June 2, 2011

Andrew Jackson and the USA Global War Bill

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Steve Newcomb @ 5:31 pm

In March 2011, the U.S. government filed a response brief to two appeals by two Guantanamo Bay detainees. They had been convicted of “providing material support for terrorism” and their defense contended that the charge was not a war crime subject to military tribunal jurisdiction.

The defense argued that the U.S. government was obliged to cite historical evidence demonstrating that “providing support to an enemy” had been previously treated by the United States as a war crime. In its March 2011 response, the United States created an explicit connection between the Seminole Indians and al Qaeda under the label of “terrorism,” and cited a single historical example to support its theory.

That precedent was the prosecution and hanging of two British subjects under Major General Andrew Jackson’s command during his unauthorized invasion of Florida. In an effort to make their precedent fit, the U.S. military commission prosecutors offered two examples of what they claimed to be “terrorism,”—the Seminole Indians resisting Jackson’s invasion in 1817 and al Qaeda in 2001.

In 1817, without authorization, U.S. Major General (later President) Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Spanish-claimed territory in Florida, thereby igniting the First Seminole War. Jackson did so to capture “fugitive slaves” and to invade and attack the Seminole and Miccosukee nations. During the invasion, Jackson captured two British subjects (Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister) who had been living among the Seminoles.

Letters found aboard Arbuthnot’s schooner, in which he had advocated for Seminole land and treaty rights, were used as evidence against him. Because the Seminoles were deemed by Jackson to be “enemies” of the United States, and because the two British subjects had supported those “enemy” Indians who were resisting Jackson’s invasion of Florida, a military panel decided that the two men deserved to be executed. Ambrister was initially sentenced to death, but this was reversed and he was then sentenced to 50 lashes and one year hard labor. However, Jackson unilaterally overturned that sentence and had Ambrister hanged anyway.

Given that neither Arbuthnot nor Ambrister were U.S. citizens, and owed no duty of allegiance to the United States—and that they were arrested in an illegal US invasion of Spanish claimed territory—their conduct was not a “war crime” under international law. Despite this, they were executed by Jackson.

The U.S. government’s attempt this past March to analogize al Queda with the Seminole people was a terrible distortion. Worse still is the parallel between Andrew Jackson charging and hanging Arbuthnot and Ambrister for “aiding the enemy” and current U.S. congressional legislation now moving quickly toward passage. Not only have US government attorneys wrongly converted Seminoles into al Qaeda, but the Congress is now about to pass legislation that would treat all humans on the planet as potential detainees for aiding those deemed by the United States to be “enemies.”

The proposed legislation would make The Authorization for the Use of Military Force of September 2001 a permanent feature of U.S. law. It would make due process protections under the U.S. Constitution unavailable to anyone detained. The scope of the legislation appears to be anybody, anytime, anywhere.

A bill authorizing a regime of global war was added to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (H.R. 1540) by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA). The Act passed the House last week and now moves to the U.S. Senate. Another such bill was recently put forward by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

The new war authorization will allow the United States to wage war “wherever there are terrorism suspects in any country around the world without an expiration date, geographical boundaries or connection to the 9/11 attacks or any other specific harm or threat to the United States,” the ACLU said recently.

According to a May 9 article by Laura Pitter in “The Hill” newspaper (“Proposed McKeon and McCain legislation won’t make us safer”), the bills put forward by congressman McKeon and Senator McCain “would expand who the U.S. says it is at war with and mandate military detention for broadly defined terrorist suspects based on scant evidence.” Hearsay evidence will also be admissible.

By means of a permanent war authorization, indigenous peoples, and their allies, who advocate for self-determination and for the protection of Indigenous resources (lands, water, minerals, etc.) against colonial and corporate exploitation could be accused by the United States of “supporting terrorism,” and thereby come under attack or be seized by the U.S. military and end up being held as detainees. The legislation would further ratify and intensify the U.S. policy of treating Indigenous peoples’ issues as a matter of national security.

On May 25, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) said of the overall situation of the United States at this time, “The last nail is being driven into the coffin of the American Republic.”

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008), and a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

June 7, 2011

Andrew Jackson’s Actions Model Anti-Speech, Perpetual War Legislation

Andrew Jackson’s illegal and heavily censured actions during the First Seminole War in 1817 were cited recently during the military trial of a Guantanamo prisoner and was used as a precedent for the $690 billion defense authorization bill recently passed by Congress that would give the president unilateral authority to wage war at home or abroad and detain anyone suspected of terrorism or “providing material aid to terrorism” anywhere in the world, indefinitely and without trial. Although there is no direct connection between the Guantanamo case and that legislation, the right of free speech is threatened by both and raises fears that the legislation could be used to squelch any kind of dissension or resistance to government policies or actions. And coming on the heels of the government’s use of “Geronimo” as the code name for Osama bin Laden, the man who epitomized global terrorism, indigenous peoples fear that the legislation could be used against them for asserting their right to self determination, sovereignty and the protection of their lands and resources against exploitation by governments or corporations.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (HR 1540), sponsored by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), passed the House on May 26 by a vote of 322-96. A companion bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) now faces review in the Senate. In addition to handing the president the sole authority to wage war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces,” HR 1540 also gives him authority to lock up anyone found “substantially supporting” those forces without charges or trials for an unspecified amount of time. The bill does not identify the “associated forces” or define “substantially supporting”; nor does it provide a timeline for ending a president’s authority to use such military force.

