Sunday, February 19, 2017

Buffalo Hunters

Urgent notice: the militarized police and their allied agencies are maneuvering to raid the camps at Standing Rock as soon as Feb. 20. Please contact your representatives immediately. Demand that they launch an investigation into the police abuse of peaceful water protectors (protesters) at the camps. 

For excellent updates, visit Lakota People's Law Project and, form there, root around the other allied sites. Please act now.

                                              Buffalo skulls being sold for fertilizer, ca 1870

"These men (the buffalo hunters) have done more to settle the vexed Indian question than the entire regular army has done in the last thirty years. They are destroying the Indians' commissary. Send them powder and lead if you will, but for the sake of a lasting peace let them kill, skin and sell until the buffalo are exterminated. Then your prairies can be covered with speckled cattle and the festive cowboy who follows the hunter as the second forerunner of an advanced civilization."
                                                                                   General Philip H. Sheridan

Time is a funny thing. The words of "Fightin' Phil" Sheridan are almost 150 years old, but they were only 80-something years old when I was born (you do the math, please). So, since Sheridan's words aren't a whole lot older than I am and since I don't feel old at all (!), they still seem timely to me now. At any rate, I couldn't help recalling them when I drove through Baker, Montana last week on my way back to Standing Rock and was met on the outskirts of town with this site…

It’s a big pile of scrap metal and it looked to all the world--or at least to all of my world--like that iconic old picture of buffalo skulls stacked up on the windy plains awaiting shipment to somewhere elsewhere than there. I did a quick mental calculation, standing a cowboy up on top of the scrap pile in my mind's eye, and I figured they were exactly the same height, give or take a few centimeters. Adding to the serendipity of their size, appearance and location, the pile of buffalo bones and the pile of scrap metal were both the result of painstaking gatherings by settlers who were trying to make a few bucks off of the last economic failure on these very plains. Talk about photogenic metaphors.

Baker is a typical windswept Eastern Montana town that is so close to the North Dakota border that it tilts that way. In fact it sits on the very western edge of the Bakkan fracking fields where the oil that would run through the DAPL pipeline will come from if the pipeline is completed. It also sits near Sandstone Creek, which flows into O'Fallon Creek, which in turn flows into the Yellowstone River just below the mouth of Powder River. This puts Baker smack in the middle of the Lakota peoples' beloved Powder River hunting grounds, the grounds they fought so hard and so often to save. The People had been coming here to hunt the buffalo since the most ancient times, and in fact it was only 100 miles further down road on Highway 12, on the very eastern fringe of the Bakkan fracking fields (between Hettinger, North Dakota and Lemmon, South Dakota) that I came across the motherlode of western metaphors; Hiddenwood Cliff, the last stand of the North American Bison.

Hiddenwood Cliff, North Dakota

It’s a hotspot, Baker is, of western history, even as the rusty metaphor it is now.

As you might be able to tell by now, I read a lot of western history, particularly about the collision between the original caretakers of the Land and my people, the Pilgrims, which I certainly am, which means that, combined with my being a lifelong "environmentalist"[i] I am the definition of "conflicted". My great-grandfather, for instance, was a sergeant in the 9th Kansas Volunteer Calvary stationed at Fort Halleck, Wyoming, where he participated in some of the first military actions against the People, along the Platte and the Overland Trail. What he was doing in Kansas in 1862 in order to join that volunteer Calvary I do not know yet. But, due to the fact that my family tends to breed late, I grew up knowing his son, my grandpa, who had a wealth of western life experiences of his own. My mother, for her part, was the unofficial family historian, and so she passed down to me an oral history from a time most children of pilgrims have forgotten, and one of them is that my grandpa resembled his father in looks, temperament and occupation (farmer).

So I read a lot of western history, trying to figure out what the hell a piece of me was doing fighting the People off of their intact ecosystems so that gold could be dug out of their mountains and railroads wrapped around their plains, and now this Black Snake[ii]! It's not a guilty conscience, really, although I probably deserve one. I just want to get it right.

