Thursday, September 26, 2013

WI Legislature to Native Tribes: "No Recourse"

Those of you paying attention know that Wisconsin's Native American tribes are involved in a desperate struggle to preserve their land, water, and way of life. To call the proposed 21-mile open-pit iron ore mine genocidal is not hyperbole. Barbara With's excellent piece from February of this year lays out how severely the mine threatens the tribes. Quoting Mike Wiggins Jr., Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa:
Because we’re directly downstream and set to endure the impacts of this project, we view it as an imminent threat. This human threat really manifests itself in a form of genocide. Genocide.

Adding grievous insult to devastating injury, the Wisconsin legislature wants to rewrite the rules regarding school districts' use of Native American mascots, shifting the burden of proof from the schools districts to the complainants, whose number will need to be equivalent to at least 10 percent of the total student body. Also, appealed cases will now be heard by the Department of Administration rather than the Department of Public Instruction. Representative Steve Nass's spokesperson asserted that the DPI is biased in the matter. As if the DoA weren't.

Barbara E. Munson (Oneida), member of the Wisconsin "Indian" Mascot and Logo Taskforce, eloquently makes the case for how "Indian" mascots and nicknames are harmful to children.
Wisconsin Indian educators want school environments where all students can thrive, and we want accurate and authentic historical and contemporary information taught about all people. ... Research shows that "Indian" mascot, logo and name stereotyping is harmful and that it teaches students to stereotype groups of people other than the depicted "Indians."
DPI Secretary Tony Evers asserts that "essentially, [lawmakers are] saying to the American Indian population in Wisconsin, 'There is no recourse here.'" Which, of course, is the point.

In other words, Wisconsin's Native American tribes have no recourse when it comes to the land, the water, and their way of life, and they have no recourse when it comes to their own identity and heritage.

Thing is, essentially the same can be said for rest of the people of Wisconsin. When it comes to what Charles P. Pierce calls "Walker's fire-sale of state assets," when it comes to our civil liberties, the preservation of our natural resources, health care, public education, and our children's future, we have no recourse. Except, possibly, the ballot box.

But to counter the gerrymandering, the voter suppression, the misinformation, and the big money, we're going to have to shake off all that's left over from our post-recall lethargy and marshal our forces as never before. We have no other recourse.

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