Thursday, June 20th at Netroots Nation 2013
Hosted by navajo aka Neeta Lind and Meteor Blades aka Tim Lange
Speakers: Corrina Gould, Pennie Opal Plant and Michael Horse
-Photo Courtesy of citisven
At the past two Netroots Nation get-togethers, we've changed the agenda of the American Indian Caucus. We turned over most of our time to progressive activists from the Native communities in and around Providence in 2012 and San Jose this year.
This has provided the diverse attendees at our caucus with some understanding of the people whose ancestors once lived where those cities now stand. It also focused on some of the modern issues local Indians are contending with inside their own communities and as part of the greater progressive coalition.
The success of these caucuses—measured by the size and interest shown by our audiences—has convinced Neeta and me to follow the same approach in Detroit for Netroots Nation 2014.
Watching the video or reading the transcript requires a considerable investment of time, so you probably want to know if it's worth it. We can assure you that it is. If you do either and say it was a waste, we'll buy you lunch when you're next in town.
Before you start, however, I want to point out that there wouldn't be any caucus video if it weren't for the generosity of linkage who donated his time, equipment and expertise to film and produce it. And there wouldn't be any transcript if it weren't for the willingness of long-time Kossack Cedwyn to do the tedious work of transforming the whole thing into a permanent document. Thanks so much to you both.
The transcript can be found below the frybread thingee.
Neeta Lind: Yá'át'ééh from the Navajo Nation.Neeta Lind
-Photo Courtesy of Marta Evry
My name is Neeta Lind. Welcome and thanks for supporting our American Indian caucus. I really appreciate everybody coming to it. I'm the founder of Native American Netroots, it's an online repository for American Indian essays and I've been leading the American Indian caucus here at Netroots Nation for the past eight years.
My co-host for the past five years is Meteor Blades, also known as Tim Lange. He's [a] Senior Political Writer at Daily Kos and a registered member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Tim is a long-time activist. He was at Wounded Knee and the BIA takeover in the early 1970s. Together, we are co-editors of First Nations News & Views, which is currently on hiatus.
I'm going to introduce our speakers today, and then I'm going to give Meteor Blades a chance to give us his thoughts here at the caucus. First I’d like to introduce Corrina Gould. Corrina is from the Ohlone tribe, which lived here in the Bay Area before the European invasion. She fights to this day to protect her tribe's sacred land.
And then we have Penny Opal Plant, a long-time activist in the Bay Area. She's Yaqui, Mexican, Choctaw and Cherokee (some European, too). [laughter] Penny owns an art gallery in East Bay, and her activism currently revolves around climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline.
And then we'll have Michael Horse speak to you about his unique take on life. Michael, who is Yaqui, Mescalero Apache, and Zuni, was at the Wounded Knee takeover He's a television and film actor and he's had many roles. You might remember him in the David Lynch Twin Peaks series as Deputy Tommy Hill. He's also a jeweler, a ledger painter, and some of his pieces hang in the Smithsonian.Meteor Blades: Estonkey from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I'm going to talk very briefly about a couple of things, one of which is the afternoon session at 3, which is the Native Vote. I encourage all of you to come to that session. It's the panel idea that Neeta and I came up with three years ago, and the panel was rejected twice. And this year, some folks from North Dakota managed to get it together. So, I'll be on that panel, and there will be two other people on that panel.Meteor Blades
-Photo Courtesy of Neeta Lind
We'll be talking about why the Native vote is important and a little bit of history about how American Indians got the right to vote and all the problems that continue to exist around the people who would like to keep us from exercising that vote. So that is something that we hope that everyone here finds the time to come to. It's, like I say, something we've felt was important for a very long time and it's just not gotten the play because there are so few of us.
