UPDATE 2: Thanks so much goes out to our Rescue Rangers for rescuing this diary! This is only my second entry, and to make it this far is very inspiring! WOOF's to you all!
I am part Native American. Although the blood in me is thin and the ancestry is long, the few drops of Seminole burn in my veins. I feel the warrior in me come alive. I feel that I should don my feathers and my war shirt and sharpen my spear, for the battle to reclaim what is ours rages on.
Many Native Americans live in hideous poverty. Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation live at the lowest level of poverty found in the United States. Unemployment is as high as 45%. Children run around barefoot, wearing clothes so worn out that their mothers are afraid to wash them because they may fall apart, then the kids would have nothing to wear at all.
My warrior soul weeps for my spirit brothers.
Native Americans make up about 8% of the total voting age population but are not properly represented by the Census Bureau. This may be because many Natives who live on reservations do not participate in the Census, or that in certain cases the Census simply does not include Natives who live on reservations. In any event, this 8% of the population is a very important part of our community.
A grassroots effort is being organized from coast to coast by Indians and those with Indian blood like myself to recover this lost 8% of the vote and swing it in favor of the Democrats. But there is one minor problem. Native Americans typically show no interest in state or federal politics. This is because ever since Christopher Columbus set foot on the island of Hispanola, Natives have been used, abused, neglected, enslaved, rejected, rounded up like livestock, cheated, mistreated and forced off of their lands by the European settlers. It is high time this comes to an end.
This is a true story:
My father, who passed away in 2000, was a big-shot leader of the Boy Scouts of America back in Asheville, North Carolina. He and his troop went on expeditions each year to various adventurous locations including the Philmont Scout Ranch, Yosemite National Park and other places of interest to Boy Scouts. My father suffered from exposure to asbestos during the 1960s and 1970s and therefore he retired from his Scouting duties in the late 1980s and left such adventures to other younger and more capable folks. But he always stayed involved in troop activities as much as he could and helped plan their annual adventure.
In 1991, the troop planned an expedition to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a LONG LONG drive from Asheville, so the planning had to be done carefully so as to not exclude any of the fine details. And although the Boy Scouts motto is "Be Prepared," this time they got caught with their pants down.
It was three weeks before their departure date and they had made arrangements to rent two big passenger van buses for the kids and several of the adult leaders pledged to drive their own mini-vans. But they had totally forgotten about all of that camping gear and how it was going to be hauled more than half-way across the country.
And that is where I come in. At the time, I owned a huge cargo van. And I was quasi-unemployed (more like quasi-self-employed). So I was, more or less, automatically volunteered (drafted!) to do the job. Which was OK -- I don't mind going 2500 miles with a bunch of roudy Boy Scouts, especially to a place as magnificent as Yellowstone.
Three days after departing Asheville we arrived in Cody, Wyoming and the home of the Cody Nite Rodeo. The camp site, a place just 4 miles from the East Gate of Yellowstone and about 60 miles west of Cody was named Camp Buffalo Bill. I was disappointed with the camp, as it was quite a dump compared to Camp Daniel Boone back home in the Smoky Mountains. But it was decent enough as long as the hot water mixer valve in the bathhouse stayed working.
Anyway, along with the camping came a day of exploration back in Cody. One of the highlights of this excursion was a visit to the Plains Indians Museum, a part of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The museum showcased the plight of the Western Plains Indians, their history, culture and lifestyle. It was a fantastic display of American Indian heritage.
After spending about 4 hours at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center it was time to return to Camp Buffalo Bill, which was a 60+ mile drive down a winding highway US14-16-20. Very scenic, but with a speed limit of 45 MPH and well deserved. So the kids in my van wanted to stop at a souvenir/convenience store and grab a snack before heading back. So I stopped at a store just across from the Cody Nite Rodeo and we all went inside.
The store was filled with the usual tourist trap souvenirs and fake Indian artifacts along with T-shirts, coffee mugs and souvenir cigars. We worked our way back to the rear of the store where the soft drink coolers were located and began the argumentative selection process of which flavor to buy. In the meantime, an young and VERY good looking Native American guy came into the store. I walked towards the front of the store to check out the latest customer. Indeed, a very nice looking, long black haired Indian. He spoke lightly and peacefully without a single rasp in his voice. His eyes spoke volumes and the color of his skin was of the richest Western sunset. One of the best looking guys I think I have ever seen.
So I spoke to him. He simply replied, "Hello" back to me. But then...
The storekeeper came from the back room and approached this beautiful Indian and screamed at him harshly using language I will not repeat here. The storekeeper then threw up his arms and yelled at him with a forceful, fighting voice, forcing him closer and closer towards the front door. I was standing back, wondering what on Earth could this all be about. Did this Indian steal from him or something? But then came the answer.
The next 100+ words from the storekeeper were nothing but racial slurs directed not only at the Indian himself but at his heritage, his bretheren, his soul.
As the soft-spirited Indian left the store, a tear ran down his face. It was one of the most disgraceful sights I think I have ever seen.
I then turned to the storekeeper and let MY warrior instincts come out. I let him know in a split second how wrong he was for doing what he did. All I got in return was thrown out of his store along with the Scouts that were with me.
So we left. And we got back into the van. And we began to drive away. But before I could pull out into the traffic, I saw this young Indian once again. I pulled up beside him in the store's parking lot close to the road and lowered my window. I asked him if he needed a ride somewhere and if he wanted to talk to a friend. At first he rejected me but then he accepted the offer and climbed into the van. We drove to a place he told us to go down the road about two miles. It was a parking area for the employees of the Rodeo who work the stock gates and was empty this time of day. We then sat there, me, three Scouts and a young but disillusioned Indian and talked about how much we respect each other. I told him about my heritage and spoke to him as a brother.
