Tag Archives: tribalism

Midsummer

Midsummer is a traditional holiday celebrated throughout many of the world’s cultures, with ancient origins.  It is the celebration of the summer solstice, an important astronomical date on the annual cycle.  It is celebrated on or near the 21st of June. In many Celtic communities it is commonly celebrated on June 24th.

Due to its connection with the agricultural cycle, Midsummer is most often celebrated on the 21st of June by modern Heathens and neo-pagans as one of the eight sabbats. In Revival Druidry it is called Alban Heruin and is one of the four high holidays.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, with the sun at its strongest, therefore Midsummer represents the triumph of light over darkness.  The solar hero born at Yule and celebrated as the child of light is now at his peak.  He overthrows the oppressive king of winter and takes his rightful place upon the throne of the earth.  Just as in our time today, in ancient days marriages often occurred at Midsummer.

As an agricultural holiday, in many parts of the world this is the earliest time that a harvest can be made since the springtime sowing; therefore it is a festival of first fruits. Traditional Midsummer rites are often centered on bonfires.  New fires would be kindled and offerings of flowers were made to them.  In many communities an effigy of a person would be burned in the bonfire.  Similarly to Beltane, cattle would be driven through the smoke of the fires as a means of blessing, protecting and enhancing the livelihood of the tribe and community.  Torches were lit from central bonfires and carried home where the hearth was lit.  Participants would dance around these fires and tend them throughout the night.  This all-night affair was commonly called “the watch,” and it was an integral part of the festivities.  Near the early morning when he fires had died down some, some of the revelers would jump over the flames for good luck and to encourage the crops to grow.

Midsummer Bonfire in Freiburg im Breisgau

Similar traditions are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Native American communities such as the Creeks, Seminoles, Cherokee, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and many others of the Eastern Woodland traditions celebrate the Green Corn rite: the new fire ceremony, the New Year, the greatest fast culminating in the first feast of the year.

At this time in the environment, the wild flora is also at its peak, especially of the medicinal variety, so this holiday also has a focus on gathering and honoring medicine.  Blackberries and wild plums are also ripening, making for natural symbols of this season. On the Muskogee calendar, June is Kvco Hvse or “Blackberry Sun.”

In many Germanic countries the Maypole is celebrated at Midsummer.  In some communities the Maypole was left up from Beltane and burned at Midsummer. Midsummer is the height of the spiritual year.  Medicine is strongest at this time.  Spirits of nature and of the ancestors, both good and malevolent are very active on a Midsummer’s night which inspired one of Shakespear’s most classic works; A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Tavern: Bedrock of Western Civilization

The tavern is an intrinsic feature of Western society. Contrary to the reputation commonly associated with drinking establishments as dens of debauchery, locations inappropriate to delve into subjects of religion or politics, the whole of Western civilization in fact owes much of it existence to the local pub. The roots of this tradition run back through the centuries and helped bring Europe out of the dark ages toward the Age of Enlightenment.

irish pub
The Temple Bar

Ancient Roots

The historic progenitor of the bar or nightclub in the West is the Germanic and Nordic mead hall, popular especially during the European Dark Ages. Originating in the Germanic and European longhouses, from around the fifth century onward the mead hall was the primary residence of the king or chief and his theigns or other retainers. Often the most well fortified structure in the Anglo-Saxon village, the mead hall served a similar purpose as did the keep in later medieval cities. As the preeminent building of the Dark Age kingdom, the mead hall hosted the stately ceremonies and celebrations of the community.

 

The mead hall played such an important part in the religious and mythological system of Western Europe that even the gods lived in halls much resembling those of the people. In Norse mythology Valhalla is Odin’s hall and home of half of the valiant dead while the other half resided in Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir. Much of the epic poem Beowulf takes place in the mead hall named Heorot where a lot of ceremony and merry making goes on. Such examples are the basis of the Sumbel, multiple rounds of ceremonial toasting still performed today by those whom practice indigenous Germanic religions.

viking longhouse
A Viking era styled longhouse/mead hall

The Medieval Era

As Western Europe became steadily more Christianized, amongst the aristocratic classes the Germanic mead hall along with its social and ceremonial focus was transformed into the banquet hall. But amongst the working classes and the poor, the social and ceremonial significance of the mead hall was transferred to the taverns and workhouses. In fact the word tavern is derived from the Latin taberna which was a workhouse or retail center for craftsmen as well as an apartment style lodging, housing freedmen and travelers. This is the origin of the public house or pub that is so common in Western Europe and her colonial nations.

