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Friday, January 30, 2015

John Pilger Interview: White Australians Would Like Aboriginal People to Disappear

By Mark Karlin, Truthout 

John Pilger (right) working on the documentary "Utopia." (Photo: Bullfrog Films)John Pilger (right) working on the documentary Utopia. (Photo: Bullfrog Films)

Noted journalist John Pilger directed and is the lead investigator in an extraordinary documentary, Utopia: An Epic Story of Struggle and Resistance.

Pilger incisively and tenaciously reveals the brutal conquest and continued racist treatment of the Aboriginal people in Australia. Against this appalling historical documentation of conquest, discriminating and neglect, Pilger also highlights the continued resistance of the original inhabitants of the land stolen by British settlers.

You can obtain the 2-disc DVD set now with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here.
The following is a Truthout interview with John Pilger about Utopia.

Mark Karlin: Needless to say, one understands the irony of titling the film Utopia from very near the beginning of the documentary. Can you provide some details about the town and area and what you show of its abject neglect in the film?

John Pilger: The irony of Utopia isn't mine. It's the name given a vast, forbidding expanse of Australia's north by the British. What did they imagine? Perhaps, demented by the ferocity of the heat and dust, they intended to turn it into an English garden. More realistically, they understood that great wealth lay beneath the land. Certainly, their disregard for the people who had lived there for thousands of years - arguably the longest continuous human community - was typical of the attitudes that came with the colonial invasion of Australia. The indigenous people were at one with the harshness of the land; they knew where to find water and food; this was their physical and cultural home.
For more than two centuries, white Australians have tried to expel them - they've driven them into fringe camps, corralled them in reserves, stolen their children, imposed cruel and petty rules. Denied basic services most Australians take for granted, the people of Utopia suffer the kind of deprivation and disease associated with Africa; for example, Aboriginal children go blind from trachoma, a preventable disease eradicated in many third world countries. White Australia would like them to disappear; the First Australians not only refuse to disappear, they resist, often heroically.

There were so many horrifying details of daily life in Utopia, but I couldn't help but become physically queasy when a person charged with trying to improve life at the settlement talked about commonly finding cockroaches in the ears of aborginal people. How did you react to this revelation?
Yes, that's not uncommon. Many of the children in these communities suffer from otitis media, an ear infection that leads to deafness. It's a disease of extreme poverty. You ask about my reaction. As one born and brought up in Australia, my reaction is always a mixture of anger and shame.

Can you provide us with some historical context to the conquest of the Aboriginal people in what is now known as Australia Day and how to this day the nation of Australia has not acknowledged the native ownership of the continent by First Nations' peoples?
On January 26, 1788, a British naval fleet of ships, known as the First Fleet, dropped anchor in what is now Sydney Harbor. Australia was to be a penal colony following Britain's loss of its American colonies. The poor, the petty criminal, the rebellious of England and Ireland would be sent to the end of the earth - my great-great grandparents were among them, convicted of 'uttering unlawful oaths.'
The victims soon included the native people, whose land was appropriated. Indigenous people all over the world share a common suffering as a result of colonialism and immigration. This is not to deny there have been hard-won advances. For example, the High Court of Australia has acknowledged "Native Title" - prior ownership - but it's a paper recognition over which the great mining companies operate an effective veto.

You offer excellent interviews with Australian government officials who claim that it is - more or less - "a new day" for Aboriginal people in the nation, but your film directly disproves those assertions. Were you surprised at their brazen assertions?
No, I am never surprised by the lies and cynicism of those who watch over the designs of colonialism - in Australia, anywhere.

Can you briefly describe the so-called "emergency " government intervention that occurred in the "Northern Territory National Emergency Response" under the government of Prime Minister John Howard in 2007? It was so racist and such a cover for government control of Aboriginal land that might have minerals that it represented much of Canberra's mistreatment of the people that they conquered.
This was presented by John Howard as a vote-gaining crusade to "save" indigenous children from pedophiles in their communities, which were said to be operating in "unthinkable" numbers. It was a political con on such a scale that I suspect it could have happened only in Australia. The principal allegations were found to be baseless by the Northern Territory Police, the National Crime Commission, the Central Australian medical specialists' association, even by the author of a report whose recommendations the government claimed it was acting upon. The media played a central, shameful role, as the film reveals.

