Monday, July 27, 2009

"It's Just a Pile of Rocks"

This article from The Washington Post comes courtesy of Native Nations Joining Forces. It is about more than a pile of rocks, and more than a religious site- it's about the value of aboriginal people, and all non-Christians, in the United States. Would this happen to a pilgrims' church? I doubt it. The message in actions like these is clear: if it doesn't support the wealth and power of the white majority (Christian churches do- through indoctrination, networking and political lobbying- and so does Wal-Mart), it's not important.

Ala. city plows beneath Indian site for Sam's Club

By JAY REEVES The Associated Press Tuesday, July 21, 2009; 5:33 AM

OXFORD, Ala. -- Bucket loaders and bulldozers are tearing apart a hill that researchers call the foundation of an ancient Native American site to provide fill dirt for a Sam's Club store, a move that appalls preservationists.

Tribal advocates and state officials say a large stone mound that tops the 200-foot rise was put there a millennium ago by Indians during a religious observance. It is similar to rock mounds found up and down the Eastern Seaboard, historians say, and likely dates to Indians of the Woodlands period that ended in 1000 A.D.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Elizabeth Ann Brown of the Alabama Historical Commission. "I find it hard to believe that for fill dirt anyone would do this."

Despite a city-commissioned study that found tribal artifacts in the red clay that makes up the mound, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith denies the work by the city is damaging anything important. He said the stones atop the hill are a natural part of what locals call Signal Mountain and were exposed by millions of years of erosion.

"It's the ugliest old hill in the world," said Smith, who has overseen a mushrooming of big-box stores in this east Alabama city of 15,000 during his seven terms as mayor.

The hill certainly is an eyesore these days. Its wooded sides have been stripped bare, and the red soil is being trucked downhill to the site of a new Sam's warehouse store and a small retail strip, where it's being used to build up a good base for foundations.

The rock mound perched atop the hill is mostly undisturbed so far, though it is denuded save for a few spindly trees that haven't been knocked down. Officials with Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said no material from the rock mound is going into the site where the store is under construction.

Brown said the state lacks the power to halt the project, and petitions and protests haven't done anything to stop the work. Big yellow dump trucks rumble up and down the hill, located behind a retail development just off Interstate 20, about 60 miles east of Birmingham.

City project manager Fred Denney said officials plan to remove the top of the hill eventually to create an elevated, eight-acre site that will overlook the Choccolocco Valley and the city of Oxford.

"It would be a beautiful view," said the mayor, who envisions a motel or restaurant atop the hill.

Indian historian Robert Thrower is aghast at what he sees as the city's lack of concern for the historical importance of the site, which he said is similar to others along the East Coast. Groups have saved rock mounds in Montague, Mass., North Smithfield, R.I., and elsewhere.

"With increasing development occurring, these sites are in jeopardy," said Thrower, a member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama and chairman of culture and heritage for the United South and Eastern Tribes. "Here, you're looking at a site that is a sacred site for us."

Denney said the city purchased the hill and surrounding acreage several years ago for $10 million for development. Faced with questions about an ancient Indian site, Smith said the city paid the University of Alabama $60,000 to study the mound.

University of Alabama researchers found six shards of Indian pottery under rocks atop the mountain, and their report said the mound was likely built by Indians during the late Woodlands period.

Researchers didn't discover any evidence of burial sites among the rocks, though they said such remains could have been lost to erosion or looting. Oxford's mayor said the lack of bones means there's no reason not to bulldoze the mound.

"It's just a pile of rocks is all it is," said Smith.

City officials deny they are insensitive to history. Denney said officials have banned development at a 12-acre site about a half-mile from the hill because archaeologists found evidence that Indians once had a community there.

Thrower said Indians from that settlement possibly carried many of the rocks up the steep hill to mark a place of prayer or to commemorate special events. There's no way to move the stones elsewhere and preserve the site, he said.

"A colleague of mine referred to these places as ..prayers in stone,'" Thrower said. "For us it's immaterial whether there are burial or historical artifacts present. The site itself is historic."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Those Genes

"Usual Question: Why is a biracial child considered black?

Usual Answer: Because the child looks "more black" than white.

Follow up question: Why does the child look more black?

Follow up answer: Because whites have recessive genes."