Throughout the medieval period the public houses or taverns became centers for lodging travelers and merchants. They became the central gathering points of craftsmen seeking safety from bandits and highwaymen and thereby became the focus of trade meetings. It was within these taverns that the medieval guilds were established whereby craftsmen and artisans could share and protect the secrets of their trade such as architecture, glassmaking and other crafts. For this reason taverns and lodges became the few places in the intellectually oppressive medieval European society where freedom of speech, especially of a religious, philosophical and political nature could be exercised and protected, if only clandestinely.

 

The Enlightenment

There should be no wonder that during the Enlightenment era of European society that the tavern or lodge is where Freemasonry and other secretive societies emerged from the shadows. Freemasonry is the inheritor of the European architectural guilds transformed into a philosophical society complete with ancient rituals and respect for religious and political diversity. The four primary lodges upon which modern Freemasonry is established originally met at four respective taverns; the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in London in St. Paul’s Churchyard, the Apple Tree Tavern, the Crown Alehouse, and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern.

 

In 1716 these four lodges gathered at London’s Apple-Tree Tavern where the first pro Tempore Grand Lodge was established, the eldest Master Mason was instituted as Grandmaster and an agreement was made to hold annual meetings amongst themselves to formalize and regularize the Craft. The following year; June 24, 1717 the four lodges met at London’s Goose and Gridiron Alehouse where the Grand Master was elected and the founding of the first regular Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was finalized.

 

Like Freemasonry briefly before it representatives from all over England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Brittany met at the Apple Tree Tavern on September 22, 1717 to form the Revivalist Druid order An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas (The British Circle of the Universal Bond).

Colonial America

The ancient tradition of the Tavern acting as meeting house for gathering warriors, the discussion of philosophy and politics continued in the American colonies. In the absence of a national media the Tavern was the primary place where early Americans heard the news and discussed their political opinions. The Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, like the Apple Tree Tavern before it was used by multiple groups and organizations. The St. Georges Society, a charitable organization devoted to assisting newly arriving poor Englishmen to the colonies was established here in 1720.

 

Hailed as the birthplace of American Freemasonry, in 1732 St. John’s Lodge No. 1 of the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Temple was established in the Tun Tavern. And like the St. George Society before, in 1747 the St. Andrew’s Society was founded here as another charitable organization, this time assisting newly arriving Scottish immigrants.

 

In 1756 Benjamin Franklin used the Tun Tavern as a recruiting station for the Pennsylvania Militia. In 1768 the New York Chamber of Commerce was founded in the Tun Tavern’s Long Room where its officers continued to meet until 1770. This same Tun Tavern Long Room was also used by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for the meeting house of the Continental Congress and as the recruiting station for the Continental Marines, now known as the United States Marine Corps.

 

Fraunces Tavern in New York played a central role in the organizing of the American Revolutionary War. The Son’s of Liberty used this tavern as a meeting place to discuss their revolutionary activities. In 1774 Fraunces Tavern hosted a tea party much like the Boston Tea Party before it, in which the patriots dressed as Indians and dumped British tea into New York harbor. And in 1776 the New York Provincial Congress met at Fraunces Tavern.

 

According to the Memoirs of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge; at the end of the Revolutionary War on December 4, 1783, Fraunces Tavern hosted George Washington’s victory banquet in the Long Room where this iconic general said farewell to his officers as he resigned his post in order to insure that the newly established United States did not become a military dictatorship. After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Fraunces Tavern was used to house the departments of the Treasury, War and Foreign Affairs.