A couple of comments in general about why we are doing the caucuses the way we are now. Last year in Providence, we found a local person who was a member of the Narragansett tribe, Paulla Dove-Jennings, who talked about what the story was for the people in Rhode Island who were there before the Europeans came. And everywhere in America, whether you're in Oakland, or you're in Arizona somewhere, or Florida, or Indiana (named for Indians), there are people who still exist – despite the attempt of the media to convince everyone that no Indians still exist in some areas – there are still people there who are connected to that past in various ways.
We are trying, at every Indian caucus now, to present people who represent modern-day views of Indian-ness and make the connection to the past as well. So today, we have three people who will be doing that, one of whom has lived on her people's land – since you were born, right?
Meteor Blades: Which most people in California are unaware that there even were Indians – you'll talk about this, as we just did – here between the time the Spanish arrived and the time that they found gold at Sutter's Mill.
So that's the point behind putting together the caucus these days. We will continue to bring you other news in other fora, but this is our approach. So you have an order for people?
Neeta Lind: Yeah.
Meteor Blades: Okay.
Neeta Lind: Let's hear from Corrina first. Welcome, Corrina.
Corrina Gould, speaking
-Photo Courtesy of Neeta Lind
Corrina Gould: Thank you. [speaks in Chochenyo] I say "Good day. My name's Corrina and I'm Chochenyo. And Chochenyo is the language that was first spoken in the East Bay, and my great-grandfather, José Guzmán, was one of the very last speakers of the language.
This crazy guy, J.P. Harrington, if you guys have heard of him, knew that there was a bunch of languages that were dying out over 100 years ago. And he went around, and he took a bunch of crazy notes, not just of our area, but for hundreds of different places, and my great grandfather's songs are on wax cylinder in the Smithsonian, and we are bringing back our language in that kind of way.
I'm always humbled and honored to be able to speak in front of folks that come from many different places to talk about my ancestors and the ties that we have to the land that we sit on. The Ohlone people are kind of combined and thrown together into a group, just because, I guess, the United States government felt it was easier to do that.
But we are a un-federally recognized tribe. So, according to the United States government, we don't exist, and so I like to tell people, "I'm a figment of your imagination. I'm not really here." There are folks that are working on actually getting recognition and going through that process of recognizing the Tribe again, and there's a website at muwekma.org. And Muwekma means "the people" in the Chochenyo language.
I honor those people who are doing that kind of work; that's not my life's work. I actually have a job. I'm the Title VII Coordinator for Office of Indian Ed in Oakland, and I track all the American Indian students in Oakland School District, about 369 of them, from the time they're in pre-k until they graduate from high school. And last night we were honored that 12 of our young people graduated and we were able to wrap them in Pendletons last night and send them on their next part of their journey.
So, that's my job. My work is for the ancestors, and I really believe that I was put on this Earth to do that work, to remind people of where they are and to be a voice for those ancestors. About 20 years ago, we started doing work in the Bay Area around the recognition of the sacred places that are here. And when people come to the Bay Area, they look around – you know, you come to a convention center here, you might see an airport. You see big shopping malls; you go see your family. You might go to Yosemite. You might go to San Francisco.
But you never see the monuments of the people that were once here, and it's been my privilege in the last 20 years to work around bringing recognition and voice to those ancestors. At one time, there was over 425 shell mounds that ringed the entire Bay Area, mostly along waterways that were fresh water, always the burial sites of my ancestors. And disturbing stuff started happening, that I started getting involved with, was that my ancestors' burials were continuously being dug up. And because we're not a federally recognized tribe, a lot of times, we were just kept out of the loop around that.
So there was a lot of things that we tried to do. We tried to find out about the EIRs in the different cities and counties in the Bay Area. We tried to talk to city council members about different kind of things, but there was no law to actually protect Native people that are not federally recognized.
In 1999, a friend of mine, Jenella LaRose and I started an organization called Indian People Organizing for Change, and we started that because the base closures, actually, not having anything to do with the sacred sites. But there were base closures that were happening in the Bay Area. The Naval station was closing in Alameda; the Oakland Army base was closing in Oakland. There was all this land that was available, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development gave the Indian group some money to actually find out what Native people wanted to do in the Bay Area with these base closures.
