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Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Facing Race and becoming visible in the Oregon Legislature

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

“Facing Race”, a racial equity report on the 2011 Oregon Legislature has just been published, a rare accomplishment in itself in this state intentionally created to be an exclusive white paradise.

Produced by a coalition of several community-based organizations, the Facing Race report does provide some valuable insights and could prove to be useful over time if the coalition can continue its work, expand its own knowledge and learn from its shortcomings.

Facing Race begins by stating, “Oregon has a deep history of racial inequality and exclusion. It is largely untaught in schools and it is not a part of our civic dialogue. A brief review of Oregon’s racial history can help us begin to understand our current challenges.”

The report’s review of Oregon’s racial history is all too brief, a missed opportunity to educate its audience, most of whom were truly untaught in school, legislators and advocates alike, serving or influencing a largely ignorant electorate that too often in this state raises its ugly head from a largely ignorant general population.

It was, after all, barely 12 years ago that Oregon voters approved the amendment to the Oregon Constitution that removed its original racial exclusionary language, with some 300,000 Oregonians voting to keep the language in. When the Ku Klux Klan was operating in plain sight, Oregon was a stronghold, with members openly serving in the legislature and other public offices.

And it was only eight years ago that the 50-year anniversary of the passage of Oregon’s first civil rights bill, banning discrimination in places of public accommodation, was celebrated in the Capitol.

Prior to the Public Accommodations Law, Oregon was as blanketed with “Whites Only” and other racial exclusionary signage barring entry to restaurants, hotels and motels, and access to restrooms, department store dressing rooms and drinking fountains as any part of the Deep South.

A small group of NAACP members traveled to the state Capitol for 18 legislative sessions—36 years—before Senator Philip Hitchcock and Representative Mark Hatfield successfully—and heroically—led the bill to passage in 1953. Few Oregonians are aware of these facts.

A large photograph of that historic moment now hangs just outside the entrance to the House chamber, where it was placed in the 2003 legislative session at the insistence of then-Senator Avel Louise Gordly, a major figure in the history of Oregon civil rights, who was also the chief petitioner for the amendment removing the racial exclusionary language.

The photo can hardly be missed, one of the few photographs of Oregon citizens in the entire building that isn’t all white, and yet it was not included in the Facing Race report.

You can bet that most legislators and their staffs, and most visitors to the Capitol, have no idea what this photograph signifies. 18 legislative sessions…36 years of advocacy in the face of open hostility…Freedom! The freedom to enjoy a meal in a white person’s restaurant!

                             Public Accommodations Bill passes Oregon House 1953

Yet another missed opportunity was the story of how the photograph traveled to where it now hangs. That’s a good story for another day. The all-white group that controls such matters first hung the photo in an obscure corner of The Galleria, behind a coat rack used by lobbyists.

Note that I said that the photo was hung behind a coat rack, not above it. You could see the photo if you moved the lobby coat rack, which was on rollers.

Here is the report’s entire summation of Oregon’s racial history, and in it the key defect in the study (italics added):

“In 1843, the Oregon Territorial Legislature voted to ban slavery in the state, not because of a strong anti-slavery sentiment, but because early Oregon settlers wanted to create an all-White society that would be free of the “racial problems” threatening to cause civil war in the rest of the United States. Early settlers drove many Native American tribes from their villages in search of gold or other resources; meanwhile, the Oregon Territorial Legislature banned the sale of ammunition or guns to Native Americans, deepening their disadvantage in the face of outright violence and land grabs by early settlers.

“Throughout the early 1900s, cities throughout Oregon adopted “sundown laws” that required Black people to leave the city limits by sundown. During the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, the Portland Expo Center became a temporary detention center used to hold more than 3,600 people. And in 1948, the Vanport flood left thousands of Black Oregonians without homes and forced them into low-income areas in north Portland. The limited recognition and rights of communities of color during Oregon’s early history provides the context for our current racial inequities and disparities.”

The major flaw in the report is the short shrift given to the Native American perspective, and the foreshortened view of Oregon history, beginning with the arbitrary start in 1843.

