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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Winona LaDuke releases new book: "The Militarization of Indian Country" on Earth Day

I am grateful for the opportunity to co-author The Militarization of Indian Country with Winona. This article appeared in Indian Country Today:

LaDuke’s Earth Day Observations Resonate

Indian Country Today

By Carol Berry April 22, 2011
DENVER—Praising a draft United Nations treaty that would confer protections for Mother Earth, noted activist Winona LaDuke, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, also gave an Earth Day plug for indigenous sustainability and “creating something that is post-empire.”

The American Indian activist and author spoke at the University of Colorado Denver for an early commemoration of Earth Day 2011, whose theme this year is A Billion Acts of Green, “our people-powered campaign to generate a billion acts of environmental service and advocacy before Rio +20,” according to the site.

For her part, LaDuke drew attention to some decidedly un-green practices, pointing out that the American economy consumes from a fourth to a third of the world’s resources but that there is “a vast amount of waste” in the petroleum economy that distorts the oft-repeated argument that renewable energy can’t keep up with demand.

“But why try?” LaDuke queried, adding that “empire is inefficient.” She pointed out that 90 percent of energy from the common lightbulb is in the form of heat and only 10 percent is light. “It’s a false argument that we can’t meet demand without buttressing an inefficient system.”

Food security is a problem when food travels an average of 1,546 miles from producer to dinner table, the price of gas goes up and food cultivation may require 15 times more energy to produce than is consumed, she said.

Although she does not hate the military and believes veterans should be treated with honor and dignity, LaDuke does “despise militarization because those who are most likely to be impacted or killed by the military are civilian non-combatants” and because toxins and chemicals have severely impacted Indian lands, she said in the preface of a book she has co-written with Sean Cruz, The Militarization of Indian Country, put out by Honor the Earth, an organization that works internationally on issues of environmental justice and sustainability. She is the group’s executive director.

The two-time vice presidential candidate on the Green Party ticket also said she is considering another run for office—this time for tribal council on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, a move that would be compatible with her belief that change is local—and probably inevitable.

“I’m proud of the casino economy, but if you can’t feed yourself, I don’t know if you can be sovereign again,” said LaDuke.

LaDuke said a study on her reservation showed that 14 percent of spending for food was on-reservation, primarily at convenience stores, but 86 per cent went off-reservation to big-box markets or other food sources; because half of total spending goes outside reservation boundaries, the economy is “systemically flawed” and additional wages would not be a solution.

The answer is “re-localizing food and energy systems to have control over the economy and health in the face of rising food uncertainty,” she said, noting that one-third of people on her reservation have diabetes and half of the children are obese by the eighth grade.

LaDuke recalled that her late father told her, “Winona, you’re a smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy if you can’t grow corn.”

Today she grows heirloom varieties of corn, as well as squash and other food crops, and harvests wild rice in an on-reservation food production enterprise that also includes maple syrup.

She touted the nutritional and traditional value of the older corn varieties, which include Bear Island Flint Corn, Seneca Pink Lady Flour Corn (“I grow it because it’s pretty,” she said), and Pawnee Eagle Corn, grown by Pawnee people living near Kearney, Nebraska, before their removal to Oklahoma. The corn, languishing further south, was returned to Nebraska for an indigenous garden at the Gateway Museum, where it flourished.

She also talked about climate change, noting that a two-degree increase in average temperatures in the northern latitudes could mean rising oceans and relocating Native villages, despite the fact that the cost of one such relocation was $400 million.

The U.S. has consumed 60 percent of its known oil reserves, and the vast tar sands in Canada are the “single largest industrial project in world history,” mining a Lake Superior-size area for the oil trapped in sand and clay and then planning to send it via the TransCanada Pipeline to Nebraska, where ranchers and legislators fear pipeline spills and the contamination of a shallow aquifer.

She was introduced by Glenn Morris, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado Denver, who hosted her appearance, and the presentation itself was sponsored by American Indian Student Services of UC-Denver, Metropolitan State College and Community College of Denver.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The US economy, Traumatic Brain Injury, and a matter of a trillion dollars

Only 1% of the cost of the wars is budgeted for medical care for its injured veterans

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Do you remember when George W. “The Decider” Bush, inheritor of a federal budget surplus, gave Saddam Hussein 24 hours to get out of Iraq, lest the U.S. invade to remove him from power by force?

The U.S. was already at war in the wilds of Afghanistan, the place where foreign empires come to die, in a still-fruitless search for Osama bin Laden and those responsible for the 9-11 attacks, before the Cowboy-in-Chief committed the nation to the invasion of Iraq.