So we started doing just regular community organizing, door-to-door knocking and talking to Indian people about what it is that they would like to see in these different places. And the interesting thing was with that, we were finding out that there was a lot of Native people that were in the Bay Area that weren't connected with each other. We began to have house meetings, and then we began to have training sessions around what it means to be urban Indian.
So there was a lot of Native people that came into the Bay Area on relocation act, another way for the United States government to get rid of Native people, to invisibilize them. It was a great way of meeting people that had different journeys that came into the Bay Area. But people started talking about different stuff, not about the base closures.
They started talking about not having their needs met. They started talking about an Indian charter school that they weren't being heard at. They started talking about coming together around the Mi'kmaq and the whaling and supporting them. And so it took on a different thing.
But they also talked about – and now we're talking third generation that we're dealing with of relocation, of kids losing their cultural connections to the reservations and to the people. And so we began to talk about what is it, what are our original teachings as Native people and what are we supposed to do, even if we're in an urban setting. And so we began to talk about water, and we began to talk about our lives as urban people and how do we bring back culture.
We started talking about those things, but we also started talking about the shell mounds and what does that mean. Even if you're a Native person from someplace else, what is your responsibility to ensure that the land that you're on is a place that you respect and that you're able to talk to other people about? So we created this walk around the Bay Area.
We walked from Vallejo – and I know, you guys pull out your maps. I don't know where you guys are all from. But we did a walk that was about 300 miles long, and it encircled the Bay Area. And we found out where many of the shell mounds were. We walked from Vallejo down to San Jose and up to San Francisco.
It took us three weeks. People from all over the world joined us, people from the Cape Verde Islands in Japan, Nova Scotia, Australia, and people from all over this country. And we walked 18 miles a day, and we stopped along the way at these different places that were the shell mounds, the burial sites of my ancestors, and we prayed. And we honored them, and we remembered that they were there and where we were.
In that great blessing, we found out a lot about the Bay Area and a lot about each other. But also, we were reminded what our place was here on this land and how we were supposed to act and how we were supposed to relate to one another as human beings – not just Native people, but all human beings – and how we were supposed to do those kind of things.
The other thing that we learned was really hard, that of the 425 shell mounds that once existed in a 1909 coast survey map the Nils Nilsson did was that there were only a handful of them that still existed. So where we stopped was in front of bars and hotels like this one, on railroad tracks and apartment buildings and schools, and different places. And most of our ancestors' remains had been paved over by different buildings, by construction. And say they don't exist so much in the way that we would see stuff.
I like to often – my friend Perry, he worked with me on shell mound issues for many years. He talked about being able to go to Stonehenge and touch that and feel that and see that sacred area, going to places like Egypt or Mexico and seeing those pyramids and being able to touch that and feel that and see that. But when you come to the Bay Area, when you come to a place that's filled with people from all over the world, where are those places that we are able to take people and show them that folks existed here and that there were sacred places.
One of the biggest places, our shell mound that was in Emeryville, in 2000, there was this whole dot.com era that started up. You know, the big internet thing happened, and the Bay Area, the whole thing about housing went skyrocketing. You could used to buy a house for, like, $60,000 - $70,000, a nice home in the Bay Area. Then people started making money off the Internet and they start outbidding each other, doubling the price. "I'll give you $140,000 for it," just so they could be in the Bay Area. Well, everything went up.
There was also a brownfield in the city of Emeryville that was leaking out all these toxins into the Bay Area. And so the City of Emeryville was able to get some money to mitigate that whole thing and to clean it up. When they did that – when they were going to do that, they were going to build this giant mall. Well, this mall happens to be on one of the hugest shell mounds of my ancestors. It was on a coast survey map from 1857, so people coming into the Bay Area could see this huge mound and use it as a point of reference. And the City of Emeryville knew that that was there. We started going to meetings and asking them to clean it up, make it a green place, make it a place for us to be able to take our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and just show people from around the world that there are these spots that are important and that they should do it.
