DailyPBO: The President & The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation - June 2014

The crowd to President Obama: “We love you President Obama! You’re our hero!” President Obama: “I love you back!”

Obama became only the fourth sitting president to visit an Indian reservation. Attending with the First Lady, it was a truly inspiring event at the Cannon Ball Pow Wow Grounds in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The Native American community was bursting with pride over the president’s visit and when he spoke Lakota during his speech, they were completely moved. It was a wonderful day for a community that never (and I mean NEVER) gets the respect they deserve. Bravo, Mr. President. For more reactions, check the Twitter hashtag: #PrezRezVisit
If you blame Native American communities for their poverty, remember that the entire continent was stolen from them.
If you blame Black American communities for their relative poverty, remember that Black Americans were stolen from a continent, trafficked, and enslaved for nearly 300 years.
Tell me again about how your family ‘started from nothing’ when they immigrated. Didn’t they start from whiteness? Seems like a pretty good start.
The American Dream required dual genocides, but tell me again about fairness and equal opportunity. Tell me about democracy, modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy. Tell me your proud heritage, and I will show you the violence that made it so.

7 Native Americans who should be on the $20 instead of Andrew Jackson 

Let’s not mince words: Andrew Jackson presided over one of the largest genocides of Native Americans. So why do we continue to honor the former president’s memory daily?

Mic cartoonist Mady G. has created a few alternate versions of the currency that pay homage to a dramatically underrepresented — and arguably more authentic — group of American leaders.


November is American Indian Heritage month. Did you know that there are at least 562 federally recognized tribal nations in the U.S.? 

Matika Wilbur is attempting to photograph every one. Wilbur, of the Swinomish and Tulalip in Washington State, sold everything she owns to travel the nation taking portraits of her people. She calls the series Project 562 and aims to debunk myths about American Indian culture. “I’m not a Halloween costume. I hope to encourage a new conversation of sharing and to help us move beyond the stereotypes.”

"We are still here," she says. "We remain."

via The Daily Kos and Project 562

The Taino Indians 
Native Americans of the Caribbean

The Taino Indians: Native Americans of the Caribbean

"Who are the Tainos? The U.S. Government says they are extinct, but they are not. Most likely you might know them as Latinos, a Spanish speaking person of Latin American (the Spanish speaking part of the Americas, south of the U.S.) descent. Not all, but many modern day Tainos are unaware of their lineage. To understand how that could happen you must know the story from the beginning.

Approximately 1,500 years ago, the Arawak people of South America began migrating northward along the many scattered islands located between South and North America, an area we now refer to as the Caribbean. For a thousand years their population grew and the people lived in harmony. The people covered all the islands of the Caribbean, the major ones as they are now known: Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola as well as all the smaller ones: the Bahamas, Bimini, Jamaica etc. Certain groups of island people identified themselves as Lokono, Lucayan, Carib, Ciboney, Arawak, but most islands were primarily inhabited by people who called themselves Taino, which stood for “the good people” in their language. The different groups intermarried extensively to strengthen ties amongst themselves.

Theirs was a beautiful culture. They were aware of a Divine presence whom they called Yocahu, and to worship and give thanks was a major part of their lives. They had a social order that provided the leaders and guidelines by which they all lived. They hunted, fished, cultivated crops and ate the abundant fruits provided by nature. They were clever and ingenious and had everything they needed to survive. They had beautiful ceremonies that were held at various times - birth, death, marriage, harvest, naming and coming of age, to name a few. They had special reverence for the Earth Mother (Atabey) and had respect for all living things knowing that all living things are connected. There was little need for clothing due to the tropic heat, but upon reaching puberty both males and females would wear a small woven loincloth. Puberty was also the time at which they were considered old enough to be married. The population estimates for the Taino people at the height of their culture are as high as 8,000,000. That was in 1492….

In 1492, the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, was loaned three small, old ships from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain for a questionable voyage across the sea in which he hoped to reach India or China. Although Marco Polo had sailed around the world 300 years earlier, and the Norsemen 500 years earlier, there were few sailors willing to sail into the unknown, so the King and Queen released some prisoners early to accompany Columbus on the voyage. On October 12, 1492 after two months at sea Columbus and his crew finally spotted land. Upon reaching the land, Columbus fell to his knees, thanked God for a safe voyage and planted a flag in the ground, claiming the land for Spain - as the Tainos who had lived there for 1,000 years watched from behind trees and bushes.

The Taino had never before seen white men, clothed people, people with beards or ships like that - they thought these people must be from heaven. So the Taino came out to greet them, as was their custom, and brought the travelers - who surely must have been tired and hungry - food, drink and gifts. Such strong swimmers were the Taino that some of them swam right out to the boats some three miles offshore.