Oregon had been settled for thousands of years by people with their own names, their own cultures, long before the arrival of Euro-Americans or any of the other minority groups identified in the study. None of those Native names included the words “Indians” or “Oregon.” There were no places named Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens or Astoria; there was no Salem, no Portland, no Vancouver, no river named Columbia.

With them the newcomers brought new diseases, and repeated epidemics of smallpox, measles, etc. killed off as much as 90% of Native populations, old and young alike, wiped out entire villages. That ought to be worth a mention in any history of the state. Biological terrorism on a continental scale….

It is not a stretch to state that had diseases even ten percent of this deadly attacked any other racial group, the account would have a prominent place in any narrative of race relations.

In this respect, however, the general population continues to buy into the assumption that the Indians were—and mostly still are—a vanishing race, and that no fault lies with those who poured into the state with murderous intent and genocidal result.

The dominant culture likes to use the bland terms “settlers” and “pioneers” to describe the swarms of Euro-Americans who invaded the territory they called Oregon in order to grab the free land that the U.S. Congress was offering to its white citizenry.

This was the largest free land giveaway in the nation’s history, and they took two and a half million acres of the very best land before the surviving tribes signed any treaties at all. These facts should be fundamental to any discussion of the history of the state, much more so in any analysis of racial equity.

Only the Native American population suffered the wholesale forced removal of its children to boarding schools (as recently as the 1960s), enough trauma in itself to drive any person to drink, to despair, to an early death. Historical trauma….

Chemawa Indian School is a short drive but a world away from the Oregon State Capitol, a world as far away from the minds of the 2011 State Legislature as it is from those who haunt its lobbies, even as well-intentioned as most might be.

While Facing Race is inclusive of Native people in the statistics contained in the report, it effectively glosses over the reality of the Native experience throughout the entire history of the state, the vigilantism, the forced marches of women and children, the elderly and the frail to lands that would again be taken by still more white people. Even the coalition fails to grasp these painful realities….

Perhaps the most shocking statistic of all is the percentage of Native American children in foster care relative to every other race. This is the direct result of decades of institutional public policy towards Indians, the shattering of families as a matter of popular will, all joining in whether ignorant or uncaring, all nonetheless collectively responsible for the atrocities committed on innocent families.

Every discussion of racial equity should begin with an acknowledgement that the Native population is the only race that has faced actual extinction, and continues to exist in a Diaspora today, even as the 2012 Legislative Assembly prepares to meet, remaining largely untaught, even by this report, in respect to the Native community.

More than 90% of the Native population in the Portland Metro Area trace their indigenous ancestry to tribes and places elsewhere, the legacy of race-based forced relocation after forced relocation after forced relocation….

And the whites flooded Celilo Falls….

Facing Race asks the question: “WHAT IS RACIAL EQUITY?” in all caps, and provides this answer:

“Proactive racial equity policies seek to eliminate racial disparities and advance equitable outcomes for all communities. Policy that supports racial equity targets the institutional and structural barriers that lead to poor outcomes for communities of color. Race-neutral or color blind policies, whether intentional or not, can widen existing or cause new racial inequities.”

As it pursues its work, the Coalition will find firmer moral ground when it internalizes fully the distance that separates Native Americans from others in the pantheon of communities of color. And it will find itself reaping real rewards in legislative action when it articulates its newfound knowledge to the legislators, to the electorate, and to the general population, with a refocused commitment to real racial equity.

As deplorable as unjustified police brutality is, it wasn’t so long ago that every white Oregonian could brutalize and even murder any Indian they chose to, even on a whim. Those pioneers and settlers wouldn’t even blink an eye. All of Oregon was theirs by the right of Manifest Destiny, and the Natives were just going to have to go away, to disappear. That was the official policy of the state, to make Indians invisible on all the land.

Oregon’s Native American population is changing, however, has survived the American holocaust, and is done with being invisible. These are survivors, moving beyond survival, healing, gathering strength and becoming focused, and they have the moral high ground.