Instead, they built a mall on top of it. So every year the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year, we go there and we protest outside of there, an educational protest to ensure that people know that not only were our remains taken out, not only was the shell mound used to pave the City of Berkeley and Emeryville with my ancestors' bones, but this kind of desecration in this time and day does not need to happen ever again.
All during that time while we were doing this work around shell mounds and doing the walks and stuff, a friend of mine, Wounded Knee DeOcampo, lived in Vallejo. He's a Miwok man, really good friend of ours. He had been fighting and going all over the country with this big sign about save sacred sites and people signed up from all over the world. And he was fighting to save this place in basically his back yard. Along the coast in Vallejo in this place called Glen Cove, there was two shell mounds that existed there. The City of Vallejo and the Greater Vallejo Recreation District decided that they wanted to take this open space and to make it into a park.
Now, people were already using it. Fishermen were using it. People were walking their dogs through it. There's a housing development that's butted right up against this little over an acre of land. And they wanted to just put up all these things, bathrooms on top of it and parking lots and picnic structures and all kinds of crazy stuff. And the City of Vallejo, if you remember – I don't know if you guys know, California in 2011, it filed bankruptcy.
At the time that they filed bankruptcy, they still allowed the Greater Vallejo Recreation District – they waived $60,000 worth of permits so that they could desecrate this site. So, on April 14 of 2011, a group of us got together and said, "Let's just go take it over. [laughter] Right?
So we figured okay, we'll be there for the weekend. Whatever. But we set up this sacred fire on that day. We went into the land; we put this fire on, and that fire burned for 109 days. We didn't leave that land. They brought in federal agents. They tried to talk to us in different kind of ways. We used the U.N.D.R.I.P., the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People in order to stay there. We used the 1978 law on indigenous – American Indian Freedom of Religion Act.
We did all of that kind of stuff, and we were blessed by people from all over the world and all over the place that came and they put down their prayers at that sacred fire. And we built a community of people from all over the place that had a place that they could actually call their own.
Young people came with their families, and we had security set up. And there were people that brought us food and tarps and firewood that lasted us the entire time. We had ceremony there and we created a community where everybody was included. Everyone had a place there. We had people who had mental health issues that showed up that had jobs to do, and it was important that we created a community that our ancestors had always known existed and that exists still in this day and age.
So, for 109 days we prayed, and there were four other fires set up in other parts of the world that burned just as long as ours did. People from all over the country were looking to see what would happen. On the 99th day, or right around the 99th day, the City of Vallejo and the Greater Vallejo Recreation District went into private conversation with a federally recognized casino tribe that was close by.
And that tribe created a cultural easement. It is the first one, a cultural easement that was created between a city, a tribe, and a park district. And so, we went in and had conversations with these people, and they said, "We are going to ensure that there's no bathrooms, that they don't desecrate the area, because they bought into this.
So that means, a cultural easement means, they have the same right, ownership right, as the City of Vallejo and the Greater Vallejo Recreation District. None of the three parties can do anything on that land, no development, anything on that land, without the other one's permission. We thought "We're dealing with Indians here. They're going to do the right thing. They are not going to desecrate this site."
Wrong. We went in naively thinking because there were Native people that were involved in it, that we were going to win this thing in a different kind of way. And when we went back in October, we left on July 31, hundreds of people were there that came and supported us, and we had a final ceremony there. We left that place, and it broke our hearts, and we had PTSD for months. I couldn't read or concentrate at work for eight months.
Same with all of the folks that were involved in the committee, we just couldn't figure it out. Being on that land, being connected again to other human beings, was much different than coming back into the city and being a part of the institutions that we're all a part of. It was difficult on my family. I had three kids at home and a grandchild that was on the way, and I just – it was hard to connect.