The bill was opposed by dozens of groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union says there is “a sleeper provision deep inside the bill… that could become the single biggest hand-over of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern American history.” The New York Times reported on May 18 that McKeon believes the bill simply aligns old legal authorities with current threats.

At the same time that McKeon introduced the bill in March, government prosecutors were trying to align old legal authorities with the very contemporary issue of prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of terrorism under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. One of them, Ali Al-Bahlul, a Yemeni citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2004, was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison for “providing material support for terrorism” to Al Qaeda.

Government prosecutors drew parallels between the Seminoles and today’s terrorists, and Al Bahlul and two men executed by Jackson as “providing aid to the enemy” that have raised concerns about the potential abuse of power in the legislation.

In an attempt to determine the legal status of providing material aid the court asked the prosecutors at the end of January if only citizens or residents of a nation—in other words, people with an allegiance or obligation to be loyal to that nation—could be charged with providing material aid to an enemy. Common sense seems to argue against charging someone who is not a U.S. citizen or resident with aiding the enemy, particularly in a case such as Al Bahlul’s, in which the detainee proudly declares he is the enemy. Al Bahlul’s defense attorneys, who argue that providing material aid is not a recognized war crime and that Congress cannot create new war crimes not accepted internationally as violations of the rules of war, reviewed U.S. military commission records from the Civil War on, and found that in every case involving aiding the enemy, “None involved a foreigner who had not undertaken some allegiance to the government by, at a minimum, temporary residence in an area under its authority.”

In addition to aiding the enemy, Al Bahlul was charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. The charges were made retroactively under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Al Bahlul’s defense lawyers argued violates the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto charges. But even though Al Bahlul had admitted to joining al Qaeda, swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden and serving as his personal secretary, the prosecution could not link him to any act of violence against the U.S. or its coalition forces. Instead, the prosecution won its conviction based a video Al Bahlul made called State of the Ummah. The video pieces together clips that are widely available on the Internet and includes speeches by Osama bin Laden and others against U.S. politicians and military leaders. As offensive as the video may be to some Americans, Al Bahlul’s defense lawyers built their appeal against his life sentence on his First Amendment right of free speech.

Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul

In this courtroom scetch, Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul appears before a military commission at Guantanamo Naval Base Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 in Guantanamo, Cuba

“There is little doubt that Mr. Al-Bahlul is not a sympathetic defendant,” the defense lawyers said in court documents. But the solicitation charge against Al Bahlul “conflates offensive behavior with criminal behavior. As offensive as it may be to some, State of the Ummah is speech that falls within the core protections of the First Amendment,” they wrote. And, they said, the case has as much to do with the rights of American citizens as it does with Al Bahlul or anyone else detained in the global war on terror because if he can be sentenced to life imprisonment for making a video, then—with the help of legislation like HR 1540—the U.S. government could imprison anyone it claimed was participating in the global war on terror by speaking, writing, making films, posting on the Internet or engaging in any other form of free speech. That could easily include indigenous peoples who complain against government water polices on their sovereign land, for instance, or journalists who criticizes government policies or actions.

Prosecutors also made a reach when they grasped for a historic precedent to support their claim that providing aid is a war crime under the jurisdiction of the military commission. The case they cited occurred in 1818 when then Major General Andrew Jackson illegally invaded Spanish Florida in search of runaway slaves with the intent of returning them to their “owners” and the Seminoles resisted this invasion of their land. Jackson’s incursion kicked off the First Seminole War and during that conflict, Jackson captured two British men, Alexander George Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, who were living among the Seminoles. One of the men had written letters about their support for the Seminoles’ land and treaty rights and Jackson used this “evidence” to accuse the men of “inciting” the Seminoles to “savage warfare” against the U.S. He convened a “special court martial” tribunal—what would today be called a “kangaroo court”—then had the men executed.

In the course of making their case that providing aid is a war crime under military jurisdiction, the prosecutors compared the Seminoles to Al Qaeda and the Yemeni prisoner to the two British men. They said the conduct of the two British men was viewed as “wrongful, in that they were assisting unlawful hostilities” by the Seminoles and their allies. “Further, not only was the Seminole belligerency unlawful, but, much like modern day al Qaeda, the very way in which the Seminoles waged war against U.S. targets itself violated the customs and usages of war.” That slur against the Seminoles was not the only mistake the prosecutors made in using the execution of the two British men to build their argument, said Samuel T. Morison, Appellate Defense Counsel in the Department of Defense and an expert in 19th century legal history. The Jackson incident “is problematic,” Morison wrote in a forthcoming essay in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 33, 2011 called History and Tradition in American Military Justice “because it is also one of the most notorious episodes in the history of American military justice.”

