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Last week, I brought you the story of North Dakota GOP Congressman Kevin Cramer's outrageous threats of violence against the Spirit Lake Nation's Tribal Council - and his aggressive behavior toward the two Native women present at a state coalition meeting on ending violence against women.
This week, matters have become a bit clearer.
What I didn't know then - and apparently, neither did the media covering the story - is that there is an ugly backstory, one of which Cramer was no doubt aware and sought to exploit to his advantage. Thanks to Denise Oliver Velez, now we know about it, too.
A brief synopsis follows. I'm sure some readers will feel that there is only one story here, and that is the story of abuse related in the piece linked below. That's only true if you have the luxury of looking at it from the outside. From within, there's much, much more at work here, and without even needing to see the footage, I can already say categorically that a huge opportunity to tell the real story, with the proper context, was missed.
If time permits, I may follow up eventually with a diary dedicated to the problem of deliberately seeking dominant-culture "experts" to go into tribal societies and presume to
exploit them "tell their stories." I may also follow up with a diary dedicated to the Spirit Lake cases specifically, and the BIA takeover. This, obviously, is not either of those diaries. But before people watch the documentary series and assume that its apparent tale of alcoholism and child sexual abuse on an Indian reservation are the full story, I'd like to encourage folks to watch it with a bit of a skeptical eye. "Indian dysfunction porn" is paternalistic, inaccurate, and extremely damaging - and yet it's everywhere in the guise of "investigative reporting." Kind of like "good works."
The New York Times had a recent piece about the new PBS Frontline documentary, "Kind-Hearted Woman."
It purports to be the story of Robin Charboneau (Spirit Lake Oglala), a survivor of horrifying child sexual abuse whose daughter was, unbeknownst to Ms. Charboneau, sexually abused as a child by her own father. Instead, if the Times account is to be believed, it's likely to set the national narrative defining "Indians" for yet another generation of non-Indian cultural "consumers." Don't get me wrong: I would not be surprised in the least to learn that there were all sorts of problems with the tribal court system and other institutions at Spirit Lake. But I know from hard experience that there is always a historically relevant context that goes not merely unexplored, but unrecognized. I also know that, were this a local court system in a majority-white municipality, there would be absolutely no attempt to paint it as proof of the dysfunction of white culture.
My problems with the whole project start at the very beginning, before there even was a project. It appears that Patricia Harrison, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, sought out white documentary filmmaker Donald Sutherland, 67. Sutherland wanted to make a documentary about "the subject of abuse," whatever that means - the story doesn't say what sort of parameters he had in mind, other than that they apparently did not involve Indians. But it's an incredibly broad topic, one that would have been susceptible to exploration in his own cultural background in Boston. To anoint a member of the most privileged segment of the dominant culture - white and male - to explore such a culturally sensitive topic is very nearly obscene.
And it's not as though we don't have a lengthy list of supremely talented Native filmmakers looking for 1) basic access, and 2) the chance to use their craft to help our peoples in a substantive way. But that's not even the most significant point: that it is imperative that Indian people be empowered to tell their own stories, accurately and in their own way. The Times piece makes it clear that that was never even considered; the point was to get Sutherland to make a documentary, whatever the topic, not to do the topic justice in a culturally accurate way.
Mr. Sutherland, 67, set out to deal with the subject of abuse, he said in an interview in his Boston sound-mixing studio. But he too stumbled into a much more complex story than the small-scale human drama he anticipated. Now, two years after he finished filming, his work can be seen as something of an Exhibit A in explaining why the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs took control of social services on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation last year, citing concerns that tribal mismanagement had led to abuse of children there.In other words, what will be seen is Sutherland's "portrait," to use his own word for his work, of painful abuse and tribal dysfunction on an Indian reservation, with no attempt to place it in the either the broader historical context or that of ensuing developments. Among those "ensuing developments" are the massive amount of hard work to which Melissa Merrick alluded when Cramer blindsided her with his recent personal attack.
The rest of the Times piece devolves into the relevant players patting themselves on the back about their decision to include such explicit information - and identifying information - about Robin Charboneau's daughter, a survivor and a minor. As an abuse survivor and someone who has worked with abuse survivors, I find the self-congratulatory attitudes, absent any real appearance of contemplation or conflict over what this young woman's new reality is about to become, more than a little unseemly.
Yes, I'm angry. The horrors visited upon Robin Charboneau and her children beggar description. But what we really need are honest attempts to address these problems in ways that respect the individuals and their cultures - in other words, ways that will actually work.
What no one needs is more race-based "dysfunction porn" that feeds the worst in the biases and agendas of people like Kevin Cramer.
FOR WATER POLLUTION AWARENESS
A group of Anishinaabekweg [Ojibwe women] are walking the entire length of the Mississippi River to raise awareness about the dangers of polluting the country's waters.
