Archive for Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Religious justice

July 17, 2012


To the editor:

One of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment is the free practice of religion. Before Columbus, there were at least 700 indigenous nations in North America. People had places they considered sacred where they worshiped for the safety of their people and the bounty of agriculture.

The Troyville mound where I grew up in Joneville, La., was such a place. It was massive and it was destroyed in 1931 to build a bridge over the Ouachita/Black River. In recent times, people there have tried to re-create the mound realizing the mistakes their forebears made. Such isn’t the case for the Spiro Mound, where many Caddoan artifacts were stolen and are now in museums.

Why is it that social justice only exists for Euro-American people and Christian churches? Why is it that federal laws like the Native American Religious Freedom Act of 1978 are gutted by Republicans and highway interests? Don’t think we don’t worship. I participate in pre-Christian Stomp Dances that Christian missionaries tried to wipe out that wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere in the vicinity of the Haskell campus except the wetlands back then, which is the point that the Euro-American academics and courts ignored.

There are many other practices that are tribe-specific. Also remember your laws  banned our religions in public until the 1970s. I find it troubling that the United Methodist Church who ran Haskell at the beginning has meaningless reconciliation ceremonies for affected Kansas tribes on the Baker campus and is not putting pressure on Baker to not infringe on indigenous first amendment rights. Who is justice for?


Flap Doodle 5 years, 9 months ago

Where have I heard all this before?????

geekin_topekan 5 years, 9 months ago

Dude you're missing the point. Christianity has never been outlawed under the Constitution which would be a clear violation of the law. native religion has been outlawed in this country, a clear violation.

Given that religious freedom means congress will not make a national religion, it means that we are free FROM rules based on religion, and nothing more. Christianity has no more right to this land than any other, yet past action taken by congress would show otherwise. That "team" in which you speak is yours. You are on the same team as the natives, and to separate yourself from the religious rights of those natives, or any other group, is to denounce the Constitution (or renounce your citizenship).

Like it or not, the native population came as part of the American "contract". That contract was made decades into centuries ago and it does exist, rent or no.

Liberty275 5 years, 9 months ago

Certainly all religious freedom should be protected. The problem is that I've not seen anything that makes me think the flood plain cum farmland cum retention pond behind haskell is sacred. I realize that on the campus their is a spot with a sacred earthen symbol and north of 32nd looks to have been used by humans as some sort of repetitive path that reminds me of some of the Nazca symbols, but anything south of 32nd is just flood plain, pure and simple.

I say buffer the road about 300 feet south of 32nd behind haskell and then realign to the existing bridge.

You may have played there as a kid, and you may have fond memories, but just because you played there, that doesn't make it scared. Places I played at as a kid are now paved over (one is a BMW plant).

I'm as much for protecting sacred areas as anyone, but it has yet to be shown why the flood plain behind haskell is sacred. All I see are people mouthing the word to try and stop owners of land from using it as they see fit.

tomatogrower 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't see anything that makes your church building sacred. I mean it was made by man, not by God. I think your church is just a fake and should be torn down for some office buildings that would improve job availability. How does that sound? That is basically what you are saying to Natives. You don't like to have Christianity criticized, but you are more than willing to criticize other's beliefs.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 9 months ago

I wonder what other countries think about the US keeping Native Americans on reservations. These people are still often treated as beneath contempt. Their languages are all but gone, their religious liturgy seen as nothing more than amusement for white people.
This is a shameful part of American history and it is still going on.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 9 months ago

Don't confuse frankie with facts. It's what he feels that counts.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 9 months ago