 

Bars, pubs and taverns are the traditional establishments where the freedom to speak one’s mind and offer challenging and revolutionary ideas has been protected. Concepts like liberty, republicanism, democracy and rebellion emerged from these establishments throughout the centuries. The United States’ First Amendment freedoms owe their existence to freethinkers exercising their philosophical muscles over a pint of beer or a glass of wine. From its roots as a tribal ceremonial house to its later adaptations as a place of revolutionary thought and activism, the tavern has been the lifeblood of Western civilization.

Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit: Book Review

Quinn, Daniel (1992) Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, New York: Bantam/Turner Books

Daniel Quinn’s award winning novel Ishmael is a compelling exposition of the author’s social and political perspective through the eyes of a gorilla.  The essential theme upon which the book is written is one that lays the blame of all our modern political and environmental perils squarely on the shoulders of the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The author’s reasoning is that agriculture is the beginning of human exploitation of the earth, other species and cultures.  Quinn further asserts that the world’s modern industrial agricultural society is unsustainable and destined to disaster. With these two premises established Quinn’s argument next follows that if the human race and the earth are to survive for much longer, industrial society will have to transform itself into a less exploitative culture. Ishmael­ has inspired an entire cult following of neotribalists desirous of bringing Quinn’s vision of a post-industrial society established on low impact kin based communities to life.

From its very first page Ishmael swiftly moves forward with a sense of purpose and profundity. As the story opens Quinn describes the unnamed narrator’s disgust at reading an ad in the personals section of the newspaper: “TEACHER seeks student. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The narrator expresses his sense of disillusionment at this presumptuous author whom he figures is just another charlatan marketing a worn out fashion statement as a social and spiritual revolution. This opening acts as a hook that catches the reader by the sensation of a social revolutionary disillusioned from the experiences of one flaccid effort after another, never truly offering or accomplishing anything substantially alternative to the status quo. Although skeptical of this self-appointed guru, our unnamed narrator still decides to investigate the charlatan he’s sure he’ll meet.  Surprisingly, the guru is not a man at all, but a gorilla named Ishmael capable of deep philosophical thought and communication. The lesson he seeks to impart is an accounting of the collision course upon which he sees the human race and that which he believes is the remedy for it.

The blurring of reality and absurdity is implicit in the author’s narrative bringing to life the remarkably believable character of Ishmael. The author’s deep use of metaphor begins at the title of the book and the gorilla’s name.  Ishmael stands as a representative, a spokesman of sorts for the natural order of the earth, flora and fauna.  While the gorilla had lived in a menagerie he began to became self aware and learned to recognize a certain sound as referring to him; Goliath.  The name is strongly indicative of the manner in which gorillas, great apes, wild animals and the natural world is typically viewed by modern humans; a degraded, threatening, crude philistine to be conquered by our heroic civilization. But when Mr. Sokolow upon encountering the animal announces to him “You are not Goliath,” he is making a profound statement about his rejecting the greater society’s perception of the world.  This statement is further expounded by the name which Mr. Sokolow instead chooses to bestow upon him. Transformed from the image of the hulk which tormented the Israelites Goliath is renamed Ishmael; the disinherited son of Abraham who through no fault of his own was cast out from the Israelite race, deemed as little more than “a wild ass of a man.”

Ishmael explains that all of the modern nations of the world whether England, Russia or China are descendents of these exploitative agriculturalists whom he designates Takers. Takers are acting out a myth that places them at the top of creation as the owners of the earth.  A different myth is being acted out by the few societies who exist in distant tribes and bands still living similarly to the pre-agricultural Mesolithic hunters and gatherers whom he designates Leavers.  Leavers do not see themselves as the masters of the earth, but as part of it. A society is always governed by a mythic theme and the difference between these two myths could not be more different.  The reason Ishmael says that all our social and political revolutions have failed to stop our eventual demise is because they have all failed to reject the Taker myth and simultaneously embrace the Leaver myth.

Ishmael explains that Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Taker’s myth being acted out and that this myth is still being acted out through the entire civilized world’s perception of, and behavior toward the natural environment. With the gorilla as instructor we are taught that the human race broke away from a sort of mystical interspecies ecological brotherhood, setting their selves and the world on a collision course to destruction by setting themselves up as gods who know the difference between good and evil, with the power to decide who should live and who should die.  Ishmael, the gorilla even uses the Genesis creation story as an example of a misinterpreted and incorrectly practiced narrative that has served to misalign the human race with the earth. The biblical fall in the garden, according to our gorilla mentor is really a story by which our pre-agricultural pastoralist contemporaries illustrated this severing from the natural order.  Once humans settled down and cultivated enough food to support a growing population they became warlike and expansive.

