Pat.sweat.2

„Oh man, Ron, the way those nuns beat us..“  Pat Kennedy

There is no such thing as an Indian in the generic sense. There are a few tribes where the aboriginal language is still fairly widely spoken, several tribes that the language is surviving but is endangered, and some tribes have lost their language altogether. In a scientific sense, language defines culture, and to be really, truly Indian, to think in aboriginal terms, it is very difficult to imagine that you could be, for instance a Blackfeet, and not speak your language. Much more true is the idea that person would be Blackfeet American, like an Irish American or Japanese American, an American of Blackfeet descent, culturally speaking. It is possible to see the world in aboriginal terms in English or other western languages, but it would not be easy or likely for most. The problem is context.

My observation, having been in Blackfeet country for twenty-five years, and most of that time associated with those Blackfeet that still speak their language, is that 80% or more  of the English speaking only Blackfeet were raised out of context of their real culture. Blackfeet blood at birth, hanging out at a few Pow-wows, even growing up dancing on the pow-wow road and being raised in Browning, does not necessarily create a Blackfeet Indian. Likewise, celebrating Saint Patrick and drinking Guinness does not an Irishman make. It would be generous to think that 20% of today’s enrolled tribal members are real Indians in the old sense. That the 80% who are not Indian actually think they are Indian, is a tragedy that reinforces the idea of the ongoing Human Rights abuse perpetrated on these peoples through the continued forced Anglo-centric education in Indian Country. The Whiteman teaches the Indians what the Whiteman wants the Indians to think. And this is what the Blackfeet learn in the Browning schools. Regardless of whether the teachers skin color is White or Red.

The Whiteman’s Social Science is fully aware these people are no longer aboriginal by definition. Language largely defines culture. But nobody has taught this to the English speaking Blackfeet in these public schools. They only learn what the Whiteman intends for them to know. Red Whitemen are teaching Indians in schools on reservations, in English, in the classroom setting of Western Civilization that they are Indians. It simply is not true, culturally speaking. So some things have not changed since the Blackfeet first came under the control of the United States. The Indians continue to be lied to.

Ten years ago I could still follow conversational Blackfeet, but my toungue was never able to shape the pronunciation. If you  wrongly pronounce Blackfeet, in the smallest way, it will more often than not  change the intended meaning and sound silly, even dangerous. So I never spoke. But one of the unquestionable masters of Blackfeet language and Oral History, Floyd Heavy Runner, was my friend and explained the language to me for many years. So I am not afraid to go into what is generally a forbidden area of discussion in the Indian world. Whether real Indians speak their language.

Speaking of who or what is an Indian is problematic these days because of language. My experience was, that to be truly Indian, in no uncertain terms, has almost everything to do with the primary language you speak.

I do have empathy for the people that have lost their language and still identify as Indian, but there needs to be some explanation of why their priorities are messed up.. why aren’t these people largely proactively learning their language rather than playing into a set of circumstances that lets the native languages, and the community of thought and behaviors associated with those languages, continue to die. One big reason for the continued death of native languages is the mandatory western education in Indian country today, the public schools, are not equipped to teach Indian languages, languages which are not predicated on the same ideas as western languages. Teaching Blackfeet in a western school setting is nowhere near as simple as teaching Spanish or German. Not even close.

Definitions of what constitutes an Indian are a major part of that problem. An Indian language definition of what an Indian is cannot be found in an English dictionary. This Indian language definition would be the non western terms in which you see and interact in this world. In short, how it is about you live your life in relation to aboriginal ideas.  If you are not recognizable as able to interact in these terms, which are largely unknown to western  educators, you are not a complete Human Being in the old aboriginal concept. You are not really an Indian in the old sense of what that meant. This is because in the native language, that is where it has not yet been christianized, people are holographic expressions of manifest nature, they are already are everything they need to be, there is only a journey of discovery through observation in the natural world. Here, there is no concept of coincidence, there is no concept of seperation, i.e. the temporal and sacred, and there is no clear boundary between dream and reality. In this world, the native speaker’s focus is allowing for personal space, self restraint, and non interference. These are the boundaries that are emphasized. And it is impossible to ask the typical western educator to teach something they have no concept of. This would include western educators that racially identify as Indian, but are not native language proficient.

Those who don’t have their thinking shaped by native language see themselves as Indian by birthright in Anglo or western terms, conceived of in degrees of blood. This perception is without validity, it falls far short of the original Indian concept, that is, if it is the aboriginal concept that gives the definition of what it means to be native. Because to be Indian is to see the world you live in, in a certain way. This has little to do with whether or not you are full blood, half breed or non native blood, if the definition of Indian stems from the language of the original peoples inhabiting the Americas.