Jackson’s illegal war against a nation at peace with the U.S. and his execution of two British citizens “were not without controversy,” according to court documents. During congressional debates over censuring Jackson, Rep. Charles Mercer of Virginia said the trial and execution of the two British men was “a stain on the records of the judicial proceedings of this nation.” Morison quotes historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s assessment of Jackson: “His actions were a study in flagrant disobedience, gross inequality and premeditated ruthlessness… he swept through Florida, crushed the Indians, executed Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and violated nearly every standard of justice.”

The prosecutors’ comparison of the Seminoles to Al Qaeda provoked strong objections from both the Seminole Nation and the National Congress of American Indians. Seminole Tribe Chairman Mitchell Cypress wrote an angry letter to Obama on March 24, saying the tribe is “concerned and dismayed by the military prosecutors’ backward dive into racist, revisionist history.” The NCAI filed an amicus curiae letter objecting to the “distorted offensive historical analogy” comparing the First Seminole War to the terrorism of al Qaeda. “This is an astonishing statement of revisionist history,” NCAI wrote. “The Seminole effort to defend themselves from an invading genocidal army could be termed an ‘unlawful belligerency’ only by the most jingoistic military historian” and “calls into question the reasoning and judgment of those who are representing the government in [Al Bahlul’s] case.”

The government backtracked in its response to the NCAI’s letter, “but its attempt at ‘clarification’ arguably descends from the merely offensive into incoherence,” Morison wrote. First, the prosecutors claimed they had not questioned or impugned “the valor, bravery and honorable military service of Native Americans, past and present.” Then they denied that they had equated the conduct of the Seminoles in 1818 to al Qaeda and “its affiliated terrorist groups,” even though that claim undermines their central argument in the al Bahlul case. Perhaps the prosecutors’ most astonishing statement was that they do not view Jackson’s actions as “an example of moral right, but as a legal precedent: the morality or propriety of General Jackson’s military operation in Florida is irrelevant.” That means the government’s legal basis for asserting military jurisdiction over material support charges in Al Bahlul’s case and others “rests entirely on a naked exercise of power by a general officer, divorced entirely from the constraints of moral principle,” Morison wrote.

Donna Loring, a Vietnam veteran, former representative for the Penobscot Indian Nation to the Maine legislature, and author of In the Shadow of the Eagle: A Tribal Representative in Maine, expressed her astonishment at the government’s use of Jackson as a legal precedent in a very direct way: “Andrew Jackson was a total complete bastard! Some Native people refuse to use twenty dollar bills because of his face on it.”

Indigenous opponents say they have reason to be concerned about the expanded government powers that HR 1540 would provide. They point to a recent Inter Press Service report that highlights their fears about the potential abuse of HR 1540 against indigenous peoples asserting their land rights. “Dictatorship-Era Law Used to Squelch Activism” by Pamela Sepúlveda tells of four Mapuche men—activists involved in the struggle for their land rights—swept up in the country’s Pinochet-era “counter-terrorism” law and sentenced to 20 and 25 years in prison in what appears to be trumped up charges under the anti-terrorism legislation. “What is happening in Chile isn’t justice; it’s a pantomime, because under the anti-terrorism law, there is absolutely no way justice can be done,” said José Venturelli, spokesman for the European Secretariat of the Ethics Commission against Torture.

The same can happen under HR 1540, said an Indian rights activist who asked not to be named, because he fears retaliation if the bill becomes law. “It’s a totalitarian dream come true. Material support for terrorism is about speech and even Indian Country Today Media Network could be providing material support if the government wanted to say so. If the government wanted to squelch dissent, how far would it go?”

It’s not just activists who are mulling that question. Major Todd Pierce, a defense attorney in the Office of Military Commissions, sees increasing militarization and repression leading a downward spiral in the U.S. He says this bill “will be seen by many people in the world as nothing less than a declaration of war against any dissent against American hegemony (and military governance) extending over the entire globe, unprecedented in history by any nation, with predictable opposition…. This was precisely Osama bin Laden’s stated objective and it appears that after his death, his objective may yet be realized,” Pierce said.

The only way to avoid that downward spiral is to expand discussion and speech in the country, not chill and suppress it by calling it ‘material support for terrorism,’ Pierce said. “We need as many intelligent voices with different viewpoints debating our policies as possible…. Leaving those policies to just one sector to decide is the course followed by the former Soviet Union and dictators like Hosni Mubarak and we know how they all ended,” Pierce said. “And they all started with laws declaring war against ”terrorists” or some other loosely defined group so that the ‘state of emergency’ could never end.”

For more on this topic read Andrew Jackson and the USA Global War Bill and Legal Scholar Matthew Fletcher on Government Slurs of Indians and U.S. Law

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

December 31, 2011

2011 Retrospective: June

The Truth Lies Buried At Fort Laramie
A visitor at Fort Laramie could take the complete historic tour and get little knowledge about the grim consequences of the wars the U.S. Army waged against the Northern Plains tribes. It’s time for the National Park Service to start telling the whole truth.

Pulling Together
The many tribes of Oklahoma helped themselves and their neighbors when devastating tornadoes struck and uprooted lives. Their efforts included setting up shelters for displaced families and organizing crews to help with relief and recovery, everything from clearing trees to making sandwiches.