While generally well thought out and reasonable in his approach, there are several points in Ishmael’s interpretation of events that must be questioned.  He characterizes the farmers as the culture that victimizes the herding people’s and extinguishes all the other species, including the predators in their environment while completely exonerating herders for the destruction they also cause in the world.  Many forests have also been destroyed in order to create pasture land to feed the herds.  And there is after all a reason western folklore has always depicted the wolf as the antagonist of the shepherd.  Aside from this and a few other bits of artistic license taken by the author, Ishmael is a engaging book that stimulates deep reflection on our relationship with the earth now and throughout history.  To describe the course of our eventual demise Ishmael uses the image of a primitive, non-aerodynamic plane on its test flight plummeting toward the earth while the pilot looks down at the ground rushing up at him and says “well, it’s gotten me this far, no sense abandoning it now.”

Though classified as a novel, the majority of Ishmael takes the form of a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and the gorilla guru.  The message Ishmael hopes to impart to the world is that the human race’s only hope in continuing to survive lies in rejecting the myth of the Takers and embracing the myth of the Leavers.  The novel ends on somber tone, but one that imparts a motivating hopefulness and a sense of urgency.  Ishmael is an excellent book which should be read by everyone looking for real alternatives to the modern political and ecological turmoil engulfing the world.  We’re an inventive species.  It’s time to invent.

Rastafari, Zion and a Religious Irony

Fans of Reggae music understand how intimately tied it is to the Rastafarian movement from which it was born.  Rastafari is a religion, a philosophy, a way of life and a social movement.  Depending on whom you ask regarding the nature of Rasta, you’ll get a different combination of these basic premises.

Rastafari emerged from the poor black communities of Jamaica in the 1930s.  The roots of the ideology lie heavily in the collective experience of slavery and Marcus Garvey’s back to Africa movement.  The poor religious people in the shanty towns of Jamaica may not have known much about world history, but they understood the Old Testament stories referring to Egypt and Ethiopia were taking place in Africa; that mystical homeland that legend had endowed with mythic stature.

In 1930 an Ethiopian nobleman Ras Tafari was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, taking the name Haile Selassie I, the “Conquering Lion of Judah.”  A small group of Jamaican faithful saw this as the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Revelation 5:5.

One of the elders said to me, “Don not weep.  The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”

rasta-flag1
Rastafarian Flag

Immediately a religion converged exalting Selassie as the second coming of Jah (God), and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.  They called themselves Rastafarians, taking the Emperor’s pre-coronation name.

Rastafarians adopted the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox epic, the Kebra Negast as a scripture.  This book explains how the Ethiopian people are descended from the Israelites.  The story depicts the courtship of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who, according to the text had a son named Menelik.  Menelik was raised in Ethiopia with his mother.  After visiting his father Solomon in Israel once, Menelik returned to Ethiopia with a population of Israelites under the protection of the Ark of the Covenant which they brought with them.  For these reasons Rastafarians consider themselves to be the true Israelites and Ethiopia to be the true Zion, rather than Israel; the Zion of Judaism and Western Christianity.

For the past several hundred years in Ethiopia there lived a community of black African Jews called Beta Israel, isolated from the greater influence of Rabbinic Judaism.  Rastas pointed to this community as evidence supporting their legend of an Ethiopian Zion.  After Salassie I visited Jamaica in 1960 waves of Rastas began immigrating to Ethiopia where they founded Shashemene Village.  The lost Israelites had begun their repatriation to Zion.