Native membership (in the old sense) was never predicated on race, but on perceptions, especially how the community perceived you. If you think like an Indian, a Human Being, one of ‘The People’, then your actions in the community enabled you to be recognized as such. Many, perhaps most of today’s Indians, would be unrecognizable as Human from this old perspective.

Those who speak the native language fluently are more apt to approach life with great care according to laws built into the language (the stories.) Life itself is lived as an observational meditation in concert with nature in many respects. There are things these people are at great pains not to do. Ever. This is the approach that created the wise old people, the ones that can bring ceremony meaningfully to the people.

Those who do not speak Indian are much more likely to live their life carelessly from the original Indian perspective. Theirs’ is a dangerous road that damages the entire Indian nation. The result associated with this is tragedy. Oftentimes these people are too dangerous to bring into ceremony. Many of them do not know how to be quiet and listen. Frequently they cannot seem to learn the old ways in an authentic sense. Largely they do not evolve through the course of their lives as would be expected of the old way Indian.

This is because Indian Languages formed the development of the mind and shaped the perceptions of the native world. Unlike the western world, where deeper insights into truly useful knowledge are the provence of higher education, and acquiring social skills and learning the basic education are stepping stones for those privileged with opportunities for higher education, the Indian language world provided every child equally a language integrated opportunity for higher education, beginning at birth.

First, in the Indian World, the child learned to see his/her surroundings in terms of the animate. Suckling at mother’s breast, the child sees the effect, hears and feels, the movement of the breeze in the aspen groves and the language sounds associated with that natural phenomena. Already the child is learning, but not about single objects, rather that life and being alive already is an integrated whole, that all things are inter-related. Aboriginal language has already laid the foundation for an advanced understanding of physics, but not in the western abstract. From the first understanding of speech, the native language child knows already that they are a part of everything that is, that in some sense they embody everything that is. Already this child has a foundation laid that will be atypical of nearly all of the children in Anglo society. And it is only after this first great lesson of inclusiveness that they learn to differentiate. But these next lessons will differ from the Anglo concept as well.

Now the stories begin. Again in nature, the stories of Coyote, Magpie and King Fisher, with their sounds integrated into songs (Cree King Fisher song “Kay-kay, Kay-kay, Kanawa Bum), everything that is, in the natural world, is taught in stories that do not differentiate people from animals. The differentiation is in the personalities of nature of which people are an integral part. And because of those personalities, and the stories associated with them, the child is learning the difference between foolish and sound behaviors as well as risks, and how to handle risk. It is all about personal responsibility in the context of nature, with all of nature taught as a single sacred, humanity integrated social concept.

Now the native language child learned to play. And the child’s play was predicated on these stories. By the time this sort of child is ten years of age, he or she already knows how to become a Chief, Medicine Man or Holy Woman. It is all about how you live your life and personal responsibility. At this age, a mere ten years, nearly every child in Indian speaking society could, in a by far greater sense than White children ever knew at the same age, be depended upon to perform responsibly as citizens of their respective nations.

Already these native children were prepared to attend the native language equivalent of higher education, the so called (by the anthropologists) age grade societies. Now, they would be observed by their communities in their personal evolution, with a premium put on an intelligent balance between audacity and self restraint. Having lived right, and advancing through these societies and serving these communities, generally by the age of 45 or 50 years (the truly gifted might arrive at this status sooner) these native language citizens might have earned the right to speak in council as leaders of their respective families, clans, societies,  and nations.

But with the advent of the missionaries and the destruction of the language, a different Indian emerged. When the Native American populace became prisoner on their respective reservations, they were subjected to enforced Anglo educations and a super tragedy ensued.

The early western educators of the American Indian were the missionaries. Other than the basic rudiments of reading and writing, the focus was not on the practical well being of the Indian children in their charge, but their so called ‘spiritual’ well being. The rank superstition the Christian missionaries held concerning native beliefs systems, demanded that the language and associated stories of Native America be crushed in the children. And those languages were destroyed in brutal fashion, through actual physical torture, the figurative rape (and oftentimes literal rape) inclusive of systematic murder, of several generations of native speaking children in government run or approved boarding schools.

How could this happen? Christian ideologues were most concerned with advancing Christianity in native peoples. These Evangelicals, whether Catholic or Protestant, were  not primarily concerned with matters of science and education, rather rank cult superstition is what they taught, and tolerance of the language, ideas and lifestyles of other cultures was not in their curriculum. Either you knew Christ or you burned. Having known the burn of smallpox and measles, now the Indian children were subjected to this new and unnatural disease of spirit, a dark ages cult belief in man’s dominion over the earth, the conquest and control of nature, and the burn of shame in who you would now will become, a thing born in Sin, in a world that will be destroyed because of wickedness. And all Indian thoughts, philosophies and languages were suddenly wicked.

