Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Maria Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family who grew up on an Indian reservation, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Chicago. She was 88.
She was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on Jan. 24, 1925 in a small hospital in Fairfax, Okla. Her father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, was a 6-foot-2 full-blooded Osage Indian whom his daughters idolized and women found strikingly handsome, Ms. Tallchief later wrote. (She and her sister joined their surnames when they began dancing professionally.)Maria Tallchief, Dazzling Ballerina, Dies at 88 - NYTimes.comHer daughter, the poet Elise Paschen, confirmed the death. Ms. Tallchief lived in Chicago.
A former wife and muse of the choreographer George Balanchine, Ms. Tallchief achieved renown with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, dazzling audiences with her speed, energy and fire. Indeed, the part that catapulted her to acclaim, in 1949, was the title role in the company’s version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” one of many that Balanchine created for her.
The choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, who was a 15-year-old corps dancer in Balanchine’s “Firebird” before becoming one of City Ballet’s stars, compared Ms. Tallchief to two of the century’s greatest ballerinas: Galina Ulanova of the Soviet Union and Margot Fonteyn of Britain.
“When you thought of Russian ballet, it was Ulanova,” he said an interview on Friday. “With English ballet, it was Fonteyn. For American ballet, it was Tallchief. She was grand in the grandest way.”
A daughter of an Osage Indian father and a Scottish-Irish mother, Ms. Tallchief left Oklahoma at an early age, but she was long associated with the state nevertheless. She was one of five dancers of Indian heritage, all born at roughly the same time, who came to be called the Oklahoma Indian ballerinas: the others included her younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, as well as Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau.
Growing up at a time when many American dancers adopted Russian stage names, Ms. Tallchief, proud of her Indian heritage, refused to do so, even though friends told her that it would be easy to transform Tallchief into Tallchieva.
She was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on Jan. 24, 1925 in a small hospital in Fairfax, Okla. Her father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, was a 6-foot-2 full-blooded Osage Indian whom his daughters idolized and women found strikingly handsome, Ms. Tallchief later wrote. (She and her sister joined their surnames when they began dancing professionally.)
Her mother, the former Ruth Porter, met Mr. Tall Chief, a widower, while visiting her sister, who was a cook and housekeeper for Mr. Tall Chief’s mother.
“When Daddy was a boy, oil was discovered on Osage land, and overnight the tribe became rich,” Ms. Tallchief recounted in “Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina,” her 1997 autobiography written with Larry Kaplan. “As a young girl growing up on the Osage reservation in Fairfax, Okla., I felt my father owned the town. He had property everywhere. The local movie theater on Main Street, and the pool hall opposite, belonged to him. Our 10-room, terracotta-brick house stood high on a hill overlooking the reservation.”
She had her first ballet lessons in Colorado Springs, where the family had a summer home. She also studied piano and, blessed with perfect pitch, contemplated becoming a concert pianist.
But dance occupied her attention after the family, feeling confined in Oklahoma, moved to Los Angeles when she was 8. The day they arrived, her mother took her daughters into a drugstore for a snack at the soda fountain. While waiting for their order, Mrs. Tall Chief chatted with a druggist and asked him if he knew of a good dancing teacher. He recommended Ernest Belcher.
As Ms. Tallchief recalled in her memoir, “An anonymous man in an unfamiliar town decided our fate with those few words.”
Mr. Belcher, the father of the television and film star Marge Champion, was an excellent teacher, and Ms. Tallchief soon realized that her training in Oklahoma had been potentially ruinous to her limbs. At 12 she started studies with Bronislava Nijinska, a former choreographer for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, who had opened a studio in Los Angeles.
Nijinska, a formidable pedagogue, gave Ms. Tallchief special encouragement. But she also had classes with other distinguished teachers who passed through Los Angeles. One, Tatiana Riabouchinska, became her chaperon on a trip to New York City, which, since the outbreak of World War II, had become the base of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a leading touring company. She joined the troupe in 1942.
Nijinska, one of its choreographers, cast her in some of her ballets. But Ms. Tallchief also danced in Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo,"a pioneering example of balletic Americana. It was de Mille who suggested that Elizabeth Marie make Maria Tallchief her professional name. Her sister, who survives her, went on to achieve fame mostly in Europe.
In the summer of 1944, the entire Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo served as the dance ensemble for"Song of Norway,"a Broadway musical based on the life and music of Grieg, with choreography by Balanchine. And Balanchine remained as a resident choreographer for the company, casting Ms. Tallchief in works like “Danses Concertantes,""Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,""Ballet Imperial” and “Le Baiser de la Fee.”
Balanchine paid increasing attention to Ms. Tallchief, and she became increasingly fond of him, admiring him as a choreographic genius and liking him as a courtly, sophisticated friend. Yet it came as an utter surprise when he asked her to marry him. After careful thought, she agreed, and they were married on Aug. 16, 1946.
It was an unusual marriage. As she wrote in her autobiography: “Passion and romance didn’t play a big part in our married life. We saved our emotions for the classroom.” Yet, she added, “George was a warm, affectionate, loving husband.”
Ms. Tallchief had become a prominent soloist at the Monte Carlo company. But Balanchine wanted a company of his own. In 1946, he and the arts patron Lincoln Kirstein established Ballet Society, which presented a series of subscription performances; it was a direct forerunner of today’s City Ballet.
At the time, Ms. Tallchief was still a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and she remained with it until her contract expired. Then she went to Paris, where Balanchine had agreed to stage productions for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947. In her autobiography, she speculated that because Balanchine was a Francophile he might have felt tempted to remain in Paris, but that the intrigues riddling the Paris Opera drove him to leave and return to America.