At the time, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed that the war in Iraq would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues, and fought with minimal U.S. troop levels, and thus minimal consequences.

Perhaps the most arrogant Cabinet member in the history of the nation, Rumsfeld openly ridiculed any person who dared to question his catastrophic policies and decisions that have proved to be as harmful to our own troops as they were to the enemy….

As it turned out, these wars would be “paid for” with money borrowed from China, a strategy that brings us to the present day, facing drastic cuts to domestic
education, health and human services budgets….

The Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Rove axis demanded that Saddam turn over weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be non-existent, and so went the budget surplus, with much worse yet to come….

These two short videos document the cavalier attitude with which George W. Bush committed generations of Americans, troops, military families and civilians alike to the costs and consequences of war, not to mention the civilian casualties in Iraq and Aghanistan….

As the White House and Congress seek ways to resolve the nation’s dire fiscal crisis amid the ramping up of partisan rhetoric for the 2012 election cycle, it is worth considering the wars’ total cost, in blood, in treasure, in PTSD, traumatic amputations and Traumatic Brain Injury, the Signature Injury of these wars, and the impact of those injuries on the children and families of injured troops.

More than 200,000 US troops have been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury from mild to severe from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lifetime medical costs for TBI patients can be well above $ 5 million each, and you can be sure that those long term costs are not accounted for in any version of projected budgets.

TBI is likely to be the signature wound of the wars that will be fought in the foreseeable future as well. The lethality, flexibility, economy and simplicity of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) make their continued use a certainty throughout the globe, and the arms industry is always looking for ways to make a more powerful explosion. Helmets can only offer so much protection.

A TBI victim may suffer a wide range of physical, mental, cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems, with lifelong consequences.

These consequences carry into the lives of the victims’ children and families, with ever increasing numbers of TBI-damaged parents coming home, not the same mothers or fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers who left for the war.

“Stress from personal and family concerns likely played a more prominent role in the Gulf War than in other wars, because it involved a greater number of married personnel and parents. In the Vietnam War, 16% of those deployed were married with children, whereas 60% of service members and reservists in the Gulf War were married with dependents, including approximately 32,000 single parents who had to make arrangements for their children during the deployment
(U.S. Senate, 1998).”

Brain injuries are often invisible to the observer, but not to the victim’s children, whose lives are forever altered by this signature wound, carrying the injury into a second generation of victims, these the absolutely innocent, but co-signers of the wound nonetheless.

In a report titled “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11” the Congressional Research Service puts the known total costs of the Bush/Cheney administration’s decisions to invade Afghanistan in a fruitless search for Osama bin Laden, and also invade Iraq in order to find non-existent weapons of mass destruction and remove Saddam Hussein from power at $ 1.21 trillion dollars.

“With the July 27, 2010 enactment of the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 4899/P.L. 111-201) Congress has approved a total of $1.121 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

Of this $1.121 trillion total, CRS estimates that Iraq will receive about $751 billion (67%), OEF $336 billion (30%) and enhanced base security about $29 billion (3%), with about $5 billion that CRS cannot allocate (1/2%). About 94% of the funds are for DOD, 5% for foreign aid programs and embassy operations, and 1% for medical care for veterans.

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center

“In 1992, Congress created the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) — originally known as the Defense and Veterans Head Injury Program (DVHIP) — during the Persian Gulf War to integrate specialized TBI care, research and education across military and veteran medical care systems.”

From the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center website:

“Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant health issue which affects service members and veterans during times of both peace and war. The high rate of TBI and blast-related concussion events resulting from current combat operations directly impacts the health and safety of individual service members and subsequently the level of unit readiness and troop retention. The impacts of TBI are felt within each branch of the service and throughout both the Department of Defense (DoD) and  the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care systems. 

"In the VA, TBI has become a major focus secondary to recognition of the need for increased resources to provide health care and vocational retraining for individuals with a diagnosis of TBI, as they transition to veteran status.  Veterans may sustain TBI’s throughout their lifespan, with the largest increase as the veterans' enter into their 70's and 80's; these injuries are often due to falls and result in high levels of disability. 

"Active duty and reserve service members are at increased risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian peers. This is a result of several factors, including the specific demographics of the military; in general, young men between the ages of 18 to 24 are at greatest risk for TBI. Many operational and training activities which are routine in the military are physically demanding and even potentially dangerous. 