An ironic twist in this epic came in 1970 when the nation of Israel enacted the Law of Return, giving Jews and Jewish descendants the right to immigrate to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship.  The Beta Israel quickly sought their right to return to their traditional homeland.  During the 1980s civil war broke out in Ethiopia and famine struck the nation, threatening the Beta Israel community’s survival.  In 1984 in an effort to rescue the exiled Jews, the government of Israel executed Operation Moses; evacuating thousands of Beta Israel and repatriated them to Israel.  In 1991, Israel’s Operation Solomon brought the remaining Beta Israel to Israel.  The entire Beta Israel community, numbering 120,000 people now lives in Israel.  The lost Israelites have returned to Zion.

Native Tribalism In The Twenty-First Century

nativepride4In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries “Family Values” have been at the forefront of many a politician’s rhetoric in the United States.  Though these social servants may think that they mean well, in truth they often have done and do more to hinder family values than they do to help.  Indigenous family values have been steadily attacked for the greater span of history, often by the goals and aims of the capitalist mainstream of American and Western society through the colonial process.  It is through this process of colonialism and the perpetuation of the values inherent in this philosophy of conquest and assimilation that has brought the plague of impoverished, powerless families in crises to the world.  Indigenous peoples in general have always been the primary targets of these acts of aggression against family values, and since the close of the fifteenth century, Native Americans have been the victims of this war on the family.  As an Indian and a Stomp Dancer at a traditional ceremonial grounds I have some close ties to this subject as I have witnessed first hand some of the destructive policies of the government in these matters which have long standing and far reaching consequences for people of all races.


Traditionally Native Americans have lived in social organizations that anthropologists and sociologists have called bands and tribes.  As Andre Cherlin points out;

Before the twentieth century, kinship ties provided the basis for governing most American Indian tribes.  A person’s household was linked to a larger group of relatives who might be a branch of a matrilineal or patrilineal clan [→p38] that shared power with other clans. Thus kinship organization was also political organization.  Under these circumstances, extended kinship ties reflected power and status to a much greater extent than among other racial ethnic groups in the United States.  American Indian kinship systems allowed individuals to have more relatives, than did Western European kinship systems (Shoemaker, 1991).  Even today, extended family ties retain a significance for American Indians that goes beyond the sharing of resources that has been noted among other groups (Harjo,1993).  Kinship networks constitute tribal organization; kinship ties confer an identity.[1]

Vine Deloria Jr., renowned Native American author and former Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians develops the idea further into more practical detail;

Indian tribes have always had two basic internal strengths, which can also be seen in corporations: customs and clans.  Tribes are not simply composed of Indians.  They are highly organized as clans, within which variations of tribal traditions and customs govern.  While the tribe makes decisions on general affairs, clans handle specific problems.  Trivia is thus kept out of tribal affairs by referring it to clan solutions.

Customs rise as clans rise to meet problems and solve them.  They overflow from the clan into general tribal usage as their capability and validity are recognized.  Thus a custom can spread from a minor clan to the tribe as a whole and prove to be a significant basis for tribal behavior.  In the same manner, methods and techniques found useful in one phase of corporate existence can become standard operating procedure for an entire corporation.[2]

However, this tribal structure has never suited the palate of Western colonialism which seeks to consolidate its power and authority over national as well as individual resources.  The socialistic and communal nature of Native tribalism in America is in exact opposition to the nuclear family oriented and discriminating values of Western colonialism.


apaches_general_crooks4

After four hundred years of struggling against the effects of colonialism; disease, wars and genocide the last free Indians in North America were forced onto reservations in1886 when Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua Apaches surrendered at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona.  As soon as the federal government was convinced they had rounded up all the Indians, they forced Native communities to be defined by a set standard of perceived genetics in an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Indian tribal structure.  By applying blood standards to Native Identity the federal government alienated and further factionalized Native families and communities which were often genetically mixed, while also limiting their contemporary as well as future claims to Indigenous identity and sovereignty.  Ward Churchill, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder says;

In clinging insistently to a variation of eugenics formulation — dubbed “blood-quantum” – ushered in by the 1887 General Allotment Act, while implementing such policies as the Federal Indian Relocation Program (1956-1982), the government has set the stage for a “statistical extermination” of the indigenous population within its borders.  As the noted western historian, Patricia Nelson Limerick, has observed: “Set the blood-quantum at one quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed…and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence.  When that happens, the federal government will finally be freed from its persistent ‘Indian Problem’.”[3]

Though portrayed as a means of preserving tribal identity and interests, the blood quantum standards of the General Allotment Act have in fact only served to undermine tribal integrity.

