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How the US Mental Health System Makes Natives Sick and Suicidal

Indian Country

June 18, 2015

by David Walker

At a youth wellness conference at Yakama Nation I helped organize in 2001, an elder of the Kah-Milt-Pah honored us with her presence. For the first two days, she sat next to her daughter in the front row, one palm resting on a handmade cane, watching and listening as keynote speakers stepped up. I remember she became particularly focused when a youth invited to the stage to share his life challenges broke down mid-sentence.

At 4:30 p.m., near the end of the last day, she struggled to rise and then stood next to her chair. Members of the discussion panel fell silent while she was helped to the stage by her daughter. She then turned around to face the 700 or so mostly Native attendees and began speaking in her native dialect about the sacredness of children. A microphone was hurriedly brought over as her daughter stood beside her, carefully translating her words into English.

This translating was time-consuming, and as an organizer, I knew the event center closed at 5 p.m. Soon, a custodian approached me and whispered, “We need to shut down.”

We stood together for a moment listening to and watching her, dressed in her dark calico dress, a kerchief holding back her grey braids, leaning over her cane.

“Fine,” I said, “you tell her.”

He smiled and shook his head. She finished at about 7:30 p.m., and I don’t believe anyone left, not even that custodian.

Later on, I found out that she understood and spoke English well; she just chose not to speak it. Her insistence on using her native language told everyone present how she felt about the colonizing language of English, imposed in her lifetime by coercion and force. It may have become the common tongue of Indian Country, but she would not feel obliged to use it. Only her Native words could speak to the heart about “what has happened” to the children.

The intrusion of a new language upon a people can build bridges, tear them down, or serve an oppressive agenda. It can do all three at once. In the last 40 years, certain English words and phrases have become more acceptable to indigenous scholars, thought leaders, and elders for describing shared Native experiences. They include genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, forced assimilation, loss of language, boarding school, termination, historical trauma and more general terms, such as racism, poverty, life expectancy, and educational barriers. There are many more.

One might expect such words to be common within the mental health system in Indian Country. Yet the major funder and provider of Native mental health, the Indian Health Service (IHS), doesn’t seem to speak this language.

For example, the agency’s behavioral health manual mentions psychiatrist and psychiatric 23 times, therapy 18 times, pharmacotherapy, medication, drugs, and prescription 16 times, and the word treatment, a whopping 89 times. But it only uses the word violence once, and you won’t find a single mention of genocide, cultural destruction, colonization, historical trauma, etc.—nor even racism, poverty, life expectancy or educational barriers.

This federal agency doesn’t acknowledge the reality of oppression within the lives of Native people. Instead, it uses another powerful word, depression. For about a decade, IHS has set as one of its goals the detection of Native depression. This has been done by seeking to widen use of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), which asks patients to describe to what degree they feel discouraged, downhearted, tired, low appetite, unable to sleep, slow-moving, easily distracted or as though life is no longer worth living.

The PHQ-9 was developed in the 1990s for drug behemoth Pfizer Corporation by prominent psychiatrist and contract researcher Robert Spitzer and several others. Although it owns the copyright, Pfizer offers the PHQ-9 for free use by primary health care providers. Why so generous? Perhaps because Pfizer is a top manufacturer of psychiatric medications, including its flagship antidepressant Zoloft® which earned the company as much as $2.9 billion annually before it went generic in 2006. Even with the discovery that the drug can increase the risk of birth defects, 41 million prescriptions for Zoloft® were filled in 2013.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)
The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” (iStock)

The Pfizer PHQ-9’s lead developer, Dr. Spitzer, was the “task force leader” for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III-Revised (DSM III-R) when I started graduate training as a clinical psychologist in 1986. The DSM III-R created 110 new psychiatric labels, a number that had climbed by another 100 more by the time I started working at an IHS clinic in 2000.

Around that time, Pfizer, like many other big pharmaceutical corporations, was pouring millions of dollars into lavish marketing seminars disguised as “continuing education” on the uses of psychiatric medication for physicians and nurses with no mental health training.

I recall being asked if I was going to one of these seminars, held at the fanciest restaurant in a city north of the Yakama Nation Reservation. Although a government employee is technically not allowed to accept gifts of more than $20, this lavish (and free) meal seemed a grey area. After all, it was “educational.” I didn’t happen to drink alcohol, so I wasn’t interested. After this event, several primary care colleagues began touting their new expertise in mental health, and I was regularly advised that psychiatric medications were (obviously) the new “treatment of choice.”

