Monday, October 30, 2006

Bush on Sovereignty

Since there will be elections taking place around the country next week between Republicans and Democrats, I thought it interesting that we engage with that political world in terms of sovereignty.

A few weeks ago, Madel (one of the hosts of this blog) passed along to everyone in the department a video of Bush providing a surprisingly accurate definition of what sovereignty is for Native American tribes.

Here's a transcript, for the video clink on this link

Question: What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century, and how do we resolve conflicts between tribes and the federal and the state governments?

President Bush: Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.

I'm posting an article about the small controversy that this (mis)statement formed below, which is interesting, because basically Bush is exactly right, when he states that the sovereignty of Native Americans is "given." Here we reach the crucial difference between the formal and the obscene. Formally sovereignty is never GIVEN! It exists always, in and of itself, unto itself, immanent in its contents and accountability, and unfettered and untouchable by those outside its borders. This concept is both bullshit however in the abstract and in the material, and indigenous peoples, such as Native Americans know this best of all. There is a convoluted, patronizing and infantilizing legal hedge maze which basically does all the "giving" of sovereignty, beneath the surface.

Given the work I'm doing right now on how sovereignty is produced and where Chamorros lie outside of the political domain in producing the sovereignty of the United States, this sort of dead zone, which is so minute, yet which appears in mainstream political discourse as if they are in different dimensions is crucial.

Watch the video I linked and also read the article below, the best line from the article is this one, from a Republican Native American activist from South Dakota, "As our sacred ways and traditions are coming back, we're recognizing that tribes and Republicans are a lot alike."


Friday, August 13, 2004
Bush's comment on tribal sovereignty creates a buzz

One word caused the most stir.

A five-letter word that George W. Bush uttered 3,000 miles away, one week ago today, at a gathering of minority journalists.

A word that has since raised eyebrows across Indian country, and one that, almost immediately after leaving the president's lips, had Democrats licking theirs:


Speaking at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Washington, D.C., last Friday, President Bush, responding to a question about what tribal sovereignty meant in the 21st century, said: "Tribal sovereignty means just that; it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity."

To many Native Americans -- and Democrats, alike -- the president's answer spoke volumes about what they see as his ignorance of Indian issues. And to many, the operative word in Bush's response was the verb "given."

As the continent's first societies, American Indian tribes hold their status as sovereign nations with an almost sacred reverence; an inherent standing as self-governing, independent bodies dating back millennia, something that's always existed.

Sovereignty is "the nearest and dearest, No. 1 issue in Indian Country," said Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Congress of American Indians. "It's not something that was given to us. As tribes, we see sovereignty as something we've always had."

As both campaigns swing into the Northwest today, with Bush speaking at a Medina fund-raiser this evening, they are "putting a lot of focus on Indian country and the Native vote," said Alyssa Burhans, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon and the Native Americans organizing director for National Voice, a non-partisan get-out-the-vote project.
And for good reason. In recent elections, the Indian vote, which political observers say traditionally has gone to Democrats, has been credited with deciding several prominent elections.

In Washington's U.S. Senate race in 2000, Slade Gorton arguably lost his re-election bid due to Indian voters and those sympathetic to issues affecting them -- thanks in large part to a negative ad campaign against Gorton run by the First American Education Project, an Olympia-based political advocacy group founded by several prominent tribal leaders.

And in South Dakota in 2002, Tim Johnson squeaked out a 524-vote victory for a U.S. Senate seat -- a win he has since credited to the strong voter turnout among that state's prominent Indian population.

This week, both Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry campaigned in Southwestern states, with Kerry meeting tribal leaders in Arizona and New Mexico and Bush touting his Indian housing and health care policies in New Mexico, where about 9.5 percent of the state's population is Indian.

To prospective Indian voters, sovereignty is an issue steeped in legal meaning that drives Native American stances on public policy, court cases and tribes' core "government-to-government" dealings with the United States. And it's a status that many indigenous people see as falling increasingly under attack.

With the erosion of tribal sovereignty, some say, so too comes the weakening of tribal rights, traditions and customs, and essentially, the American Indian's way of life.

So, unsurprisingly, the president's view that sovereignty was something "given" to tribes -- and conversely, some fear, is something that could be taken away -- carried much weight in Indian Country.

And now, against the backdrop of a tight presidential race, some see Bush's statements as a potential factor in the election's outcome -- particularly in coveted swing states with significant Indian populations.

"There's a huge potential that the Native vote can really make a difference this election," Burhans said.

"It's hard to predict if this one statement will have an impact, but I think it will make many people, particularly tribal leaders, stop and think."

After Bush's statements last week, Democrats quickly seized an opportunity to woo the hotly contested Indian vote in this year's campaign -- and to emphasize differences between Kerry and the president. Washington state Democrats immediately issued a press release chastising Bush's "lack of understanding" of Native issues.

Likewise, Kerry campaigners in Washington and elsewhere quickly distributed press announcements of key Native American endorsements of Kerry that also detailed his "plan to strengthen Indian Country." The release also made reference to Bush's statements at Unity.
Simply put, said J.B. Tengco, spokesman for the Kerry Campaign in Washington, "At least we know what sovereignty means."