So, it changed our lives in a spiritual way that we will never be changed back again, and I’m grateful for that. In all honesty, I think that the win was not about not having the place desecrated. They took down part of a mound that we asked them not to that had cremations in it. They took down an old mansion that was there that had another piece of our shell mound on top of it. And they were not supposed to use big machinery, and they did. They put in more parking spots than they needed to, and they put in park benches with a bunch of cement.
But there were a lot of wins. We had allies from all over the place that came in and they stopped huge amounts of money from coming in there. They allowed us to have a voice, in a lot of different ways. But I think it was the community that we built there was the biggest lesson that we were supposed to learn. And we were forever grateful for those folks that came and prayed with us and fed us and shared stories with us and the family that we created there. To know that that can still exist in this day and time, that as human beings from all different walks of life that we are supposed to be here to take care of one another and to take care of this land and to be inclusive of each other in order for this place to survive, and so that was the biggest thing that I learned in that lesson.
Since that time, I've taken my community organizing and I've changed in a different kind of way. I started to look at it in a different way, you know. We can do these takeovers; we can do this kind of stuff, and I still believe in doing that if that's what needs to be done, but I’m creating an urban land trust for Native People. And by doing that, I’m hoping to create cultural easements that will bring my ancestors back.
At UC Berkeley, there are over 15,000 of my ancestral remains and artifacts that sit there. The same is true at San Francisco State University. My hope and dream is by the time – before I die, that we are able to return those ancestors back into the land that they are supposed to be in. By doing that, I think that creating a land trust, where we're able to get a piece of land, or multiple pieces of land, to bring those ancestors home will create a healing that this area needs.
And so, that's the work I'm doing now. We have a film that we are creating over the next year that will hopefully talk about what that journey is like. There's a couple of movies that you can watch, if you'd like to. One's on Vimeo; it's called Buried Voices. We're working on trying to create a campaign against East Bay Regional Parks, which owns over 100,000 acres of land in Ohlone territory in both Contra Costa and Alameda County.
They have over 700 people that are employees, but none of them are Native Americans. They will not give us a voice in their new master plan development. On Monday, we have a meeting; it's the last meeting before they approve their master plan, so we're trying to get people out there. They have a petition on change.org about it that I would love for you guys to support and sign onto. You can find me on facebook, and it's on my page, Corrina Gould.
And if you'd like to find more out about the occupation that we did, there's a movie on YouTube called To Protect Glenn Cove. And we also have a website that's still up, it's www.protectglenncove.org, and it talks about – it has pictures and daily updates that you can read over and see what was happening during that time of occupation.
So actually, I’m all dried out now, so I’m actually going to pass it on. That's a lot of stuff to take in. Yeah, and so I was like, one of these days, I'm hoping that when I come and talk in front of people – you know, it's always Indian stuff is, like, so heavy to talk about – that one of these days, we talk about just all good stuff, you know. And it's because we're all in this room together that we're creating that good stuff and we can share those stories together.
Thank you so much.
Pennie Opal Plant
Pennie Opal Plant
-Photo Courtesy of Steven Stearns
Penny Opal Plant: Hi. My name is Penny Opal Plant. I'm Yaqui, Choctaw, Cherokee, English, Dutch, Mexican; kind of like a lot of us, I'm very blended, and I thank all of my ancestors for making me who I am because I love being alive. And I'm from the Bay Area, Richmond. I was born and raised there; my family has been there since the late '30s.
And I wanted to ask a question first. How many of you know what Idle No More is? And how many of you know about the tar sands in Alberta, Canada? Great.
So I’ll start off by talking a little bit about Idle No More. I've been an activist since the early '80s on a number of environmental and indigenous issues. In November of last year, four women from Canada, three First Nations women and one woman who called herself a "settler," which I really like that term for people whose ancestors came from other parts of the world than the Americas.