Awhile ago on, I saw a post that summed up my feelings about the "First Black President". She posted images of the president's grandfather and of Obama as an adult. Here are those two pictures:


Clearly, Obama is the splitting image of his grandfather. So what about him makes him 'look black' exactly, out of curiosity? Is it complexion, features, or because "we know"? When we assign people to a race (and when it's ambiguous we ask 'what are you?' so we can attach stereotypes to 'understand them better') what are we really looking at? Or is it that a biracial person is said to look "more black than white" because OUR definition of whiteness is much less vague and always has been, than blackness? The "octaroons" during colonization and slavery show that white superiority has always meant that blackness was "too dirty" to rub across it. A person who was 1/8th (and prior to that 1/16th) black was "tainted" and therefore left out of the construct of white privilege as punishment.

Bob Marley's father.

How strange it is that people who range from Alicia Keys complexion to Wesley Snipes complexion are considered to "look black"? Especially since Alicia Keys is much lighter than Osama Bin Ladin, who is "racially" considered caucasian, as is Angelina Jolie who has features associated with black women. What about those who range from say Zoe Saldana to Cameron Diaz, how can you safely say you can "tell" someone "looks" latina? This has always been a huge WTF and a big SMH, imho.

We can use "culture" to define who is "black" and "white", but most biracials are raised by their white mothers so by this argument, why aren't they considered "white"? Then, there's the fact that other than stereotypes, underprivilege, and isolation there's nothing in America unifying "blacks" to each other to create a distinct culture. There's also the issue that states that biracials have "trouble" with their identity without considering the same ramifications exist for someone who is "black" AND "GLBT", or "black" and "woman" and which part of their self-identity should come first. The fight for self-identity is a human experience that is not isolated to people who exist in between two "distinct"(fictitious) groups. But when your identity is tied to "natural" (social) privilege or lack thereof, this fight simply becomes much more complicated.

It is very real in many societies that anything deemed vulnerable needs to be better protected. This ranges in all scopes of things from children to our immune systems, from white female virginity to our economic budget.
If European phenotypes are considered "naturally recessive" to all other "races" it essentially says that white genes are more valuable and therefore meant to be kept pure. Diamonds are only valuable because they are considered rare, otherwise, what would differentiate them from regular rocks?

We cannot separate racial perception from social conditioning. When we look at real life evidence, we can simply see that "race" doesn't exist.

Can we safely say now that the jig is up?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Rest of "A Day in the Life of Kevin Annett"

I don't know why my first email didn't send the entire post, but here's the rest of it:

I hopped a bus for awhile to get away from the madness, but found things even crazier in the plush manicured part of downtown where people rush from thing to thing to thing. There is no heart there. Back on hastings street, the heart is torn and bleeding, but still beating.

Every day I delight when Bingo and Deanna and Irene and William are still alive, though my joy is at the cost of their agony, of having to go through another day. But they see my joy, and maybe it helps them a bit.


Midnight. Alone in the radio station, taped blues music humming away. Three people sprawl unconscious outside on the doorstep, others stumble by. No answers yet, but just a lot more questions. And the long, long waiting.


Read and Hear the truth of Genocide in Canada, past and present, at this website:

Film Trailer to Kevin's award-winning documentary film UNREPENTANT:

A Day in the Life of Kevin Annett

I received this message via a Facebook group, "Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust," and I thought it was worth sharing. Kevin Annett's website and radio show tell the stories of Aboriginal Canadians, and their deaths, from residential schools and the death of native cultures to uninvestigated abuses and murders. This "day in the life" story provides a variety of examples of how natives realities and experiences in Canada could be considered genocide. White Canadians learn about native culture in school, about our history with them, trading fur and marrying metis wives, and then kind of flash forward to a reality in which Native people are angry at us, and nobody knows why. Except we do know why- we know about drunk natives, homeless natives, native children in foster care- but we've always treated addiction, abuse, poverty, family breakdown, criminality as problems native people inflict on themselves, never as the direct results of a campaign to wipe them out.

So here it is: A Day In the Life of Kevin Annett

I met Bingo this afternoon at his corner, our listening post at Main and Hastings. His usual joy at seeing me struggled through layers of drunkenness but the courage as always was there. A guy from WAHRS handed us some minutes from their meeting and we were scanning them when a big, particularly stupid cop, a sergeant, accosted us and stared over my shoulder at the paper, yelling,

"What's this shit, more propaganda?"