You spend a good deal of time on the theft of Aboriginal children in a government attempt to integrate them into European-centric culture. This is called the "stolen generation," but you contend the seizure of Aboriginal babies is still occurring, even in hospitals just after they are born, is that right?
Official statistics show that more Aboriginal children are being taken from their families and communities than at any time in Australian history. In the state of New South Wales, 10 percent of indigenous children have been taken, many of them placed with white families and unlikely to see their mothers and communities again. This is assimilation and little different in principle from the crude paternalism of the 19th and 20th century, which, in the infamous words of one official, sought to "breed out the color" of Australia's First People.

Similar to most colonial conquests, the Aboriginal people were considered subhuman, often killed and imprisoned. The lucky ones were just ignored to live, if they could survive, in the arid and beastly hot interior of the nation.
There is another, insidious element. A very small but significant section of Indigenous Australia has been co-opted by white authority - rewarded with education and bureaucratic largesse. This has produced a "transmission" colonial class of the kind that Franz Fanon wrote about and which oversees a divide-and-rule policy that ensures the majority remain at or near the bottom.

In 1901, the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, led the passage of what became known as "the White Australia Policy." The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 was based on what an Australian MP at the time said: "William McMillan spoke about the desire 'to prevent any alien or servile races from so occupying large territories in Australia, as to mix and interfuse, not merely among themselves, but with our own people. " (That's a quotation from the Australian Parliament website.) Where does Australia legally stand today, and where does it stand in fact?
The White Australia Policy is long gone; officially, there is no race discrimination in Australia. Certainly, in my lifetime the composition of the immigrant society has changed from that of predominately Anglo-Irish to one of the most multicultural in the world. Yet, racism runs like a current through much of Australia. Ask any indigenous person. They will often describe what amounts to a human contempt for them, for the truth of their past and their culture. At the very least, many Australians display an invincible ignorance of the one human feature of their country that is unique: the original people.

You have a segment in the film where you interview white Australians celebrating the nation's birthday. The range of responses to you asking the party-goers about the conquered indigenous population ranges from befuddlement to outrage at your question. From that random sample, the plight of the Aboriginal people appears to be a topic that spoils the fun, doesn't it?
That's a concise way of putting it.

You've done other documentaries on the plight of the aborigines, the racist superciliousness and indifference of the Euro-centric descendants, and the utter blighted existences of most aborigines. Has anything changed over the years that you have been covering this racial discrimination in your native Australia?
Australia remains a vivid expression of the way colonial power - from the 18th century to the present-day - regards and treats those whose land it steals. I made a film about the Native Americans, and the similarities are striking. My own belief is that until we, the colonizers and the immigrants, give back the nationhood of those whose lives our forebears so disrupted and destroyed, we can never claim our own.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where is Michael Swartz?

By Trace Hentz

Back in 2011, I posted a story on this blog about the book SUDDEN FURY and the grizzly murder of Maryland adoptive parents Kay and Larry Swartz who had adopted three children, Larry, Michael and Annie. (This old post is still getting comments and questions.)

In the book (right) it stated that Michael Swartz was a Native American adoptee who was removed from his family at age 4 and adopted by the Swartz couple in Maryland.

Three days after their parents' funeral, adopted son Larry Swartz confessed that he was the killer.

What Happened to Michael Swartz?

Michael continued to get into trouble and at age 25, he was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, for participating in robbing and murdering a man. Today Michael would be 48 years old.

Here is a profile of the case from 2004:

Profile of Larry Swartz

I have contacted Leslie Walker, the author of Sudden Fury, to ask her if she followed up on this case and if she might be able to help me locate Michael.