That very first night Columbus wrote in his journal that these islands were very heavily populated by a handsome, strong, well-built and peaceful people who had only simple weapons and that with as few as 50 of his men and their weapons he could take over. Much is said about Columbus’ desire to convert the “savages” to Christianity, but very little is said about his quest for gold, although Columbus mentions gold in his journal 70 times in his first two weeks in the islands. The very first day, Columbus “took” several Native boys aboard his ship to show him where the gold was.

Columbus spent the next two months looking for gold. Just when he was about to return to Spain, on Christmas Eve his ship the Santa Maria ran aground and sank. The Taino people helped him to retrieve every salvageable item. A problem arose in that now all the sailors who had accompanied Columbus could not fit on the two remaining (and smaller) ships. So a fort was built using the salvaged wood from the Santa Maria and 39 men were left behind at a fort Columbus called La Navidad. Shortly thereafter, Columbus set sail for Spain, taking some of the Natives and birds, food and plants to show the King and Queen.

Columbus was received in a manner never before seen and his stories of the “New World” were listened to with awe. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella immediately gave Columbus seventeen large ships, livestock & supplies to return to their newly acquired lands and colonize them. This time there was no shortage of men willing to sign up for the ocean voyage: 1,200 men eagerly signed up for the voyage and the chance to get rich quick on the gold to be found in the New World.

Upon arrival at La Navidad in the second voyage, Columbus found the fort burned to the ground and all 39 of the men he had left behind had been killed. It seems the sailors left behind had “misbehaved” as our history books tell it, but their “misbehaving” was in often in the form of rape of the local women and children and theft of anything they saw that they wanted.

One of the local leaders - or Kasikes as they were called - named Caonabo, had met with the other leaders and all but one agreed that men who were gods would never have behaved in the manner the Spanish had, and they decided the Spaniards had to go, and so they eliminated the Spaniards and the threat they posed to their people.

Columbus vowed to find Caonabo and retaliate. From that point on, life as the Taino knew it ended. Columbus forced all of them over the age of 14 to work in the gold mines searching for gold for the Spaniards. Those who refused were killed. Those who did not make their quota of gold had their hands cut off and were left to bleed to death. Taino women were given to Spaniards to do with whatever they wished. The fields, unattended, failed to yield enough food for the Taino (and the Spaniards whose supplies had run out). All were hungry. Many Taino starved to death, others were worked to death. They were beaten, tortured, raped, enslaved and murdered. Columbus found Caonabo - they tricked him in order to capture him - and he was put on a ship that was sent to Spain and was never heard from again.

When the time came for Columbus to return to Spain, he did not have nearly enough gold to pay for his expedition, so he had his men round up 1,000 of the very biggest and strongest Taino. They found they could only fit 500 of them in the stinking holds of the ships, so Columbus took those 500 aboard to be sold at the slave market in Seville to raise money to repay the King and Queen, and he gave the other 500 Taino to Spanish colonists. Over 250 of the Taino died en route to Spain, and their bodies were tossed overboard.

When Columbus returned for the third time, not much had changed, there was still little gold. The colonists brutally forced the Taino to look for it. The food shortages were so severe it was said that the Spaniards fed Taino babies to their dogs. The mood among the Taino was one of complete and utter helplessness and desperation. Some took their own lives to escape the brutalities and indignities. The colonists, failing to get rich quick as they had hoped, threatened to revolt against Columbus. Word got back to the King and Queen of the situation and Columbus was sent back to Spain in chains to stand trial for his “mismanagement” of the islands. He was stripped of his titles and all claims to the lands he had “discovered” (to those who had lived in the islands and thought they had discovered them, he would always be known as the “invader”).

He lived to make a fourth voyage to the islands. The people there, once proud and strong, were reduced from an estimated 8 million to 60 thousand in 10 years’ time. Those that remained ran up high in the densely forested hills and mountains and hid.

But, they survived. Many later married Spaniards; others married the African slaves that Columbus’ ships later brought in to replace the decimated Taino work force. You can see the existence of all three races in the faces of many modern day Caribbean peoples - but they all fall under the category of “Latino”. If you look at maps, many areas still retain their original indigenous place-names. If you listen to the language, you will still hear many indigenous words used. And although the Caribbean has be explored and exploited again and again by the many greedy adventurers who have passed through, many of the customs practiced by the Taino are still in use and a big part of the culture throughout the Caribbean today.