Balanchine then devoted himself to the City Ballet, which gave its first performance under that name on Oct. 11, 1948. Ms. Tallchief was soon acclaimed as one of its stars.
In addition to “Firebird,” Balanchine created many striking roles for her, including those of the Swan Queen in his version of “Swan Lake,” the Sugar Plum Fairy in his version of “The Nutcracker,” Eurydice in"Orpheus"and principal roles in plotless works like “Sylvia Pas de Deux,” “Allegro Brillante,” “Pas de Dix” and “Scotch Symphony.”
After she and Balanchine were divorced in 1950, she remained with City Ballet until 1965. But she also took time off to dance with other companies, and she portrayed Anna Pavlova in"Million Dollar Mermaid,"a 1952 MGM extravaganza starringEsther Williamsas the swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman.
She returned to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1954-55, receiving a salary of $2,000 a week, reportedly the highest salary paid any dancer at that time. When she appeared with American Ballet Theater, in 1960-62, she showed she could be an exponent of dramatic as well as abstract ballets. She was cast in such varied parts as the neurotic title role of Birgit Cullberg’s"Miss Julie” and Caroline, the melancholy heroine of Antony Tudor’s “Jardin aux Lilas,” who must enter into a marriage of convenience with a man she does not love.
At City Ballet, Ms. Tallchief’s partners included André Eglevsky, Erik Bruhn and Nicholas Magallanes. She appeared withRudolf Nureyevon television and on tour in Europe and made guest appearances with Ruth Page’s Chicago Opera Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and the Hamburg Ballet. One of her last roles was the title role in Peter van Dyk’s “Cinderella” for the Hamburg company in 1966. She retired from the stage soon afterward.
Then Ms. Tallchief became part of dance life in Chicago. She founded the ballet school of the Lyric Opera there in the mid-1970s and was the artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet, which presented its first season in 1981. More successful as a teacher than as a director, she resigned from the post in 1987.
Among her honors, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1996.
Ms. Tallchief was married to Elmourza Natirboff, an aviator, from 1952 to 1954. In 1956 she married Henry Paschen, who eventually became president of his family’s business, Paschen Contractors, in Chicago.
Besides her daughter, Ms. Paschen, and her sister, her survivors include two grandchildren.
Ms. Tallchief remained closely identified with her Osage lineage long after she found fame and glamour in Paris and New York, and she bridled at the enduring stereotypes and misconceptions many held about American Indians. Recalling her youth in her memoir, she wrote of a dance routine that she and her sister were asked to perform at Oklahoma country fairs, making both of them “self-conscious.”
“It wasn’t remotely authentic,” she wrote. “Traditionally, women didn’t dance in Indian tribal ceremonies. But I had toe shoes on under my moccasins, and we both wore fringed buckskin outfits, headbands with feathers, and bells on our legs. We’d enter from opposite wings, greet each other, and start moving to a tom-tom rhythm.”
The performance ended with Marjorie performing “no-handed back-flip somersaults.”
“In the end,” she added, “we stopped doing the routine because we outgrew the costumes. I was relieved when we put those bells away for good.”
On April 27, 1863, nearly five months after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, California abolished its system of forced apprenticeship for American Indians. Under the apprenticeship provisions of the state’s Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, several thousand California Indians, mostly children, had suffered kidnapping, sale and involuntary servitude for over a decade.
Newly elected California Republicans, eager to bring California in line with the national march toward emancipation, agitated for two years in the early 1860s to repeal Indian apprenticeship. And yet those Republicans’ limited vision of Indian freedom — one in which Indians would be free to reap the fruits of their labor, but not free from the duty to labor altogether — made for an incomplete Indian Emancipation Proclamation. Although California was distant from the battlefields of the Civil War, the state endured its own struggle over freedom that paralleled that of the North and the South.
The Republican campaign to abolish Indian servitude ran up against nearly a century of coerced Indian labor in California. Under Spanish and Mexican rule, thousands of California Indians worked on missions and ranches, bound to their employment through a combination of economic necessity, captivity, physical compulsion and debt.
With the United States’ conquest of California in 1847, the discovery of gold in 1848 and the formation of a state government in 1849, new American lawmakers expanded and formalized Indian servitude to meet growing demands for labor. The 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians authorized whites to hold Indian children as wards until they reached adulthood. Indian adults convicted of vagrancy or other crimes could be forced to work for whites who paid their bail.
Skyrocketing demand for farmworkers and domestic servants, combined with violence between Indians and invading whites in the northwestern part of the state, left Democrats in war-torn counties clamoring for the expansion of the 1850 Indian act. A “general system of peonage or apprenticeship” was the only way to quell Indian wars, one Democrat argued. A stint of involuntary labor would civilize Indians, establish them in “permanent and comfortable homes,” and provide white settlers with “profitable and convenient servants.” In 1860, Democrats proposed new amendments to the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians that allowed whites to bind Indian children as apprentices until they reached their mid-20s. Indian adults accused of being vagrants without steady employment, or taken as captives of war, could be apprenticed for 10-year terms. The amendments passed with little debate.
As the nation hurtled toward a war over slavery, Californians watched as their own state became a battleground over the future of human bondage. Apprenticeship laws aimed at “civilizing” the state’s Indian encouraged a robust and horrific slave trade in the northwestern counties. Frontier whites eagerly paid from $50 to $100 for Indian children to apprentice. Groups of kidnappers, dubbed “baby hunters” in the California press, supplied this market by attacking isolated Indian villages and snatching up children in the chaos of battle. Some assailants murdered Indian parents who refused to give up their children.