Today tribal membership is determined on quite a legalistic basis, which is foreign to the accustomed tribal way of determining its constituency.  The property interests of descendants of the original enrollees or allotees have become determining factors in compiling tribal membership rolls.  People of small Indian blood quantum or those descended from people who were tribal members a century ago, are thus included on the tribal membership roll. Tribes can no longer form and reform on sociological, religious, or cultural bases.  They are restricted in membership by federal officials responsible for administering trust properties who demand that the rights of every person be respected and whether or not that person presently appears in an active and recognized role in the tribal community.  Indian tribal membership today is a fiction created by the federal government, not a creation of the Indian people themselves.[4]

Throughout the years that followed, interaction between the United States government and Native peoples the federal policy has been one of either complete destruction or dissolution of the tribal structure.  Less than half a century after the last Indian wars the United States government began investigating ways to rid themselves of the impoverished, unified family-based communities surviving off of federal commodities, hopefully this time, without having to shoot anybody.

In 1947, in order to save funds and gain stronger control over tribal reservation lands, Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Zimmerman was pressured to classify Indian Tribes into categories between those tribes that could be immediately terminated from federal service and those tribes who will require a decade or more of intensified programs of development in order to reach a level of assimilation to function within white society.  In 1950 the House Internal Committee based their survey of Indians on The Domesday Survey of 1086 as the model for their investigation on Indian affairs and economic assets.  The Domesday Survey was William the Conqueror’s survey of his recently conquered British territory and subjects nearly a thousand years earlier. The committee’s intention was to expedite the assimilation of Native Americans and the dissolution of their tribal structure, the indigenous family value.  The following years between 1954 –1968 were full of Congressional cases of tribal termination.[5]

Native American communities have continuously been treated more as conquered prisoners to be assimilated rather than American citizens effectively trivializing them as human beings.  While federal policy has tended to always be aimed toward unraveling the tribal structure in order to dissolve Native sovereignty all together, the media and non-indigenous society typically portray Indians in historical romance rather than in contemporary settings; showing Natives dealing with our modern day colonialism.  This lack of accurate portrayal of Natives has served to keep the general populace ignorant and uninformed regarding much of the truth regarding Native America.  Churchill again brings the issue into focus by explaining;

Nothing, perhaps, is more emblematic of Hollywood’s visual pageantry than scenes of Plains Indian warriors astride their galloping ponies, many of them trailing a flowing headdress in the wind, thundering into battle against the blue-coated troops of the United States.  By, now more than 500 feature films and half again as many television productions have included representations of this sort.  We have been served such fare along with the tipi, the buffalo hunt, the attack upon the wagon train and the ambush of the stage coach, until they have become so indelibly imprinted upon the American consciousness as to be synonymous with Indians as a whole (to nonindians at any rate and, to many native people as well).

It’s not the technical inaccuracies in such representations that are the most problematic, although these are usually many and often extreme.  Rather, it is the fact that the period embodied in such depictions spans the barely three decades running from 1850 to 1880, the interval of warfare between the various plains people and the ever encroaching soldiers and settlers of the United States.  There is no “before” to the story and there is no “after.”  Cinematic Indians have no history before Euroamericans come along to momentarily imbue them with it, and then, mysteriously, they seem to pass out of existence altogether.”[6]

It is for these reasons that both of the United States ethnic majorities, both black and white tend to misunderstand, misrepresent, not care or consider issues of native sovereignty and the integrity of the tribal structure to be a joke.  As far as most Americans are concerned Native tribalism and sovereignty does little more than stimulate the imagination.  The most support and understanding or sympathizing with Native family struggles outside of Native America arises in the Mexican and Latino population who tend to feel some kinship with Indians.  Native political concerns do not translate well across ethnic boundaries.  Unlike issues between black and white, which tend to be focused on integration, equal opportunity and employment, few ethnic groups in the United States can identify with modern conflicts over Reservation sovereignty, treaty violations, the right to ethnic self-identification and to maintain self-governance.  As Deloria explains it;

The closest parallel that we find in history to the present conditions of Indians is the Diaspora of the Jews following the destruction of the Temple … The Indian exile is in a sense more drastic.  The people often live less than a hundred miles away from their traditional homelands; yet in the relative complexities of reservation and urban life, they might be two-thousand or more years apart.  It’s not simply a special separation that has occurred but a temporal one as well.[7]

In less than five hundred years once powerful and highly specialized family oriented nations were reduced to ‘fourth world’ poverty .