Since those days, affixing the depression label to Native experience has become big business. IHS depends a great deal upon this activity—follow-up “medication management” encounters allow the agency to pull considerable extra revenue from Medicaid. One part of the federal government supplements funding for the other. That’s one reason it might be in the best interest of IHS to diagnose and treat depression, rather than acknowledge the emotional and behavioral difficulties resulting from chronic, intergenerational oppression.

The most recent U.S. Public Health Service practice guidelines, which IHS primary care providers are required to use, states that “depression is a medical illness,” and in a nod to Big Pharma suppliers like Pfizer, serotonin-correcting medications (SSRIs) like Zoloft® “are frequently recommended as first-line antidepressant treatment options.” This means IHS considers Native patients with a positive PHQ-9 screen to be mentally ill with depression. And in just the last four years, the Indian Health Service has spent over copy.1 billion to treat Mentally Ill Indians. In quiet ways, IHS admits to being obsessed on this point. For instance, in its National Behavioral Health Strategic Plan 2011-2015, IHS states an objective to “recognize the heavy influence of biomedical models” (it’s not certain what happens after recognition), but in its very next objective, notes a desire to “assist the Indian Health System to make needed prescribed psychotropic medications available to persons served.”

There are many things wrong with this model. For instance, the biomedical theory IHS is still promoting is obsolete. After more than 50 years of research, there’s no valid Western science to back up this theory of depression (or any other psychiatric disorder besides dementia and intoxication). There’s no chemical imbalance to correct. Even psychiatrist Ronald Pies, editor-in-chief emeritus of Psychiatric Times, admitted “the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend.”

Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry
Unhinged Trouble With Psychiatry

Researchers, writers, and mental health professionals have sought to get word out about the deceptiveness of this false science for decades. In 2011, Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Medical Journal, summarized the work of three such voices for the New York Review of Books. Angell reviewed The Emperor’s New Drugs by Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch in which he concludes that there is no significant difference between the drugs and sugar pills for reducing depression. Angell also reviewed award-winning investigative journalist Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, in which he describes the pharmaceutical industry’s funding of “key opinion leaders” for promoting its medications and its profound influence on increasing the number of DSM “disorders” eligible for medicating. Dr. Angell closes with a review of Daniel Carlat’s Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry. After Carlat thoroughly “follows the money” in pharmaceutical funding of psychiatry, he admits to nearly doubling his hourly income by seeing his patients for “psychopharmacology” instead of therapy.

The Emperors New Drugs
The Emperors New Drugs

IHS continues to apply the PHQ-9 in its stated belief that “early identification of depression will contribute to reducing incidence” of suicide, violence, etc. while allowing “providers to plan interventions and treatment to improve the mental health and well being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Antidepressants do not reduce suicide. Much money has been spent on studies trying to support such an idea that either fail or are easily exposed for poor science and shoddy designs that result in retractions and back-pedaling. A 2010 study of sales of antidepressants in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark from 1975 to 2006 found no relationship between suicide rates and the great popularity of psychiatric drugs.

In an astonishing twist, researchers working with the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that building more mental health services is a major factor in increasing the suicide rate. This finding may feel implausible, but it’s been repeated several times across large studies. WHO first studied suicide in relation to mental health systems in 100 countries in 2004, and then did so again in 2010, concluding that:

“[S]uicide rates… were increased in countries with mental health legislation, there was a significant positive correlation between suicide rates, and the percentage of the total health budget spent on mental health; and… suicide rates… were higher in countries with greater provision of mental health services, including the number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, and the availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.”

Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization
Global Suicide Rates World Health Organization

In fact, authors of the 2010 study stated rather specifically that the suicide rate climbed alongside the increased “availability of training in mental health for primary care professionals.” This describes the very strategy IHS has been using to try to reduce suicide.

Mental health folks didn’t care for such findings and wanted to try again. A 2013 follow-up study by Anto Rajkumar and colleagues using similar WHO data gathered from 191 countries found, “Countries with better psychiatric services experience higher suicide rates.” It might be beside the point to mention that research repeatedly demonstrates physicians commit suicide at twice the rate of other people. After all, they have more legal access to drugs.

Despite what’s known about their significant limitations and scientific groundlessness, antidepressants are still valued by some people for creating “emotional numbness,” according to psychiatric researcher David Healy. Research undertaken at the University of Washington in 2004 suggested people will quit using antidepressants because of feeling numb while others continue for the same reason.