The Invisible are becoming visible:

“Here come the Indians
Comin’ real fast
Here come the Indians
Gonna kick you in the ass”
          --Custer Gets It, by Jim Pepper


Read the full report, Facing Race:

Sean Cruz is Executive Director of 1000 Nations, a public policy research and consulting firm. He is a co-founder of The Friends of Celilo Falls, a new non-profit organizing to secure the recovery of Celilo Falls under the stewardship of the Columbia River Tribes, and co-author and editor of The Militarization of Indian Country with Winona LaDuke (2012). He is the survivor of the abduction of his four children, who disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction in 1996.

He served in the Oregon legislature as Senator Avel Louise Gordly’s chief of staff for six years (2003-2007) and led the workgroup that produced Oregon’s landmark child abduction statute, Senate Bill 1041, in 2005. SB 1041 is also called “Aaron’s Law” in memory of Sean’s late son Aaron Cruz, who died in the course of the Mormon kidnapping. He is a Chicano, of Mexican and Irish ancestry, Raza, mestizo, a descendant of ancient people who thrived on this continent long before any son of a bitch named Christopher Columbus or that Spanish bastard Cortes arrived.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rivers flooding, highways closing, a Mormon kidnapping underway

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Rivers are flooding, highways closing.... These are the same weather conditions as when the Mormons took my four kids out of their schools and vanished, during the Great Storm of 1996.

They shuttled my kids among themselves from place to place in Oregon, Washington and finally to theocratic Utah, all in violation of the joint custody order that had protected my children for five years, keeping their lives orderly and secure.

You would never do this to children you actually loved.

Today’s Oregonian headline reads:

Oregon winter storm: Mother and child die; 17 rivers at or near flood stage; more rain on the way

Takes me all the way back to the Great Storm of 1996, and a lonely, desperate search for four missing children, children I love with all of my heart….

Law enforcement, the courts and the media take little interest in missing children when family members are involved.

The U.S. Department of Justice tallies more than 200,000 cases of parental and family abductions taking place across the country each year, every year, year after year….

I’ll have more to say about this later, just talkin’ about the weather….
The first places the Mormons hid my children in Utah were organized by Mormon zealots Chris and Kory Wright, in the mountains east of Ogden.
Years later, kidnapping bastard Kory Wright moved his family back to the Portland Metro Area, working for a Mormon-owned company, Columbia Ultimate, where he's on its management team:
More about this later, and later still....

Monday, January 09, 2012

On the future of the U.S. military and (American) Indian Country

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The release of Winona LaDuke and Sean Cruz’s new book, "The Militarization of Indian Country", could hardly be more timely.

As the war in Iraq comes to an end and that other war over there in Afghanistan winds down, the U.S. military prepares to reverse-deploy tens of thousands of veterans home to join the ranks of unemployed veterans already standing in line for jobs that largely do not exist.

Wounded veterans, of which there are more than 30,000, including amputees in record numbers, and more than 100,000 veterans who suffer various degrees of lifetime consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the Signature Injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, already languish in failing VA medical delivery systems, overwhelmed by the numbers for more than a decade.

In “The Militarization of Indian Country”, Winona points out that America’s Indian Country suffers the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in the nation at the same time that Native Americans serve in the U.S. military in higher percentages than any other race or ethnicity.

As the Pentagon prepares to downsize and modernize the modern military, the impact in Indian Country will therefore be deeply felt, and Winona suggests strategies to repurpose the military going forward to achieve true homeland security, and to ease veterans’ transitions to civilian employment.

According to Winona, true homeland security involves food sovereignty, protecting the land and everything needed to sustain life. The future US military’s role, therefore, should include protecting supplies of clean, potable water, such as the vital Oglalla Aquifer that is currently being threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline.

In “The Militarization of Indian Country”, Winona speaks to the US military’s habitual descriptions of any hostile or enemy territory anywhere in the world as “Indian Country”, the military’s use of Native American imagery and naming (Tomahawk missiles and Apache helicopters), and its shameful code-naming of Osama bin Laden as Geronimo.