Once deposited in white homes, captive apprentices often suffered abuse and neglect. The death of Rosa, a 10-year-old apprentice from either the Yuki or Pomo tribes, provides a grim case in point. Just two weeks before the repeal of Indian apprenticeship, the Mendocino County coroner found the dead girl “nearly naked, lying in a box out of doors” next to the home of her mistress, a Mrs. Bassett of Ukiah. Neighbors testified that the child was sick and restless and that Basset shut her out of the house in the middle of a raging snowstorm. Huge bruises on Rosa’s abdomen suggested that Bassett had mercilessly beaten the ill child before tossing her out into the blizzard. Mendocino officials never brought charges in the case.
The horrors of kidnapping and apprenticeship filled the state’s newspapers just as antislavery California Republicans swept into power in 1861-2. Republicans assailed the apprentice system and blamed Democrats for the “abominable system of Indian apprenticeship, which has been used as a means of introducing actual slavery into our free State.” George Hanson, an Illinois Republican whose close relationship with Abraham Lincoln earned him an appointment as Northern California’s superintendent of Indian affairs, vowed to eliminate the state’s “unholy traffic in human blood and souls.” He tracked down and prosecuted kidnappers in the northwestern counties (with mixed success) and petitioned the State Legislature to abolish the apprenticeship system.
In 1862, Republican legislators proposed two new measures to overturn the 1860 apprenticeship amendments. Democrats blocked these bills and insisted that apprenticeship “embodied one of the most important measures” for Indians’ “improvement and civilization.” Indian servitude lived on.
By the time the legislature met again in the spring of 1863, however, all signs pointed to the destruction of the apprenticeship system. Republicans won firm majorities in both houses of the State Legislature, and in January California became the first state to endorse Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Republicans again proposed to repeal the apprenticeship amendments, and this time they achieved their goal with no debate or dissent. Involuntary labor for American Indians died quietly.
The incomplete nature of Indian emancipation in California reflected Republicans’ own ambivalence toward Indian freedom. Most Republicans opposed the kidnapping and enslavement of Indians. They believed that Indians, like former African-American slaves, should be entitled to reap the economic rewards of their own work. On the other hand, they asserted that the key to “civilizing” Indians was to force them to participate in the California labor market. They could not be free to support themselves through traditional mobile hunting and gathering practices that removed their labor from white supervision and tied up valuable natural resources. Such a lifestyle was, in Republicans’ minds, little more than idle vagrancy. Just as their Republican colleagues on the East Coast argued that ex-slaves should be schooled to labor by being bound to plantation wage work through long-term contracts, California Republicans began to advocate compulsory labor as the only way to cure Indian vagrancy.Or did it? Republicans had eliminated all the 1860 amendments authorizing the forced apprenticeship of American Indians. But they had left intact sections of the original 1850 act that mandated the forcible binding out of Indian convicts and vagrants. Moreover, repeal only prevented future apprenticeships; Republican legislation did not liberate Indians already legally apprenticed. After repeal, as many as 6,000 Indian children remained servants in white homes.
The Republican vision for Indian freedom quickly took shape after the Civil War. Republican appointees who oversaw California’s Indian reservations compelled all able-bodied Indians to work on the reservation farms. Those who refused, or who pursued native food-gathering practices, forfeited the meager federal rations allotted to reservation Indians. By 1867, one Republican agent declared that “the hoe and the broadaxe will sooner civilize and Christianize than the spelling book and the Bible.” He advocated forcing Indians to work until they had been “humanized by systematic labor.” These policies persisted long after the war. At Round Valley Reservation, one critic observed in 1874 that “compulsion is used to keep the Indians and to drive them to work.” Indian workers received no payment for “labor and no opportunity to accumulate individual property.”
The ambiguous postwar liberty of California Indians reveals that the Civil War was a transcontinental conflict that reached west to the Pacific. The freedoms won in wartime, and the unfulfilled promises of emancipation, encompassed not only black and white, free and slave, but also American Indian peoples who suffered from distinctly Western systems of unfree labor. The Civil War and Reconstruction are best understood as truly national struggles over the meaning and limits of freedom, north, south and west.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
In a rare case of a cultural heritage claim arising from the sale of American artifacts abroad, the Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop a high-price auction of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week.
The tribe is receiving advice from the State and Interior Departments, but each agency says its ability to intervene is limited.
In many ways, the Hopi case illustrates a paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world.
While foreign nations routinely rely on international accords to secure American help in retrieving antiquities from the United States, Washington has no reciprocal agreements governing American artifacts abroad. And the United States laws that provide some protection against the illicit sale of Indian artifacts in this country have no weight in foreign lands. So tribes reaching overseas to recover objects that they view as culturally important are left to do battle on their own.
“Right now there just aren’t any prohibitions against this kind of large foreign sale,” said Jack F. Trope, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, which is seeking new laws and treaties that would give the United States more force to intervene. “The leverage for international repatriation just isn’t there.”
The Hopis, who number about 18,000 in northeast Arizona, regard the objects in the Paris sale, which they call Katsinam, or “friends,” as imbued with divine spirits. They object to calling them “masks” and say that outsiders who photograph, collect or sell them are committing sacrilege. The brightly colored visages and headdresses, often adorned with horsehair, sheepskin, feathers and maize, are thought to embody the spirits of warriors, animals, messengers, fire, rain and clouds, among other things. They are used today, as in the past, in many Hopi rites, like coming-of-age ceremonies and harvest rituals.
The Néret-Minet auction house in Paris says that its sale, on April 12, will be one of the largest auctions of Hopi artifacts ever, and it estimates that it will bring in $1 million. Many of the objects are more than 100 years old and carry estimates of $10,000 to $35,000. The auction house says that among the spirits represented are the Crow Mother, the Little Fire God and the Mud Head Clown.
“Sacred items like this should not have a commercial value,” said Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in Kykotsmovi, Ariz. “The bottom line is we believe they were taken illegally.”