What is the logic behind the government giving a man credit for discovering lands that were already densely populated, and honoring that same man whose actions had the devastating consequences of slavery and death to so many people, with one of our eight federal holidays (i.e. holy day)? Or, is there any logic at all there?

And, why are the Taino people, who do still exist in spite of what you may be told, denied legal federal recognition? And, why are Native Americans, who have given so much to the formation of this country, still not honored with a federal holiday of their own?

Please do more than think about this… do something about this….. let’s all work together to end the insult and injustice to the people who have truly paid the highest possible price for the land in which we all live today.”

Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was the most amazing woman you’ve never heard of.

A writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist, she was born on February 22, 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her mother was Sioux and her father, who abandoned the family when she was very young, was European-American.

When she was eight, missionaries came to the res and took Zitkala-Ša along with several other children to the White’s Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Indiana, one of many such institutions where Native children were forced to assimilate into white American culture. She studied piano and violin and eventually took the place of her teacher when she resigned. When she received her diploma in 1895, she delivered a speech on women’s rights.

She earned a scholarship to Earlham College, where she continued to study music. From 1897-99, she played with the New England Conservatory in Boston and played at the Paris Exposition in 1900. She collaborated with composer William F. Hanson on the world’s first Native American opera, based entirely on Sioux melodies that had previously existed only as oral tradition. She would play the melodies and Hanson transcribed them. The Sun Dance Opera debuted in 1913 to warm reviews, but I can find no recordings of it, and it seems it’s never performed.

Zitkala-Ša also wrote a number of collections of Native American stories and legends. She wrote them in Latin when she was at school and then translated them into English. She was the first Native person to do so in her own words, without a white editor or translator. In addition, she wrote extensively about her schooling and how it left her torn between her Sioux heritage and her assimilation into white culture. Her writings were published in The Atlantic Monthly and in Harper’s and she served as editor for the American Indian Magazine.

Unsurprisingly, most of her writings were political. She was a fierce yet charismatic advocate for Native American rights. Her efforts helped pass the Indian Citizenship Act and the Indian Reorganization Act. Having founded the National Coalition of American Indians, she spent the rest of her life fighting to protect our many indigenous communities from exploitation.

Her accomplishments were incredible- but have you ever heard of her? I had never heard of her either. Just another example of a history-changing woman omitted from the history books.



Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage

William Loren Katz

Black Indian Slave Narratives

Patrick Minges

Red Over Black: Black Slavery Among the Cherokee Indians

R. Halliburton, Jr.

IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas

Gabrielle Tayac

The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People

Kenneth W. Porter

Long live the Navajo Code Talkers

Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo code talkers, died Wednesday morning, June 4th 2014.

Navajo President Ben Shelly ordered flags be flown at half staff in Window Rock, the Navajo reservation capital.

Nez was the last living member of the U.S. Marines who created the first unbreakable code that baffled the Japanese during World War II.
Nez, 93, died of kidney failure, according to family members. He lived in Albuquerque, N.M., with his son Michael Nez.
“He was a very important man in my life and I will always speak his name,” Michael Nez said in a telephone interview. “I’m going to miss him very much.”

Chester Nez grew up in Chi Chil Tah, among the oaks, in Jones Ranch, N.M. When World War II broke out, young Nez was at Tuba City Boarding School. On a spring day in 1942, U.S. Marines came to the boarding school, looking for Navajo boys.

Nez said he signed up because he was eager for an adventure. He wanted to see what was on the other side of the butte, where he had never traveled.
He and the other 28 Navajo Code Talkers developed a code using their language.

“Sadly, we have lost the last surviving member of the original 29,” Shelly said. “His passing closes another chapter in the annals of Navajo history. Chester Nez and the rest of the original 29 now belong to the ages. We salute their valiant service and memory.
“Since time immemorial, the Navajo language, Dine’ bizaad, has been our shield and protector,” Shelly added. “The power of our language was shared with the world during World War II when the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers stepped forward for service.”

"The first Thanksgiving Day did occur in the year 1637, but it was nothing like our Thanksgiving today. On that day the Massachusetts Colony Governor, John Winthrop, proclaimed such a “Thanksgiving” to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters, all colonial volunteers. They had just returned from their journey to what is now Mystic, Connecticut where they massacred 700 Pequot Indians. Seven hundred Indians - men, women and children - all murdered.

This day is still remembered today, 373 years later. “ No, it’s been long forgotten by white people, by European Christians. But it is still fresh in the mind of many Indians. A group calling themselves the United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill for what they say is a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a stature of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember the long gone Pequot. They do not call it Thanksgiving. There is no football game afterward.

 Happy “Thanksgiving”