The Honor the Earth edition of “The Militarization of Indian Country” sold out in a flash, but will soon be released by Michigan State University Press, in its prestigious Makwa Enewed Series, with much new material. The book goes to typesetting in February.

Makwa Enewed is a sub-imprint of the American Indian Studies Series, at Michigan State University Press. The series stands dedicated to books that encompass the varied views and perspectives of people working in American Indian communities. In that light, books published under the Makwa Enewed imprint rely less on formal academic critique, argument, methodology, and research conventions and more on experientially grounded views and perspectives on issues, activities and developments in Indian Country.

“While work published in Makwa Enewed may resound with certain personal, speculative, conversational, political and/or social concerns of individuals and groups of individual American Indian people, in a larger sense such concerns and their delivery reflects the import, strength, uniqueness, and potential viability of the series.

“The series will gather its strength from the voices of tribal leaders, community activists, and socially engaged Native people. Thus, each publication in the Makwa Enewed will call forth from tribally based people and places, reminding readers of the varied beliefs and pressing interests of American Indian tribal people and communities.”

In the meantime, Hoopa Tribal Radio KIDE FM in Northern California has produced a fantastic reading of the Honor the Earth edition of “The Militarization of Indian Country”, here:

Hoopa Tribal Radio KIDE FM

The Militarization of Indian Country reviewed

Georgianne Nienaber’s perceptive review is here:

Winona LaDuke Explores The Militarization of Indian Country From Geronimo to Bin Laden

By Georgianne Nienaber, Huffington Post Books, May 12, 2011

“Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist and twice Ralph Nader's Green Party Vice Presidential Candidate , has written a dramatic and prescient book, The Militarization of Indian Country (Honor the Earth)…. Which brings us to the timely publication of LaDuke's book. In it she uses considerable scholarly prowess to examine how and why Native culture has become inextricably entwined with military institutions….”

“Those who disagree might say that LaDuke is relying upon "political correctness" to make her point, but read the book and what emerges goes straight to the heart and soul of the militarization of not just Indian culture, but mainstream American ethos as well….”

“The Militarization of Indian Country examines in dreadful detail how the military has poisoned, murdered, and exterminated parts of indigenous populations. It is carefully organized into sections examining the deep ties between the military and indigenous people, how the economy drives the military and vice-versa, the military's appropriation of Indian lands, and a somewhat hopeful prognosis for future relations if America rethinks her priorities.”

“In this well-researched, critical, and historical analysis, LaDuke at times takes the stance of a spiritual teacher, redefining and correcting the common interpretation of what it means to be a "warrior." LaDuke uses both a scholarly and soulful process; reclaiming the breadth and depth of Native spirituality on behalf of her people, and giving the reader concise insight into a belief and honor system that is unique in its interpretation of war, its responsibilities, and its consequences.”

Bunky Echo-Hawk

Cover art by Bunky Echo-Hawk….

Sunday, January 01, 2012

I've seen fire

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end….”

James Taylor’s timeless1970 masterpiece “Fire and Rain” speaks to the universal soul of human experience, connects us in the most intimate ways to the grief we share individually and collectively at different times in our lives, recalls for me the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who wrote in Anna Karenina that “Every happy family is exactly alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

None of us are exempt from the pain and loss that life brings: the death of loved ones, betrayals of trust, forces of nature, random acts of violence and deliberate criminality, catastrophic indifference and just plain stupidity. Whether tsunami or house fire, public and wholesale or private and intensely personal, we all cross paths with one or more of his lines, sooner or later. We are human.

“Lord knows the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around….”

There are few songs that say so much in a line, and Fire and Rain has become for me a song that captures my uniquely unhappy family’s experience in the wake of the abduction of my four children, a Mormon kidnapping now entering its sixteenth year.

“The plans they made put an end to you….”

At this time, in January 1996, Mormon officials in three states were putting the finishing logistical touches on their plans to cause my four children to disappear into a series of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah, deliberately causing them to suffer the loss of their father and all of their Cruz family, in order to impose a full-on Mormon indoctrination despite the order for joint custody that had kept their lives orderly and secure, their personalities whole and beautiful, for five years.