Imagine being 9 years old, not speaking a word of English, suddenly being picked up by the police without notice and delivered to a prison full of Indian children where you are beaten with an iron fire poker the first day you are there, for daring to speak in Indian: the only language you know. As a child, you have been born again in Evil. Because you are not allowed to speak, except in the terms and new language of this apocalyptic event visited upon you, you discover a new life birthed through a violence that came upon you from nowhere, and you could be trapped in this Dantean Hell for years.  Your physical torture, absolutely brutal beatings, even to death, only stops with the rote memorization of Bible verse and complete capitulation to the idea that your former life was shit.

In the original native sense, the survivors among these Indian children were drowned as functional Human Beings in this evil. The strongest amoung them died, those who were most Indian, beaten to death. Association with the original language and stories became so traumatic for the survivors, the Indian children that broke, that these individuals never passed the language to their children. Indian languages, and the knowledge of what it actually meant to be an Indian, in countless cases, died across the Americas.

But you could still be Indian in a sort of lying way. You look Indian. The civilization that physically beat the Indianess out of you still identifies you as Indian, because of the new lie of Race. So now, a generation later, you think that you are Indian, but you struggle to know what that means. You know it means you were conquered. You know it means your civilization was destroyed. You know it means your ancestors spoke, and maybe a handful of your tribesmen speak, a different language. You might believe that because you are able to dress like your ancestors and dance at a pow-wow, you are traditional. But inside you know this is not really true. And it makes you angry. Now your babies sit in front of a television and learn in English what an inanimate object is. The lie grows.

Unemployable, you sit and play Cribbage and Black Jack, endlessly, surviving on welfare and government commodities, your children grow up emulating the behaviors they see on the TV, become criminals and either die or go to prison. “Indian Love”, the beatings that were introduced to your community by the boarding school returnees, the primary lesson learned there, pass on to generation after generation. Whether because you are broke and drunk, or consequently just socially stupid, real ceremony is no longer a part of your life. But ceremony, the ritual observation of and interaction in natural phenomena, is what Indian life really is. But these beaten Indians cannot know it.

But there are the Indians that were not destroyed as Human Beings. In bits and pieces, in a handful here or there, there is a spark of life, the language, the stories, and a more real idea, a greater original understanding of what it means to be Indian, survives. And that idea, that there are still Indians, has rubbed off on some of these otherwise culturally deprived in the community.  But there are still huge problems.

Now, the third generation children of the boarding school Indians want to come home, figuratively; to become Indian in reality. But they do not speak Indian. And for that fact, they cannot easily come home. English language thought and associated Christian culture precludes this homecoming, more often than not. Because the Indian child, these days, receives a western education with both little and inferior knowledge about what it really means to be an Indian from substandard schools that are not equipped to teach language in an aboriginal context. To be westernized, to speak English only, and understand ceremony in the aboriginal Indian sense is not impossible, but is a difficult path.

The first circumstance necessary for the non native speaking Indian to become real, is the ability to realize that non-western knowledge, in this case pre-western Indian knowledge, is not superstitious evil, hocus pocus, or a beliefs system that is foolish and stupid. This is more easily overcome in the present day Indian Country than it is in the Anglo community, because the time of this pre-western knowledge is still close, even functional in some people. Some of the Medicine people can still heal. Some of the ceremony can still demonstrate an ability to manifest phenomena in nature. There is nothing like seeing is believing. Those culturally deprived Indians that have distanced themselves from the fundamentals of Evangelical Christianity and have had a look in the window at their ancestral native world, can see there is something to it. That is the first essential step to their return to being Indian.

But if they stop there and simply imitate ceremony, they are only half way home and stuck. Real ceremony requires the manifestation of natural phenomena in concert with the act of ceremony itself. Whether Buffalo Calling had brought the Buffalo, or Weather Making had brought the weather, these were the empirical proof in the old Indian way of ceremony.

But knowing it can be made to happen, and knowing how to make it happen, is not the same thing. Imitating ceremony, copying it from how it was seen or remembered, often doesn’t work, is not necessarily real. It can be seen as empty and hollow, a ‘nothing’ event. Because the necessary concept to manifest the phenomena is oftentimes not present in the ritualizing individuals. This is the missing language. The native understanding of nature, and an observed cause and effect relationship that is not limited in the sense of Newtonian physics, but is a much wider idea, is built into the language through the stories. Place, time, ritual and manifest natural phenomena, learned from what the stories teach about observations in nature, all will intersect for the real Indian.