Reclaiming History
In yet another affront to Indian country, military prosecutors are justifying the imprisonment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee by citing the illegal actions of Andrew Jackson during his brutal invasion of the Seminole Nation, ignoring the fact that Jackson’s aggression was condemned by Congress.

LO RES 06 JUNE FEA PHOTO 1491 DIET FOOD SOV By Brett Ramey IMG 3113 270x202 2011 Retrospective: June

Turn Your Diet Back to 1491.

The 1491 Diet
A back-to-the-earth food movement is leading to more-healthful diets for some Indians as well as taking them back to their tribal roots—and vegetables. The emphasis is on food sovereignty as a way of reestablishing traditional agricultural practices and restoring cultural meaning to the food they eat.

Tweeting While Indian
Globalization is often a force of destruction, a hegemonic bulldozer plowing over landscapes of indigenous culture. The Internet only amplifies globalization’s power—pervasive online “world languages” dominate the web and continue pushing Native tongues into obsolescence. But Kevin Scannell says online tools of globalization have created positive opportunities equal to or greater than their dangers. In March, he created IndigenousTweets.com, a website that aims to preserve and proliferate indigenous language by connecting Twitter users online.

Miss Indian World
Crowned Miss Indian World 2011-12 at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, Marjorie Tahbone, 22, (half Inupiat on her mother’s side and half Kiowa on her father’s side) from Nome, Alaska will spend the next year encouraging other women to aim high for opportunities in their lives.

Okla. State Leads Nation in Native Graduates
Oklahoma State University tops the nation in American Indians who graduate with a bachelor’s degree for the second year in a row. A close second was Northeastern State University.

Festival Draws Eyes Globally
The Red Earth Festival went worldwide yet again as cameras and mics from around the globe turned to the celebration of Native American culture in Oklahoma City. The spectacular parade gathered 100 tribes from all over North America. The proud procession through the streets, and the showcase of dance and art in the convention center for the next three days, attracted news crews from foreign countries. This year it was journalists from Germany and the United Kingdom who trekked in. In years past, Russian and Chinese reporters met in the journalism pool.

Lack of Progress on Aboriginal Issues
Canada’s Conservative government got a tongue-lashing as the auditor general, Sheila Fraser, delivered a blunt series of interviews as she left her office at the end of May. “Too many First Nations people still lack what most other Canadians take for granted,” she said. “After 10 years, I have come to believe that more fundamental changes are required if we want to see meaningful progress in the well-being of First Nations. We cannot simply continue to dothe same things in the same way. There needs to be a serious review of programs and services to First Nations—we need to identify what services should be provided and by whom, as well as the funding required and the expected results.”

Bad Moons Rising

Two northern California tribes kicked off their summer concert seasons with heated competition and sold-out shows on May 21. In reponse to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation’s Cache Creek booking John Fogerty, former lead signer, song writer and guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, the United Auburn Indian Community booked the singer’s former band mates, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, at its Thunder Valley Casino.

They’ve Struck Oil!

Cache Creek Casino Resort has long served as the main economic engine for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Now, however, the tribe is expanding in a new, more culinary, direction.

—Click here if you missed our January 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our February 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our March 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our April 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our May 2011 retrospective.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 2 - ICTMN.com.

January 1, 2012

2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 3

Every year Indian country is filled with leaders, politicians, broadcasters and talking heads provide memorable quotes for anyone listening to catch. Some ignorant, some out of touch, and some commendable. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled a list of quotes that we will break down into three parts, Perceptions, Politics, and On The Past, the Present, the Future, that will be shared over the New Year’s weekend.

On the Past, the Present, the Future

“I remember the chaos. I remember bullets whizzing through the windows.”—Jessica Lynch, recalling the circumstances of her capture during the Gulf War and the heroism of her fellow soldier, Lori Piestewa who was killed in the attack.

“I had no one to turn to, not even God, because God’s representative on Earth was the one hurting me.”—Howard Wanna, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, in discussing the sexual abuse he remembers while attending a South Dakota boarding school.

“All those people burning and jumping out. Oh, I felt it.”—Les Albany, former World Trade Center worker, reflecting ten years later on the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

“We want to make sure that our way of life is not destroyed.”—Chief Roger Wesley, Constance Lake First Nation of the Matawa First Nations, lobbying for the Canadian government to change their environmental assessment plans for a massive chromite mine in the resource-rich Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario.

“Apathy is killing us with what we are eating now.”—Jamescita Peshlakai, making a case for American Indians to turn to the principles of the ‘Paleolithic Diet.’
“We’re going to try to make sure that all you kids grow up healthy, knowing what to eat, knowing how to exercise”—First Lady Michelle Obama to Native American children attending an event at the White House in June.

“Elouise will always be remembered by me as a woman who fought the battle many of us didn’t know how to fight, and she did it with integrity despite the bullets to her chest and the arrows in her back. She will be remembered as the one and only modern-day female warrior who honored all those individual land owners who passed before her.”—Jackie Trotchie, a friend of Cobell’s and an Indian advocate in Montana, upon Cobell’s death from cancer in October.