"Military service members are increasingly deployed to areas where they are at risk for experiencing blast exposures from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombers, land mines, mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades etc. These and other combat related activities put our military service members at increased risk for sustaining a TBI."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Your child disappeared...then what?

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Last night, KATU-TV’s Steve Dunn asked viewers the question “What would you do if your child suddenly disappeared?” and in the broadcast described what Kaine Horman, whose 8-year-old son Kyron disappeared nearly a year ago, is doing this weekend.

315 days after his son was abducted, Mr. Horman told reporter Anna Canzano: “Well, there’s only one day to me that has any significance, and that’s June 4, 2010. Every day after that is pretty much as painful as the one before it.”

I know that feeling well…. When asked over the years about how I felt about missing birthdays and other special days, I would respond that those days are just like every other day, only more so….

My life changed forever on February 12, 1996, when my four children disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction, Mormon zealots and my former wife carrying out a Mormon shunning. This is what can happen when you disagree too openly with Mormon Borg-like intrusion into your family life…the church is very highly organized to sever Mormon family members from contact with non-Mormon members of their own family.

Just ask the grieving parents and grandparents of MormonsHMC (Mormons Have My Child)….

I counted the days, marked out on my calendars, month after month, year after year, 1876 days lived one day at a time, before I finally stopped counting five years and two months after my children were kidnapped….

But enough about me….

Find out what the father of Kyron Horman is doing, and think about what you would do if your child was abducted….

KATU-TV news:

PORTLAND, Ore. - When was the last time you cherished getting your kids ready for school, walking them to the bus stop or tucking them in at night?

Those are the kinds of things - the simple things we sometimes easily take for granted - that Kyron Horman's dad, Kaine Horman, says he misses about his son.

"The days I miss the most are him in one arm and Kiara (his daughter) in the other arm, just sitting on the couch together," Kaine told us.

Kyron disappeared from Portland's Skyline School on June 4, 2010. His stepmother, Terri Horman, has not been named a person of interest or suspect in the case but she has been the focus of the investigation. She is believed to be living in Roseburg with her parents. Kaine still believes she knows something.

While police continue looking into the case and searchers continue heading out to try to find any trace of Kyron, Kaine is keeping his son's name and face out there in the hopes that someday his boy will be found. Kaine was at the Expo Center on Friday and plans to be there throughout the weekend, both at the KidFest and at the Portland Garage Sale.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On counting coup on a kidnapper

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—I used to own a .357 magnum revolver, but not long after my children disappeared in what I had come to learn was a Mormon abduction, I gave the weapon away to my brother, lest I be tempted to use it, either on myself while in the depths of hopelessness and despair, or on one or more of the people responsible for the crimes they were inflicting on my children and my family.

I have never regretted this decision.

As weeks turned into months turned into years, fighting through four jurisdictions in three states, with my children’s kidnappers enjoying safe harbor in theocratic Utah and my children suffering terrible abuse, I had many opportunities to think about this single fact.

There were many long, strongly magnetic moments when the grief and pain were unendurable, and I might have found a solution in that holster long ago had it still been in my possession.

And there were many sharp hours of contemplation, my anger grown cold, considering what events might take place should I decide to go out and impose a form of frontier justice on the criminals who were most responsible for the abduction and the subsequent abuse of my children, none of whom was my former wife.

These persons were Mormon zealots Kory Wright and Steve Nielson and my former brother in law Tony Micheletti, and I contemplated this Trifecta for years, but took no action other than to continue to fight through an indifferent and ineffective legal system, compromised by Mormon cronyism and the paranoid, self-absorbed and delusional mindset that is the foundation of that religion.

Outside of these moments, these hours of weakness and vengefulness, I held to my core integrity, passed down to me from my late parents and grandparents, and it was in those reflections that I found the strength to act honorably, and to work to make something good and lasting result from these terrible crimes.

In 2003, I had the great good fortune to be offered an opportunity to work for Oregon State Senator Avel Louise Gordly, a transformational and widely respected leader known as “the conscience of the Senate”, and it was in that year that we began work on legislation addressing the issue of children abducted by family members and persons into whose care the children had been entrusted.

I have written elsewhere and in depth regarding the history of that legislation, the Senate Task Force on Parental and Family Abduction, the death of my son Aaron Cruz, and the passage of Senate Bill 1041 in 2005, known as “Aaron’s Law” in his honor, and will not repeat it here, other than to make these points:

Aaron’s Law is designed to address the failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in preventing and resolving child abductions that involve known perpetrators, a crime that continues to take place at the rate of more than 200,000 cases each year.

