the embarrassing relationship of the United States government to the Indian people continues to grow at home. What group, what agency, what advisory panel will finally recognize this gross example of injustice and disrespect...?
To quote a line from Eliot, "Hurry up please, it's time..."