But a copied ceremony from the past, absent the authentically trained Medicine people, only serves to reinforce a self-stereotype of what it means to be Indian, among people who only think they are Indian. They look Indian and have Indian ancestry, but reality is they are not complete Indians in the old sense of what that meant. I am not saying this is true in every case, but my own observation is that it is true for most of the Indians I had met that were not proficient in Indian language.  This would especially include the many non native speaking tribal members that actually seem to believe they are “traditional.”

A necessary circumstance to bring real ceremony, absent the language, into your life is the idea that meaningful life is an observational meditation interacting with nature. The idea that the most powerful prayer you can know is how you live your life in respect to all other life. But in English, this idea is nearly impossible to separate out from monotheistic influences because of socially permeated cultural associations and strictures attending western languages generally. The typical English language associated ideas of prayer and meditation instantly invoke separation, the sacred distanced from the temporal, and nature, seen largely in terms of economics, is centered in the temporal. How can that split be mended in a language, English, whose culture generally forbids that they mix? English language civilization acts out the idea of man taking dominion over the earth, nature is subjective and separate, not integral and sacred.

However it does happen, the English language split can be bridged, but it is rare.

A balanced, respectful personality with good observational skills and a strong education in, or a natural gift for, the natural and social sciences, together with possessing a highly conceived knowledge of non-western or pre-western thought that precludes rank superstition of the evangelical stripe, can learn natural ceremony of a high order, and manifest natural phenomena in the original native sense. But what are the chances of that in a community with a boarding school legacy, in a prairie ghetto that knows largely crime, poverty, sub standard education and little opportunity. Consider it is rare already in the educated Anglo world. Can it be made easier? A working model in the wider Indian community has not yet been demonstrated.

The answer, for Indian peoples, THE ANSWER is, can only be, properly taught native language. The lessons, laws and relationships built into native language will reduce crime. Self esteem discovered through native language will reduce poverty. Native language is the door of opportunity, not necessarily into the Whiteman’s world, but into the sense of self and lost opportunity rediscovered. Native language can transform Indian country. The present western educational model has shown it cannot.

Around 1920, the Mohawk language was nearly dead. Today, nearly all Mohawks speak their language. So there is a precedent to becoming Indian in community again through language. But to accomplish this, there must be a motivation to learn the language. It seems someone must tell the ‘almost’ Indians, the Indians who do not speak their language, that they are short, they have missed the mark. They are not really Indian in the old sense. They are truly pitiful Indians at best. I have that on the most solid authority.

When I sat and listened and watched old Mary Ground ceremonially paint the Indians that came to her for Black Tail Dance, I paid close attention. Each Indian was asked their name by Mary, quietly, in Blackfeet. All those that could not respond in Blackfeet, which was most of the people under 40 years of age in the early 1980’s, and a fair number older than that, these Indians were admonished by Mary in English: “It is a pitiful Indian that cannot speak their language” as she painted them with obvious love none the less.

In the early reservation days the Browning Blackfeet, socially speaking, were roughly split into three groups. The “Pagan” Blackfeet, the Christian Blackfeet and the Half-breeds. The Pagan followers of Three Suns were largely centered south of Browning towards Heart Butte. These people were discriminated against by the United States for the entire following century when the USA eventually placed all of the tribes resources and power in the hands of the largely Christian Blackfeet community at Browning.

These ‘favored’ Christian Blackfeet were taught that they were culturally superior to their aboriginal brethren, and eventually the growing class of mixed bloods springing from these people came to see themselves as racially superior as well. The whiter you were, the more educational opportunities you received, and the doors into power were opened for you. This legacy is largely on account of the United States policy of that time favoring Evangelical Christians as the Indian Agents overseeing the reservations. It was purposeful, forced assimilation into “Christian” society. Those Indians that voluntarily gave up their ways to become like the Whites were rewarded. That is historical fact. And this was the beginning of the erosion of the Blackfeet language. Blackfeet who still spoke their language, but growing up in these Christianized families, stopped thinking in terms of praying ‘through’ the Stones, the Trees. They were taught that this was Devil Worship, not to go there. Already, still speaking a language that was aboriginal in origin, these people were ceasing to think in aboriginal terms.