The auction house says that a collector who has not been identified legally bought the items in the United States at sales and auctions over 30 years, beginning in the 1930s, and that the coming auction complies with French law.
“This sale is not just a business transaction but a homage to the Hopi Indians,” said Gilles Néret-Minet, the director of the house.
Historians say many Hopi artifacts were taken long ago by people who found them unattended in shrines and on altars along the mesas of the Southwest. Others were confiscated by missionaries who came to convert the tribe in the late 19th century. Some were sold by tribe members. But even those sales were not legitimate, Hopi leaders say, because they may have been made under duress, and because the tribe holds that an individual cannot hold title to its religious artifacts — they are owned communally.
The market for American Indian artifacts, both here and abroad, is robust, experts say, and auctions of Indian items in the United States typically proceed unimpeded by American law and unchallenged by most tribes. There are some protections, though, under United States theft statutes, experts say, as well as restrictions on the sale of pieces by museums and federal agencies.
The Hopis and their supporters say the Paris sale is especially objectionable because of its size and the religious significance of the items involved. They say it also illustrates a striking disparity between what the government is empowered to do to help a foreign country recover an object from the United States and its inability to do much to retrieve an American artifact for sale overseas.
When a nation like Italy or Cambodia claims ownership of an object in the United States, it typically invokes international accords that require American officials to take up the cases. The Justice Department, for example, recently sent two lawyers to Cambodia as part of an effort to help that country seize an ancient statue that Sotheby’s planned to auction in New York.
The United States does not have similar accords that it could cite in support of the Hopi claim on the Paris auction items. Several experts and activists said the United States had never viewed its own cultural patrimony as a priority because the country is relatively young, has long embraced the concept of free trade and has not historically focused on the cultural heritage issues of American Indians.
But American officials have demonstrated their concern over the Paris sale by providing the Hopis with legal guidance and diplomatic advice, officials said.
Emily Palus, the deputy division chief for tribal consultation with the Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Interior Department, recently wrote an e-mail to colleagues suggesting that they raise concerns about the growing “international trade in Native American cultural property, and the continued damage and impact it has on traditional cultural practices.”
In recent years Indian tribes have stepped up their efforts to recover cultural artifacts. The Hopis are considered among the most painstaking in that pursuit, and the tribe has recovered dozens of artifacts from American museums and sought to block auctions in the United States. It has never tried to halt an overseas sale before.
In the case of museums, tribes rely on a 1990 law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which governs the sale and handling of Indian cultural objects by American museums. Those institutions are barred from selling such items and must inventory their collections; they then must reach out to tribes or direct descendants to allow them to reclaim objects they view as important.
The process can be costly and take years, however, and unless pressed, some museums simply hold on to their collections.
In the French case, the Hopis sent a letter of objection last month to the Néret-Minet auction house. In it Mr. Kuwanwisiwma cited cultural heritage clauses in the tribe’s 1936 Constitution that say the items for sale are “held under religious custody by the Hopi people.”
Neither Mr. Kuwanwisiwma nor a lawyer for the Hopis, James E. Scarboro of Arnold & Porter in Denver, has received a reply, they said.
Kate Fitz Gibbon, an art law expert in Santa Fe, N.M., who specializes in tribal issues, said the Hopis could consider a claim that the items are stolen property. But doing so, she said, would require time, money and legal support that are often out of reach.
“The Paris auction of Hopi masks is a complex legal situation involving the interplay of international and domestic French law,” she said, adding that the Hopis might have to resort to publicity and “moral suasion.”
Mr. Néret-Minet said he was surprised by the Hopi reaction because similar auctions had not drawn attention, including one in Paris in December in which 23 Hopi items were purchased, eight of them by a local museum, the Musée du Quai Branly.
“Even if it chagrins them, for the tribe this is not a negative,” he said. “I think the Hopis should be happy that so many people want to understand and analyze their civilization.”
In response, Mr. Kuwanwisiwma said, “The Hopi Tribe is just disgusted with the continued offensive marketing of Hopi culture.”
Saturday, March 30, 2013
WOUNDED KNEE, S.D. — Ever since American soldiers massacred men, women and children here more than a century ago in the last major bloodshed of the American Indian wars, this haunted patch of rolling hills and ponderosa pines has embodied the combustible relationship between Indians and the United States government.
It was here that a group of Indian activists aired their grievances against the government with a forceful takeover in 1973 that resulted in protests, a bloody standoff with federal agents and deep divisions among the Indian people.
And now the massacre site, which passed into non-Indian hands generations ago, is up for sale, once again dragging Wounded Knee to the center of the Indian people’s bitter struggle against perceived injustice — as well as sowing rifts within the tribe over whether it would be proper, should the tribe get the land, to develop it in a way that brings some money to the destitute region.
James A. Czywczynski of Rapid City is asking $3.9 million for the 40-acre plot he owns here, far more than the $7,000 that the deeply impoverished Oglala Sioux say the land is worth. Mr. Czywczynski insists that his price fairly accounts for the land’s sentimental and historical value, an attitude that the people here see as disrespect.
“That historical value means something to us, not him,” said Garfield Steele, a member of the tribal council who represents Wounded Knee. “We see that greed around here all the time with non-Indians. To me, you can’t put a price on the lives that were taken there.”
Land disputes strike an emotional chord for American Indians, given the United States’ long history of neglected promises and broken treaties. The clash over Wounded Knee is raising the moral, legal and social quandaries that have burdened generations of American Indians.
Should they even have to buy land that they believe was stolen from them? Should the land be developed or preserved as sacred? Should the tribe, whose people are among the poorest in America, capitalize on what happened here?