Most of this western history is admittedly from the Pilgrims' point of view, but it’s good for filling one’s head with facts worth pondering. Like about the settlers, who came in after the buffalo hunters collected the bones left behind to sell for fertilizer back east. They’d stack the bones in great proprietary heaps until they could haul them off to the nearest train terminal to complete the very last cash transactions in wild buffalo parts that the world may very well ever see again. They'd get from $2 to $10 a ton (yes, that's a ton) not enough to get rich on like some of the buffalo hunters did (they’d get $2 to $5 a hide), but enough to pay for groceries when your crops failed yet again in this land that was meant to grow buffalo, not cash. These kinds of facts create a rich back story for an environmentalist with a western family history like myself because, if you’re the type of environmentalist to give such facts their own head, they bend you right back to the Land, where the People have always been, and where every good environmentalist always wanted to be in the first place, before these facts of pilgrims were written down and began darting around in our heads. Serendipity, often called Faith, gets you there eventually, although this long bend back to the Land is not so much an arc as it is a jagged lighting strike, since the facts you need to wade through are often disturbing and sometimes contradictory. 

So here’s some more. After the Civil War, General Grant simultaneously downsized the army and appointed his favorite war hero, Phil Sheridan, to head the vast Department of the Missouri, which included the Great Plains and all the "Indian wars" occurring within its bounds. Since his Department was vast and his resources few, Sheridan settled on a version of guerrilla warfare known as “terrorism” to fulfill his mission. He attacked the Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa in their winter camps, destroying their supplies and killing them indiscriminately when they resisted, and also when they didn't. George Armstrong Custer, another Civil War hero, perpetrated his infamous Battle of the Washita, an unprovoked massacre against the Cheyenne, during Sheridan’s campaign. There were many others.

The Sappa Creek Massacre in 1875, which occurred in what is now Kansas, mimicked the Sheridan model for getting as much “bang” out of your limited war bucks as you could by targeting the helpless. It was perpetrated on another peaceful Cheyenne village by a volunteer crew of buffalo hunters, under the nominal guidance of Lt. Austin Henly of the Sixth Calvary. Women and small children were shot and burned in their lodges and then thrown onto bonfires that the buffalo hunters had made of the village’s possessions. Imagine that, parents, and now imagine Lonesome Charlie Reynolds, the buffalo hunter who led Custer to the Black Hills in 1874 and then died with him at Little Big Horn in ‘76. Imagine Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok, two other buffalo hunters that the truncated school books containing the iconic photos of buffalo skulls have held up to us as folk heroes through all these years. It’s a funny thing, time is.

If you squint your eyes out there at Hiddenwood Cliff (above), you could almost believe the buffalo roaming free again, just like you want them to. But of course they're cows, and after Sappa Creek the Cheyenne were terrified of buffalo hunters, not because they were killing off the buffalo but because they would do such things, and then get away with them.

Now take a look at the picture below.

Photo courtesy of: Joe Plouff

It’s what you see every night at the Standing Rock. Dozens of high-powered spotlights surrounding the camps for miles, aimed in the camps’ direction, waiting. And in the daytime you see this:

Modern Buffalo Hunters

For everyone reading this who's still not sure what fascism looks like, I've posted this photo for the third time, because I think it’s worth repeating. This is Last Child Camp, where tipis were being erected to avoid the high water that everyone agrees will come. Over sixty peaceful protesters were arrested off of this hill, many (if not most) were hauled away in unheated vehicles to places as far away as Fargo, ND where, after being arraigned on trumped-up charges, they were released, some in the middle of the night, some in their underwear, in sub-freezing weather.

The extermination of the buffalo was really just a military tactic, like spraying Agent Orange on the jungles of Vietnam to defoliate them so the natives could be more easily killed. After the buffalo were gone, the tribes had no choices left. They were forced ignonimously, at gunpoint, to live within the bounds of their designated reservations, which were really concentration camps where the People, especially their children and old ones, were at the mercy of corrupt entrepreneurs known as "agents" who literally stole the food and clothing out from under them, and they died like flies.

It was then that the People became sitting ducks for another novel military tactic of intimidation and genocide. The army would surround the camps of the now-helpless People on some trumped-up charge or other, and wait, a few days, a few weeks, and then the troops would descend upon them and massacre them. Wounded Knee is one example of this. There were others. Will there be more?

What's stopping these militarized police forces, this cancer upon our Land, from shooting into our villages with live ammunition? In the case of Standing Rock, public scrutiny is the only thing in its way. Which begs the question: What's to stop them from shooting you for peacefully disagreeing with Trumpian policies in the near future where no media scrutiny is occurring? For a clue, remember that Wall Street still operates under the same rules of engagement as Sheridan and Custer did. "Death to the weak, power to the powerful", and even though they make a point of turning a dainty head away from its unpleasant causes and effects, the name for this legal piracy hasn't changed,. It’s still called a "killing".