If you know where he is, what prison, please email me: larahentz@yahoo.com


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brewing Controversy: Genetic Testing and Tribal Identity

Why many Native Americans have concerns about DNA kits like 23andme

Havasupai man in front of sweat lodge, 1924 ( NPS/Flickr )
The genetic sequencing company 23andMe recently tapped into its vast bank of data to release a study on genetic origins, producing the biggest genetic profile of the United States ever conducted—big, but nowhere near complete.

Out of more than 160,000 genomes, only 3 percent of 23andMe customers who authorized their data for the study were black, compared with the approximately 14 percent of the United States population who identifies as such. And while the paper traced what percent of white, black, and Latino customers’ ancestry led back to Native Americans, there were no users, as far as the paper reported, who self-identified as native people.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The service isn’t free, and not everyone wants—or can afford—to shell out $99 to learn about their ancestry. But when it comes to Native Americans, the question of genetic testing, and particularly genetic testing to determine ancestral origins, is controversial.
In the past decade, questions of how a person's genetic material gets used have become more and more common. Researchers and ethicists are still figuring how how to balance scientific goals with the need to respect individual and cultural privacy. And for Native Americans, the question of how to do that, like nearly everything, is bound up in a long history of racism and colonialism.

* * *
In many ways, the concerns that Native Americans have with genetic testing are the ones most people have: Who will be using this data, and for what?
 
Today, DNA can tell us a little about a lot of things, from disease risks to ancestral history. But ultimately it’s pretty limited. In fact, 23andMe was recently chastised by the FDA, which claimed the company was overselling the predictive power of their test for medical use. But in the future, that same little sample of DNA could be used for purposes that haven't even been dreamed up yet. People might be okay with their DNA being used to research cures for cancer, or to explore their own genetic history, but balk at it being used to develop biological weapons or justify genocide.

These are questions that anyone who gives their genetic material to scientists has to think about. And for Native Americans, who have witnessed their artifacts, remains, and land taken away, shared, and discussed among academics for centuries, concerns about genetic appropriation carry ominous reminders about the past. “I might trust this guy, but 100 years from now who is going to get the information? What are people going to do with that information? How can they twist it? Because that’s one thing that seems to happen a lot,” says Nick Tipon, the vice-chairman of the Sacred Sites Committee of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, an organization that represents people of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo descent.

Another reason many tribes struggle with a scientist asking for a DNA sample involves the DNA collection process. Namely, that it requires removal of some piece of the body. In the living, this may seem simple: a swab of the cheek or a quick blood sample. But for scientists who want to study historical DNA, they have to remove a piece of the dead body. It’s a small piece, but DNA analysis is almost always destructive. This, again, isn’t a specifically tribal issue, as Tipon points out. “How would current people feel if their great-great-grandfathers were dug up and their bones were destroyed during testing to prove a theory?” he asked. “Rest in peace means forever, not to be disturbed, not to be studied, unless they consented to that.”

Some of the questions geneticists seek to answer are also provocative among Native Americans. The first is the issue of migration: Where did different people come from? Who colonized the United States first? Where did they go once they arrived? These are questions that archaeologists and geneticists are really interested in because they help paint a picture of how migrations patterns occurred in the United States before white settlers arrived, and how European settlement changed things.
But figuring out where your ancestors came from becomes complicated when it entails a legacy of exclusion of displacement. Tribes each have important cultural histories, that include their origin stories. Many of their histories say that the tribe came from the land, that they arose there and have always lived there. And many of them have more modern histories that include white settlers challenging their right to live where they did. 

So to many tribal people, having a scientist come in from the outside looking to tell them where they’re “really” from is not only uninteresting, but threatening. “We know who we are as a people, as an indigenous people, why would we be so interested in where scientists think our genetic ancestors came from?” asks Kim Tallbear, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science, and a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe.

Tallbear says that from her perspective, researchers offering to tell tribes where they’re from doesn’t look any different than the Christians who came in to tell them what their religion should be. “Those look like very similarly invasive projects to us,” she said. Tribes haven’t forgotten the history of scientists who gathered native skulls to prove that native people were less intelligent, and thus less entitled to the land they lived on than the white settlers. To them, these genetic questions of origin look pretty similar.
KEEP READING

Monday, January 26, 2015

Broken: Trauma Bonding? #flipthescript #validvoices





trau·ma    
A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption. 