But progress in assimilation was not satisfactory to the United States. In the case of Three Suns people to the south of Browning, aboriginal language continued to be a vehicle for perpetrating aboriginal thought and belief. And this was true for groups in other tribes as well. So the Boarding Schools were instituted. In short, several generations of Indian children were slave labored, beaten, and in many cases raped into christianity, even murdered. Half of the Indian children did not survive. I know of a case of an Indian child having his mouth washed out with soap for daring to speak Blackfeet, but the child did not speak English and thought he was supposed to eat the soap, which was a fatal poison, lye, with his intestinal tract slowly dissolved, it must have been a horrible death.

Indian culture was sent by this treatment of its children on an accelerated road to destruction.

This Boarding School event was fortified by the American Indian Religious Crime Code, law making it a crime to initiate or attend aboriginal ceremony. This policy worked in some cases and in other cases it did not. It is just all about human character. The weaker among these children cracked and let go of being Indian. In the stronger, it just bred their personal resentment. These mentally stronger among them likely were mostly beaten to death, but some survived to come home and went back to being Indians, and used Blackfeet coined phrases such as still existed and I heard in the south of Blackfeet country during my times there.. admonishing little children that “The Whiteman will make you into stew” if they strayed from their parents gaze. This idea would originally stem from the alien Christian communion (reinforced by the legacy of the cannibal ‘Liver Eater’ Johnson, a mountain man terrorist of Indians) and the subsequent fact that the Boarding School generations were forcefully taken from their families, or kidnapped into these schools if found alone, out and about on their own. Half of them never lived to return. Most of the survivors had been “Broken” into Christians, in the sense you would ‘break’ a horse, and ceased to be Indians. Now, they only looked like Indians.

Still, this was not enough. There were never enough boarding schools for all of the Indian children, and the reservations had many small countryside schools where the more remote communities could send their children. The problem for the Whiteman with this was these Indian communities still continued to survive as real Indian peoples because of the nature of their social organization in these remote areas. Indian language and ways were not dying off fast enough. The answer to this Whiteman dilemma, for the Blackfeet, became a social disaster.

The Blackfeet Reservation’s country side ‘allotted lands’ had been initially assigned to individuals that wanted to be in proximity to each other. Now, a generation later, there were extended families and Clan affiliated communities in this countryside as a result. The language and culture continued to survive through these original traditional Indian community oriented relationships. From the Whiteman point of view, this had to be broken up. So the small country schools were shut down, and it was made against the law not to put your children into the remaining schools at Browning and many Blackfeet were forced to abandon their life and land in the countryside and move into town to put their children into school. The consequence was threefold. It created a crime ridden ghetto on the Southside of Browning and it caused many land related self sufficiency skills in these people to be lost. It also destroyed the social fabric of Blackfeet society that kept the clan relationships together and violence in check. The resultant social cost is staggering. High alcoholism and death rates attend this policy, crime is rampant, social values degraded, inroads have been made by gangs, and, murder, Blackfeet fratricide, almost unknown before, is now common.

The economic cost is no less burdensome. The cost of maintaining subsidized urban housing, taken together with the Busing and buildings maintenance budgets associated with this failed social experiment, the price of attempting to police this unnecessary ghetto created on the high plains of Indian country, all self cycle into draining away resources that might otherwise lift these same people from their grinding poverty.

However forced out of their family, band and clan relationships, taken out of the observational nature based context of the Blackfeet language form, and forced into a large regimented English language only school setting, the desired result of the Whiteman was accomplished. Blackfeet language, and consequently Indian ways, had finally begun to die out.

And it is from this new pool of talent, this ghetto, that we are now finally gifted with the Racist Red Indians, and also the educated Indians that turned their backs on their own people. And neither of these distinctly modern mutant social species is truly Indian, they are not aboriginal, though of aboriginal descent, they are not Human Beings in the sense of the ancient Blackfeet ways, rather they both are variants of the new Blackfeet Americans. And not only the Blackfeet. This is the case with nearly all of today’s tribes.

Let’s look at the Racist Red Indians first. These Indians make up a part of the Indians today that identify themselves as ‘Traditional Indians.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and the pity of it is they do not even realize this themselves. They are racist because they are angry at the Whiteman. Well, who could blame them? Just review the preceding pages. This is inter-generational anger, well justified. But justified anger will not make these people into Indians.

Wearing ‘FBI’ (Full Blood Indian) baseball caps while singing at a Pow Wow drum, they believe they are traditional Indians. It’s not true. I have personally outdone thousands of these Red wannabee Indians with the sweat  equity time I have invested, given to their own elders and I did not see these people there, over the span of 2 ½ decades. Where were they? Busy impressing people with their Indianess at pow-wows. Pow-wows are not even one hundred years old. The pow-wow as we know it today, is a modern invention in Indian Country. Dance contests for money. Fancy Dance. Indian Tacos. Catholic Mass in the Arena on Sunday Morning. You think this is Indian? It’s simply not true. These people need to sober up, go home and learn their language. And then look at becoming part of real ceremony. In that case you might see someone with a Red skin become an Indian.