They looked at these horrendous bills that the Harper government was going to try to pass that would violate treaties and that would decimate the environment, and they said we have to do something about it. So they started out with a teach-in followed up by a facebook page and a twitter page and a website, and that kicked off the largest indigenous and settler revolution that we've ever seen. I don't think the world has ever seen anything quite like it.
So that was November. By December 10, there was a chief that had gone on a fast; she went on a fast for over 20 days to try to get the Harper government to meet with the chiefs and leaders of the First Nations people in Canada. And just to give you a little bit of an idea of what these bills were like, they were an attempt to separate people from their traditional lands. A lot of treaties hold lands in communities, and it's a communal system.
Like here in the United States and Canada, they were trying to break up that system and allow people to sell their land. Well you know, if your children are starving and you don't have any food to feed them, and you don't have a job and you have absolutely nothing else left but your land, of course we would all do that. We would all sell our land to feed our children.
The other part of these horrendous bills was that Bill C4-5 eliminated the federal protections of water, all the rivers, creeks, streams, lakes. And you know Canada is full of that; there were over two million bodies of water protected on December 4. On December 5 when this bill was passed, it was reduced down to under 200.
Audience member: What??!
Penny Opal Plant: Yes. That's why people in Canada, First Nations and settler people, were rising up. That bill passed. There are other bills that have been coming down that are also horrible, and First Nations people and allies are rising up to stop that from happening.
So why did this resonate so profoundly around the world? It resonated because it's happening everywhere. For four years or longer, everywhere in the world, federal governments have been allowing corporations to ruin our beautiful Mother Earth in order to make money for the corporations. And corporations, by law – by law, they are legally bound to make money for their shareholders. They are not legally bound to care about our welfare, about Mother Earth's welfare, about any other welfare other than making money for their shareholders.
So our system has to change, and unfortunately, the United States has exported this system of greed around the world. Wherever we go in, wherever we have a war, wherever we go in in insidious ways around the world, we are exporting this system, like in Iraq. We went into Iraq, and then right after that, all the Big Oil went in to get the contracts for the oil there, and that's just one example. It happens in the agricultural business. It happens in every single industry where the United States goes in and changes the system in order to feed the multi-national corporations.
So, the beautiful thing that happened around this – and I don't know how many of you saw this on facebook, but by January, there were Idle No More solidarity events on every single continent except Antarctica. So this movement of Idle No More is bringing all of us together, and it's bringing us together and reminding us that we are all related and that we are all indigenous to this Mother Earth upon whose belly we stand.
There is no doubt about that. We are – everything on this planet that's alive is related, and DNA has proven that. So it's time to rise up, and that's what we're doing. In the Bay Area, I've helped organize Idle No More to be at all of the big climate demonstrations that have been happening. In Northern California, the Idle No More events started happening in December. I think one of the first ones was when my husband and I – Michael's my husband – we went on December 10, which was an international day for First Nations people to rise up.
And we stood in front of the Canadian Consulate with a sign. It said, "Take care of our Mother Earth, our lands, our soils, our waters. Or give it all back." [laughter] And of course, we didn't mean that, but it was a really good attention-grabber.
And then shortly after that, we were all at the Oakland Idle No More event. We were at Sacramento on the Capitol Steps. For a while, there were Idle No More events happening every single weekend in Northern California. So, these events entail a prayer – they always have prayer because that's who we are and that's who we are as human beings; we connect that way – and a Round Dance, which is a dance of friendship and peace and caring about one another, and teach-ins. And so we've been able to educate a lot of members from our community and people who aren't part of our community about what's happening in the world.
So, one of the biggest issues for our beautiful planet that's happening right now is the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. And if you haven't seen pictures of the tar sands, I really do encourage you to go online and see them. I put one of these on each one of your chairs, and there's a lot of resources there that you can go and look and see what's going on.