 

By Trace Hentz (adoption survivor)

After many years, in many quiet moments, I recognize that adoption has affected me very deeply.   
In my case, the day my mother left me, how she never came back, my world changed.  All I knew as this newborn baby was my own mother was not holding me, nursing me, talking to me. I was devastated by that. Broken. Part of my brain shut down. That pain was too much.

That very early experience needed to be processed as stress and trauma much later as an adult.  No one explained this to me, not even a doctor. As an adult I understand that a church/adoption agency places an infant with new parents and society says this is good and permanent. Good? Good for who?

Years pass and I accept this happened to me and my early trauma scars me.  

This monumental loss of my mother cracks me open and I am left to survive it, or not.  No one explains that I need to grieve this. I figure it out.  After years pass, I finally understand.  This experience affected me in complex ways.  This pain has layers and layers and layers.

But for others to tell me adoption was good for me? What? Or how I need to accept this is "adoption." Accept it? Are they kidding?  My scars are invisible but they are there. I know they are there.

How Catholic Charities took possession of me, handled me, first placing me in an orphanage then foster home, with no regard for my physical health, or my trauma-ridden emotional body, this speaks to the inhumanity of child trafficking and the traumatic consequences of adoption for the infant.  This speaks to the inhumanity of the deadly colonization of Indigenous people whose children were taken from them, calling us stolen generations. This speaks to a society that only sees what it wants to see.
Once adopted, you’re erased, an outsider, a stranger to your own nation, lands and people. I prefer to think of my younger self as brainwashed.

The bonding I had made with those mystery foster parents was also broken. How Catholic Charities and other churches and adoption agencies did this to millions of babies has consequences. This leaves millions of adoptees in the state of trauma, a stranger being raised by strangers, and a stranger to your first family.

Adoption is a cruel and inhumane way to treat an infant. A very sick society would do this.  And removing me from my own mother affected me in ways that are now measured and defined as post-traumatic stress disorder, or reactive attachment disorder, or severe narcissistic injury...and this explains how I was unable to bond with my adoptive parents.

What’s Trauma Bonding? What is Complex PTSD? (traumaanddissociation.wordpress.com) 

 

"When a mother is forced to choose between the child and the culture, there is something abhorrently cruel and unconsidered about that culture. A culture that requires harm to one's soul in order to follow the cultures prescriptions is a very sick culture indeed. This 'culture' can be the one a woman lives in, but more damning yet, it can be the one she carries around and complies with within her own mind....." -- Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The bizarre ESP experiments conducted on aboriginal children without parental consent

January 16 Washington Post

Canada’s residential schools for aboriginal children were places of hunger, isolation and misery. Children as young as 3 were separated from their families and became wards of the state.

In the 1940s, the children were also, as more and more evidence is revealing, the unwitting subjects of bizarre, cruel and unethical experimentation.

A recently uncovered experiment reveals the depths of the access given to so-called researchers seeking to find evidence that aboriginal children, by dint of their race, had extrasensory perception, also known as ESP, or a “sixth sense.”

Fifty children at the Indian Residential School in Brandon, Manitoba, became the subjects of a series of tests that sought to establish a new measure for identifying ESP and also to find evidence of supernatural abilities of “primitive” people.

As was typical for the time, there was no parental consent. But the children, ranging from ages 6 to 20, likely participated “willingly,” as the study claims, eager for candy that might stave off their persistent hunger.

The study was conducted for researchers at what was then known as the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory; the findings were published in the Journal of Parapsychology in 1943.

“The bare fact that American Indians have shown ESP ability is not surprising enough to deserve great emphasis,” the study’s author wrote.

The study was recently uncovered by Maeengan Linklater, an aboriginal community worker, who forwarded it to  Ian Mosby, a researcher at McMaster University.

KEEP READING

Monday, January 19, 2015

RAD: Guest Post: Levi Eagle Feather Sr.



Part Two: RAD
by Levi Eagle Feather Sr.