Portable Windmill at Sacred Stone Camp

We certainly have the technological know-how by now to avoid black snakes like DAPL. Don't let anyone tell you different, because time is a funny, fast-moving thing, a fluid thing, just like floods. Just wait a while, and you'll see that, although it’s tough right now and gonna get a lot tougher, there’s much cause for hope, because, our facts, our beloved facts, are finally turning us back to where we always should have been, to where we never should have left, back to the Land.

A Veteran for Peace 

 Sunset at Sacred Stone

Weasel Tracks at Oceti Sakowin next to the Cannonball River
Still intact, holding steady

[i] See post "On Being Called an Environmentalist

[ii] The Dakota Access Pipeline as prophesied in Lakota tradition.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Qoute For The Day

Speaking of moon-deployments: here’s a quote-for-the-day.
“Are Republicans dismayed that they have put a loathsome, deranged, misogynistic, racist, psychopathic, uninformed, self-promoting, corrupt, insulting, genital-grabbing, conspiracy-theory-peddling, Jew-baiting, narcissistic-behaving, country-destroying, Putin-loving, generally disgusting, fascist, loofa-faced sh*t-gibbon into power in our White House?
No, they are not.[i]
                      Dave Johnson, contributing blogger for the Campaign for America's Future.               

I think we should make every effort to laugh at fascists because, if for no other reason, they don’t like it, which may be as good a definition of fascism as any... 
...But we should also remember each and every time we laugh: there’s nothing funny about fascism.

It's OK though. It feels good and, unlike many of our unimaginative fellow citizens “across the aisle”[ii], we can hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time and still get something done.                           

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cows In Space

 Cows grazing on the Site of the North American Bison's last stand, Hiddenwood Cliffs, North Dakota

It should be clear by now that cows are the most intelligent beings on this planet. There can no longer be any doubt about this: that cows have willfully manipulated the human species to do their bidding since the Dawn of Agriculture.

And so it only follows that someday, if we continue to allow cows to dominate our decision-making processes, there will be cows on the moon.

I say this with no malice towards cows (Heaven forbid!) or the Space Program. I simply can't come up with another rational explanation for our collective behavior. We have deconstructed multilayered forests and annihilated the buffalo to near extinction in order to let the grass grow tall. For cows. We've depleted aquifers and dammed mighty rivers to grow lawns in the desert in order to mimic that singular image we humans have long associated with wealth and well-being: the Overgrazed Pasture. And our political systems seem twisted into mere vehicles for popping cowboys into the highest levels of world power just when we humans need them least. It's a fact that we've pushed the edges of our own survival in order to make cows feel comfortable in the most inhospitable corners of the globe, including Texas.

O.K., you say. But what about those pointy-toed moonboots?

Well, how about a conspiracy theory? One that rivals, in its verifiable audacity, the U.N.'s plan to take over the United States through Gun Control?

Picture this. The genetic material for the modern cow emerges from the riparian muck of Europe and Asia before God decides to invent deserts. After a geologically brief period of adjustment these first bovines lift their noses from the mud and notice a funny-looking, hairless mammal running about the banks and upland areas. They see it doing many things with its hands, which these tubs of intelligence are quick to realize they do not possess. Having grander designs for their progeny than to be stuck in the muck forever, and by methods too intricate and numerous to be recounted here, they attach their fortunes to these humans, with spangly results.

As one example of proof, I cite Hindu philosophy, which fermented significantly in the same humid environments from which cows sprang, and to which we can trace all resulting cow-worshipping peoples, including Texans. Clearly under the influence of superior intellects, Hindus were the first to institutionalize the belief that cows were higher beings than us, since they are so placid and accepting of their lot. In fact it is believed that if you live your human life well, you might be lucky enough to come back as a cow. After all, your basic needs will be entirely taken care of by overworked humans, and you will be free to stand around in the great outdoors, chewing your cud with your neighbors and contemplating your existence.

Is it a coincidence that this is the very lifestyle to which so many of us readily aspire? I don't think so.

And although there's nothing in Hindu teachings that speaks to Cow-willfulness, the western rancher who aims curses at the cow who breaks through her fences certainly believes that cows posess free-will. Otherwise she wouldn't cuss at it, because that would be fruitless unless it's assumed that cows choose to be ornery and are disobeying your wishes. So one only has to combine the righteous anger of the Western Rancher who believes that cows do things on purpose with the ancient teachings of a tropical Eastern culture who maintain that their purpose is holy and Voila! The proof's in the pudding. We've been had.