So, the tar sands are in the largest boreal forest that's left in the world. And Big Oil has gone in and scraped everything off – I was told it's a 500-square mile area. So imagine a big spoon just ripping everything off the skin of our mother. And then they use 800 million gallons of water a day to inject toxins into the Earth in order to make this thick bitumen soft enough to be able to suck it out.
So, the tail-mining pools where all this toxic sludge goes into are so big that they can be seen from outer space. They're that huge. And recently, there was big flooding in Fort McMurray, where the tar sands are, and SunCor corporation's – these big pools are 600 yards away from the Athabasca River. And so I haven't been able to find out if they actually did flood in, but that's way too close. And there was flooding that occurred, but unfortunately, I don't know if there's a clamp-down on that information or not, because I keep checking it regularly. The information about the flooding did go out. So, I pray that it didn't go into the Athabasca River.
But you know, what we're dealing with are these big corporations, these multi-national corporations, that keep telling us that whatever toxins they put – wherever it is, with radiation, with gold mining, with all the different kind of mining that are so toxic – that they'll take care of it. Well, I was an anti-nuclear activist, and Hanford storage facility is leaking into the Columbia River. They didn't take care of that. They haven’t taken care of anything.
And so, I want to invite you to a couple of events that Idle No More is going to be at. One of them – and I know this goes through Saturday, but if you live in the Bay Area or if you're going to be here and you're not attending events here on Saturday, we have a Powwow in Richmond that you can find easily online on facebook, and we're going to have an Idle No More booth there.
And then our group is going to be at the Canadian Consulate on July 1, because that's another First Nations action in Canada around saving Canada and stopping Harper. So, the least that you can do on that day, July 1 is to call your local Canadian Consulate and tell them that you're in solidarity with the people in Canada who are rising up against the horrible things that are happening there around the environment and First Nations people.
Our next event will be July 16 at Kinder Morgan in Richmond. Kinder Morgan is the largest pipeline builder in the United States, and it's kind of this – they have facilities here and there and all over, but nobody's doing anything about them. They also make the toxins that are used to get the tar sands out of the ground.
On August 3, we're having a very big event with all of the major environment players – Sierra Club, NRDC, all of our local organizations and Idle No More – at the Richmond refinery, the Chevron refinery in Richmond. And as some of you will remember, that exploded last year on August 6.
Well, that toxic cloud came right to our house. We overlook the Richmond refinery; it came right to our house. And over 15,000 people went to local hospitals as a result of that fire and are still suffering from different kind of breathing problems and rashes. And one woman stepped out of her house that day and went into convulsions.
But we're having a huge festival of resistance in Richmond on that day, starting at Richmond BART. So, if you live in the area, just come on over at BART. Be there by 10:00 and you will be able to march with us to the refinery; it's not that far away.
And the Keystone XL pipeline, you know, that crosses – if Obama says yes to that, there's over 65,000 people that have signed up on the CREDO website to do civil disobedience if he says yes to that pipeline. So, if Obama says yes, you can expect that there will be way more people than that rising up that day or the next day, and he knows that. Hopefully, that will sway his decision, because that pipeline crosses way too many aquifers. It's too near the Ogalala – they changed the route, but it's still too near the Ogalala aquifer, which provides water to over 30% of the U.S. population and to all that agriculture in the Midwest.
So, whatever you can do, do it. Unfortunately, we have the greatest responsibility of any generation that's ever lived on our planet, and that is that it's up to us to ensure the future of the next seven generations. If we don't all rise up and do everything we can to inspire people to rise up with us, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will not enjoy anything close to an environment that we have enjoyed in our lifetimes.
And so, for those people that you know who are in despair, who are in denial, the best remedy for that is to get involved and be part of the solution.
So I thank you for listening to me.