"as long as he's not bleeding he's fine
its just that
there are so damn many ways to bleed
that at times he's not really sure.....
but what the fuck
he's still standing" 
John Trudell
 
         The Western narrative sucks for a lot of people. Due mostly to the fact that the actual living of it comes nowhere near the glory of its telling. Not even close!
         For those of us who are descended from the original caretakers of this land the facts of living this reality get pretty bad at times. The more we become aware and understand why they get even worse and sometimes legendarily so!
         By default, those of us who got adopted out, we play a role in all of this. Our role may not be living on a reservation or even living within an American Indian community like a lot of our relatives do. But wherever we live, whatever we have done and whatever we have achieved has been accomplished outside the safety and comfort of our cultural heritage, our birthright. Needless to say, in this we have had no input or choice in the matter.
         This we share in common with all other American Indians alive today. No matter the location or condition of our social status or living situation, we are living the consequence of that reality. We lack our cultural heritage, our birthright and choice in the matter. In my opinion we are not better off because of it!
         I have never accepted my piece of this consequence as being a good thing for me. I didn't then and I still don't. For me it was not only something shitty which happened to me, but was for a long time beyond my ability to comprehend. In real time people were allowed to fuck me over and get away with it. Without any repercussions for them or reparation to me and it was considered to be something good I was expected to appreciate. It sucked then and when it happens now, it still does! 
         I spent eleven years of my early years resenting this and fighting back the best I could the best I knew how. When I was old enough and fed up with it enough I ran. It happened and this is how I dealt with it!
         Nothing much changed on the front end of that equation. The only change has been on the back end of it. How I choose to deal with it today. I don't run as much as I used too.
         I realize not everyone had my kind of experience. This is a good thing. For those of you who did I would like to think it's gotten better for you by now. Not everyone reacted to their experience the same way that I did either. This also I think is a good thing! I'm glad you didn't. I'm not a person who could wish a bad experience on anyone. For those of you who had less than a stellar experience. I would like to think you're finding your way and are doing better now.
         Regardless of what I think or how I felt about it. I was still raised to fit in with the Western narrative. To follow along and feed my energy and effort into the confusion and madness of it's dominence and influence. I've never been successfull at it though. At least not willingly and definitely not with any grace or much finesse. 
         Yes, I went to different schools and got their paper. I even went into it's military, eventually learning some valuable skills, eventually picking up trade experience. I've had several different kinds of jobs and occupations because of this. I've even experienced family and belonging along the way in a variety of places, situations and settings. But overall I never really fit, never liked it or felt like it was me and I suffered because of this.
         This is how being westernized, affected me. I think, it affects a majority of us American Indian folk in this way to varying degrees. I think it affects us, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Not always in the same ways on the same levels or to the same degree necessarily, but I think it affects us all. Not so that we can fit in, but so we can't resist it.
         The roots of the suck we experience are not rooted in a race, an ethnicity, a religion, or a creed though. Nor is it rooted in the color of anyone's skin. In my opinion it is rooted in a skewed way of thinking. A skewed way of perceiving reality. We are taught to think this way and we learn it and adapt to it!
         John Trudell, a Dakota relative of mine, broke our malfunction down this way.

            I've come to the conclusion that there are two perceptions of reality.
There's a religious perception of reality and there's a spiritual perception of reality.
            The religious perception of reality is about guilt sin and blame and thats the trap. Thats the chain thats hold every citizen.
            Spiritual perception of reality,...is about the responsibility. We're all responsible. We're not guilty we're  responsible.
            And its trying to make our way through these two perceptions of reality. That seems to be the biggest problem we're confronted with as human beings on the planet right now! Cause the religious perception is about dominence its not about responsibility its about subserviance and male authoritarian figures. And the spiritual perception of reality is about life and respect and responsibility.
            I think that the new world order is marching on. To me, in my own mind, it comes closer and closer to that... and is very real... that even though Germany and the Axis lost  WWII. I don't think that the Nazi's did. I think that the Nazi's won WWII. And I think that thier authoritarian methods of behavioral control, mind manipulation, converting human spirit into energy so that they can feed the need for their technologies. I think all of this stuff is just moving right on down the line again.
            And I think that there really is no political solution or an economic solution that exists right now. And I think we need to get a clearer perception of reality and where we are in reality and take responsibility. And by using our intelligence intelligently. Create the solutions that we need to create. Because right now we're just more fuel.
            Somewhere under the religious perception of reality a decision was made that the earth was the dominion of man and man therefore could plunder the earth. That man could take whatever they wanted from the earth. But somewhere in the progress of this mindset man has forgotten that we are part of the earth. And just the way that this system of technologic man has devised to take the resources of the earth and turn them into fuel and energy. They've taken our spirit and they're turning it through the process, through their process of civilization. Taking our spirit and turning it into energy to run their system. We need to remember that what happens to the earth happens to us. I'm not advocating anyones politics or any of it. To me, I just think we've got to continue to do the best that we can do. And thats what I'm trying to do.
1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbjzujo1Qx8


         Of course this suck didn't happen overnight. It started long ago. Feeding off of and compounding with violence, the fear and chaos which separation from knowing and understanding ones place in nature causes. This skewed way of thinking and percieving reality was well developed and deeply entrenched in the western mind long before it reached our lands.
         It didn't take long for it to take root in our land. It's grown and morphed becoming highly refined and firmly entrenched. It's civilized now! Just as deadly and just as abusive, but civilized. At least in the western mind it is.
         Due to it, the destruction of our nature based cultures has become normal operating procedure. Insulating and normalizing our grief and suffering. Each successive generation the grief and suffering has mounted. Until our generation where loss of belonging and tribal identity have become common place.
         I look at this part of our history as the incubating process for a collective reattachment disorder. Individually, and as a part of a collective, we suffer this disorder without a clear and coherent way of seeing it. Consequently, we have no way of being able to find our way clear of it.
         In addition to this conditioned state of being. Where reactive attachment disorder exists and has morphed becoming the foundation of nearly all our societal interactions. We suffer too from a collective amnesia.
         This amnesia of which I speak is rooted in our loss of knowledge and understanding of cultural heritage. A knowledge base and educational body as large and comprehensive as all of that which we have received throughout our westernization process. For folks like myself access to this knowledge is critical.
         A friend of mine, Steve Smith, whose profession happens to be in the psychological field offered his thoughts on this subject.

            "Often when children are placed in abusive situations....situations where they are not cherished they bond to the anger, to the violence or some other abnormal thing (to bond to). They used to tell us that this is a permanent condition....the RAD or being bonded to abnormal things....but we are learning all the time what the elders have known....the brain is plastic (jargon for flexible) people suffering stroke or brain injury learn to use other parts of the brain to perform basic functions. Those of us exposed to living in places where we were not cherished....or even wanted can and do learn to bond normally to the healthy aspects and of course to those we love. Culture and spirituality are amazing at facilitating this kind of healing as is proper nutrition and exercise." Steve Smith via Facebook

           
            In future segments I will offer more on this subject. It won't be for everyone, necessarily. That is up to the reader to decide. It won't be definitive because our cultures are not that way and never have been. For those who are interested I can say it will be interesting, because it always is. What is more important, however and what I would most like for people to understand. Especially, folk like myself, American Indian folk who mistrust and hurt and don't clearly understand why. Homogenous tribal and cultural lifestyles may be a thing of the past, but culturally based living is not.
         You can be educated, undereducated, employed, unemployed, single, married to another Indian, transracially married, divorced, gay or straight, it doesn't matter. At the core of who we are, tribally, non-tribally, fullblood, halfbreed or fingernail is the reality of human beings being human. Our ancestral ways our ancestral cultural ways were the roadmaps the methods and the systems that taught us this. They educated, guided and showed us the why's, what's and wherefore's of how to live. So that we would belong, be connected and know and understand our place and our relationships to all that is. So until next time brothers and sisters stay classy and don't sweat the small stuff!  Hau Mitakuye Oyasin!   

        
            
                

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