This is what AIM needs to do. Yes, the American Indian Movement was justified as a political movement. But now it is time to evolve. Are these people, having won the right to be Indians, now going to throw the hard won opportunity away by continuing to be angry? Many AIM members see themselves as Warriors, but they do not have the whole idea of what this term implies, many of these people did not have access to the traditional teachings of their ancestors. Warriors are not soldiers and they are not mercenaries. Warriors, in native tradition, knew violence only as a self defense on behalf of their people and protection of their territories, and in a more limited sense as a right of passage in daring, in sometimes solo encounters with rival tribes. But these latter were more like inter-tribal Olympic events and less like wars in the Anglo sense. These events were steps in a learning process and personal evolution. That process, ideally, leads to a humility and wisdom that secures the future of Indian peoples. This process of a journey in life, of which being a fighter is only a part, was intended over the long term to prepare fair and balanced leaders. Fair and balanced leaders, by definition, cannot be angry. And this is the core reason that these descendants of the Boarding School Indians did not, could not, seek out their elders. Anger.

Anger cannot learn from the winds that are spirit. Anger cannot pray through the trees. If you are angry and you think you are at Sundance, you are only fooling yourself, the gods will not see you in their dreams. Instead, your anger is reflected back and it hits you. These thoughts, from an angry person, do not go through, the gods do not look at them. And in the old ways, if the gods do not see you, there is a diagnosis. The Medicine Men would determine you have lost your shadow. In the old Indian scheme of things, that meant you were no longer a complete Human Being. Another way the truly authentic Medicine Men have described these lost Indian people among themselves is to consider they are domesticated creatures, like cattle, in the same terms as they see the Whitemen in the most general sense.. as separated from reality, devoid of the understanding of the spirit forms called ‘Naaks’, the real communications and the real dreams that come from living in a proper context with nature are alive in these people no more.

And we are, nowadays, living in a world that is nearly without shadow or the undomesticated spirit that sees the real relationship of Man to Nature through the living ceremony. What can be done about that? The answer can only be had from looking inside. Looking inside, in the Indian sense, means finding home. Go home and be Indian. Learn your language. Bring your elders a Pipe and ask what can be done about your anger. Learn to be an Indian. Discover what it means to know of the Naaks.

If you cannot do this, it means in the final sense that victory belongs to the Evangelical Whiteman.

Now, let’s have a look at the other Blackfeet American, the collaborators, the educated Indian that took his lessons from the Whiteman’s world and turned on his own people. These are the ‘Christianized’ Indians that accepted their reward for turning their backs on their culture. When did I ever see these people at ceremony? They were not there either. Since early captivity times, there has always been a privileged class of Indian, beginning with the first collaborators, the Indians that worked with the United States to subjugate their own peoples. And these people were favored with superior opportunities. Ultimately, these were the Indians that were entrusted with the wealth and power of the new, non traditional Tribal Governments imposed on the tribes by Washington, DC. These people became a new Royal class of Indian that looked down on their Indian brothers that had kept the old ways as ‘Uncle Tom Toms.’ Seeing themselves as superior in every respect, they had no respect whatsoever for the people whose lives they were to dictate for many decades.

In the case of the Blackfeet at Browning, one of these Half-breeds that saw himself as racially and culturally superior to his Blackfeet relatives, Joe Brown, cynically held the first election for a Tribal Council under the newly imposed council system at a curious time. Nearly all of the majority tribal members that would have opposed this new government imposed by the United States (and Joe Browns implementing it) were literally out of the country. Sundance was legal in Canada, and the Montana Blackfeet relatives, the Blood Indians, held this event just across the border. All of Montana’s real Blackfeet Indians were there. So this was the moment that Joe Brown held this new and foreign election for a government to replace the traditional Chiefs with the Whiteman invented Tribal Council. Under the rules mandated by the United States for this election, it required only 1/3 of the tribal membership participate. This would be the Christian Blackfeet that did not Sundance, they would be home to vote. Joe Brown, president of the election board set up to oversee this election, certified himself as the first ever elected Blackfeet Tribal Council Chairman in 1936. If Joe Brown, who supervised the ballot count, was honest when he elected himself the first modern Blackfeet leader, then 16.65 percent + 1 ballot of the tribal membership was all that was required to institute the Blackfeet Nation as we know it today.