The side effect of antidepressants, however, in decreasing sexual energy (libido) is much stronger than this numbing effect—sexual disinterest or difficulty becoming aroused or achieving orgasm occurs in as many as 60 percent of consumers. Such a side effect can in itself increase anxiety, depressed mood and hopelessness. In this way, IHS has become complicit in reducing sexual interest while having a potentially negative impact on intimate relationships within the communities it serves. The agency has been spreading lies about faulty brains with “chemical imbalances” for years now and recasting reactions to oppressive social conditions and life challenges as a pathological illness to be numbed or sedated.

Dr. David Healy is better known for his research showing that antidepressant medication increases suicide and violence in certain people. When I mentioned his early work to IHS primary care colleagues, I met great skepticism. But Healy’s work has withstood the test of time, including repeated scrutiny by major scientific authorities worldwide, even by a reluctant FDA that dragged its heels before mandating a “black box warning” about suicide and violence potential. Over the years, I’ve thought about Dr. Healy’s work when incidents of mass violence have occurred at Red Lake, Tule River and Marysville.

A formal report on IHS internal “Suicide Surveillance” data issued by Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center states the suicide rate for all U.S. adults currently hovers at 10 for every 100,000 people, while for the Native patients IHS tracked, the rate was 17 per 100,000. This rate varied widely across the regions IHS serves—in California it was 5.5, while in Alaska, 38.5. It’s important to note that IHS has experienced chronic difficulties in getting its providers to comply with entering all the suicides they encounter in their practices for this project. Yet there are crucial lessons to learn from what has been tallied.

Suicides for all U.S. youth in the age range of 15 to 24 nearly tripled from 1958 to 1982, but since 1999, this rate has remained stable at between 10 and 11 per 100,000. The IHS Suicide Surveillance data reveals the rate for Native youth to be climbing . Over 52 percent of suicides described in the Great Lakes report were by young Native people aged 10 to 24. Between 2005 and 2010, the average suicide rate for Native 14 to 24 year olds greatly exceeded even the overall Native rate. According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth and young adult suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)
According to the Center for Disease Control, the Native youth suicide rate hit an all-time high in 2014 at 31 per 100,000. That’s triple the U.S. youth rate. (National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan)

It’s not surprising that alcohol was involved in 82 percent of reported suicide attempts. It’s a shocker, however, that medication overdose was the primary method people used. Fifty-nine percent of Native people attempting suicide favored overdosing on meds—well beyond use of firearms, hanging, intentional car wrecks, or other means.

Nearly one in four of these suicidal medication overdoses used psychiatric medications. The majority of these medications originated through the Indian Health Service itself and included amphetamine and stimulants, tricyclic and other antidepressants, sedatives, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. The Suicide Surveillance report doesn’t specify what “other prescription medications” make up an additional 22 percent of medication overdoses and may have also originated at IHS.

Despite what IHS may say, there’s no evidence to suggest that psychiatric medication reduces either suicide or what it prefers to call depression. However, there’s solid evidence the agency’s expansion of its biomedical model and the drugs it promotes may be increasing the Native youth suicide rate—these drugs are being favored as a means of taking one’s life.

What’s truly remarkable is that this is not the first time the mental health movement in Indian Country has helped to destroy Native people. Today’s making of a Mentally Ill Indian to “treat” is just a variation on an old idea, a fitting example of George Santayana’s overused adage: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Native mental health system has been a tool of cultural genocide for over 175 years—seven generations. Long before there was this Mentally Ill Indian to treat, this movement was busy creating and perpetuating the Crazy Indian, the Dumb Indian, and the Drunken Indian.

We need to expose what has been made invisible and forgotten. We need to revisit the displaced and poverty-stricken ancestors subjected to Indian Lunacy Determinations and sent away from their homes and families. We need to learn more about the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, where people were kept shackled until the cuffs of their chains meshed with their skin.

We need to open the skeleton’s closet through which mental health first entered the boarding schools, determined stilted curricula for generations of children, and used its methods to sterilize those it deemed inferior. We must make peace with the fabled Firewater Myth, a false tale of heightened susceptibility to alcoholism and substances that even Native people sometimes tell themselves.

There are forgotten heroes to know, ancestors of those currently trapped by the Native mental health system—a Lakota diagnosed with “horse-stealing mania,” a Cherokee laying claim to the land of Sweden, and a Mohawk, the first Indian psychologist, stepping up to challenge the white man’s labeling of his community’s children as feebleminded.

