Cowboys and Indians - Where is the Outrage?

On Monday, August 23 members of New York native nations (Unkechaug and Shinnecock included) protested on the steps of New York's City Hall in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's racist utterance.  "Bloomberg used imagery considered insensitive at best by tribal members when he suggested that Gov. David Paterson don a cowboy hat, grab a shotgun and stand in the Thruway to make sure tax law is implemented on Indian cigarette sales." according to the Albany Times-Union's James Odato.

Tiokasin Ghosthorse of First Voices Indigenous Radio included a report from Carole Woodward of Digital Radio Warrior Media from the rally including quotes from Chief Harry Wallace (Unkechaug) and Sr. Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs (Shinnecock).  Also an interview with native blogger John Cain about native / NY State relations, cigarette tax questions and the Mayor's remarks.  These reports were carried on WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport on Thursday August 26.

From Indian Country Today: Where is America’s outrage?

“The use of force to subdue, dispossess, disempower and eradicate the Native American is a disgraceful part of American history and Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging its continuation.”

 Full article:

When New York Mayor Bloomberg asked Gov. Patterson to act like a cowboy to shut down the Seneca tobacco industry, little was heard from mainstream America to condemn such an outrageous statement.

The use of force to subdue, dispossess, disempower and eradicate the Native American is a disgraceful part of American history and Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging its continuation. The image of the cowboys shooting and killing Indians, defending settlers and moving them off their lands is the stuff of American legend. Indians were the villains of American expansionism and it created Manifest Destiny to justify their elimination.

America loves its cowboy image. Bloomberg wants to resurrect John Wayne as a solution to the “Indian problem.”

But if anyone in America should understand Native Americans, it should be Bloomberg. He is a part of an oppressed people: Persecuted, dispossessed and eradicated. Being Jewish, Bloomberg should feel the same way Native Americans do.

After all, to the Seneca and the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee, northern New York state is our Israel. We are the freedom fighters and defenders of the land, not the cowboys. The cowboys are the invaders and looters.

We have lived in the area from time immemorial; we have a constitution predating European contact and a federation of nations that American founding fathers studied to replace a system based on a monarchy. We are an ancient people with our own language, customs, spirituality and government, living on our own homeland; our Israel.

Would Bloomberg accept Hamas enforcing tax collection in Israel? I don’t think so.

Yet that is the reality for Native Americans. America wanted our land and our natural resources, which made this the richest country in the world. Now America wants to continue the impoverishment of Native Americans by collecting its taxes by force.

Bloomberg’s blindness to our history must not be limited to only him. The rest of America seems not to care very much.

If the mayor had suggested that the Klu Klux Klan be sent in to collect taxes in Seneca territory, there would be outrage. His suggestion for the governor to act like a cowboy is comparable to sending in neo-Nazis to settle the “Jewish problem.”

Shocking as that may sound, this is the image from a Native American perspective.

Yet there is no outrage from mainstream America.

It is in the American culture to idolize the cowboy and villainize the Native American. Americans don’t see the comparison of Israel and the Jewish people to the reservations and territories of Native Americans. Or they refuse to see. It would be too painful or, more likely, too expensive. Or they do not want to offend the Jewish community?

It is okay to offend Native Americans. That is American culture.

When will America stand up for the rights and freedoms of Native Americans?

- Kenneth Deer
© 1998 - 2010 Indian Country Today. All Rights Reserved
From the article above:

“The use of force to subdue, dispossess, disempower and eradicate the Native American is a disgraceful part of American history and Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging its continuation.”

Article 4 and Article 7 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination deal with speech promoting or inciting racial discrimination.  The United States ratified the Convention in 1994, but took exception to the provisions in Articles 4 and 7 at the time, claiming the United States “does not accept any obligation under this Convention, in particular under Articles 4 and 7” and referred to the “extensive protections of individual freedom of speech” in the United States.  Free speech in the U.S.A. apparently includes hate speech or speech which incites racial discrimination.  In 2004, there was a ripple of protest, but no outrage when Governor Schwarzenegger claimed publicly, “The Indians are ripping us off.” And “they don’t pay their fair share.”  The situation in New York is similar.  The state wants to claim revenue that doesn’t belong to the state by undermining the source of income of
 Native peoples in the state.  In order to demonize Native people, hate speech seems to be considered fair game then and now.  Where is America’s outrage that public officials can use hate speech and that federal law outweighs international human rights law in allowing them to incite discrimination with impunity?