Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Speaking the truth and seeking hope: letters from Chris Mato Nunpa and Linda Hogan, pt 2

Chris Mato Nunpa is a leader of the Dakota Sioux. He fought for the passage of resolutions by the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Redwood City city councils, honoring his ancestors who were driven from Minnesota and whose lands were (further) stolen in 1862 by making this The Year of the Dakota, see here and here. He ia also a professor of indigenous literature at Southwest Minnesota State University and taught Linda Hogan's work for many years. In a passage from Mean Spirit, he invokes and feels through the powerful need for and the obstacles to hope in a way we all could learn from (Vincent Harding named hope as the vision of a beloved community, his group "The Veterans of Hope").

Though a gift or a presence, hope is a constant struggle.


When the brute unfairness of what is, especially towards a whole people, is endured, it is often hard to keep going (many who are active for a period of time "burn out"). After long struggle, some - even Linda's grandfather - give up. It is important that Chris has (lives with) the words from Mean Spirit.


Having taught as a poet and novelist for many years at Boulder, Hogan returned to work with her people, the Chickasaw, in rural Oklahoma (her return was a powerful act). See "Settler Aggression is now: a letter from Linda Hogan," part 1 here.


But there is as much justice for indigenous people in rural Oklahoma as in pre-civil rights Southern towns like Philadelphia, Mississippi, where my friend Andy Goodman was murdered 50 years ago June 21. See "Smoke and Water" here and Freedom Summer, shown last night, here.


Chris mentions again - see here - using Linda's words in the book he is writing "SICA TANKA KIN, THE GREAT EVIL: GENOCIDE, THE BIBLE, AND THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE U.S."


Law is hard to come by in rural Oklahoma. As Chris and George Mitchell, a founder of the American Indian Movement in Minnesota, say, justice for the US government\settlers is "Just us", just as it is for Chinese settlers in Tibet or Israeli settlers in Hebron (in October 2012 as part of the Dorothy Cotton Institute delegation, we saw the well-guarded "Jews-only Shahuda street" busting up the main bazaar and then down below the unbustling streets covered with wire, which did not keep out feces and urine poured down by settler teenagers...).

Settler "justice" - part of what is today recognized as ethnic cleansing - is the opposite of truth, decency,...justice.


The University of Oklahoma football team, as Linda relates, is famously nicknamed the "Sooners." This is like the University of Denver nickname the "Pioneers." (the administration has rightly eliminated "Denver Boone" as a symbol, but...).

Such names for indigenous people, and for any person of democratic inclinations who knows about the history, emblemize "settler" rapacity.


Linda has been writing and speaking truth for years and was perhaps fired for it by the federal government during the sequester (see below). How many missiles did such firings procure (lots of teachers have also been laid off since the end of the stimulus)?


Poetry cleaves to truth (these are not usual words; this is not sleepwalker speech; a poem can be said in no other way). Being employed by the government and coming to hearings does not alter a tendancy to name things aptly.


Chris has, as he says in his letter, stood up these long years. Sometimes hope ebbs, sometimes, in this way of life, it abounds.


I would appreciate, from lawyers on this list, any help that can be given to Linda Hogan. For this is the small town "justice" my friend Andy Goodman suffered in Philadephia Mississippi 50 years ago (as Chris says, one goes on feeling these stories). Someone needs to help put Linda's case right...


Candace Odom wrote about a similar experience she had in Florida with a house in Arkansas below. Though her letter underlines a danger in using "realtors" when one isn't living oneself in the house and is not wealthy, she was able to salvage the value (but not the increase of value in the 10 years she lived in it) of the house.

But she did not quite face settler "law," represented by the town attorney, near a reservation...


America has long been governed by a tiny elite, pitting groups, all of whom suffer, against those who are even more oppressed.


In the British colonies and then the American Revolution, as Peter Silver underlines in Our Savage Neighbors (2012), the elite made an effort to unify settlers and slaves (!) against indigenous people. As Silver stresses, Bacon's Rebellion in 1683 is sometimes invoked as an example of black-white unity. But this was not a unity against racism; instead, it was for ethnic cleansing against native americans.


In a contemporary contrast, as Lerone Bennett points out in "The Road not Taken," blacks and indentured whites sometimes fled to join native americans. Many colonies had laws barring slaveowners from taking blacks into indigenous territory. And anti-miscegenation laws (laws against interracial marriage, abolished by the Supreme Court in the Loving decision only in the late 1950s) also aimed to prevent multiracial unity.


In addition, the American Revolution created the first new nation. This Revolution required liberating blacks to fight Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, who had freed all slaves and indentured servants (poor whites) willing to join with the Crown in November 1775. In a fierce military competition, George Washington recruited the First Rhode Island Regiment, made up of blacks and Narragansetts in 1778. Black Patriots and black Loyalists were, startlingly, the main dead at Yorktown, as German Private Georg Daniel Flohr wrote in his diary. Indigenous people also fought for the Americans and British. See my Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence here.


A rising abolitionist movement, led by black and white sailors and artisans, but sympathized with by some in the elite like John Laurens, won the greatest extension of freedom in the American Revolution: gradual emancipation was enacted throughout the North by 1804. In other words, there was a free North to fight the Civil War because of this - long forgotten, rarely noted before my 2012 book - achievement of the American Revolution.


Thus as Silver emphasizes, the unity of the American "Revolution", even though the Patriots recruited indigenous people, was against the Crown and against "savages" (those who committed genocide have the nerve to call others "savages"). For a video map of American pillaging across the Continent year by year since 1776, see here.


Even the Narragansetts were chased out of Rhode Island, treated even worse than free black veterans (some of whose descendants were settled on one-time indigenous land in Ohio in the 1820s - see Black Patriots and Loyalists).


That black folks involved in Bacon's Revolt confirmed slavery over themselves, that poor whites confirmed misery at the hands of British elite and then in the Revolution and subsequently (consider poor whites in the South who sometimes joined with blacks to fight racism, as in fighting for the North in the Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee or the early Populist movement or the Southern Tenants' Alliance), is the secret of the propagation and practice of racism, of which the long and obliterating racism against indigenous people, powerfully conjured in Chris's letter, is a paradigm.


Linda also wrote the article below on Tishomingo. The town is named for healing and healers, for the medicine/peace/ harmony chief. This beautiful Chickasaw name has, in the course of ethnic cleansing, public corruption and what I call Founding Amnesia, been forgotten. At most, today's residents think it is the name of a person...


"Hi Alan,

Thank you for sending this.

I have used Linda Hogan's book, MEAN SPIRIT (1990, Ivy Books, New York), in my Indigenous Literature class back in the 1990s and early 2000s. I loved, and still do, this book. One of her passages in the book really gripped me, and I have never forgotten it.

The passage is - "Stace was sitting by the water when he heard Belle approach. He looked up at her startling white hair, the whiteness of it surrounded by the old dark sky with its few early stars. Belle stood, looking down at him. "I brought you this blanket." He thanked her, but he was full of that dry, coarse silence of one who has been too much alone." "Is there anything else I can bring, anything at all you need?" she asked him. He thought about it a moment. "YES, I NEED HOPE." As soon as he spoke those words, he realized something else had spoken through him, a wiser part of himself, and his words made real that need. He felt overcome with a sadness. HE WANTED HOPE" (p. 370).

How many times, in my 73 "winters," have I felt this way - this sadness? and wanting HOPE? - the feeling of being alone, helpless and, perhaps, hopeless. The overwhelming odds against our Indigenous Peoples - their sheer numbers - tens of millions upon tens of millions of them their guns and technological weaponry their law against us, and protecting them their white friends filling the positions of power - Hogan's crooked realtor, her son being the attorney and closer, the FBI, an arm of the federal government, which government is supposed to be our "Trustee"

I remember an Anishinabe friend of mine, George Mitchell, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement in Minneapolis in the late 1960s, who said, "Justice for the white man means, "Just Us!" Their law protects them, not us, the Indigenous Peoples of the U.S.

If you feel like sending this on to Linda Hogan, please do so. I would do that myself but I do not have her email address. Linda came to Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, Minnesota back in the late 1990s or early 2000s (I can't remember). I really enjoyed talking to her.

Alan, keep sending the information to me - I learn from the materials that you send! Right now, I am still feeling the impact of Linda Hogan's story and of her passage above. Her writing is a source of encouragement and strength - to stay in the struggle (even at my old age).

Wopida Tanka eciciye do! "I extend to you my deepest appreciation."
Mato Nunpa de miye! ("I am Two Bear!"

The Struggle Continues,

p.s. As I think about Linda's passage above, I am thinking that I might use it in my Conclusion for the book which I am writing, "SICA TANKA KIN, THE GREAT EVIL: GENOCIDE, THE BIBLE, AND THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE U.S. I certainly need HOPE that the white man will start telling the TRUTH (GENOCIDE, in particular) about what really happened not only to the Dakota People of Minnesota but also to the Indigenous Peoples of the U.S."


In another letter (for her first letter, see here), Linda wrote:

"I moved to Oklahoma and experienced the same corruption and fraud my grandparents did. My grandparents, Chickasaws, had done well in life until their land was taken, stolen by the grandparents of thieves who live there now and do the same thing. As a Native person, it turned out that I was related to the person who had the first allotment where I lived back during the Dawes Act, and I used to walk the land, telling their spirit that I knew what had happened that they lost it to white people, probably "Sooners," as the football team is called.

I lost the money from my home, finally. The realtor had a reputation of lowering prices until people gave up, then sometimes buying them herself, her attorney son the closer. I asked the squatters who moved in without my permission to help with the payment because I lost more than home. I also lost work, time, selfhood, strength. As I said, I understand now what my family when through before Oklahoma was a state. My father was born in 1913. My grandfather, later , during the depression went looking for the banker and he carried a gun. He'd been pushed to the edge and I think he might have used it. After losing my own place, its value, the hardwood forest, the pasture, a larger home than how I now try to live in, I want to head that way with a gun just as he did.

He finally gave in to all his losses and became a man who sometimes slept with a bottle on the streets of Ardmore, Oklahoma, not far from the place once named for my great aunt. I understand the aggression myself from the previous story I told, understand it first hand. The attorney, son of realtor, made extra charges, backed me into a corner. Extortion, I believe. Then, when I questioned our $500 conference call and other items, they said I would postpone everything. Backed into a corner, I could only let them collect the money.

I now, like my own grandparents struggle to go on, to find a way to make a living. I do not teach. I left my position to go work for my own tribe. Permanently. With new policies and the sequester, my work was "eliminated." Perhaps it is more true that I wasn't silent about dishonest practices. I worked with issues in other departments, such as repatriation. At meetings I said what we might do better, or right, I always spoke the truth. Truth wasn't honored. I refused to sign a gag order on the publication of my book. The book was ready, typeset, introductions done, It was about Chickasaw life from the 50's ( and before) in rural SE Oklahoma until the present. What was there to be silent about? The book never came out.But I couldn't understand a gag order on a book contract or bring myself to sign it.. Also, they wanted to keep the copyright. I refused. My own people added to the harm of losing my life there, my livelihood. Tishomingo means Peace/Medicine/Harmony Chief when translated, but it has become a place of pit bull fighting and corruption. It is our oldest place, where business was done. Where theft through the Dawes Act had to be accepted. There isn't much peace or medicine there now. Not only that, but people think Tishomingo was the name of a man, not a long and historical position within our tribe. However, in a place where even a house painter might tear out your sink for some made up reason, then disappear with your money and/or your goods, someone might think of the original meanings of "Tish."



And here is Linda's newspaper article which has not yet been published:

"Tishomingo and Corruption

This is a word that in Chickasaw means Peace Chief, or Medicine Chief. Tishomingo is near a place of my childhood memories. It is the place my grandfather went to the Harley Institute before statehood, interestingly, with classmates Jesse and Frank James.

It has a history unmatched. It is the Chickasaw Capital since the land losses that took place with Removal and again after the Dawes Act. It is a Main Street town near a small amount of remaining forest with wildlife hunting. But something seems not quite right in this town. A large number of houses sit empty or have been bulldozed away. The cost of homes is low. Various kinds of corruption seem obvious to many who remain silent because everyone knows their neighbor or perhaps is related. The pit bull fights break a person’s heart at night. So do the kind of people involved. Animal cruelty is only one painful part of the region, with puppy mills and animal labs nearby.

Aside from that, a Pulitzer finalist moved to Tishomingo with the happiness of a homecoming over five years ago. She had to leave the small town last year when her job was eliminated. Even well-known writers have day jobs. Linda Hogan is known best in Oklahoma for writing the award-winning novel about oil scandals of the early 1920’s. Mean Spirit was the first of her several novels and it concerned itself with the first of criminal activity around oil drilling, murder, and theft that resulted in the formation of the FBI.

And it was the FBI she called recently about the trouble she had with a realtor and her son, the closing attorney. Before that, there had been contractors who took money and ran. Or who did the job poorly, resulting in more damage.Many stories this woman tells about Tishomingo are not pleasant ones, beginning with the vet who killed her cat by “accident,” and a director where she worked who laughed about her loss. And the story didn’t end when she had to leave a job she thought permanent.

When she says the only honest man she met there was the plumber. He was called numerous times after the contractors did poor work.

To avoid having no income, she moved to the Denver area. Even then, the movers from Durant stole her good furniture.

When it took a long time to sell the home, with the price constantly lowering, Hogan considered that as a small town reality. The house had settled, and after the move, it settled even more, so it would cost 23,000 to repair. Hogan could hardly believe that her nine acres with pasture and hardwood trees, a harm-free fence for horses, a well-created barn someone made for show horses, a workshop, and extra space, would sell for less than the amount that the barn and fence could have cost. In addition, she’d had large amounts of work done on the home, without knowing she would have to leave. That work even included one foundation repair that fell.

Working at self-employment as a writer and public speaker from a cabin in Colorado, Hogan didn’t think realtors would break the ethical code they held. But after a contract was signed in February, the house didn’t close on the March 2nd date, then not April 2nd, the next date. The buyers seemed anxious to move a trailer of items to the house. Hogan told the realtor a trailer couldn’t hurt much and they could park it at the barn.

Instead the buyers brought horses, a house trailer, and moved in without the owner’s knowledge, using the stove and bringing their own appliances for use. The realtor had said something, almost under her breath about the price being lowered again because the refrigerator, washer, and dishwasher didn’t work.

“What do you mean? Everything worked.” Hogan couldn’t figure out how everything went out at the same time.

The response was a subdued answer about how, well, they don’t work now. Hogan thought it might be an electric switch. She had paid the realtor to have “her man” winterize the house, and was assured that everything was fine. Hogan was paying heat during that time. If the house was being shown, why not turn up the heat? Who wants to enter or purchase a cold house? As it turned out all the pipes froze and much destruction took place, including a melted freezer.

Then the realtor’s son, a busy attorney, read the abstract and found a problem two hundred pages apart, a problem that took place only in 2013. It’s a big abstract. Thick, it goes back to original allotment, a man related to Hogan, as she discovered later. But another shock was delivered when she learned that the son was the attorney, and the closer worked for him, and also the bank was in no hurry to settle the loan.

The attorney wanted three thousand dollars to clear the title. Hogan asked for the abstract, worried about the difference in pages apart. It didn’t arrive. Nor did anything else. The contract had been signed, but no closing date appeared even when Hogan spoke with other attorneys and then agreed to the amount wanted by the realtor’s son.As it turned out a few months later, she was told the problem was that the neighbor had sold some of her land. So, now, Hogan, the seller, researched the company that bought the land and found that they didn’t exist. Even the numbers the web creator gave Hogan for the two owners went unanswered. But another web site appeared for them a day later, and it was impenetrable without a code. Linda Hogan, by then suspicious all the way around, researched the president of the company, who had only one contact on Linked In and he turned out to be the vice president. As it appeared to her, the company is either a phantom company, or has violated financial laws. In any case, it is now land foreclosed on. The seller’s neighbor was foreclosed on along with her phantom petroleum company. Perhaps these were related.

Trying to find out if they might sign a quit claim, Hogan was told by the attorney’s office that was impossible.

Months passed, months that others lived like squatters on the Hogan land and the home she was paying for. Worse, the realtor knew about it. Hogan, in Colorado, asked a friend to go see how the place was. Her friend said she thought the home had been sold. They had horses there, and children. The refrigerator was full, the house had laundry, and at least the dining room was being used.

Finally, after Hogan asked questions, the realtor refused to return calls or emails to her. The closing still didn’t take place. Hogan made more house payments for the people living there, calling others for help.

She thought again of her town as a place where no one could be trusted or believed. And she was helpless to do anything.

After suggestions from another attorney, a very small amount of justice took place. Perhaps. A quit claim was signed. The home has another tentative closing date, four months after the contract and the free months of rent of one family.

From her many losses in the Southeastern Oklahoma area, Linda Hogan says it will take her a long time to feel good about her own homeland again. Some day, she said, she will write about the place.

But first, she will have to learn to trust again, to rebound from all her losses, from the low selling price of the house to the special stolen furniture, and even to being unable to physically get moved into her new small space
because of arthritis and an almost disabling horse accident when younger.

She says it will be especially hard to trust a realtor who has lowered the price of many homes in the area, not shown them properly, sold them cheap, cheating the owners, purchasing a few herself, and not responded to her client’s needs, then been able to tell people, 'Have a blessed day.'”


"To Linda Hogan: I too, experienced this from our Realtor and her son, after my family moved to Florida. She was suppose to handle the property to sell but instead she used our property for her own use and went so far as to change the tile in our kitchen. I drove back to Arkansas to find out what was going on and took pictures of our house with her sons pick-up sitting in our driveway. We had lived there over ten years and our equity in the property was pretty high however, when I showed up at the house and wanting our keys back they were shocked. I told them I wanted it back or closed out before I would go back to Florida. It is a criminal offense to take someones house and they call it collusion of property. They set up the closing and I was able to get our mortgaged paid off, and our 2nd mortgage paid back and our property taxes paid. But then I took them to the Real Estate Board and proved that the Realtor was a shiester and a thief, I wanted my equity in the home however, the Real Estate Board was friends with the realtor and denied me and my family the equity in our home. She had to pay a fine, thats all. I hope no one uses Nadine Yates in Springdale, Florida for their real estate agent. CMO [Candace Odom]"

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