Just last year, the Great Sioux Nation found itself in a similar struggle to preserve sacred ground. Pe’ Sla, a vast swath of Black Hills prairie land that they believe was the site of an epic battle between good and evil, was put up for sale by a non-Indian. Several Sioux bands, fearing that the land could be desecrated by commercial development, raised $9 million to buy the 1,942 acres.
The outlook for acquiring the Wounded Knee parcel, which sits on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is not as bright. The burden for buying the land will probably fall to the Oglala Sioux tribe, which is at least $60 million in debt, according to its treasurer, Mason Big Crow, and would need to borrow money to meet Mr. Czywczynski’s asking price.
The massacre on Dec. 29, 1890, was said to have started when a shot rang out as soldiers of the United States Seventh Cavalry searched Chief Big Foot’s band, which it had arrested and detained here. (Some Indians hypothesize that the massacre was retribution for the routing of Gen. George Custer and his troops at Little Bighorn 14 years earlier.) Estimates of the death toll vary from 150 to more than 300, with some of the bodies recovered on the land Mr. Czywczynski owns.
The land is believed to have gotten into non-Indian hands sometime after a process of allotment began in the late 1800s in which the federal government divided land among the Indians and gave some parcels to non-Indians. Mr. Czywczynski bought the land in 1968, lived there and ran the trading post and museum. He moved away in 1973, after the violent occupation of Wounded Knee by an organization known as the American Indian Movement left much of the town destroyed, including the trading post and his home. Mr. Czywczynski said he had been trying to sell the land to the Oglala Sioux for about three decades, and he blamed the tribe’s internal disorder for his inability to do so.
“They never could agree on anything,” he said. “They either did not have the money; some wanted it, some didn’t want it; it was too high, too low. I’ve come to the conclusion now, at my age, I’m 74 years old, I’m going to sell the property.”
If the tribe does not buy it by May 1, Mr. Czywczynski said, he will put it up for auction on the open market.
The Oglala Sioux president, Bryan V. Brewer, said, “I don’t think we should buy something back that we own.” He added that he would leave it up to the descendants of the massacre to plan a way forward.
But that promises to be tricky. There is considerable disagreement over whether the tribe should profit from Wounded Knee through, for instance, developing tourist attractions.
“Whenever we discuss this Wounded Knee massacre topic, it takes us into a deep, deep psychological state because we have to relive the whole horror,” said Nathan Blindman, 56, one of whose ancestors survived the massacre. “Anything that might indicate that as descendants we’re profiting from our ancestors’ tragedy, we can’t ever do that.”
Phyllis Hollow Horn, 56, whose great-grandmother and great-aunt were among the survivors, said she would be open to an educational memorial, but was hesitant about seeing the tribe profit.
“How and who should do that is a whole big question,” she said. “Ultimately, that’s a decision the descendants have to make.”
But many find that unyielding traditionalism hard to swallow, given the hardship on the reservation. Shannon County, which encompasses most of Pine Ridge, has the highest percentage of people living below poverty in the nation at 53.5 percent, according to census data compiled by Social Explorer. Nearly three-quarters of the people in the county are either unemployed or not in the work force.
Proponents of commercialism at Wounded Knee note that community members already profit at the site, selling crafts to tourists in the area. This frequently leads to turf battles, and some have suggested building a market to bring order to the trade.
Garry Rowland, a Wounded Knee native, runs a one-room visitor center that he built next to the mass grave where most of the massacre victims were buried. Some residents have criticized his center, calling it unofficial and accusing him of profiting on the blood of their ancestors.
But Mr. Rowland said that his great-great-grandfather Chief Fire Lightning owned the land before the massacre and that his family should decide what should be done. (Ms. Hollow Horn disputed that Fire Lightning owned the land or that he was a chief.)
“We don’t charge admission to our museum,” said Mr. Rowland, who participated in the 1973 takeover, hangs the American flag upside down and proudly wears an F.B.I. cap that he says stands for “full-blooded Indian.” “We’re just trying to preserve what history took place here. We tell the truth of what happened.”
Some have advocated for development like a gas station and a general store to save on the roughly 20-minute drive to Pine Ridge for basic amenities. They also say that building a motel would help attract visitors.
While she respects the lives lost in the massacre, Lillian Red Star Fire Thunder, a 79-year-old Wounded Knee resident, said she disagreed with those who “make it sound like it’s taboo” to develop the land.
“That was yesterday; tomorrow is going to be tomorrow,” she said. “They should think about the future for the children, the families.”
Friday, February 01, 2013
Crow Indians’ Suit Against Federal Agent Allowed - NYTimes.com
Published: February 1, 2013
Two families from the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana can proceed with a lawsuit against an F.B.I. agent that accuses him of failing to properly investigate crimes against Native Americans on and around the reservation, the United States Supreme Court has ruled.
The court’s decision upholds a 2010 federal court ruling that said the F.B.I. agent, Matthew Oravec, did not have qualified immunity from legal action, a protection usually given to government employees when acting in an official capacity — and a status sought by the Justice Department, which had appealed the ruling by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.
“The decision puts federal and state law enforcement agents on notice that they may be held personally liable if they discriminate against Indians in investigating crimes against them,” said Patricia S. Bangert, a Denver lawyer who is representing one of the families.
The Supreme Court’s decision was dated Jan. 14, but lawyers were only recently made aware of it.
Mr. Oravec, who remains an F.B.I. employee, investigated the deaths of two Native Americans, Robert Springfield and Steven Bearcrane, who died in unrelated episodes on the Crow Reservation in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Federal prosecutors did not file charges in either case, and the men’s families sued, alleging that Mr. Oravec had conducted a second-rate investigation, which they said was part of a wider problem of discrimination against Native American crime victims on the reservation.