English will necessarily be the shared language of inquiry, but let’s use it to be accurate about these seven generations of harm.

Because it’s oppression, plain and simple.

Portions of this story appeared in Dr. Walker’s blog postings at Mad In America. His award-winning Medicine Valley novels and some scholarly papers can be perused at www.tessasdance.com.

 

 

 

 

Statement of Solidarity with the Mi’kmaq Warriors

Warrior Publications

by Zig Zag

Dec 2, 2013

mikmaq-warrior-solidarity

Since the spring of 2013, the Mi’kmaq, along with Native and non-Native allies, have been resisting exploratory testing by SWN Resources Canada in New Brunswick. SWN, a Houston, Texas-based company, is searching for deposits of natural gas in shale rock formations. If they are successful and find significant deposits, they will then attempt to extract this gas using the process of fracking.

Are Green Groups Ready for Tarsands Deal?

Straight

Nov 20, 2013

By Dawn Paley

Gone are the days when the tarsands were an obscure experiment in making oil from tar. Today, the bitumen deposits in central and northern Alberta have become a political hot potato, an issue forced onto the world stage by coordinated protests and direct actions.

But a look at the history of the environmental groups that have signed on to the tarsands protests raises the question of whether or not an agreement between green groups and tarsands operators is on the horizon.

In Canada, Native-led opposition to the Enbridge pipeline through central B.C. has become one of the most visible faces of anti-oil protests. An ongoing 14-month blockade near Smithers, B.C., stands in the way of proposed gas and tarsands pipelines. Campaigns to stop oil tankers from travelling the B.C. coast have raised the spectre of an oil spill in the province’s coastal waters. Protests in Ontario have picked up against the Enbridge-proposed reversal of the 38-year-old Line 9 pipeline, which would pump tarsands crude to the East Coast.

Actions against the tarsands, though, are not limited to Canada.

Since 2011, thousands of people in the U.S. have been arrested protesting tarsands infrastructure, like the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to carry tarsands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. In June, protesters dogged Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to London, England, where, among other actions, they interrupted his speech to Parliament.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, according to Edward R. Royce, the chairman of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Canada is the single largest foreign supplier of petroleum and natural gas to the United States. After Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it is the United States’ third-largest supplier of petroleum,” Royce told the committee last March 14. Today in the U.S., securing access to oil is synonymous with national security.

Tarsands, shale gas, and related infrastructure are increasingly important environmental themes in B.C. But there’s a deal-making trend among some of the key players on the West Coast enviro scene that some consider greenwashing and others portray as pragmatism. As resistance to the tarsands mounts, will a conciliatory brand of anti-tarsands activism also take root?

The Tar Sands Solutions Network is a new coalition—headed up by controversial environmentalist Tzeporah Berman—that brings some of Canada’s biggest environmental groups together with smaller organizations to get the word out about their activism.

EDITORIAL: Out of Control [Indigenous Nations Are Governing Authorities, Not NGOs]

EDITORIAL: Out of Control [Indigenous Nations Are Governing Authorities, Not NGOs]

Image above from the United Nations website. Caption as follows: “The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is officially commemorated on 9 August annually in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.”

Intercontinental Cry

By Jay Taber 

Mar 23, 2013

As I noted in my essay Power of Moral Sanction, there are many roles in building a democratic society.  When properly combined, they can bring significant pressures to bear on public behavior, as well as within institutions under the control or influence of civil society. The problem today is that civil society has lost control of its institutions. Indeed, under globalization, civil society has little influence over the governance of modern states. In some circumstances, this loss of influence with modern states is reflected in the dysfunction of indigenous nations, especially when they are dependent on modern states, or under the thumb of ruthless corporations and international financial institutions.

Peaceful Protests Profit from History of Militant Resistance | Idle No More

 

Another excellent analysis of the Idle No More movement by Zig Zag …

 

January 12, 2013

by Zig Zag

Warrior Publications

Warrior at Oka, 1990, standing on top of abandoned & over turned police car.Warrior at Oka, 1990, standing on top of abandoned & over turned police car.

“Unbelievable how chicken the police are to remove these people from blocking the railway. If it was anybody but natives they would have been arrested a week ago.”

Letter posted by Gerry, Jan 2, 2013, “First Nation blockade in Sarnia coming down,” Canadian Press, Jan 2, 2013

Any time there is a significant Native blockade or occupation, there are demands for its immediate removal by angry citizens. During Oka, 1990, and Six Nations 2006, for example, mobs of non-Natives rallied and sometimes rioted demanding that the military intervene to end the disputes.