“Andrew Jackson was a total complete bastard! Some Native people refuse to use twenty dollar bills because of his face on it.” –Donna Loring, a Vietnam veteran, former representative for the Penobscot Indian Nation to the Maine legislature, and author of In the Shadow of the Eagle: A Tribal Representative in Maine, expressing her astonishment at the government’s use of Jackson as a legal precedent.

“I’m in everybody else’s books. It was never a priority to me (to have my poems published in book form). It was important to get my work out and there are other ways to do that, so I’ve been in a lot of journals and newspapers and anthologies. A lot of them are community poems written to serve the people and give people a way to articulate certain kinds of issues. Books have not been my choice of outlet. They take too long.” – Suzan Shown Harjo in talking about the work she has done throughout her career earlier this year with ICTMN.

“It really is a crisis. We are in a third-world situation.”—Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence on the substandard housing in her community that has put many people at risk as the onslaught of winter approaches.

Indian gaming should be an American success story of an impoverished people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and addressing the social and economic needs of their people. Instead it’s painted as a special interest, with so many negative connotations. I’m sure Indian country would rather do something else, but gaming has proved to be the sole source of major economic development to lift up and build economies in Indian country.”—Brian Patterson, President of United South and Eastern Tribes discussing what gaming has meant to Indian country as a whole.

“We’re doing exactly what Tecumseh said we’d do 150 years ago – we’re splintering and each going our own way. What’s most important here is we’re losing the narrative, we’re losing our ability to tell our story, and pretty soon we’ll just become like Las Vegas – commercial gaming – because it’s becoming about the money. We need to be reminded that when you do something, it’s not just about you. Everyone in this room knows what’s the right thing to do about Carcieri. The question is will you do it?”—Lobbyist and activist Tom Rodgers on those lobbying against a clean Carcieri fix.

“Anytime tribal nations had something of value, someone was waiting in the wings to take it away from us!”—James C. Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, discussing the paradox of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in its almost 25 years of existence.

“The per capita income of American Indians on reservations has been growing approximately three times more rapidly than the United States as a whole since the early 1990s…”—Kennedy School of Government Report

“I would hope that at some point OWS announces that it seeks, among other things, a true-cost ‘global market’ in which we incorporate real costs of continuing down the oil-slicked road and further engaging the carbon economy.”—ICTMN columnist Chase Iron Eyes on the potential for Occupy Wall Street to empower real change.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 3 - ICTMN.com.

January 18, 2012

Newt Gingrich Loves Indian Killer Andrew Jackson

There’s a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, a historian, hasn’t forgotten the past; in fact, he’d like to repeat it. Particularly Andrew Jackson’s “kill thine enemy” approach.

At the umpteenth Republican debate in front of a packed audience at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on January 16, Gingrich conjured up the spirit of Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president, as a model for the way the U.S. should approach its “enemies” today.

“We’re in South Carolina,” Gingrich told the crowd, as if they needed to be reminded of where they were. “South Carolina and the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them!” The crowd roared its approval.

Although Gingrich’s spiritual journey has taken him through a cafeteria of Christian variations from Lutheranism to being a Southern Baptist to his current status as a Catholic, there is no sign of Christian forgiveness or mercy in his appropriation of Jackson’s attitude toward “enemies.”

Jackson, historians and just about every American Indian in the universe will recall, was the architect of the Indian Removal Act, America’s legalization of ethnic cleansing. He signed the legislation on May 28, 1830. The Indian Removal Act resulted seven years later in the removal of 46,000 Indigenous Peoples from the lands east of the Mississippi, and opened up 25 million acres of land “to white settlement and to slavery,” according to PBS. The area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations.

In a speech six months earlier, Jackson laid out his policy for ethnically cleansing the Indians from their homelands. Hanging over the heads of Indian nations that resisted removal was the not-so-thinly-veiled threat of genocide “by destroying the resources of the savage.” But Jackson saw removal as an act of “humanity and national honor.” “Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character,” Jackson said. “Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for awhile their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the states does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity.”

While Gingrich aspires to emulate a man who advocated genocide and ethnic cleansing for the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, he’s not the only actor on the national stage to hold Jackson as a model. Last spring just before Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R.1540, military commission prosecutors in the course of making their case that providing aid to the enemy is a war crime under military jurisdiction, compared the Seminole Indians to terrorists and cited Andrew Jackson’s murderous actions against the Seminoles as a justification and precedent for prosecuting Al Qaeda “suspects.”

H.R. 1540 was approved by the Senate on December 1, 2011, and signed into law by President Obama on New Year’s Eve. It gives the president power to seize “suspected terrorists” anywhere in the world, including American citizens on U.S. soil, and keep them locked up indefinitely without charge or trial.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comNative American Child Speaks Ojibwe - ICTMN.com.

February 4, 2012

Steven Judd Has Change for a Twenty. And a Ten, and a Hundred…

When we profiled filmmaker Steven Judd in December we covered a lot of his artistic ventures, but not all of them. Not by a longshot — Judd seems to be in a constant state of creativity and motion, and we recommend periodic visits to his Facebook “My Art” Gallery.