Okay, they are not forced to live on reservations. What I meant was that the US government created the reservations and decided how big they should be and where they should be. They still struggle with the BIA. I am not confused by facts, I welcome them, and if I am wrong I will accept that and incorporate the fact into my thinking.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

weiser, from 1824 to 1849 the Bureau of Indian Affairs was part of the US War Department as the US Government and settlers were instigating "Battles?" to force the US Government to acquire lands the settlers invaded. One example of this is the Black Hawk War in Iowa where settlers invaded Sac and Fox lands and forced Blackhawk's hand. Blackhawk fled to Wisconsin and atrocities against his people occurred. Keokuk took the White view of the situation and acquiecsed to the US and removed to Kansas and later Oklahoma thus the US Government split the Sac and Fox people between a couple of leaders. In the 1950's White people ran the Bureau of Indian Affairs and engineered these land give aways. I can name three Native people in a BIA leadership position between 1870 and the 1960's. Ely Samuel Parker, Seneca US Civil War hero, Robert Bennett, Wisconsin Oneida, and Louis Bruce, Mohawk-Lakota. White men who acted paternalistic of Indian issues gave away this land. Some of you make uninformed statements about sacredness of location.....are you indigenous to here? are you Pawnee, Kaw, Osage, Shawnee, or Lenape....if you aren't that why do you feel the need to speak of what you don't know about? do any of you know about the Tequesta Circle that was discovered near a body of water in Downtown Miami, Florida? this ground circle date at least 800 years old and stopped the building of a multi million dollar high rise building in Miami. If some Christians are so against other religions of the world being advocated at the expense of others imagine what it was like for Native kids who were given Christian White names while their tribal names were butchered in pronunciation and mocked. Where would you've gone under these circumstances? to the wetlands. students at the Chilocco Indian School near Newkirk, OK and Ark City, KS went to the far reaches of their campuses to escape the cultural suffication of Christianity and assimilation as described in the book, "They Call it Prairie Light" that I own. I doubt Paul Brockington read that book for that excuse of an EIS statement that the judges in Denver believed. He said in his statement that all Haskell had was a pow wow on campus for cultural purposes. He sounded like he was giving an incomplete junior high history report. Even before Haskell prehistoric cultures and proto historic cultures from the Dalton and Pomona tribal cultures ( pre 1500 AD) roamed and settled in the area along the Wakarusa River. The nonsense uninformed people in Lawrence and judges in Denver believed......

IdahoWinds 5 years, 9 months ago

This is a large crock of BS and you know it Tuschie. I seriously doubt that Baker Univ. nor UMC will be denying access to the Baker Wetlands now or after the SLT is completed. As I have repeatedly stated, more than 90% of the wetlands will still be intact and available for anyone (native or otherwise) to practice their religion. Who is the one who is uninformed here? This is not, nor ever has been about religious freedoms and you know it. You are blowing smoke!

ThePilgrim 5 years, 9 months ago

Let's be honest folks. The environmentalists don't give a damn about the Native Americans or their religious sites. Native Americans and Haskell just conveniently fit into their agenda and they were used, not much differently than you claim others have done. The Sierra Club, et al, are not going to campaign for other land in SE Lawrence to be set aside as religious sites. No, it is (essentially) over and they'll go off to their next crusade.

ivalueamerica 5 years, 9 months ago

your funny, you start of by saying lest be honest, then launch into a lie.

ThePilgrim 5 years, 9 months ago

No, I meant "let's be honest with ourselves". My logic still stands. If the environmentalists were concerned about Indian religious rights in this area then they would be crusading for other areas in SE Lawrence or in the Wakarusa river valley. Or for burial mounds found along the Smoky Hill River at Fort Riley. But that won't happen because it is not really a cause for them.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

Idaho really a lie minister father said this letter was did a Choctaw mentor of mine....too bad you live in the world of denial at the expense of weren't there when a Lakota acquaintance of mine walked away from a customer at her job who was clowning her indigenous religious beliefs to the point she couldn't take it anymore. Your actions are supported by people with racist beliefs....those are the people who support are oblivious to the prejudice behind your actions... so is Dr. Boyd......You have never had your church desecreted and destroyed by immigrants with major condescension issues. I walked a mile off the highway at over 9,000 feet above sea level to a sacred site called the Medicine Wheel in north central Wyoming. The rock formation was maybe 70-80 feet across and a long ways around. It was a lot taller before settlers stole the stones a century ago. The formation is 500 to 1000 years old. It's fenced off now because White people can't be trusted to not desecrete it. It aligned with stars and was sacred to maybe 50 or 60 tribes in the area. I went there in 2000 and saw all the prayer offerings tied to the perimeter fence around it and I still remember walking past the snow in June at that altitude. I also went to Wounded Knee. I felt the tragic pain of a massacre on that hill that took place in December 1890 and I felt the sense of triumph and defiance that those AIM members felt when they occupied Wounded Knee in 1973. I see Oscar Bear Runner standing with his rifle at the tip of the knee. I feel that same sense of defiance towards your potential destructive wishes now. What you and Boyd and Brockington fail to acknowledge is that your country and it's religions and it's government took kids from their families cut their hair and gave them White names. It's oppressive nature made children want to leave. Lakota children at Episcopal and Catholic schools in South Dakota were beaten and molested until the 1960's by priests and sisters. Tim Giago, a Lakota writer authored a book that I own about this experience. I know a Munsee elder who was kept away from her parents for years at a time by order of the US Government to take the Indian out of her. She's approaching ninety years of age. She was taken to three boarding schools in the 1920's and 1930's. She is one of thousands that went through this experience and you think by building a road through a place of cultural escape for them that you're not offending anyone you are sorely mistaken.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 9 months ago

I would guess that the letter that Bob Ford and your Choctaw mentor saw was not the letter that was printed in the paper. If so, then they blew it. Again, you never got to the point of your message in that letter. Your furor is not going to stop this road. You may scream as loud as you want, jump up and down, throw any tirade you want, lay down in front of the earthmover, but as a dabbling law student, you of all people should know that stories will not do anything. You have run out of legal avenues. The UMC will not come to your rescue. You can't stick to the same components of your story two times in a row. Baker University is not infringing on your or any other Native American's right to practice their religion. You probably can't even verify the last time any Native American "worshipped" in the Baker Wetlands. The road is going to be completed. You can either continue to grouse about it and be ignored or you can try to come up with some creative ways to make lemonade out of this. It is your choice and it is in your "court". According to the WPO facebook page they are doing some wonderful things with the Medicine Wheel on campus. Maybe you should focus your energies on that. Ask how you can make that better for all Indians and their visitors.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

Translation-- screw the Indians-- we got legal mumbo jumbo on our side.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

really, then you are have no idea how offensive you are. people worship out there frequently. maybe if our religions weren't being denigrated by people like you and Mr. Boyd it would be different. The whole condescending statement about when people worship kind of sounds like the the NYPD and Muslims. No one else has to verify when they worship....there's a first amendment to free and unfettered worship right? maybe people should dress up like Mic O Say and butcher the Lenape language like Mr. Boyd's scouts do. He scores on the oblivious I'm offensive scale with the wetlands issue and scouts. Maybe he ought to have them do the tomahawk chop and then he'd be three for three. Like most americans you have no idea how offensive you act.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 9 months ago

I would wager that few white know anything about Native culture and religion or care to learn. tuschkahouma, I believe you are absolutely right, and that what happened and is happening to the Natives is devastating. It makes me feel very down, but I don't know how a change will come.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 9 months ago

Ok, so the scouts butcher the language; dress up in whatever Indian dress they choose; and even do the tomahawk chop. The non-gay scouts that I know do that with pride and honor towards Native Americans. The fact that you can't fathom that makes you uninformed. In regards to my suggestion you have made your choice clear - you chose to continue to gripe and will continue to be ignored. That's the way it goes in any society yours or mine. I used to think they were the same but it is clear that you want to be removed from "my society" as far as you can. Hope it works out for you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

"The non-gay scouts that I know do that with pride and honor towards Native Americans."