Why Indigenous and Racialized Struggles Will Always be Appendixed by the Left

Originally published  July 19th, 2011
Cross-posted from Unsettling Settlers

by Zainab Amadahy

Inspired by artists, academics and activist colleagues who have rolled their eyes at the spiritual beliefs of their Indigenous counterparts as well as protested the inclusion of prayer and ceremony into political, academic and artistic activities, I have decided to share my thinking on some fundamental differences in values and knowledge ways that impede relationship-making across our communities.

While I can’t generalize about what Indigenous or other racialized peoples mean by the words “decolonization”, anti-racist or “anti-colonial”, I can certainly observe how SOME philosophies and action strategies employed in leftist movements relegate anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles to the periphery.

EDITORIAL: Asymmetrical Warfare

By Jay Taber

Jan 13, 2013

Intercontinental Cry

There was no illusion of collaboration between Ottawa and the Assembly of First Nations on Friday. AFN is wholly dependent on Ottawa for its existence. They are collaborators by colonial design. They may see themselves as making the best of a bad situation, but they are not challenging the system of dominion.

Mohawk Nation: Traitors Among Us

Cross-posted with Libya360

January 13, 2013

Introduction by Cory Morningstar Via Wrong Kind of Green

The tragedy of such a “successful” campaign which is supposed to belong/be representative of the Indigenous Peoples/First Nations, is that the very people the campaign is supposed to speak for – like the Mohawks – have had their voices completely crushed by the privileged liberal left. Such articles that voice a different opinion other than the narrative echoed in the media (like below) are given no platform whatsoever, while 350’s Bill McKibben & Naomi Klein’s opinions are obsessively shared via social media and “left” media.

 

It is of little surprise that the corporate NGOs such as Avaaz, Greenpeace, Amnesty International et al are all circling and embedding themselves in this campaign like vultures. They must pacify it to the best of their ability.

 

The question is just why the left is allowing the voices of the radical grassroots to be ignored and marginalized – replacing them with the voices of those who protect the system. Do we want systemic change or do we only want reform?

 

Criticisms such as outlined below, so carefully articulated, are screaming to be heard by those who wrote them – those who refuse to abandon their ancestral roots. There is no doubt that throngs of First Nations peoples feel completely isolated, ignored and alone in their very precious ideologies.

 

Will they EVER be heard? Who will share their voices? If not us, then who? Certainly not Avaaz, nor McKibben, nor Greenpeace, nor the AFN/band leaders who feed from Harper’s trough.

 

Time to drop the Black Wampum

mnnlogo1

Mohawk Nation

The Indigenous People charge the Band Councils, Assembly of First Nations, provincial and territorial native organizations and all ‘Indian’ entities of the Corporation of Canada with “conspiracy” and “fraud”.

Wampum 44 of the Kaianerekowa, provides that the Women are the “progenitors of the soil”. Our duty is to preserve the land’s integrity on behalf of all our relatives.

Traditionals carry out penalty for treason

Wampum 58 provides that as you knowingly betrayed and violated the will of the People, you have conspired to commit treason. You worked with a foreign entity to try to dissolve and destroy our title and birthright. As corporate agents of Canada you have no authority to enter into any agreements or contracts for any of our lands or possessions with them or any corporate entities.  You represent only yourselves and those who voted for you. You are helping them to fraudulently use our land and resources as collateral to raise money on the international stock market to come in and rape our land.

“Any chief or other persons who submit to laws of a foreign people are alienated and forfeit all claims in the Iroquois nations, and to those of our Indigenous allies who abide by the law of the land, the Kaianerekowa”.  These traitors are not in but out of the canoe.

Your connections with these foreign entities should be thoroughly investigated, starting with the shareholder list of the Corporation of Canada.

If the Corporation of Canada wishes to enter into any formal agreement with the true Indigenous People, they must go through proper protocol with their Queen.  Order-in-Council UK [1704] affirms that a new impartial court can be set up to hear the land disputes on Onowaregeh.  We would be in agreement with countries such as Venezuela, Iran, Panama, Netherlands and Estonia setting up this impartial third party court.

When Canada has no traitors, the corporation cannot trade the resources they have been stealing from us.

Corporate traitors on the hunt

Senator Patrick “House Injun” Brazeau said that the chiefs have to be prepared with a “business plan solution”.  Our solution is to get rid of assimilated Indians like you.