In this series, Judd has re-imagined American currency; in a way, he’s also re-imagining the historical figures that adorn it. Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton (below) make pretty good Indians, it turns out. But an Indian-ized $20 bill (above) is inevitably the most irony-laden; Andrew Jackson, author of the Indian Removal Act, gets many a Native’s vote for Worst. President. Ever.

Here’s Judd’s own statement on that particular bill:

“For those that don’t know andrew jackson’s views on Indigenous people, I encourage you to read up on it. Start with the Indian Removal Act. I’m NOT putting a head dress on him, I’m just trying to make it look like it’s a Native, gave him brown skin etc. done with India ink and colored pencils – Steven Paul Judd”

steve judd franklin hamilton Steven Judd Has Change for a Twenty. And a Ten, and a Hundred...

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comTlowitsis Member Loses Eagle Parts Appeal in B.C. - ICTMN.com.

February 20, 2012

Indian-Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

Unlike the statement in Indian Country Today Media Network’s “Best Presidents for Indian country” story, it’s a bit easier identifying the “worst” presidents for Indian country. Five tend to stand out with the majority of the rest huddled together after that. Here are our nods to the presidents who did more harm than good for Native Americans while in office.

Andrew Jackson e1329765712846 270x270 Indian Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

Portrait of Andrew Jackson (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

Andrew Jackson: A man nicknamed “Indian killer” and “Sharp Knife” surely deserves the top spot on a list of worst U.S. Presidents.

Andrew Jackson “was a forceful proponent of Indian removal,” according to PBS. Others have a less genteel way of describing the seventh president of the United States.

“Andrew Jackson was a wealthy slave owner and infamous Indian killer, gaining the nickname ‘Sharp Knife’ from the Cherokee,” writes Amargi on the website Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. “He was also the founder of the Democratic Party, demonstrating that genocide against indigenous people is a nonpartisan issue. His first effort at Indian fighting was waging a war against the Creeks. President Jefferson had appointed him to appropriate Creek and Cherokee lands. In his brutal military campaigns against Indians, Andrew Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination. The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery. His frontier warfare and subsequent ‘negotiations’ opened up much of the southeast U.S. to settler colonialism.”

Jackson was not only a genocidal maniac against the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest, he was also racist against African peoples and a scofflaw who “violated nearly every standard of justice,” according to historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown. As a major general in 1818, Jackson invaded Spanish Florida chasing fugitive slaves who had escaped with the intent of returning them to their “owners,” and sparked the First Seminole War. During the conflict, Jackson captured two British men, Alexander George Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, who were living among the Seminoles. The Seminoles had resisted Jackson’s invasion of their land. One of the men had written about his support for the Seminoles’ land and treaty rights in letters found on a boat. Jackson used the “evidence” to accuse the men of “inciting” the Seminoles to “savage warfare” against the U.S. He convened a “special court martial” tribunal then had the men executed. “His actions were a study in flagrant disobedience, gross inequality and premeditated ruthlessness… he swept through Florida, crushed the Indians, executed Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and violated nearly every standard of justice,” Wyatt-Brown wrote.

In 1930, a year after he became president, Jackson signed a law that he had proposed – the Indian Removal Act – which legalized ethnic cleansing. Within seven years 46,000 indigenous people were removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi. Their removal gave 25 million acres of land “to white settlement and to slavery,” according to PBS. The area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations. In the Trail of Tears alone, 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.

Dwight Eisenhower e1329765788632 270x303 Indian Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

Portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

Dwight Eisenhower: President Dwight Eisenhower, the World War II hero who served as President from 1953 until 1961, was an early advocate of consultation. On August 15, 1953, he signed into law H.R. 1063, which came to be known as Public Act 280, because he believed it would help forward “complete political equality to all Indians in our nation.”

Public Act 280 transferred extensive criminal and civil jurisdiction in Indian country from the federal government to California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska. Other states were allowed to opt in later. In a signing statement accompanying the bill, Eisenhower objected to certain sections because they allowed other states to impose H.R. 1063 on tribal nations, “removing the Indians from federal jurisdiction, and, in some instances, effective self-government” without requiring “full consultation.” He recommended that Congress quickly pass an amendment requiring states to consult with the tribes and get federal approval before assuming jurisdiction on reservations.

The bad news is Eisenhower didn’t veto H.R. 1063. If he had, the devastating termination and relocation era would have been delayed and possibly stopped, according to Edward Charles Valandra in his book Not Without Our Consent: Lakota resistance to termination, 1950-59. “Indeed, his veto could have stopped its passage. Arguably, had Eisenhower vetoed H.R. 1063, the termination program would have been effectively curtailed long enough for Native peoples to mobilize a preemptive campaign against further measures similar to H.R. 1063. At the very least, Native, state, and U.S. relations would have taken a much different course from what the Native population actually experienced,” Valandra wrote.

Although the termination era had its roots in the post World War II years and lasted through the 60s, it came under full steam during Eisenhower’s presidency. During that time, Congress “terminated” – withdrew federal acknowledgment from and the trust relationship with – 109 tribes and removed more than 1,365,000 acres of land from trust status. More than 13,260 people lost their tribal affiliation.