These Mormons, you see, wanted to exact a price from me for speaking in opposition to Mormon dogma. They wanted to enforce a shunning, and force my own children to participate, first by isolating them and then by creating both physical and emotional distance. No mail would get through, no phone calls, no contact, and a squad of Mormon lawyers in three states fully engaged to enforce the shunning.

In fact, mail sent to their mother’s last known address in Hillsboro, Oregon, was not forwarded to wherever my children had been taken, a step the Mormons had taken to make it more difficult for me to find them. I later learned that the desperate letters I wrote to my children were forwarded instead to the Hillsboro home of Evelyn Taylor, then the president of the Mormon Relief Society, the highest office a woman can aspire to in the Mormon universe.

My son Aaron did not survive his forced immersion into concentrated Mormonism, isolated and surrounded, under constant pressure to reject his non-Mormon father.

Indeed, the Mormons wanted to kill off anything in my children that would remind them of me, and Aaron was just about exactly like me. They even noted that his skin was “slightly dark”, and Mormon dogma preaches that a dark skin is “the mark of Cain”, a sign of an evil nature.

(Explain that fact to the voters, about the dark skin, Mitt Romney, Mormon Bishop Mitt Romney)….

For my other three children, the key to survival was to adapt themselves into the new regime, and they did. This is where they remain today, still caught up in a religious war between Mormonism (“Good”) and everyone else (“Evil”).

“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone….”

No one had to let me know that the children were gone. I could feel it! They had been removed from their schools in violation of the joint custody order and their mother’s house had been emptied. They were gone, just like that, no information at all about where they had been taken!

Kidnappings are always ambushes. Stealth and surprise, whisperings in Mormon congregations....
I wake up every morning knowing that you are gone….

“I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song 
 just can't remember who to send it to….”

I’ll write about these lines sometime soon, but not now, about the walking, about the writing, about the remembering and the sending….

“Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line
To talk about things to come….”

And I’ll write about the hours, about the time, about the end of time on the telephone, about the end of talking, of planning, of dreaming with my children, about the things to come….

“Won't you look down on me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way….”

By the time the first kidnapped year came to an end, now aware of the Mormon forces at work, even to the names of some of the criminals, I had slipped into a crushing clinical depression. I had lost all hope of seeing my children again, and these were “lonely times when I could not find a friend….”

Just as I was preparing to end my life, in January 1997, a pastor from Victory Outreach, an inner-city church in Northeast Portland, invited me to move into their Men’s Re-entry Home, a sort of halfway house located upstairs over the building the church met in, a former neighborhood movie theater.

In order to live, I had to find reasons to live every day, day after day, and from there I became involved in community and public service, receiving an appointment by the US Attorney to a crime-fighting steering committee, and later a founding board member of a national program for the US Department of Justice, representing the Pacific Northwest.

The battle to find and recover my children became more intense once I became involved in a church, because the Mormons believe that all other religions are false, even “whore(s) of a church” in Mormon dogma. They are an American Taliban....

I would live there at Victory Outreach for the next five years…where I asked Jesus to look down on my children and protect them every day, every single day, counting each day, day after day….

“But I always thought that I'd see you again….”

I will never give up, thinking that I will see you each and all again, even knowing that the entire Mormon church is organized to protect itself and its members from any negative disclosure.

But Mitt Romney is in the news now, and will be throughout 2012, and we are going to take on the subject of Mormonism and its rampant evils, all…year…long.

My son Aaron waits for me in the afterlife, my son who rejected Mormonism just like his father, and there is not a thing the Mormons can do about it. I will see you again, Aaron…and you too, Natalia, Tyler and Allie, I will see you again, when you are free once more, free to be who you really are….

And here is James Taylor himself, to send our spirits soaring….

Fire and Rain

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Won't you look down on me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

I’ve been walking my mind to an easy time
My back turned towards the sun
Lord knows the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line
To talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.

oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again, now

Thought I'd see you one more time again
There's just a few things coming my way this time around,
Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you fire and rain, now
Thought i'd see you just one more time again.