It's statements like that that have the Bush campaign fuming that Team Kerry is simply "making personal attacks," said Sharon Castillo, a Bush campaign spokeswoman. "The president understands clearly the unique legal relationship between tribes and the federal government," she said.

Castillo added that the president recently drafted an executive order to improve Indian education by developing strategies with tribal leaders to meet "No Child Left Behind" goals, as well as created an advisory board to advance Native higher education.

"He has a strong record," Castillo said. "I think Native Americans are going to make their decisions based on the issues."

Can one word really have that much of an impact on Indians? At the very least, both Johnson and Burhans agreed, Bush's recent statements have created a buzz.

The president's words likely will strengthen individual Indian voters' support of the candidate they already support, said Ron Allen, longtime chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and a Republican who opposes the president.

"It was disappointing to hear his statements," said Allen, who also serves as NCAI's treasurer.

"It was clear to us that he didn't know what he was talking about."

More so than anything, Allen said, the president's statements only underscore what he and many others see as the Bush administration's poor record on Native American issues.

To Bruce Whalen, an Oglala Sioux Indian in South Dakota and a Republican activist, Bush opponents are quibbling over "one or two words, and not seeing the full record."

"Democrats will inflate anything to protect their turf -- and Indian Country is their traditional turf," said Whalen, who later this month will attend the Republican National Convention as an alternate delegate.

While Whalen agrees most Indian voters now overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, he added, "I think there are a lot of Native Americans who are Republicans, they just don't know it yet."

The Republican platform on issues such as abortion and No Child Left Behind are "values that align better with Native Americans than Democratic values do," Whalen said.

"As our sacred ways and traditions are coming back, we're recognizing that tribes and Republicans are a lot alike," Whalen said. "I don't think a few words here or there can change that."

John Gonzales, a San Ildefonso Pueblo tribal member in New Mexico, and a Republican delegate, agreed. "If Native Americans do their own research and make up their own minds, they'll find that yes, President Bush is in touch with Native America," Gonzales said.

It has been Republican -- not Democratic -- policies that have long been the most beneficial to Indians, Gonzales added. The Nixon administration's Indian Self Determination Act promoted tribal self-governance, he said. Likewise, Gonzales said, Bush's Indian policies have lifted tribal communities. He noted that, lost in all the fallout from Bush's statements on sovereignty, were statements he made later about his administration's substantial increase to Indian education funding.

But it's the failure of America's education system that continues to ignore Native culture and history, said state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip and a Tulalip Indian.

He said the president's statements can only be viewed as part of that "systemic problem." "If the leader of this nation doesn't understand the most important issue to Native Americans, we have a lot more work to do," he said.

P-I reporter Lewis Kamb can be reached at 206-448-8336 or

Friday, October 27, 2006

Famoksaiyan: Decolonizing Chamorro Histories, Identities and Futures

For several months now, myself along with a number of other Chamorros and people from Guam have been working to develop our group called Famoksaiyan.

Famoksaiyan is the Chamorro word meaning, "the place or time to nurture and grow" and the "time to paddle ahead and move forward." It began as a conference, Famoksaiyan: Decolonizing Chamorro Histories, Identities and Futures which took place April 14 and 15th of this year in San Diego, where more then 60 Chamorro and other allies from around the country (and even a few who flew from Guam) attended to present their academic or activist work. With that many people, gathered together all concerned about doing something for the future of Guam and Chamorros, it was inevitable that something concrete and committed to effecting political change would emerge from that meeting.

Ya i hiniyong este na dinaña Famoksaiyan. We've had several meetings since that first one in April. The first in Berkeley and Oakland in May, the second in Guam in August, and the next is scheduled for November 19th at the Guam Communications Network Office in Long Beach.

If any random Chamorros or people from Guam happen to wander into this blog and would like to know more about Famoksaiyan, you can email me, check out our myspace page, or sign up for the listserv.

I'm posting this here, because it has relevance to the issues to the ones that me, Madel and Angie are all working on or working with. At some point I'll post here the draft mission statement/goal of the group, but for the moment I'll just make some cursory comments. Famoksaiyan is first and foremost an organization committed to decolonization. There are different ways that this can be taken, the most commonly known, an intervention which appeals to legal frameworks and formal requests. For the handful of non-self-governing territories left in the world, this means bowing before and begging the United Nations and your governing power for autonomy or sovereignty. To this end, members of Famoksaiyan participated in and helped plan a landmark trip to New York, just this month, to meet with mainland social justice and anti-war activist groups and also testify before the United Nations Committee on Decolonization.

For alas, this framework is limited, because of the fact that its ability to "recognize" colonization is severly limited. While Guam makes it onto the list as one of the world's last "official" colonies, this legal world is unable to address productively (for a number of reasons which have to be blamed primarily on nations such as the United States) the instances of colonization which continue to thrive, but have been renamed, or hidden within the folds of some fictional legal maze. It is for this reason, that Famoksaiyan is also committed to forms of decolonization which must and do take place everyday. But more on that later, both in our podcasts and in our work.