The lawsuit also claimed that Mr. Oravec had sought to intimidate family members, made derogatory remarks about Native Americans and had refused to carry out basic investigative tasks, including interviewing potential witnesses or taking crime scene photographs.
The Justice Department, which is representing Mr. Oravec, declined to comment.
The rate of violent crime on Indian reservations has for decades been far higher than in the rest of the nation. Most tribes, including the Crow Nation, rely on the federal government to investigate and prosecute serious crime because states generally lack jurisdiction there, and because tribes are prohibited from imposing sentences longer than three years.
But many Native Americans say that the crime problem in Indian country is connected to the failure of F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors to take violent acts on reservations as seriously as they do crimes elsewhere.
The lawsuit is being closely watched around Indian country. Filed in 2009, it maintains that federal officials violated the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection and due process rights. In its 2010 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court dropped several other F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors from the lawsuit but allowed the claim against Mr. Oravec to continue.
Steven Bearcrane, 24, was fatally shot on a ranch on the reservation in 2005, but federal officials determined the shooting had been committed in self-defense and declined to prosecute. But Mr. Bearcrane’s parents, Earline Cole and Cletus Cole, said that Mr. Oravec had conducted only a cursory investigation before arriving at his conclusion.
Ms. Bangert, who is representing the Bearcrane-Cole family, said they had offered to dismiss the lawsuit if the federal government agreed to allow a third party to conduct an independent investigation, but that the government had declined.
“All the Bearcrane-Cole family has wanted is for Steven’s death to mean something,” Ms. Bangert said. “The government’s continuing action in brushing it off as a nonevent that can just be ignored is the continuing fuel for much of the family’s anger and anguish.”
In 2004, Robert Springfield failed to return from a bow hunting trip on the Crow reservation. His wife, Veronica Springfield, said the F.B.I. had not bothered to look for him, and his body was found more than a year later.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Published: October 22, 2012
Russell C. Means, the charismatic Oglala Sioux who helped revive the warrior image of the American Indian in the 1970s with guerrilla-tactic protests that called attention to the nation’s history of injustices against its indigenous peoples, died on Monday at his ranch in Porcupine, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was 72.
The cause was esophageal cancer that had spread recently to his tongue, lymph nodes and lungs, said Glenn Morris, Mr. Means’s legal representative. Told in the summer of 2011 that the cancer was inoperable, Mr. Means had already resolved to shun mainstream medical treatments in favor of herbal and other native remedies.
Strapping, ruggedly handsome in buckskins, with a scarred face, piercing dark eyes and raven braids that dangled to the waist, Mr. Means was, by his own account, a magnet for trouble — addicted to drugs and alcohol in his early years, and later arrested repeatedly in violent clashes with rivals and the law, once tried for abetting a murder, shot several times, stabbed once and imprisoned for a year for rioting.
He styled himself a throwback to ancestors who resisted the westward expansion of the American frontier and, with theatrical protests that brought national attention to poverty and discrimination suffered by his people, became arguably the nation’s best-known Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
But critics, including many Native Americans, called him a tireless self-promoter who capitalized on his angry-rebel notoriety by running quixotic races for the presidency and the governorship of New Mexico, by acting in dozens of movies — notably in the title role of “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992) — and by writing and recording music commercially with Indian warrior and heritage themes.
He rose to national attention as a leader of the American Indian Movement in 1970 by directing a band of Indian protesters who seized the Mayflower II ship replica at Plymouth, Mass., on Thanksgiving Day. The boisterous confrontation between Indians and costumed “Pilgrims” attracted network television coverage and made Mr. Means an overnight hero to dissident Indians and sympathetic whites.
Later, he orchestrated an Indian prayer vigil atop the federal monument of sculptured presidential heads at Mount Rushmore, S.D., to dramatize Lakota claims to Black Hills land. In 1972, he organized cross-country caravans converging on Washington to protest a century of broken treaties, and led an occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also attacked the “Chief Wahoo” mascot symbol of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, a toothy Indian caricature that he called racist and demeaning. It is still used.
And in a 1973 protest covered by the national news media for months, he led hundreds of Indians and white sympathizers in an occupation of Wounded Knee, S.D., site of the 1890 massacre of some 350 Lakota men, women and children in the last major conflict of the American Indian wars. The protesters demanded strict federal adherence to old Indian treaties, and an end to what they called corrupt tribal governments.
In the ensuing 71-day standoff with federal agents, thousands of shots were fired, two Indians were killed and an agent was paralyzed. Mr. Means and his fellow protest leaderDennis Banks were charged with assault, larceny and conspiracy. But after a long federal trial in Minnesota in 1974, with the defense raising current and historic Indian grievances, the case was dismissed by a judge for prosecutorial misconduct.
Mr. Means later faced other legal battles. In 1976, he was acquitted in a jury trial in Rapid City, S.D., of abetting a murder in a barroom brawl. Wanted on six warrants in two states, he was convicted in 1976 of involvement in a 1974 riot during a clash between the police and Indian activists outside a Rapid City courthouse. He served a year in a state prison, where he was stabbed by another inmate.
Mr. Means also survived several gunshots — one in the abdomen fired during a scuffle with an Indian Affairs police officer in North Dakota in 1975, a grazed forehead in what he called a drive-by assassination attempt on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975, and one in the chest fired by another would-be assassin on another South Dakota reservation in 1976.
Undeterred, he led a caravan of Sioux and Cheyenne into a gathering of 500 people commemorating the centennial of Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn in Montana in 1876, the nation’s worst defeat of the Indian wars. To pounding drums, Mr. Means and his followers mounted a speaker’s platform, joined hands and did a victory dance, sung in Sioux Lakota, titled “Custer Died for Your Sins.”