It was everything he needed. It was the inspiration he had been seeking. He told me that he had been treated that way all of his life, and so had all of his friends. The local school was semi-integrated with Shoshone, but not all of his tribal members could attend. And they were persecuted, told they were animals, worthless.
It was a task to get it across to him that in my mind he is no animal. And I'm glad I persisted until I gained his trust.
His name is Shekatah (pronounced she-kah-tah), which means Shivering Rabbit. I told him my Seminole name was Saquo, which means Tall Tree, and since most Native American languages have some similar basis, he understood this to be true. He then told me his Christian name is Sean, but he does not like using it. After exchanging our names and explaining what they mean, we became friends and are still friends to this day.
Shekatah has long left the Shoshone river area. Shortly after leaving he attended a trade school and learned the art of landscaping. He was hired by one of the National Parks in California as a groundskeeper and now has a wife, family, and four of the most beautiful kids you ever laid your eyes upon! He is no longer persecuted for being a Native American. He is a proud Shoshone and has learned to stand up for himself and his heritage.
This story is not uncommon. Native Americans have been mistreated worse than any other ethnic group in American history. And for this reason, many Indians who live on reservations do not trust people not of their own heritage and therefore refuse to participate in state and federal elections, what the Indians call "wasicu" law.
It is time we end this reign of hate, disgrace and poverty and prove to our Native brothers and sisters that we do care and that there is hope at the end of that tunnel.
Please, help us get reservation Natives registered to vote and spend time canvassing the reservations. Then do what you can to help Natives get to the poll to cast their important vote. Once Democrats are elected to office we CAN and we WILL help, once and for all, eliminate the extreme poverty suffered by what I think are the most spirited of all peoples -- our very own Native Americans.
Let me beg, please to recommend this diary. Not for mojo, but so more folks may read this and participate with me and the other KOS Natives in a grassroots effort to organize, plan and execute a GOTV operation on each and every reservation and to get together and hold election runs to get Natives to the polls on Election Day. Remember, 8% of the population are voting-age Native Americans that CAN swing the results in our favor. All we have to do is get them registered and to the polls.
Thank you for reading such a long diary and of course, Stay Wolfy!
UPDATE 1: A commenter below has indicated that I may have been a bit too theatric with the "warrior" description and was evidently somewhat offended by it. This choice of language was used to deliberately be theatric -- to draw attention to the feelings and emotions generated by the text. I do know that modern Native Americans do not speak in this jargon any longer but I feel that it is appropriate language to use with the common folk who are not familiar with issues and may need to be further informed. It is an "ice breaker", or comfort statement that indicates the strong emotion I have for this cause. However, I apologize for any intrusion, and further wish that this commenter, and any in the future, become friends with me rather than be disassociated by my intentions.
The reference to the children who were in tattered clothing is from a forer visit to Pine Ridge in 1984 where myself along with a study group from the University of Florida were conducting surveys on poverty. It is a first-hand account.
UPDATE 2 is at the top of the page.
UPDATE 3: Let me clarify the information presented in the first paragraph of the diary body (4th paragraph of entire diary): According to the Census Bureau, Native Americans form approximately 0.87% of the total population of inhabitants of the United States and includes both "continental" Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The 8% reference refers to those of voting age and who are registered.
The total population of the United States: 281,421,906
Total population of Natives, including Alaskan Natives: 2,447,989
Percentage of Population of Natives Amongst Total Population: 0.87%
Percentage of Population of Natives Eligible to Vote by Age Amongst Total Population Eligible to Vote by Age: 0.78%
Percentage of Natives Eligible to Vote by Age Amongst All Natives: 66.7%
Percentage of Natives Registered to Vote Amongs All Natives: 7.92%
Therefore, over 66% of all Natives are of voting age and, unless barred by other circumstances, can be registered to vote.The data presented by the Census is complicated to understand at best since it presents only emperical data. These figures have been calculated using this data. Not all of the information necessary to compute this figure is available at the link. To obtain the rest of the figures, you must click on links provided within that page.
However, if every eligible Native were to register it would only comprise 0.87% of the total voting population. Less than 1% nationwide. Although the Census does not provide this information with a simple link, you can assertain from the links on the Census page above that this tiny percentage nationwide is broken up and concentrated in certain areas, such as reservations, and can affect certain key Congressional districts.
The purpose of this diary is to point out two factors: First, most Natives who could vote in State or Federal elections refrain from doing so due to the lack of interest in such elections, and in many cases this is motivated by centuries of injustice from both State and Federal governments, and the occasional but more widespread than most people think, racism. It may also be due to a lack of "assimulated" Natives (those who do not live on the reservation) running for public office. Secondly, elections held in Native-rich areas CAN be affected by the Native vote. Many times canvassing and campaigning ignores the reservation Indian. If enough of these previously unregistered Natives were to register and vote, it could affect certain outcomes in key areas rich with Native populations. It is OUR job to get out and get these Natives educated on "white man's" politics, get them to give enough of a damn to vote, and get them registered and to the polls.
I personally think the centuries of injustices are coming to an end. And it is OUR party that will chauffer these changes into place.
Thank you once again for reading this diary and giving me a chance to help with this cause. It does sincerely mean a lot to me now as it has in the past.