If you're not convinced yet, consider the old-time saying that a cowboy is someone who is paid thirty dollars a month to out-think cows. Adjusting for inflation, cowboy wages have remained constant, and on this fact alone one can fairly deduce that watching the back ends of cows for short pay amounts to Worship.

The fact that we eat them only demonstrates to what extent their placid pool of purpose has guided their every action since the word 'cattle' was enshrined in The Bible. Indeed, this symbiotic relationship has obviously been an excellent survival tactic for cows.

So where do cows go from here? The moon, of course, and with our help once again. To anyone still in denial about the Power of the Cow and their Texas connections, I’d ask them to just ruminate for a moment on the fact that there are astrophysicists walking this earth today who believe that it's our destiny to launch human consciousness into the cosmos. And given our mutual histories up to this point, what higher expression of human consciousness can you think of than the Cow? And what's a more logical place for the Cow than our Sister Moon, whose landscape is not unlike certain overgrazed B.L.M. allotments?

Some sort of vast 'missile defense' system to protect them is at least one predictable outcome, and looked at with this Big Picture in mind, I can also safely predict that a sweetheart lunar opportunity for cows will emerge out of this whole "War on Terrorism". I sure can't think of a better explanation for these wars. Can you?

And please remember: if you never hear it anywhere else, you heard it here first.

Cow Priests making sacrificial offering on Moon 
(actually it's Morton Co.'s militarized police intimidating Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, practicing for future Moon deployments. That's the only thing that makes sense, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!)

Monday, February 6, 2017

I’m heading back to Standing Rock today, but let me first say something once again so it’s off my chest, again. Facebook is weird, and I’ll never figure it out. The main problem with it, other than that  obscenely-rich guys own these fundamental disconnects with reality that bode so ill for so many of us just when we need that reality so much, is that I can’t figure out who I’m talking to, or who’s talking to me. I know, you’re supposed to be able to “manage” that stuff. But I’m not a manager, never was good at being one and furthermore look what kind of trouble we've gotten into by falling for someone who was good at "managing" a Twitter account. That’s my story, then, and I’m stickin’ to it. 

That said, I've been rooting around in Facebook almost constantly trying to get a read on what’s going on at Standing Rock. I saw a video posted on Jan. 31 of LaDonna Bravebull Allard asking people to come stand with them. The next day, Feb. 1, I saw a video of Morton County police taking down the barricade that has been blocking Highway 1806 since late October (the one they erected) and arresting 70 people who were moving the Oceti Sakowin camp to higher ground. Then two days later was the video of Sacred Stone camp being raided by various law enforcement entities, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), who claimed the Standing Rock Tribal Council (Dave Archambault, Chairperson) had requested their assistance in "clearing" the camp.

That was Friday. On Saturday, Archambault posted and released a statement clarifying that, while they want the water protectors to leave peacefully, there will be no forceful removal of water protectors (i.e. an armed raid). He said they are "cleaning" the camps not "clearing" them.

After this post was a whole long line of posts, many critical of the council, some supporting, but many expressing as much confusion and dismay as I'm feeling at watching the infighting and potential unravelling of the most potent movement we have standing against TrumpCo to date, maybe for the last 200 years.

That's what's most disturbing to me. Human nature, it's so manipulative-friendly. We all know this and, in a nutshell, that's why I'm heading back. I'm compelled to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears and not depend on divisive arguments to guide me as to what I should do to support this movement and make no mistake. We all have to figure out our way through this to support it. I wish there were 10,000 of us showing up and doing the same right now. There's been saboteurs and provocateurs within the movement from the beginning. Add to that that any time there's state/corporate sponsored violence against a group of people, there will be different reactions, and therefore plenty of room for the well-funded provocateurs to wedge the cracks wider and wider til they split. This is an old, old story.

Speaking of old stories, it's worth recalling the ones from that earlier movement we remember now as "the civil rights movement". There were similar brutalities, provocateuring and inevitable splits going on all the time. And that movement held together. Makes Martin Luther King Day a good bit more meaningful to me, seeing how hard it is, and how dedicated you have to be…to nonviolence, really.