Russell Charles Means was born on Nov. 10, 1939, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the oldest of four sons of Harold and Theodora Feather Means. The Anglo-Saxon surname was that of a great-grandfather. When he was 3, the family moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where his father, a welder and auto mechanic, worked in wartime shipyards.
Russell attended public schools in Vallejo and San Leandro High School, where he faced racial taunts, had poor grades and barely graduated in 1958. He drifted into delinquency, drugs, alcoholism and street fights. He also attended four colleges, including Arizona State at Tempe, but did not earn a degree. For much of the 1960s he rambled about the West, working as a janitor, printer, cowboy and dance instructor.
In 1969, he took a job with the Rosebud Sioux tribal council in South Dakota. Within months, he moved to Cleveland and became founding director of a government-financed center helping Native Americans adapt to urban life. He also met Mr. Banks, who had recently co-founded the American Indian Movement. In 1970 Mr. Means became the movement’s national director, and over the next decade his actions made him a household name.
In 1985 and 1986, he went to Nicaragua to support indigenous Miskito Indians whose autonomy was threatened by the leftist Sandinista government. He reported Sandinista atrocities against the Indians and urged the Reagan administration to aid the victims. Millions in aid went to right-wing contras opposing the Sandinistas, but none to their Indian allies.
In 1987, Mr. Means ran for president. He sought the Libertarian Party nomination but lost to Ron Paul, a former and future Congressman from Texas. In 2002, Mr. Means campaigned independently for the New Mexico governorship, but was barred procedurally from the ballot.
Mr. Means retired from the American Indian Movement in 1988, but leaders from the movement with whom he had feuded for years scoffed, saying he had “retired” six times previously. They generally disowned him and his work, calling him an opportunist out for political and financial gain. In 1989, he told Congress there was “rampant graft and corruption” in tribal governments and federal programs assisting Native Americans.
Mr. Means began his acting career in 1992, and, over two decades, appeared in more than 30 films and television productions, including “Natural Born Killers” (1994) and “Pathfinder” (2007). He also recorded CDs, including “Electric Warrior: The Sound of Indian America,” (1993) and wrote a memoir, “Where White Men Fear to Tread,” (1995, with Marvin J. Wolf).
He was married and divorced four times and had nine children. He adopted many others following Lakota tradition. His fifth marriage, to Pearl Daniels, was in 1999, and she survives him.
Mr. Means cut off his braids a few months before receiving his cancer diagnosis. It was, he said in an interview in October 2011 , a gesture of mourning for his people. In Lakota lore, he explained, the hair holds memories, and mourners often cut it to release those memories, and the people in them, to the spirit world.
Friday, October 12, 2012
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: October 11, 2012
FERNDALE, Wash. — At age 94, Mary Helen Cagey, an elder of the Lummi Indian tribe, has seen a lot of yesterdays. Some are ripe for fond reminiscence, like the herring that used to run rich in the waters here in the nation’s upper-left margin, near the border with Canada. Others are best left in the past, she said, like coal.
“I used to travel into Bellingham and buy my sack of coal,” she said, standing in sensible shoes on a pebbled beach at a recent tribal news conference, talking about her girlhood of rural subsistence and occasional trips to the nearby market town. The idea that coal producers would make a comeback bid, with a huge export shipping terminal proposed at a site where she once fished, called Cherry Point, is simply wrong, she said. “It’s something that should not come about,” Ms. Cagey said.
Many environmental groups and green-minded politicians in the Pacific Northwest are already on record as opposing a wave of export terminals proposed from here to the south-central coast of Oregon, aiming to ship coal to Asia. But in recent weeks, Indian tribes have been linking arms as well, citing possible injury to fishing rights and religious and sacred sites if the coal should spill or the dust from its trains and barges should waft too thick.
And as history has demonstrated over and over, especially in this part of the nation, from protecting fish habitats to removing dams, a tribal-environmental alliance goes far beyond good public relations. The cultural claims and treaty rights that tribes can wield — older and materially different, Indian law experts say, than any argument that the Sierra Club or its allies might muster about federal air quality rules or environmental review — add a complicated plank of discussion that courts and regulators have found hard to ignore.
Lummi tribal leaders recently burned a mock million-dollar check in a ceremonial statement that money could never buy their cooperation. Last month, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, a regional congress of more than 50 tribes in seven states, passed a resolution demanding a collective environmental impact statement for the proposed ports, rather than project-by-project statements, which federal regulators have suggested.
Leaders of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which focuses on fishing rights, said in a statement in support of the resolution that moving millions of tons of coal through the region could affect a range of issues, like road traffic and economic life on the reservations, not to mention the environment.
“It brings another set of issues to the table,” said Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat who earlier this year asked for a broad federal environmental review that would examine implications of the coal plan from transit through the region by train or barge to the burning of the coal in China. The tribes, Mr. Kitzhaber said, have now added a voice that even a governor cannot match. “It definitely increases the pressure,” he said.
Coal producers across the nation have been wounded by a sharp drop in demand in the United States — down 16.3 percent in the period from April through June, compared with the same period in 2011, to the lowest quarterly level since 2005, according to the most recent federal figures. With prices falling and abundant supplies of natural gas flowing because of new fields and drilling technologies, especially hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, many electricity producers that can switch are doing so.
That has made coal exports, which have increased this year in every region of the country except the West, according to federal figures, even more crucial to the industry than they were when the six terminals on the Pacific Coast were first proposed. Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said that with coal-producing nations like Australia and Indonesia competing for Asian markets, a roadblock on the West Coast is an issue for the entire American economy.
The first public hearings for the terminal projects, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers, are set to begin this month in Bellingham, near the Lummi reservation.
“The people that can produce efficiently and can ship quickly and reliably — those are the big things — they are going to be the ones that are chosen for being reliable business partners,” Mr. Hayes said. “If we can build the ports on the West Coast, then it just becomes that much more reliable.”