The settlers to legally enter our land made agreements according to The Great Peace of Montreal 1701 based on the Guswentha. The Royal Proclamation 1763 affirmed this arrangement.  Parliament represents the party that agreed to live here, but reneged on it. At this point we have no choice but to control our own destiny.

Traitors are worse than the enemy, the lowest of the low.  Every culture loathes them.  They help foreign governments overthrow, make war against and seriously injure their own people. They undermine us from within.

Traitors have been punished by public execution, hanging, shooting at dawn and beheading. Russians shot their traitors in the head and made the family pay for the bullet.  In our way, the women make the decision to drop the black wampum in front of the traitor. Traitors would be banished and shunned forever, their name never to be heard ever again. Their family has no rights and no voice.  The seed dies.

Among many, one of the foremost traitors among us is Oren Lyons from Onondaga.  He requested Canada to send the army on us in the 1990 Mohawk Oka Crisis.  We were peacefully protesting the expansion of a golf course on our burial and ceremonial site.

As the Field Warriors say:  “You want a statue, or get an Order of Canada, be a traitor.”

Indian Traitors soon to be extinct

Dedicated to the soon-to-be-extinct corporate Indian traitors,  Mick Jagger sang:  “I’m on the run, I hear the hounds.  My luck is up, my chips are own.  So good-bye baby, so-long now.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it, child.  The hand of fate is on me now.  The hand of fate is heavy now”.

 

[MNN Mohawk Nation News kahentinetha2@yahoo.com  For more news, books, workshops, to donate and sign up for MNN newsletters, go to www.mohawknationnews.com  More stories at MNN Archives.  Address:  Box 991, Kahnawake [Quebec, Canada] J0L 1B0]

Indigenous Grassroots & the Indian Act Band Council

by Zig Zag

Warrior Publications

January 7, 2013

“Consequently, the leadership of grassroots movements should not be vested in elites or individuals, but rather arise from the the community itself. It is the community members who should meet, discuss, and decide on their course of action. This decision-making power should never be delegated to others, for then the very purpose of grassroots mobilizing would be lost.”

Grassroots fist logo

Debates arising from the recent Idle No More movement have revealed two main interpretations of what comprises the grassroots.  One seeks to exclude band councils, while the other views chiefs & councillors as an integral part of the grassroots, simply by virtue of them being members of the community.  Clearly, we need some basic understanding of what constitutes the grassroots in order to advance our movement.

Idle No More Movement Urged to Remain Grassroots Ahead of Jan 11 Protests

Cross-posted from Warrior Publications
Originally posted on Straight.com
by Stephen Hui, Georgia Straight
Jan 9, 2013

For his part, Hill sees the Idle No More flash mobs, round dances, and blockades that have occurred as “really positive steps” because they’ve mobilized many previously “idle” indigenous people. But the activist argues that if the movement is to gain substantial concessions from the government, it needs to learn from social movements in Latin America that are capable of “paralyzing the economy” of their countries. … “This is disarming the people,” Hill said. “It’s imposing pacifism on them, and it’s dampening their warrior spirit—their fighting spirit—which we need in a resistance movement.”

 

Stephen Harper meeting not the end of Idle No More, local organizer says

Gord Hill (holding the Mohawk warrior flag during a 2010 Olympic protest) says the Idle No More movement needs to stay grassroots to succeed.
Stephen Hui

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to meet with a delegation of First Nations chiefs on Friday (January 11), a long-time indigenous activist says this should not be viewed as a success for the Idle No More movement.

Indeed, Gord Hill told the Georgia Straight the high-level meeting actually represents the co-optation of the grassroots indigenous-sovereignty movement by band chiefs and councils that owe their power to the paternalistic Indian Act. According to the 44-year-old Kwakwaka’wakw author of The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, the Canadian government has historically used these “elites” to suppress efforts by First Nations people to fight colonialism and oppression.

“I wouldn’t even focus on January 11,” Hill said by phone from his East Vancouver home. “That’s something that the colonial regime and its collaborators are doing, so I wouldn’t even focus on that. People need to focus on the long-term strategy and methods of organizing.”

Hill calls himself a “critical supporter” of the Idle No More movement, which was started in October by four women in Saskatchewan, has rallied around hunger-striking Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence, and has seen thousands take to the streets inside and outside the country. Although he hasn’t yet joined the ranks of Idle No More protesters, Hill is considering participating in the “global day of action” set to coincide with Harper’s meeting on Friday.