A writer on the Native American Netroots website sees the termination era as part of America’s Cold War battle against global communism, “Following World War II, the United States turned its energies into fighting communism. Indian reservations and policies which would allow Indians to determine their own futures were deemed communistic and the federal government set out once again to destroy (terminate) Indian tribes and to ‘allow’ Indians to assimilate like other immigrants. Indian people and their tribal governments vigorously opposed these policies,” the writer says. President Richard Nixon ended the termination era in 1970 and introduced the “self-determination” era.

George W. Bush e1329765871224 270x328 Indian Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

George W. Bush (AP Photo/The White House, Eric Draper)

George W. Bush: While George W. Bush was one of three presidents since 1995 to issue proclamations designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month, his understanding of tribal sovereignty is limited.

At the Unity: Journalists of Color Conference (see video below) in 2004 when questioned by Mark Trahant, the then editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, about sovereignty in the 21st century, Bush gave a muddled answer.

“Tribal sovereignty means that. It’s sovereign. You’re… You’re a… you’ve been given sovereignty and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity,” Bush stumbles through his answer. “And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.”

And sovereignty isn’t the only Native American issue Bush was unclear on during his presidency. A 2004 report titled “The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004” by the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights details where the president fell short on civil rights for Native Americans.

“President Bush has acknowledged the great debt America owes to Native Americans. However, his words have not been matched with action,” the report states.

To back up its claims, the report details how Bush did not provide sufficient funding for tribal colleges and universities, and even proposed cutting $1.5 billion in funding for education programs that benefit Native Americans.

The report also detailed how the Bush administration provided inadequate funding for the Indian Health Service, funding it at $3.6 billion in 2004 when health needs in Indian country called for $19.4 billion.

Housing in Indian country wasn’t funded adequately by Bush either. He failed to provide enough funds to cover the cost of the 210,000 housing units that were needed.

The final point made by the commission was Bush’s termination of critical law enforcement programs, like the Tribal Drug Court Program.

Watch Bush’s response to tribal sovereignty in the 21st century:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Abraham Lincoln: The majority of the United States knows Lincoln as the president who “cannot tell a lie,” and as the leader of the Emancipation Proclamation. However, if you were to ask Native Americans their perception of the great president, the image would be much darker. Lincoln made no effort to work with Native Americans, instead he worked against them. When the Sioux demanded its $1.4 million they had been promised for the sale of 24 million acres of land, that had already started to be settled by whites, Lincoln did nothing. According to an article on the United Native America website, The Sioux revolted and Lincoln called upon General John Pope to handle the uprising. Pope began his campaign by saying, “It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromise can be made.”

Abe Lincoln 270x360 Indian Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

President Abraham Lincoln (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

Lincoln did not argue, the Indians were defeated, and Lincoln ultimately signed the fates of 38 Indian prisoners in Mankato, Minnesota according to Greatdreams.com/lies.htm. In Lincoln’s defense, 303 Indian men were sentenced to death, but Lincoln only signed for 38. On December 26, 1862 the largest mass execution in United States history took place, based on a cloud of doubt.

The Navajos were subjected to a similar situation as the Sioux, as were others. Lincoln followed his “American System” through battles in the Plains, South and Southwest crippling tribes and forcing them from their lands.

Before he was president, Lincoln was the attorney for the railroads, which in order to be completed, the Indian “situation” had to be taken care of—a belief Lincoln carried into office with him. His railroad connections according to United Native America would lead, not only to the attempted annihilation of the Indian, but to tremendous scandals in the administration of another of Lincoln’s war criminals, Ulysses S. Grant.

Author David A. Nichols when describing how Lincoln handled the conflicts with the Indians in The Other Civil War: Lincoln and the Indians addressed it by saying, “in his response to these crises, Lincoln was instrumental in determining the fate of Native Americans in the years following his death.”

Ulysses S. Grant 270x326 Indian Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst U.S. Presidents

General Ulysses S. Grant in Uniform (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

Ulysses S. Grant: Grant made it on our ‘Best’ Presidents list as well. Mostly because his intentions were in the right place and something that hadn’t been seen in that time. But those good intentions can’t save him from the fact of the matter. Ultimately it was one word that sealed Grant’s fate for this list—reservations. His hopes to move Indians closer to white civilization by creating these “Native communities” backfired. They became a form of bad policy that did more harm than good by cutting ties for Native Americans to a vast area of land they had been used to occupying for hundreds of years. Reservations isolated Native Americans to an area that was and is taken advantage of by federal government administrations for years to come.

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February 22, 2012

Rick Santorum Talks ‘Good and Evil’ Following ‘Satan’ Remarks

Indian Country Today Media Network recently shared a few of Rick Santorum’s more outlandish quotes and how they connect to Indian country. On February 21, Forbes published an article addressing Santorum’s 2008 remarks about “Satan.”

In his remarks, Santorum makes the statement that Satan didn’t have much success in attack people 200 years ago because of a strong foundation in the United States.