The walkers and their supporters left Lake Itasca State Park, Minn., March 1 after a traditional Ojibwe water ceremony where they collected a copper pail full of clear, fresh lake water, which they are carrying the entire 1,200 miles to where the river empties into the Gulf at Venice, La. It is here that they will pour the contents of the pail into the murky gulf waters, "giving the Mississippi River a drink of herself."You can support the walkers' efforts at their Facebook page, here.
OMAHA, PONCA, OTOE-MISSOURIA NATIONS
Last Saturday, the Omaha, Ponca, and Otoe-Missouria Nations met in a ceremonial gathering for the first time in half a century.
[I]n the late 1800s, the federal government forced the Ponca, Otoe and Missouria from the Upper Midwest to Oklahoma. The tribes established headquarters in Oklahoma, but many Ponca returned to Northeast Nebraska.The public event, held at Rosalie, NE, on the Omaha Reservation, included the exchange of tobacco and a pipe ceremony between tribal leaders.
UP FOR PARIS AUCTION
The Hopi have invoked the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP] in an attempt to stop an auction of sacred objects, including katsina masks. The auction is slated for April 12 in Paris, France. France is a signatory to UNDRIP.
"It is our opinion that these sacred objects should never have left the jurisdiction of the Hopi Tribe. ... It is our position that no one, other than a Hopi tribal member, has a right to possess these ceremonial objects," Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, the Hopi Tribe's cultural preservation director, wrote in a letter to the firm last week.Such masks and other objects were, virtually by definition, acquired illegitimately. It's one thing to sell contemporary non-sacred [unused and unuseable] replicas as art; it's another thing entirely to sell the actual masks used in ceremonies. It simply would not have been done. The Hopi are refusing to bid on the masks and other objects. Instead, noting that were the items physically in the U.S., their return could be enforced via the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act [NAGPRA], Hopi officials are asking the French government to step in and ensure that the owner repatriates the items in accordance with UNDRIP.
TO NCAA WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR
Two talented sisters from Oregon's Umatilla Nation will be leading Louisville in tomorrow night's NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. Junior Shoni Schimmel and her younger sister Jude, a sophomore, are both starters for the Lady Cardinals.
Shoni has been the star of the show, earning most outstanding player honors in the Oklahoma City regional with her combination of accurate three-point shooting and fearless drives to the basket. Maybe most memorably, she went right at [Baylor star Brittney] Griner -- the 6-foot-8 Baylor star who counts the NCAA blocks record among her many career achievements -- and went airborne, spun with her back to the basket and sunk an over-her-head shot while getting fouled.
Griner's been my girl throughout her college career, but I saw that shot - it takes an incredible talent to make one like that. As a huge basketball fan, the Schimmel sisters are some of the best news I've had since Jill Plumley left Oklahoma.
Latest Updates on Kossack Regional Meet-Up News Below the Frybead Thingey
Please VOTE for New Dayers llbear, Sara R, Horace Boothroyd III and 4Freedom to win a scholarship to NN13. You can apply for a scholarship also, here. Voting ends 11:59 PM Pacific Time on May 7th, 2013.
Let's build communities!
Every region needs a meatspace community like SFKossacks.
We take care of each other in real life.
I urge YOU to take the lead and organize one in your region.
Please tell us about it if you do and we're here for advice.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY
Click >>>HERE to see a list of all the regional Kossack groups that have organized for social and activism events. There are handy links to contact each organizer to join.
>>>Instructions on HOW TO FORM A NEW DAILY KOS GROUP
Sunday, April 21st
Southern Cal Inland Empire Kossacks Meet-up
TIME: 12:30 PM
LOCATION: Eureka!Burger (menu)
345 West Pearl Avenue #130 • Redlands
ORGANIZER: Send SoCaliana kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: So Cal IE Meetup: April 21st, 2013
Kansas & Missouri KossacksFriday, April 19th
LOCATION: Springfield Brewing Company
305 South Market Street • Springfield
ORGANIZER: Send tmservo433 a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: [Waiting for linked diary]
Saturday, April 20th
Chicago Kossacks Celebrate Earth Day
TIME: Morning, see diary below for details
LOCATION: The Heller Nature Center
2821 Ridge Road • Highland Park
Followed by pizza at broths & Mr. broths home.
ORGANIZER: Send figbash a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Hey Chicago - Time for a Meet-Up!