I folded the paper and turned away from the thug. He leaned over to Bingo and sputtered,

"I don't like you! You're a goddamned trouble maker!".

Word gets around. I turned to the cop and said,

"You don't know the half of it."

Bingo raised himself up, and replied,

"I don't have to talk to you!"

"Fucking trouble maker!" returned the cop.

"Don't say that" I said to the cop. "Come on, now."

I half expected a brawl but the sergeant suddenly bolted across the street to the cop shop after giving Bingo a very mature gesture.

Bingo and I, clearly, are known and hated by the downtown eastside cops, after leading our wave of sit-ins at the local churches. Why, I'm not sure. Why should it be any skin off their nose?

I hung around to see if the cop would return with help, but Bingo wasn't fazed at all. His main concern was how he was going to get a bottle of something to get him through the night.

"I don't remember much of what happened to me at the rez, Kev" Bingo said to me later. "But I got the hurt bad anyway, really bad. You don't have to remember for it to be there."


Earlier, at the Sweetgrass Centre, a native woman named Irene I met awhile ago told me how she still can't see her son more than an hour each week, and he screams whenever she tries to hold him. He's one year old and lives in a white foster home.

"It ain't normal. They're abusing him, I know it" she said, her eyes crazy with the pain.

"I gotta stop it, but how? The social worker ignores my calls."

"Some guy went crazy with a rifle and shot three people at the Pow Wow yesterday" said a man next to us, as he read a newspaper.

"Seems he was pissed off 'cause they wouldn't let him in drunk."

"But the soup is good" croaked an old guy, slurping the fish stew that Carol and others had slaved at all day.

Irene watched it all, her heart miles away. She studied me to see what I would do about her son.

"Come on my radio program, we can tell others" I said to her.

"Gotta do more'n talk" she replied, and to my surprise, added,

"We should picket their home. Picket the welfare office."

People came and went, signing the list, eating their stew and bannock, then hurrying out. Irene lingered, spreading the pain, sustained a little bit just by being with us. She kept patting the cat, over and over.


Deanna finally spoke on the air today, years in the making. But doing so sent her into a post-traumatic reaction and I had to talk her down for an hour after the program.

"I felt it all again. I felt all that fucking fear ..."

She spoke about almost being murdered by an aging john who took her to a weird looking room that had awful vibes, and sheets covering all the windows, and muffled stuff on the walls.

"I knew girls were killed there. I knew it" Deanna said. "I picked a fight and got outta there. I would have died."

She spoke about hearing a long, blood curdling female scream one night, a block away.

"We ran around, trying to find out where it was coming from. But we couldn't. It sounded like murder."

I commented about the house at Jackson and Hastings where girls had been killed and then buried under the floorboards. The whole place was gutted and asphalted at the start of the Picton trials.

"Everybody knows that place. I stayed away from it but I lost some friends there. Every day, we wonder who's gonna disappear next. It never stops for us."

One of the station staff people kept walking by the studio, flashing me angry glances. A prostitute, on the air?

Deanna started crying when Carol spoke about the pedophile rings at the Campbell street apartments, where six year old kids dressed all fancy are taken on Friday nights. She didn't stop crying.

I didn't cry. I never do.


William sat through the entire program, saying nothing, sober for once, and thus deep in his pain. He smiled only once when Molly, our operator, brought her new born daughter with her into the studio. He didn't dare touch the baby when Molly offered her to him.

Molly had arrived late, in tears. A cop had ticketed her and yelled something at her for not wearing a bike helmet. She kept wiping her tears with one hand and breastfeeding her baby with the other.


[The entire original message is not included]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Further Reading For the National Holidays

My first anti-canada-day post was focused on the problems we live with at home, and that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as human rights abuses go. "Free trade" is killing the world and our proud, wealthy country is soaked in blood because of it.

The link below is to the text of a speech called "Come September" by Arundhati Roy. I strongly recommend reading it, and thinking about what nationalism has gotten us, what nations do for us, and what it means to be the blindly entitled children of "Western" countries that claim a moral high ground and a better way of life. Roy focuses on the United States (and September 11th), but Canada, Britain and the rest of Europe are not inncoent bystanders in the globalization revolution. We exploit and abuse the developing world and we reap the rewards of economic imperialism right along with the US. This is the face of Canadian arrogance (disguised as patriotism & as citizenship) as much as it is the face of US aggression.