But by coincidence of history, geography, culture and law, the West Coast, especially Washington and Oregon, is also a center for Indian tribe muscle, legal scholars said.
Although many tribes around the nation received rights to hunt and fish in the treaty language of the 1800s that consigned them to reservations, few places had a focus on a single resource — fish, especially from the Columbia River and its tributaries — that tribes here did. They also, crucially, persisted in using the resources that the treaties had granted them; fishing did not become a hobby or a cultural artifact.
Paul Anderson for The New York Times
Then, in the 1970s, when the Indian rights and environmental movements were both surging, tribal timing was fortuitous in pushing court cases that reinforced their claims.
“They made really good use of those rights, and have become major players,” said Sarah Krakoff, a law professor at the University of Colorado who teaches Indian law and natural resources law. Tribal rights have been a cornerstone in the long battle over restoring salmon stocks in the Columbia River. This year, one of the biggest dam removal projects in the nation’s history reached a milestone when a section of the Elwha River near Olympic National Park in Washington was restored to wild flow, with fishing rights an important driver in the process.
Coal has also become an element in the presidential race, as energy executives have poured tens of millions of dollars into campaigns backing Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, and accusing the Obama administration of harboring hostility to coal through tightened air pollution rules.
An executive order dating from the administration of Bill Clinton could give further ammunition to Northwest tribes in their coal fight, Professor Krakoff and other experts said. The order directs federal agencies to allow tribal access to sacred sites and to take into account religious practices in federal decision making.
Lummi leaders, in the protest this week where Ms. Cagey spoke, said the Cherry Point site in particular — though partly developed years ago by industry, with a major oil refinery nearby — is full of sacred sites and burial grounds. The tribe’s hereditary chairman, Bill James, said in an interview, however, that the tribe would not reveal the locations of the graves for fear of looting.
Monday, October 08, 2012
The thrust of civilization is commonly imagined as an arc curving ever upward. From the Industrial Revolution on, innovation, comfort, health and wealth have seemed to expand and improve limitlessly for much of the world. But take a long look at the remote, sinking town of Santiago Mitlatongo, in Mexico, and that arc appears to slump — and not just graphically. The geologic term is “slumping”; its foundation diminished by erosion, Santiago Mitlatongo is sliding down its mountain at a rate of about a meter per day.
The photographer Matt Black has been seeking stories of the indigenous tribes of southern Mexico and the migrants to the Central Valley of California for 10 years, traveling back and forth and documenting the effects on these changing cultures and economies. His series, “After the Fall,” which was first published in the September/October issue of Orion Magazine, is narrow in scope — it’s just one remote Mixteca town upended by a slow-motion tragedy — but the themes it illuminates are vast, implicating the last several centuries of North American history begun by Columbus’s landing 520 years ago this Friday (though observed in most of the United States on Monday).
“Here’s the story of this town where literally lives turn upside down,” said Mr. Black, 42, who first photographed this pre-Columbian society in December. “It looked like the entire town had gone through a blender,” he said.
“The Mixteca were one of the great civilizations in Mesoamerica. And it’s just completely unraveling.”
In 1998, after a cold spell had killed off the citrus trees near his home in Exeter, Calif., Mr. Black went to photograph the migrant communities that were suddenly out of work. He heard the Mixteca language spoken for the first time and was entranced. And he was curious to know how these people, who were discriminated against by Spanish-speaking Mexicans as well as by whites, could tolerate life as migrants here — what was so bad at home that this was better?
The Mixteca region, which straddles the Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla states in southern Mexico, has been subject to centuries of erosion. It’s unclear if it was initiated by the Spaniards and their crops, cattle and church-building, or even before the Spanish invasion, when the Aztecs exacted tribute from the Mixtecs, who perhaps overtilled their land to meet the demands. Either way, the erosion has probably been exacerbated by modern agricultural practices and the effects of climate change. Today, it’s a desert; the Mixtecs can barely feed themselves, so they migrate to the United States, leaving behind fragments of towns that can no longer function well enough to support themselves.
San Miguel Cuevas, another Mixteca town that Mr. Black photographed, has lost 80 percent of its population to migration, he said, making it essentially a ghost town. He was dismayed that this resilient culture, so profoundly tethered to the land, was witnessing that land swept out from underneath it by unstoppable forces. Walking the dusty paths of Santiago Mitlatongo, Mr. Black described an air of mourning. “There’s this whole other layer of meaning there culturally, and people would describe it to me like someone just died,” he said.
“Their land is like a member of their family.”
This migration story is also a cruel inversion of historical norms. It is heart-wrenching, Mr. Black said, that the Mixtecs, having for so long subsisted on their own land and hard work — using traditional techniques that span back centuries — are forced to abandon their now-barren land to work the massive machines of industrialized agriculture in the United States. These industrialized, subsidized crops in the United States are cheap, and Mexico imports, for instance, 80 percent of its corn from here.
The circumstances in this region are reminiscent of the dust storms that blanketed the Great Plains in the 1930s, which resulted from the erosion of crop-choked land. Those storms initiated a mass migration of “Okies” to California’s Central Valley.
“I’m from an area that was utterly transformed by the Dust Bowl,” said Mr. Black. “The Dust Bowl didn’t happen here, but that’s part of the legacy of this place. It really created this place,” he said, noting an uneasy feeling of witnessing history repeat itself.
“This is one of the great civilizations of the Americas,” he said. “I mean, the Mixtecs have the oldest, continuous written history in the Americas — older than the Aztecs, older than the Incas.” It survived colonialism and the Spanish conquest, and for centuries this forgotten Mixteca town escaped bludgeons of globalization. And now it’s tumbling down a hill.
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