3. Mr. broths
4. Chitown Kev
Saturday, April 20th
LA Kossacks Monthly Meet-up with Guest Speaker, Daily Kos Featured Writer, Dante Atkins
TIME: 2:00 PM
LOCATION: Casey's Irish Pub
613 S Grand Ave. • Los Angeles
ORGANIZER: Send Dave in Northridge a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: LA Kossacks - March 23 Meetup at Casey's (and on the Red Line) - Photos
1. Dave in Northridge
5. Gay CA Democrat
Dkos Asheville's First Meet-up
TIME: 1:00 PM
LOCATION: The Bywater
796 Riverside Dr. • Asheville
ORGANIZER: Send randallt a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary:Dkos Asheville Open Thread
3. Otteray Scribe
5. people power granny
9. GordonNC (UID 5123 & City Councilman)
13. Captain Sham
14. Sandy on Signal
17. Jeff Messer, local radio host - 880 AM
19. Mr. A
alicia (plus two)
From randallt: "DKos Asheville is hosting a meet up and we've managed to cast a wide net! Asheville NC is the epicenter of cool progressive in the heart of the mountains and we have folks traveling from Eastern Tennessee, the Southern Highlands and Charlotte. So don't let the distance keep you away, come to Asheville, sign up today! You know you want to."
Sunday, April 28th
NYC Kossacks Brunch and a Show!
ORGANIZER: Send sidnora a kosmail to attend.
TIME: Noon (with Show at 3PM)
889 9th Avenue (between 57th & 58th) • NYC
2. Denise Oliver Velez, Guest of Honor
6. friends of LuLu
Batya the Toon
TIME: 3:00 PM
LOCATION: The Vivian Beaumont Theater
150 West 65th St. (Broadway) • NYC
Latest diary: NY Metro Meetup: Theater Party, Sunday 4/28!!
2. Denise Oliver Velez, Guest of Honor
6. friends of LuLu
Potentially in April or May
Atlanta Area Kossacks Kick-off Meet-up
LOCATION: Manuel's Tavern
602 N Highland Avenue Northeast • Atlanta
ORGANIZER: Send navajo a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Atlanta Area Meet-Up
1. One Pissed Off Liberal
7. Lily O Lady
New York Hudson Valley Kossacks
NY Hudson Valley Kossacks' First Meet-up
LOCATION: Hudson House
2 Main Street • Cold Spring, NY
ORGANIZER: Send boran2 a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: [Waiting for linked diary]
3. betson08 (if event is in April)
Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose: Plenary Session Table Reservations
June 20th - 23rd • REGISTER HERE
1. side pocket [First Lieutenant]
2. mrs. side pocket
6. Cali Scribe
7. Glen the Plumber
10. Mrs. jotter
4. boran2 (Honorary)
5. BeninSC (Honorary)
7. Senor Unoball
2. Jeff in CA
3. Mrs. Jeff in CA
Native American Netroots:
2. Meteor Blades
3. 4Freedom (maybe)
4. no way lack of brain
6. Kitsap River
7. Charles Curtis Stanley
9. TFLS's guest
10. TFLS's guest
Central Valley Kossacks:
4. Caddis Fly
6. peregrine kate (honorary)
7. ProvokingMeaning (honorary)
Lone Star Kossacks:
Los Angeles Kossacks:
5. Dave in Northridge
NYC and beyond:
2. belinda ridgewood
3. belinda ridgewood's guest
Community Quilt Project:
1. Sara R
4. ramara (Arizona)
5. Horace Boothroyd III
Military Community Members:
3. angelajean (Maybe)
4. exlrrp (Maybe)
Cheers & Jeers:
1. Bill in Portland Maine
2. Common Sense Mainer
5. Spousal Unit
Community Quilt Project NN13 Flash Mob Photo
smileycreek is organizing and asking all Community Quilt recipients to bring their quilts to NN13. We'll assemble at a pre-designated location and time for a group photo with one of the NN13 professional photographers. It will be a group hug celebrating one of the most beloved community building projects we have here at Daily Kos with Sara R and winglion at the center of it. navajo and Glen the Plumber are going to scout out and select a location in advance for all to meet with their quilts for a memorable photo opportunity. Stay tuned.
Date: TBD Time: TBD
2. Dave in Northridge
8. llbear (not attending, quilt only)
9. Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse (may not attend)
10. Smoh (not attending, quilt only)
12. belinda ridgewood
15. Kitsap River
16. Charles Curtis Stanley
17. Dr. Lori (not attending, quilt only)
Glacier National Park Kossack EPIC Meetup!
LOCATION: Glacier National Park
402 9th St W • Columbia Falls, Montana
ORGANIZER: Send arizonablue a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Glacier National Park Check In! Glacier National Park Meetup - Part II w/ lodging and campground info!
5. Ojibwa - arriving for the weekend
13. state of confusion
14. Lute the Norwegian
15. Josh Blue
16. Thinking Fella
17. Blu Gal in DE
Ed in Montana
Dave in Northridge
Send navajo a kosmail if you post a diary about an event so we can update our round-up.
Okay. Floor's open.
Tell us what you are doing on this NEW DAY?