As for the camps: yes they are a mess. Lots of stuff left behind. Lots of trampling. Yes it needs cleaned up and, if allowed the chance, that's what I mainly intend to do. I have a background in ecological restoration and anyone can pick up garbage. But to the Army Corps and the Morton County Sheriff's Dept. who are crying crocodile tears over the "pollution" from the camps making its way to the river, I'd like to say that yeah, it's a mess, but it's also a war zone, and not a war zone of our choosing. We are doing what we needed to do and that was the place to do it. As a restorationist who's planted trees at strip mines where the corporate owners skipped the country when the price of their precious metal dropped and left the cleanup tab for the rest of us to pick up, I would ask if Pegasus Gold (just for instance) was just doing what it needed to do because it had no other choice, and I'd also ask the Morton County propagandists whining about how much their share of the cleanup is going to cost them to compare how much it costs a local or state government to clean up a gold mine, or a coal mine, or a frackingv field after the REAL spoiled rich kids skip town.

Friday, February 3, 2017

News Flash: Culture Wars in Rural Areas Have Been Nasty For a Time!

Fishing on the Columbia near McNary Dam: Plenty of Room for Improvement

When you choose to live in rural America, which I have done for the last forty years or so, you tend to become a little myopic about which tools to use to fight the Beast with. This is only a musing, but it's something to consider as we struggle to swim against the vomit of this Beast which we're currently labeling Donald Trump. 

I came to this musing through an honest-enough process--vanity. I was re-reading my last post, and got the idea of wanting to augment Chief Leonard Crow Dog's statement ("We do not own the Land") with a statement by a "founding father". This is because of a quirk in my thought processes brought on from living as a progressive activist in an almost-exclusively-white American Rural Area where the hobby of channelling "founding fathers" while waving your pocket constitution in front of cowed county commissioners was all the vogue since the election of the country's first non-white president. If you have lived in an almost-exclusively-white American Rural Area these last eight years (and longer actually) you know what I mean, no matter your political flavor. As a progressive activist (otherwise known as an "environmentalist" or an "eco-terrorist" depending on your flavor), I naturally morphed into channelling "founding fathers" for my own purposes, especially since I'm the descendant of some of them myself, and these pure and simple idiots ('scuse me. I slipped there) were claiming to speak for "me". That's another post, and I'll get to it all someday. What's been happening here for 400 years or so has been huge and getting huger by the day now, don't you agree? Hard to keep up. The point is, I began collecting really cool quotes from dead white guys as a way to "reach across the isle", such as isles exist in almost-exclusively-white American Rural Areas (Safeway comes to mind but, again, another post).

Anyway, Leonard Crow Dog's words kicked in one from my collection, a nice little sound bite from Thomas Paine, a socialist by our modern definition:

“Man (sic) did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.”

This, of course, got my "founding father" bell ringing on Paine's views of state-sanctioned religions, which seems particularly poignant when considering what so many of these pure and simple idiots (whoops again!) believe about what makes America, even by their own definition "America":
“All national institutions of churches", Paine wrote in his "Age of Reason", "whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

That was pretty heady stuff for his times. But he nailed the lid on his popularity coffin by going a couple steps further with a quote you'll never hear at one of those prayer breakfasts Washington DC plagues us with at least once a year:

“It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.”

If my memory serves, only six or seven people attended Paine's funeral when he died in 1809. He even pissed off George Washington, a fellow "diest" whose reputation Paine basically made with his pamphlet, "Common Sense". Good ol' Thomas Paine. I like to think if I'd have been one of my ancestors that I would have attended, and made it seven or eight. Never mind that, though. Good folks that I'm sure they were, my ancestors were busy moving onto the lands of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederation in upstate New York that Washington had stolen and then gifted to Continental Army vets. Pilgrims like me really want to believe that we'd have acted better than our ancestors but, y'know…another blogpost.

All that said, I feel at least somewhat uniquely-qualified, now that my train of thought has headed down this "channelling founding fathers" track, to quote a couple other cool quotes from dead white guys that are rattling around in my head. I know…dead white guys! And I apologize, but it can't be helped. I'm paddling my tippy little canoe down a mere stream of consciousness now. 

The first is from Kurt Vonnegut, also speaking on religion and his own then-progressing world view:

 “If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

Actually, after two weeks of Donald Trump as president, I'm thinking about changing species myself. Not that that would help my own personal chances of survival. Not at all...but it's so embarrassing being human these days. I wish it were as easy as a sex-change.

The last is from my favorite dead white guy, Mark Twain, who puts the cap on it for me about bullying, toxic religions in general and the bullies who bully with them:

“I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

'Nuff said for now, I guess. Just some meandering thought-channels on the floodplains of how our colonial icons have, from the beginning, shown at least the inclination to be of a mind with what Leonard Crow Dog says, and how, maybe, we can start consolidating that same mind to a single purpose now.

This pilgrim sure hopes so.