But it is not likely at all that Joe Brown was honest. This corrupt inception of the present day Blackfeet Tribal Council persisted for at least fifty years. In the middle 1980’s I was with Pat Kennedy at the Pow-wow at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. Earl Old Person, Blackfeet Tribal Chairman, was the Master of Ceremonies. During a break in the proceedings he came over to our Drum, the Starr School Singers, to visit. Mickey Pablo, the Flathead Indian Tribal Chairman also came over. I had once heard Mickey state that his father had told him all he would ever need to know about tribal politics could be learned from Earl Old Person. I was sitting at the drum together with Pat Kennedy when Mickey and Earl began joking about stuffing ballot boxes, tribal elections were coming. The joking abruptly ceased when I picked up our  microphone, and held it up towards them as though I would turn it on.

These Christianized Blackfeet see themselves as a superior Indian. They were indeed a new Royal class of Indian under the protection and patronage of this new Blackfeet form of government. For decades the election process was rigged, this did not matter to the United States, these were the people they wanted in power. Tribal wealth became the personal treasury of these people. One of the plums tossed to the new class of Royals that were not actually on the Tribal Council was to be appointed to the Blackfeet Tribal Credit Program.

A partial audit was done internally for the credit committee, apparently to ‘get the goods’ on a single member. It smacked of vendetta. The terms of the audit, to a private outside contractor, was that only a certain one member of the credit committee’s accounts were to be reviewed. Also it was stipulated the result was to be provided to the committee only, per the statement of the auditor at the beginning of his written findings:

“It is understood that this report is solely for your information and is not to be referred to or distributed for any purpose to anyone that is not a member of the committee of the Blackfeet Credit Program.”

A copy of the report was given to me. This report demonstrated the tribal credit committee members loan themselves, their relatives, their “significant others”, and their friends, monies meant for their Blackfeet peoples, and that these loans among themselves are unrestricted, unsecured, and many times are delinquent or defaulted on when new loans are made to themselves, their lovers, families, and friends. Even though the audit zeros in on a singe credit committee member’s accounts, it implicated other credit officers that had signed off on these criminal acts. The audit states as much with the closing remarks:

“Had we performed additional procedures or had we conducted an audit of the financial statements in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, matters might have come to our attention that would have been reported to you.”

The entire program is corrupt. Many loans are unrecorded, these loans add up to tens of thousands of dollars for single individuals, and I have heard first hand, countless times over the years, from Blackfeet living on the poverty side of the reservation that they were unable to secure fifty dollars emergency money from tribal credit because they had no collateral.

The hard documentation of this corruption was provided to the United States Attorney for Montana and nothing was ever done. Only when the Indians interests directly conflict with the purposes of the officials of the United States, or the USA’s friends in corporate industry, is the United States there to make certain business comes off as it thinks it should. The Blackfeet Nation is intended to starve, to live in perpetual poverty, well into the 21st Century. Amazingly, soundly governed Indian Nations continue to be perceived as a threat by the bully USA, and the cycles of poverty instituted for these peoples by purportedly the greatest nation on earth, must endure.

And it is from this Christianized class of Indian Royals, especially the mixed bloods that were taught to see themselves as both culturally and racially superior to their undeserving ‘Uncle Tom Tom’ relatives, a Royal Class created in the several diverse tribes, that the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs draws its talent pool of employees. Small wonder that somewhere upwards of an estimated one hundred billion dollars is unrecorded, and unaccounted for, to this day, from the treasury that should have served to support these starving peoples.

Relating to the several Indians suing the Department of the Interior over these missing monies in the Federal Court of Judge Royce Lamberth, this is one very salient point that will not come up because neither side will dare open the door to the judge: the fact that the billions of dollars at stake were stolen by the BIA employees in concert with the Tribal Councils and employees of the tribal administrations.

During my years working the investigative case concerning the Blackfeet tribe and looking into Human and Civil Rights abuses by the tribal council, I was familiar with the very issues represented in the lead plaintiff Eloise Cobell. I have first hand knowledge of Blackfeet poverty, and the United States dealings with that tribe, and it is clear to me the marriage between the USA’s Indian Affairs office and the Tribal Councils is incestuous, relating to and driven by control of tribal monies by these Royal criminal cabals.

The history of document shredding relating to these missing monies in contempt of Judge Lamberth’s orders over these past several years should have been red flag enough. I am amazed that the Judge has not ordered a criminal investigation under the circumstance. And has anyone noticed the largely remarkable public silence of the several tribal administrations relating to the records destruction? It is not only the political problem at Interior, that no one wants this to break open on their watch, just try to keep a lid on it until another administration is in place and let them deal with it: The other question is, the follow-up question, is what was the tribal administrations role in the missing monies?