Esta ki ayu, estague i listan i fina'pos gi i miteng:

Hafa Adai Todus Hamyo,

I'm pasting below the tentative schedule and other information for the Famoksaiyan Southern California Meeting in Long Beach on November 19th at the Guam Communications Network Office.

If you are interested in attending please get in touch with me so we can have an estimate for how much food to provide. If you know someone, have friends or relatives in the area who would be interested please get them in touch with me, or please give me their contact info and I'll invite them. This meeting is not just for Chamorros, but for anyone who is concerned about effecting the future of Guam and about connecting Chamorros from the states and the islands in productive cultural and political ways.

Part of the reasoning behind scheduling the meeting for this date is to take advantage of the National Pacific Islander Education Network meeting which is taking place the day before (November 18th) in Long Beach as well. This conference is geared towards helping Pacific Islander high school students apply for college and financial aid, and also help current college students network with other Pacific Islanders and learn about higher educational options. Me, my friend Madel and i primu-hu Si Alfred will be running two of the conference's workshops.

For more info you can check out this

Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Sahuma Minagahet ya Na'suha Dinagi


Tentative Schedule
Diñanan Famoksaiyan VI Southern California

Guam Communications Network
4201 Long Beach Blvd. Suite 218
Long Beach, CA 90807

November 19, 2006
10 am – 5 pm

10:00 – 10:30: Tiempon Hafa Adai yan Mañanan Si Yu’us!

10:30 – 11:00: Famoksaiyan update
How Famoksaiyan started, what has happened since April 2006 and the first conference. Where is it headed.

11:00 – 12:00: United Nations report back
A report back on the recent trip Famoksaiyan members participated in to the United Nations in New York. It will cover where Guam is at as a colony, what role the United States and the United Nations have in keeping it as such, and what power they have in changing that.

12:00 – 1:00: Na’talo’ani
Food provided by the family of Josette Lujan Quinata

1:00 – 2:00: Lepblon Famoksaiyan
An update on the Famoksaiyan book, and what will be in it. A call for consciousness articles on the experiences and dreams of young Chamorros from the islands and the states.

2:00 – 3:00: Chamorros and the military
A review of the historical and statistical relationship between Chamorros and the United States military. What the military has done for Guam, meaning both good and bad. This will be followed by a discussion about what Chamorros in the states can do to help ensure that the relationship between the people of Guam and the military is one of partnership and equality.

3:00 – 4:00: Language and Culture
A conversation about what we can do to revitalize and promote Chamorro language and culture, with the hopes of creating some concrete plans and groups.

4:00 – 5:00: Sustaining/Funding Famoksaiyan A discussion about how Famoksaiyan can operate, can work, can sustain itself, and what its organization should or can be.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Indigenous Studies Conference

Angie, Madel and I are working on a panel for the Indigenous Studies Conference taking place next year in Oaklahoma. As soon as we've finalized the panel theme and our individual abstracts I'll post them here, but in the meantime, check out the conference's call for papers, which just from the diversity on its steering committee is very very exciting.


The Native American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma is hosting an interdisciplinary meeting in Indigenous studies May 3-5, 2007 to share research and discuss the development of an academic association for our field. We invite submissions of individual papers or panels of papers on any topic in Indigenous studies. All persons working in the field are invited and encouraged to submit proposals. Individual paper proposals should include a title and précis of no more than 250 words. Panel proposals should include a title and brief description of the panel and a title and précis for each paper. Proposals can be sent electronically or by regular mail to:

Robert Warrior (
Native American Studies
633 Elm Avenue, Room 216
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK 73019

Review of proposals will begin October 15, 2006, and proposals will be accepted until January 15, 2007.

For more information, contact a member of the steering committee of this effort:

Ines Hernandez-Avila (University of California-Davis)
J. Kehaulani Kauanui (Wesleyan University)
K. Tsianina Lomawaima (University of Arizona)
Jean O'Brien (University of Minnesota)
Robert Warrior (University of Oklahoma)
Jace Weaver (University of Georgia)

Planned follow up meetings to be hosted by:
University of Georgia (spring 2008)
University of Minnesota (spring 2009)
University of Arizona (spring 2010)

No. 2 - Describing Indigeneity

Miget leads us in a conversation about the category of indigeneity.

Third and final part of first podcast.

We end on an up note.

Back to the Kitchen Table - part two

You do not want to miss Madel telling what happened next with the letter she drafted and sent to Critical Gender Studies.

Madel's Kitchen Table: Beginning a Conversation

Took me long enough but the podcast is finally coming. The first one is in three pieces because of my son Leroy knocking at the door mostly, still here is part one. Meet Angie Morrill, Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Madel Tmetuchl Ngiraingas. To hear the podcast just click on the title of the post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Native Feminisms Without Apology

Miget had a link to this Native Feminisms Conference last April at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in his footnotes to a paper he wrote and I have been watching the panel while I am waiting for to recognize the files I uploaded. It is an awesome panel of indigenous women scholars, if you click on the title to this post you will go to the website where there is a link to realplayer and you can see for yourself.