NATIVE AMERICANS, or American Indians, suffer some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment among racial minority groups in the United States, and conditions are even worse on Native American reservations. In 1989, 27.2 percent of Native American families lived below the poverty level while 10 percent of all American families fell into this category (U.S Bureau of the Census 1990a, Table 112). The 1989 Native American family median income was $21,619, only 67 percent of the average family median income for the total U.S. population (ibid). Census Bureau estimates of Native American unemployment rates across selected reservations in 1990 vary from 14 percent to 44 percent (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990b, Summary Tape File 3c). The Bureau of Indian Affairs reports even higher unemployment rates for these areas, estimating rates as high as 70 percent for some reservations (Stuart 1987). Both series place reservation unemployment rates far above average rates for other races or regions.[8]

Indian tribes have been located to lands, splintered, relocated to other places and then relocated again whenever they begin to show a little too much organizational and political aptitude or when valuable resources are found on tribal lands.  Native Americans are continually losing their cultures and identity through tribal dissolution and general neglect of our current political and social obstacles by the media.  The loss of land and sovereignty is continuing to cripple the societies and render the individuals as little more than impoverished peoples and blood quantum standards encourage factionalism and disintegration by forcing mixed blood cousins off of tribal rolls.

The poor treatment and misrepresentation of social issues of Indigenous peoples by the colonial governments and their respective media sets a bad precedent for other nations.  When the world’s Indigenous peoples are oppressed and maltreated on the land that is rightfully their own then the individuals within the colonial society themselves are subject to similar or worse treatment by their own governments.  When a people whose historic and ethnic, social and religious claim to a land is undermined and effectively nullified, no one can expect to have land rights or social and religious freedom without government interference.

Native American tribalism has been an issue of trivia for western society for the past five hundred years.  The colonial structure has shunned it and counterculturalists have imitated it in their defiance of their corporate culture yet, this is perhaps the most misunderstood, misrepresented and misconstrued aspect of “Indianess.”  The Tribal structure of Indigenous people is the backbone of human culture from its roots to its leaves, but oddly enough this truest aspect of human nature has been enduring a wholesale eradication in the name of progress.  The most unfortunate aspect of this dilemma just may be the total alienation of westernized society from its indigenous roots, its true family nature.

It would do Western societies good to pay heed to indigenous ideas and views.  The world’s nations will likely never come to any justice in social reform if they do not reconsider their modern colonial perspective and come to grips with their indigenous roots.

[1] Cherlin, Adrew J., Public and Private Families, McGraw-Hill Higher Education Publishing, 2005, pg 22

[2] Deloria Jr, Vine, Custer Died For Your Sins, Macmillian Publishing, New York, 1988, pg 232

[3] Churchill, Ward, Indians Are Us, Culture and Genocide in Native North America, Common Courage Press, 1994, pg 42

[4] Deloria Jr, Vine, God Is Red, a Native View of Religion, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, 1994 pg 243

[5] Deloria Jr, Vine, Custer Died For Your Sins, Macmillian Publishing, New York, 1988, pg 60

[6] Churchill, Ward, Acts of Rebellion, the Ward Churchill Reader, Routledge, New York, 2003, pg 186

[7] Deloria Jr, Vine, God Is Red, a Native View of Religion, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, pg 249

[8] Geib, Elizabeth Zahrt, Do Reservation Native Americans Vote with Their Feet? A Re-examination of Native American Migration, 1985-1990 – Focus on Economic Sociology American Journal of Economics and Sociology, The, Oct, 2001