Santorum said: “If you were Satan, who would you attack, in this day and age? There is no one else to go after, other than the United States. And that’s been the case for now almost 200 years, once America’s pre-eminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers. He didn’t have much success in the early days—our foundation was very strong, in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great, acidic quality of time corrodes away even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so, by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality…”

In the article author Josh Barro highlights some of the things that the United States was dealing with back then, including slavery, forced removal of American Indians, and women being unable to vote.

Barro asks, “The issue is not that Santorum favors slavery or Indian removal—if prompted, I’m sure he would agree strongly that these were great evils. But how does somebody look at the history of American society and see a country that was more Godly under Andrew Jackson than it is today?”

Barro suggests the answer is by focusing on the rights and treatment of white, Christian men.

CNN caught up with Santorum later on Tuesday for a response to the article where Santorum states on video, “It’s absurd. I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil. I think if somehow or another because you’re a person of faith and you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.” When pressed again he stated, “Guys, these are questions that are not relevant to what’s being discussed in America today. What we are talking about in America today is trying to get America growing. That’s what my speeches are about, that’s what we’re going to talk about in this campaign. If they want to dig up old speeches in talking to a religious group, they can go right ahead and do so. But, I’m going to stay on message and talk about things that Americans want to talk about which is creating jobs, getting our country safer and secure and yeah, you know, taking on the forces around this world that want to do harm to America.”

According to an article by Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor, “Sources who have known Santorum for some time told CNN that this is who Santorum is. He sees the world in black and white, good versus evil, they said.”

Stephen Colbert picked up on the remarks on “The Colbert Report” February 20. His comments as always in a comedic way aligned with Santorum’s CNN response of “taking on the forces around this world that want to do harm to America.”

Colbert said, “If Rick Santorum is the commander in chief, he will do what no other president has had the courage to do: declare war on hell. It’s simple: All we have to do is take our nuclear missiles out of their silos and put them back in upside-down.”

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October 22, 2012

Elections 2012: Manifest Destiny is a Topic for Monday Debate

A T-shirt with the words “Manifest Destiny” became an instant cause in Indian country recently and especially on Social Media. Thousands of people told The Gap that the shirt was outrageous and should be pulled from the shelves. The campaign was successful, the clothing company responded, the designer apologized, and the shirt is no longer sold.

But Manifest Destiny is still the centerpiece in American thinking about the world. It’s topic one in tonight’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The term “Manifest Destiny” was first used by John O’Sullivan, editor of The New York Morning News, writing in 1845 to justify conquest of American Indian lands in the West. “Away, away with all these cobweb issues of rights of discovery, exploration, settlement, continuity, etc. … And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us.”

But that was only the name “Manifest Destiny.” The idea had been around since Europeans first crossed the ocean.

Tonight’s debate is in Florida and the topic is international affairs. Fitting. In 1818 Andrew Jackson invaded Seminole Country in violation of international law. His army murdered civilians, destroyed villages, killed Seminole warriors and their African-American allies, and executed two British citizens for “inciting and arming” the Indians. A few years later Florida was United States territory.

The idea of conquest was present long before the phrase “Manifest Destiny.” Thomas Jefferson had the same basic thought when he described America’s role as an “Empire of Liberty.”

No politician today would dare call for “Manifest Destiny.” But that same idea will surface tonight cloaked in the politically correct version, “American Exceptionalism.” (Although that phrase actually predates “Manifest Destiny.”)

One of the planned topic areas, probably the first one, is how the two candidates see America’s place in the world.

There will be two different answers both in terms of style and substance.

Critics of President Obama say that, at his core, he does not believe in this premise. The evidence is a 2010 speech where the president said: “I believe in American Exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

But Obama also said in that same speech, “I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world.” And, he continued, “I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

But that version of American Exceptionalism doesn’t fit Romney’s definition. “I think it’s fair to ask, you know, what is it that explains the absence of any discernable foreign policy from the president of the United States? And I believe that it flows from his fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism,” Romney said on a talk show last year. “In the President’s world, all nations have common interests, the lines between good and evil are blurred, America’s history merits apology. And without a compass to guide him in our increasingly turbulent world, he’s tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced.”

The very idea of nuances are opposite Manifest Destiny. The idea that God has ordained a particular kind of American power. Or as it was called during the pre-war build up to an invasion of Iraq, American Hegemony.

American Hegemony justified the Iraq war and the threats that Romney makes to Iran. One of the questions tonight: Is Romney even open to talking with Iran in order to prevent war.

At the Citadel military college in September, Romney used language that would have matched any 19th century Manifest Destiny speech.

“This century must be an American Century … America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world,” he said. “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.”

Obama’s view is quite different. He outlined this in a 2010 National Security Strategy. “The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone. Indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power,” the president said. The power of the country comes not from its military strength but from its people. “Our long-term security will not come from our ability to instill fear in other peoples, but our capacity to speak to their hopes.” That idea, Obama argued, still requires American leadership.

So as you watch, listen, or tweet about tonight’s debate consider what the two candidates are saying – spoken words or not – about Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism or the American Century.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is:marktrahant@thecedarsgroup.org.

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