An abduction is a continuing crime, an offense that has a beginning but no real end, a fact in conflict with the reality that law enforcement and the courts take little interest in these cases, hence the large annual numbers.

I am often contacted by parents whose child or children have been taken into concealment by the other parent, looking for advice, running out of hope. Their painful stories all have points in common with mine: law enforcement is apologetic but does not act; they cannot find a lawyer who is willing to listen; when and if they do get before a judge, the judge is indifferent, even judgmental; every avenue burns up precious time, time scalding hot, in weeks and months, and yet there is a child missing….

This adds up to more than 200,000 cases of child abduction a year, every year….

Several years ago, I became aware that Kory Wright, after having concealed my children in his home in Utah, their first stop in Mormon Country, had moved into the Portland area, and was employed at Columbia Ultimate across the river in Vancouver, where his ugly, criminal face was displayed on the company website.

Without Kory Wright, the abduction of my children would not have taken place. Senate Bill 1041 was deliberately written with his actions in mind, criminal acts that Aaron’s Law is designed to prevent, and here he was, having suffered no consequences for his crimes….

I chose October 6, 2009 as A Good Day to Die….

In the days and weeks leading up to the day, I reflected on all that had taken place, thought about a wide range of options, a very wide range….

President Bush had recently been pelted with an Iraqi journalists’ shoes, and I thought of that option, too, the night before the day…but tossing my shoes at Kory Wright would have been poorly understood in American culture….

I decided to count coup, to count coup with a copy of Aaron’s Law, written for Kory Wright and for people like him, as the honorable course…only one criminal in this confrontation…a non-violent but pointed confrontation….

I began the dialogue, in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, with this statement: “My name is Sean Cruz. You kidnapped my children, motherfucker.”

An abduction is a continuing crime, and a criminal is responsible for all the damage that ensues from his or her criminal act….

Many a grieved parent would have brought a weapon, would have made the news for a couple of days, maybe…I brought the law instead, Aaron’s Law….

Here is the series of essays that described the incident and the ensuing trial (note that the “slap” was a rhetorical slap, not physical; the rhetoric created some confusion at trial):

Sean Cruz confronts man who kidnapped his children

Kidnapper confrontation earns commendation from judge

Not guilty!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Grammys buries Best Native American Music category

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The Recording Academy, which produces the annual Grammy awards, has announced a major restructuring in how the organization will recognize accomplishments by musicians across North America, reducing total categories from 109 to 78.

This development underscores the importance of the Native American Music Association (NAMA) and The Nammys as the nation’s most vital resource serving the musicians and the audiences of Indian Country, second to none in its  mission to provide greater opportunity and recognition for traditional and contemporary Native American musicians, and linking to indigenous cultures and audiences the world over.

Press releases issued by the Recording Academy indicate that someone over there thinks that this is good news for musicians, for the listening public, and for the cultural traditions that generate the new music.

For Indian Country, the blockheaded recategorization is particularly offensive, marginalizing Native American accomplishments into a category freshly titled “Best Regional Roots Music Album.”

The new “Best Regional Roots Music Album” Grammy is a catchall category where former candidates for “Best Hawaiian Music Album”, “Best Native American Music Album”, “Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album” will compete for the “Roots” Grammy title.

A note appended to the release adds: “NOTE: This category is intended to recognize recordings of regionally based traditional music, including but not limited to Hawaiian, Native American, polka, zydeco and Cajun music.”

In essence, the Grammys consider “regionally based traditional music” an apt descriptor for the vastly fertile and complex grooves streaming up from the lands and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

In contrast, the Native American Music Awards (the Nammys), currently recognizes 30 distinct genres of music emerging from Indian Country, and plans to add more as strength in other musical styles grows with time and accomplishment.

The Grammy announcement includes this load of hooey from the President:

"Every year, we diligently examine our Awards structure to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process," said President/CEO Neil Portnow. "After careful and extensive review and analysis of all Categories and Fields, it was objectively determined that our GRAMMY Categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music. Our Board of Trustees continues to demonstrate its dedication to keeping The Recording Academy a pertinent and responsive organization in our dynamic music community."

This decision by the Recording Academy underscores Alex Haley’s maxim that “History is written by the winners.”

Clearly, this development underscores the importance of supporting the Native American Music Association and its awards program, The Nammys.

Link to the Nammys:

Grammy announcement is here: