Opinions from American Indian leaders and activists on current affairs

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

American Indian people teach by storytelling...I am following in that tradition of that this evening..

Tonight, I watched the State of the Union address and I found myself remembering another SOTU address..made a few years ago and how much it meant to my son.
My son Michael, is now 21 . Hes a wonderful creative passionate autistic young man. At that time he was going to school in VIrginia while I worked in Washington D.C.. He had an aide..who went to class with him every day and with whom he has become very close.

THe day of the State of the Union, I got a call in my office asking me to come to school right away , that something had happened, as I rushed out of my office..I ran through all the awful scenarios that a parent can imagine after getting a call like that.

When I got there I found out that my sons aide had been murdered the night before and the school wanted me there after they told him.

I sat and held his hand and told him about his friends death..he sat quietly and didnt say anything..for quite some time..I could see him trying to cope with the news, his face working eyes filling with tears and then clearing. He gripped my hand tightly..and finally looked up and asked me one question....Mom, can we go home now and watch the State of The Union ?

I looked at him with confusion, this boy had just lost his closest companion and all he wanted to do was go home and watch a political speech???

He smiled and told me.. Mom.. the President is going to talk about American Indians tonight, my aide and I talked alot about AMerican Indians. He was excited to watch it tonight and we were going to discuss it tomorrow. When has a President talked about us in a positive way before? never! So, I want to go watch now, please.

We went home..settled in front of the television and watched President Clinton mention AMerican Indian tribes, reservations a number of times during the State of the Union. My son sat there and cried...and was so proud.

He was not proud tonight, nor has he been proud of the current administration.

During the course of this administration , President Bush has mentioned American Indians publicly twice...TWICE..and only referring to us as either historic anachronisms or questioning our existance.

The strides we made in policy and politics have virtually disappeared since 2000.

Policies and offices have disappeared at almost every level, oh we may have some placeholders, but there is no support nor significant interest in American Indian issues, unless its fundraising from the gaming casinos. There was a time when we had signifcant Indian appointees, representation at every level of office, in every agency, that had impact on the living conditions of our People, we passed NAHASDA, Indian Health legislation, environmental and repatriation legislation, enhanced sovereignty, sacred sites and land use legislation. INdian nations and communities across American were represented as never before. From politics to policy, we were moving towards helping our People in significant long reaching ways. That has ceased.

The current perception is that since Tribes have gaming now.. that we are self sufficient, and are wealthy. Because of this false perception, many needs and rights negotiated under treaties are diminished or ignored. We are means tested, forced to negotiate under duress, to compete for little resources with no feeling for the fact that not only is gaming not the universal cash cow.some would like to think it is..but that our People are still the poorest, most underserved people in this country. From health care to housing to education and sovereign rights, Indian nations and communities still struggle.

THere was a short time of hope..eight years of building and planning and and accomplishment, but not now. Now we face the greatest battles since the early 1900's. Only now it is a war of indifference, callousness, neglect, misrepresentation.

So tonight my son sat and watched the State of the Union 2004. He turned to me and said..Mom, where did it all go? Id like an answer to that question too.

Dear Reader, please return soon....there will be more..to come..

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