The social history is succinct. Indian Agents in the Department of War in the 19th Century were corrupt administrators charged with creating the original bureaucracy to administer tribes on location. Utilizing for the most part Missionized mixed blood or ‘Christianized’ Indians as assistants who were completely subservient to these administrative heads, the Indian Agents, appointed to their locations by the then so called Great White Father, corruption and embezzlement learned from example became habit within certain privileged Indian families. These Christianized Indian mixed bloods were both favored with tribal administrative positions by the United States and taught to see themselves as superior to their darker, native speaking relatives with whom they no longer shared traditional customs and religion. But now they were responsible to care for these hapless Indians they despised, their ‘heathen’ Blackfeet speaking cousins. When the Department of Interior took over from the Department of War, these same mixed bloods largely moved over to the new Indian Affairs office at Interior, and in tandem with the new Royals in the tribal administrations, the Tribal Councils created by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, they refined the theft of their own people’s wealth to an art.

Today it is an entitlement, this theft that has sustained certain families or Cabals within the tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for generations. That’s right, an entitlement. Because the idea unchristianized Indians were unworthy was taught, instilled and sustained by the USA for generations in the new Indian Royalty created in the families that have historically controlled the tribes affairs: this has become a part of tribal culture.

The devil in the argument before the court is that neither side will dare tell the truth. But the truth is, it is the old criminal cabal at the tribal local administrative level that is winning. The tribal councils long time partner in crime, Interior, will never be able to admit that it fostered the environment for its own new Royal employees at Indian Affairs to steal the wealth of the Native Nations in tandem with the new Royals that have historically controlled the tribal councils and shared the stolen wealth.

The ultimate irony is the cynical genius in the suit brought by Cobell- and her own past relationship and closeness to the Royals in her own Blackfeet tribe bears investigation. This is a tribe that has one of the worst Human Rights records in all the Americas when it comes to theft and lack of accountability of tribal wealth while keeping its own people forcibly locked in the deepest poverty.. despite this tribes considerable resources.

If Cobell, who bears the family name of the army scout Cobell that riding together with Joe Kipp, lifted his rifle and shot Chief Heavy Runner dead at the 1870 massacre of the Blackfeet on the Marias River, were to win this case relating to not only tribes accounts, but especially individual tribal member accounts and there is restitution or payout, then one (among several) of the most corrupt administrative organizations ever to exist in the western hemisphere will stand to be monetarily reinvigorated for many years, in this case the prime example given: the Blackfeet Tribal Headquarters/Bureau of Indian Affairs administrative complex at Browning Montana. Now the missing billions will be in a position to be stolen twice. Shouldn’t the head of Interior really be asking the plaintiff Cobell “Et tu Brute?” It is the only sensible question that could come before the court.

Perhaps Cobell’s former position as a finance officer of the Blackfeet tribe is a circumstance of heat that was a little too close for comfort and is what caused Chief Earl Old Person to get cold feet and disappear from this suit. Earl in fact vanished from view in this case precisely at the time he was due to give a sworn deposition and produce documents. Cobell wanted him out and asked for his removal, Interior wanted him in and fought his removal. Earl remained missing for months. What could be the real reason why?

Earl wants Interior to keep jurisdiction over the monies. If the Department of Interior had to give up the trust fund to an independent trustee, then chances are much greater that any historic and present ongoing systematic thefts of these monies would come to light.

These many billions of missing dollars will never be found. The most frustrated Federal Judge in North America, Royce Lamberth, presiding for years over the case trying to account for these monies, should offer an amnesty to BIA employees, just so the Indian Nations and the American People can understand the money has vanished, that the United States created Indian Royal Class has stolen and spent it, these monies can never be recovered. And then the United States Interior Secretary Gail Norton can quit lying to Judge Lamberth about the disposition of the plundered Indians treasury. Then Judge Lamberth could quit repeatedly holding successive Department of Interior heads in contempt of court for failing to provide a lawful accounting that in fact cannot exist. Subsequently the Congress could let Norton’s Bureau of Indian Affairs finish the job of shredding the incriminating documents. The truth would be too terrible to behold. And at least one nonsensical fight will have ended.

Unlike the angry AIM, people who can become Indian again, these Royals can never see home. They dare not look inside and go home. They have murdered by theft, through poverty, starvation and opportunity lost, entire generations of their own Peoples. They can never be Indians again.

A chapter from Penucquem Speaks, my book written at the request of Pat Kennedy. Pat had a nearly complete draft of the book read to him by Lorna McMurray, the completed work was published in 2006, not much more than a year after Pat  had died.

Related:

Life in Indian Country

Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories