Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Letters about the Choctaws and Rexdale Henry from Ray McGovern, Bill Tremblay, Janis McDonald and Marc Steiner
Ray McGovern, a leader of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, sent an important family story of how the Choctaws reached out in the Irish famine in 1847. The Choctaws had been moved forcibly out of Georgia and Mississippi, where they had mainly become "farmers" and "Christians," along the trail of tears (a sixth of them - some 2,500 - were killed) and knew something of settler colonialism...See here.
Their aid to the victims of famine was a great act of democratic internationalism as I call it (see my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?) or the expression of a large feeling of compassion as Ray says, and decency. He invokes the moving words of President Mary Robinson of Ireland (from whom President Obama, now movingly in Kenya, could learn something).
Would that the US government for which Ray worked for a long time had more of this and less militarism and graspingness, or as he puts it amusingly in mock psychological jargon: Compassion Deficit Disorder. And Rexdale Henry, a Choctaw activist arrested for nonpayment of fines – debt jailing or debt slavery is ingredient to today's America in filling its prisons… - and “found dead” in a Neshoba, County jail after 5 days illustrates that American policing is pretty well the opposite of Choctaw decency…See here.
"The Compassionate Choctaw and Starving Irish (my great granduncles and aunts)
Countering CDD (Compassion Deficit Disorder)
One fact that I always find interesting about Gorta Mor (Gaelic for the 'Great Hunger') was the response of one native American Indian tribe, amazingly the Choctaw people heard of the suffering Irish and sent $710 dollars at the height of the Famine in 1847 (just 16 years after the Choctaw had experienced the trail of tears). It was an enormous sum of money at the time. In June 1995, Irish President Mary Robinson visited the Choctaw to thank them for their assistance. It was an amazing moment. She said the following:
"I am here to thank the Choctaw Nation for their extraordinary generosity and thoughtfulness when they learned in 1847 about the plight of Irish famine victims," said President Robinson. The Irish were thousands of miles away, in no way linked to the Choctaw Nation until then, the only link being a common humanity, a common sense of another people suffering as the Choctaw Nation had suffered when being removed from their tribal land. She continued, "At a Choctaw assembly in 1847, $710 was raised for the relief of Irish famine victims. I am glad, as President of that same Irish Nation, to come here and thank the Choctaw people and also to learn from your act of generosity."
Bill Tremblay wrote of the jeering by rich folks against Choctaw children who attended a hockey game. This, sadly, is unsurprising in America to this moment. And we all – each of us – needs to do what we can to change this.
Today Thom Hartmann said on his show that a group of Native American boys in I believe North Dakota had won some recognition and their reward was to get free tickets to a semi-pro hockey game. In the building in the upper "special boxes" were a group of businessmen who were drinking. They leaned out of their boxes and poured beer on the boys and yelled, "Go back to the res!"
The greatest hatred is among the whites who today still reap the economic rewards of stealing Native American lands. It has been so since Massachusetts Bay Colony. And it goes on.
Janis McDonald, a lawyer working with the Henry family and with SNCC, wrote forcefully:
“It helps to see people spread the word about Rexdale Henry. We are doing everything we can to get a thorough independent investigation. There are a lot of important questions so far. We are waiting for the results of the out of state autopsy. Please keep spreading the word and keeping the pressure on. Janis
Janis L. McDonald
Professor of Law
Co-Director Cold Case Justice Initiative
Syracuse University College of Law
Syracuse, New York 13244
315 443-1397 d
315 443-5103 fax
The impressively anti-racist Marc Steiner show on National Public Radio in Baltimore did a segment on the Henry case today, as Marc wrote me, and a podcast will be up if you google www.steinershow.org tomorrow.