Your bigotry is wide-ranging, I'll give you that.

BTW, Mic-O-Say and Order of the Arrow have no more to do with real Indian culture than the Cowboy clubs in Germany have to do with authentic American frontier culture. It's just a silly game of dress up and pretend.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 9 months ago

I didn't say it was authentic. What I said was that it was done with honor towards Indians. It is not done in a derogatory way and I see that as the difference. I consider myself to be fairly flexible in my opinions but getting the messages from you and Tuschie that there are no compromises, that you have no positive thoughts to contribute, that everything is denigrating and derogatory towards the American Indians I have come to believe that the last thing that Dr. Boyd or Baker University should try to do is work with you people. So I guess I will just gloat that the legal decision went against your side and the road is moving along regardless of your efforts. I seriously doubt that Dr. Boyd would even bother to read this drivel anyway so it probably has no impact on him either way. But in case he is reading ---Congratulations, Dr. Boyd. Good job and keep up the fantastic work on the rest of the mitigation plan.

BOZO & TUSCHIE - Happy Trails. I will wipe my feet of you two and turn my energies to something more constructive. It is clear that you are only here to obfuscate the issues and apply you own little, narrow mind-sets to the cause.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

Well, at least you signed off as usual-- full of pettiness and narcissism.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

you know what Idaho....Debbie Wasserman Schultz didn't ignore me.....the United Nations didn't ignore me today. nor did the US Department of Interior or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Who knows, maybe an executive order might come out of this......maybe the indigenous people affected by the San Francisco Peaks issue in Arizona or the Nantucket sound windfarm project affecting the Wampanoag or the solar farm desecreting a desert burial site in California might cause enough stink for the poltical system as violations of civil rights that people go to DC and say enough already and then you'll be as wrong on this nationwide as you are locally.... just saying.......

Armored_One 5 years, 9 months ago

Ten will get you twenty that any proponent of "saving the wetlands" will adamantly refuse to actually restore the wetlands. The wetlands extended north of 31st street, much closer to Checkers than not, truth be told. There are old land surveys that can be found showing it.

Which among you hypocrits will be the first to demand Broken Arrow Elementary School, South Junior High School, and a couple hundred houses, many owned for decades by families, be torn down? No, I don't mean demand it on some forum board, like this one, but demand it in a court of law under the auspices of the First Amendment.

Either the mosquito pit out there is holy, or it's not and you just want to be a pain in someone's hide. Everyone complains to the clouds about how Christians, or at those declaring to be such, convienently ignore large portions of the Bible to suit their needs. Homosexuality is a prime example. Remember, Leviticus 18 does mention laying with man as you lie with woman, but it is no greater an abonimation than Leviticus 19 and the proclamation that you will not mark the body. But I digress.

If the wetlands, and I use the term loosely, is a holy site, then the ENTIRE wetlands should be restored. Otherwise, you just want to irritate someone, and sadly all you are managing is amusing the majority.

Biker 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't think the issues presented in this letter are about religious freedom or the environment at all. Rather, it is about preserving the dwindling cultural relevance and influence of indigenous peoples in modern society. I sympathize with this author's viewpoint, but disagree with the opposition to the traffic way based on cultural preservation. Society has a right to progress and commerce and cultural preservation is not strong enough grounds to block it in this scenario. The court was right to affirm the decision to build the traffic way.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