A quote: "Nationalism was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are colored bits of cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."

I Really Don't Hate Canada, Folks

I just hate Canada Day.

If I lived in the US, I'd also hate July 4th. Actually, I do hate July 4th, I just don't care as much about it.

I have a problem with a holiday that comes with the sentiment: "Canada is the best. I'm proud to be Canadian. And if you don't like our country, you can leave!" Nationalist pride does nothing for Canada, except give us a day to ignore our problems while we party (drinking Canadian beer while we listen to Canadian music, naturally). We may have a few privileges that citizens of other countries do not, but we, as Canadians, did nothing to earn them, besides being born in Canada, and we are not innocent of human rights abuses, here or abroad.

But I am a patriot. I love Canada, and Canadians, enough to want to see our country change. I am patriotic enough to refuse to take a break from valuing human rights, from condemning injustice, inequality and oppression, from seeing and hearing the Canadians who will never expereince opportunity or success in our country, or from demanding to live in a country that I CAN celebrate.

There is no excuse for Canadians to spend time and money propping up a Canadian identity of diversity, equality, democracy and freedom that doesn't exist, especially when so many Canadians are desperate for an investment of resources that will allow them access to the "Canadian way of life."

What should Canada Day mean to aboriginal citizens, when our Prime Minister refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, when they are still suffering the consequences of residential schools, when they are still living with an epidemic of family violence, addiction and poverty, when land treaties are ignored, when nuclear waste is dumped on their land, when they are filling Canadian prisons at alarming rates, and when some do not even have access to clean drinking water? What does it mean for the rest of Canada, that we choose to celebrate and have not fixed these problems?

What should Canada Day mean for people who do not have homes, when Canada Day celebrations are funded at municipal, provincial and federal levels, but no money exists for more shelters or public housing, when they do not have access to our "universal" health care because they do not have addresses and when they face barriers to voting? What does it mean for the rest of us, that we choose to have these people rounded up and imprisoned so we don't have to see them at our "public" celebrations?

What should Canada day mean to the people who fought for voting reform, whose votes didn't count because their ridng went another direction, who didn't bother to vote because it didn't matter, or who weren't allowed to vote? How can we rejoice in democracy when nearly half of our country can't be bothered participating in it? How can we celebrate responsible government when the Governor General decides who will be Prime Minister, even as the government collapses, and can shut down the parliamentary process while the elected Leader of the Opposition is replaced by someone who is willing to leave the boat un-rocked for awhile, if only because taking power in a recession would be bad politics? What does it mean for the rest of us that we don't even like the people we elect to represent us, and we feel comfortable blaming "the government" for problems, as if the government has nothing to do with us?

What should Canada Day mean to people living with daily violence that they can't afford to escape? To the working poor who will never earn enough to break the poverty cycle for their children? To Haitian Canadians who know that our military is being used to "reform" the Haitian economy for the "global" economy's benefit? To Canadians who are refugees here, either because our corporations have caused widespread poverty and violence in their home countries, or because wealthy countries still refuse to put an end to the poverty and violence in developing countries that makes them so easy to exploit? To the people whose educations were sufficiently inferior as to guarantee they will never qualify for meaningful employment? To the people who lost their jobs because the company they worked for moved to another town when they tried to unionize? To the people working in animal shelters who are daily witnesses to the cruelty, apathy and violence that Canadians commit? To people with mental illness or addictions who are sentenced to lives of poverty and shame? To the people whose poverty drove them to crime and now live in prisons, with few human rights? To the people whose children were sent to other families because they couldn't afford to feed them?

What does it mean for the rest of us when we are willing to celebrate a Canadian identity that allows such terrible injustice? We're not doing ourselves any favours by failing to acknowledge that Canada has not lived up to our expectations, that the human rights crimes committed in this country do not coincide with our values and that we have no reason to celebrate when the battle has just begun. We hurt ourselves- we damage the value of every one of our lives- every time we choose to be OK with injustice, oppression and suffering, even if its only for one day.

We are not diverse. We are not equal, in value or in opportunity. We are not democratic. We are not free.