Michael Horse, speaking
-Photo Courtesy of Steven Stearns
Michael Horse: My name is Michael Horse. I'm Yaqui, Mescalero Apache, Zuni, and part European. Penny saves the world and I drive. [laughter]
It was interesting when we were in Washington, D.C., to protest the pipeline – I worked in Northern Alberta, some of the most beautiful places that I'd ever seen in my life. And the tribal leaders were there, the spiritual leaders, and the tribal government. And they weren't even mad, they were hurt. They just had this tremendous hurt in their hearts. It just – it was very hard to take.
Audience member: Louder, please.
Michael Horse: Okay. I want to just talk to you – I see a lot of older faces here – about how important it is now to set an example. We moved to Southern California when I was about 10 years old, and I grew up in a pretty traditional background. I was a traditional dancer, and we'd go home for ceremonies, but I didn't know anything about activism.
And then when I got out of the service, I was mustered in the Bay Area up here and was actually the mailman in Haight-Ashbury for a while, which – interesting experience. [laughter] People would pop out of the park, going "You got any mail for me?" "No, you need an address and some pants." Maybe not in that order. [laughter]
But Alcatraz was happening, the first of the American Indian movements, and I went over there. I saw Richard Oakes and I didn't know we could do this. I didn't know we could reclaim. I thought it was pretty much a lost battle for us. And I was so inspired that my whole life has been to fight for Native rights.
But the fight now is for all of us. It's for your children. And I was a little disappointed when I came up here to see a lot of young people weren't being involved, you know. When they had the anti-war rallies, I would go and I'd tell my wife, "This is wonderful, but there's nobody here under 50 years old. Where are the kids?"
These kids got woke up, you know, and they're going to look to all of you. And example really, really means a lot, it set my whole life. When Wounded Knee happened, I knew I had to go up there and help people. I went on the Longest Walk. I was at Point Conception, which was really interesting because that's one of the Chumash's sacred and holy places. Like the Ohlones, the government would just come, and the corporations, and they would dig up all these sacred places.
The Chumash, they knew where everything was and they would try and get in and move some of the bodies. And finally, they went, "No. This is it." So they called all of us to go in there. And I expected to go in and fight, and Cote Lota, the spiritual man, said, "No, no weapons. You can have a small staff. You can bring a staff with you. But bring your children. Bring your families."
And the federal government showed up. The police showed up, and they were armed and they were ready to go. And they looked out and saw all these people with their kids and their wives. And I actually overheard the local police department, and they said, "No. We're not doing this. We're not going to hurt these people."
And I learned the power of non-violent resistance. I will never, ever forget that, you know. Interesting about moving to California, I knew nothing about the California Native people. I'm learning, just like everybody else did, and I’m living in the Malibu area. And I met a lot of Chumash people and – master navigators, sailed all over the world. They're finding Chumash canoes down in Peru.
My kid brings home her school book, says Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. [laughter] So I go to her teacher – we're friends. I said, "Miss Henderson, these people never noticed the beach? Thank you! I never saw that! Is there fish in there? How come you didn't see that?" Sometimes, it's that ridiculous, the disrespect that they have for our culture.
So, I just want to cut this short and just tell all of you are going to be an example for these young people. These young people, they're the ones who are going to do it, and I'm not a great optimist, but I really have a lot of hope. Because I'm lookin' in these kids' eyes, and they're ready to go. They're ready for this task, and it makes my heart feel really good.
And seeing all of you people here, all of you taking time out to come and work on all these problems. And it's no longer an indigenous problem, it's a human problem. Like my wife says, this – it's not going to matter about voting or freedom or anything if the Earth goes, you know.
This is the task of our species and if we don't combat this, we're going to be in trouble. Some people say, "Well, I don't care." Well, you've got kids, you've got grand-kids, you know. I mean, I want – I tell my daughter, I said, "If my grandson says 'Well, didn't anybody do anything?' I want you to tell him that Grandma and Grandpa did. They fought for you."
So thank you all for being here. I'm very proud of you.