Actually since you are the first person to take this in the right direction I will start another fight here. Baker University has stated from the get go that the land they wrongly received was not a result of any of the Federal Indian School Surplus Land Act. However the land you speak of was surplused in 20 acre parcels in accordance with Public Law 47 in 1953. South Junior High was a 20 acre parcel and so was Arrowhead Park. The township fire department was a 20 acre parcel as was the KS Parks and Wildlife parcel and the KU parcel. If all of these parcels were issued out in appropriate amounts in accordance with said law......why did one have to go through Health, Education, and Welfare to get the 572.68 acres transferred Dr. Boyd? if the law was followed in accordance with Public Law 87 and USC 25 Chapter 7 Section 293a than only 50 acres should've been allowed. Why did HEW have to be involved in the land transfer? because Baker didn't follow the land transfer law. It's kind of a travesty......when the original 31st proponents tried to defederalize the SLT to avoid complying with laws the courts made them do so? when the land transfers took place why did they have to step away from the land transfer laws that affected the other 20 acre parcels and go through HEW? they tried to not follow federal law and give Baker a huge parcel in violation of USC 25 Chapter 7 Section 293a? maybe a Native Law firm might be interested in this.

Mike Ford 5 years, 9 months ago

biker...look up a book called Breaking Ground by Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter Linda Mapes. She wrote a book on how a federally recognized tribe, The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, on the Olympia Peninsula in Washington State, fought to keep a bridge pontoon launching site project put forth by the Washington Dept. of Transportation on the Port Angeles site. On the site was Tse whet zen village. In 1920 a builder bulldozed the surface and ran the Indians off. In the 1990's, this project came about. The Unions and the employment officials were all behind this project. No one listened to the Klallams. Just like here. The building began and one grave was disturbed and then another and another. In all at least 350 graves were disturbed. Cultural artifacts were uncovered. The 1920 builder had pulled a poltergeist leaving everything in situ below the surface. When the graves were hit...the public blamed the Indians....when a $68 million project was abandoned with the jobs.....the public blamed the Indians. The Klallam people were awarded 6 or 7 million dollars in damage and 8 acres of land to repatriate their ancestors and $68 million was lost... why do people let their bigotry get in the way of understanding and respecting other cultures? what part of culture is a road through a swamp? I grew up travelling though bayou country between Jonesville, Moss Bluff, and Shreveport to Mississippi on roads built on levees surrounded by water. These roads hardly ever stayed right and were water affected constantly. As I write I remember the Atchafalaya Bridge that was like 15 miles long and I remember the bumpidity bumpidity road that I rode on back in 1977 and 1978. Who are the uninformed people pushing this nonsense?

Ken Lassman 5 years, 9 months ago

tuschkahouma, I just returned from DC on a trip that included a visit to the American Indian Museum, and I was blown away. For folks who have not gone to this before, it's designed to create a space for the hundreds of indigenous tribes who have been laying low for decades to resurface and begin to tell their stories. They are choosing to tell many of the stories that in the past were either suppressed or told by others without their input, so what is emerging can be contradictory and fragmented, but always fascinating and important. It's a very important place in my mind, and wondered what you think of it, t.

Many of the stories that the tribes represented began to tell when given the opportunity to tell their own stories were reminiscent of the story of the holocaust that I had seared into my mind earlier in the trip when I visited the Holocaust Museum: cultural and religious suppression, followed by attempts to displace and remove from the homelands, accompanied by attempts to maintain knowledge of traditional histories and ways, which are only now beginning to surface.

Also included is a discussion of how casino money has been a moral struggle where the evils of gambling are pitted against the clear understanding how the money has allowed many tribes with the resources they've needed to re-emerge and take care of themselves.

Since there are so many stories that need to be told emerging, it's far from comprehensive, although there is an amazing wall with the title "we are the evidence" with hundreds and hundreds of tribal names, most of which I'd never heard of before, that gives one the idea of the diversity and complexity of what was here and what has been hanging on by threads in many cases over the decades. I was wondering if there was going to be anything from Kansas there, but didn't see anything there yet, tho I could have missed it. Of course, the vegetation plots that represented many native ecosystems represented many of the plants of our area.

Personally, I feel like it is a place that I will recommend to all who go to DC if they want to begin to understand both the history of indigenous cultures in North America and the complexity of issues that they face in the world we live in today.

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