This week, we are very pleased to welcome back KentuckyKat after a long hiatus. Please greet her in comments!

Photobucket BP Oil Darkens Future for Three Louisiana Tribes

by Aji, SheKos contributor

The disaster in the Gulf weighs heavily on my mind and spirit. For Native Americans, the terrible destruction wrought by British Petroleum and by America's laissez-faire regulatory policies holds a deeper dimension. It is defilement. It is desecration. It is devastation to an already-endangered way of life.

I've written in the past about how, for many of our peoples, the earth is our mother - Akii. That term holds very real significance for us, both culturally and spiritually. Acts that do violence to her do violence to us all.

The area of Louisiana that is most immediately affected by this disaster is also home to three small Indian tribes: the Chitimacha, the Houma, and the Pointe-au-Chien. These tribes' livelihood - indeed, their very existence - depends upon their traditional vocations of fishing, shrimping, and other sea and coast-related activities. The Gulf waters themselves have spiritual significance. And all are still reeling from the effects of 2008's Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Now, the survival of these tribes is threatened anew.

Of the three, only the Chitimacha are federally recognized. The Houma and the Pointe-au-Chien tribes are both recognized by the state of Louisiana. Lack of federal recognition, however, renders them ineligible for much of the federal disaster and other assistance they so desperately need.

On June 1, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse posted a wonderful diary alerting Kossacks to the newest threat to these tribal lands. As PDNC noted, the tribes took matters into their own hands, helping with booming and working to save their sacred lands and burial grounds. Meanwhile, hurricane season began last Tuesday, and the situation continues to deteriorate.

The Indians here have borne the consequences of the work of oil and gas companies for nearly 100 years, but the oil that is now only a short boat ride away has the potential to slam a death nail into this fishing village and the cultural identity of Indians who have populated it for centuries.

. . .

Their way of life likely will soon change. On Saturday, oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the spill that began April 20 was three miles inside Bayou Pointe-Aux-Chenes. It has already ruined oyster plots, soiled crab traps and cut off shrimp trawlers from some of this area's best fishing grounds.

"The oil has locked us in," said Jamie Dardar, a crabber and Houma Indian. "Everyone is on top of each other now and you can't even drive a boat through there for all the traps.

"But it's only a matter of time before they shut it completely down. It's only a matter of time. This oil is just going to finish us."

The process of "finish[ing] us" actually began some eighty years ago, when the oil and gas companies moved into southern Louisiana and began dredging and drilling. Their activities allowed salt water to flow inland through the marshes, destroying not only the wetlands habitat but the very coastline itself.

Since the 1930s, oil and natural gas companies dug about 10,000 miles of canals, straight as Arizona highways, through the oak and cypress forests, black mangroves, bird rushes and golden marshes. If lined up in a row, the canals would stretch nearly halfway around the world.

They funneled salt water into the marshes, killing trees and grass and hastening erosion. Some scientists say drilling caused half of Louisiana's land loss, or about 1,000 square miles.

"If you see pictures from the sky, how many haphazard cuts were made in the land, it blows your mind," said Patty Ferguson, a member of the Pointe-Au-Chien tribe. "We weren't just fishermen. We raised crops, we had wells. We can't anymore because of the salt water intrusion."

. . .

The damage didn't end with the canals. U.S. Geological Survey scientists say sucking so much oil and gas out of the ground likely caused the land in many places to sink by half an inch a year. In boom days in the 1970s, Louisiana's coastal wells pumped 360 million barrels a year, an eighth of what Saudi Arabia ships to the market today.

Oil wells also discharged about a billion gallons daily of brine, thick with naturally occurring chemicals like chlorides, calcium and magnesium, as well as acids used in drilling.

Anesie Verdin, a 63-year-old traditional fisherman, tells of both the devastation and the mendacity involved:

Reverently, he pointed to a cemetery in the middle of the marsh. A thin white cross stood amid roseau cane. Cemeteries long ago abandoned by Chitimacha dot wetlands throughout Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Verdin and others tell of protecting the burial grounds with shotguns against the dredging equipment of oil companies.

Further down the bayou is land once owned by Verdin's grandfathers, eaten away by saltwater. Verdin complained about oil and gas companies taking advantage of his family's and his people's tribal lands. He claims his grandfathers were tricked long ago into selling most of their property to the Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, now owned by Conoco-Phillips.

"My grandfathers did not know how to read or write," Verdin said. "The oil company would come down and tell you they wanted to lease your property for a lot of money, $25, but what they were signing, they were actually selling the land."

Sydney Verdin, a 60-year-old fisherman, told a reporter:

"I can't think of one Indian who ever made any money from oil."

It's the same old story. Loss of land. Loss of livelihood. Eventually, loss of language, culture, and spiritual traditions. And one day, loss of an entire people.

Houma tribal chair Brenda Dardar Robichaux and Pointe-au-Chien member Charles Verdin voiced their people's fears:

"I shudder to think how this is going to affect us in the long term. We are a resilient people, but this is different than anything we’ve had to face. We haven’t seen the worst yet," Robichaux said.

"We expect the oil will reach the canals and will infiltrate water supply. The unknown is agonizing. Heaven forbid a hurricane comes, that’s too devastating to even think about.

. . .

"It’s hard to imagine or see our future," Verdin said. "We just don’t know."

It's hard to imagine or see our future.

How many times, over the last 500 years, have our tribal leaders faced that very fear? And at what point does the fear become realized? Thanks to corporate and government greed, we may soon know the answer.



Photobucket  THIS WEEK IN WOMEN'S HISTORY: Speaking Up, Speaking Out...and Stepping into the Voting Booth

      by joedemocrat, SheKos contributor

  • This week in 1851, the first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin was published by Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was an abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin made the slavery debate real to millions of Americans, and had a powerful impact on public opinion. It was the second best selling book of the 19th century, behind only the Bible. Harriet was motivated to write the book after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law made it illegal to help runaway slaves. The book’s impact on public opinion was so large that Abraham Lincoln once remarked, "So you're the little lady who started this great war!"
  • This week in 1919, the U.S. Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constution by a vote of 56 to 25. This amendment would ultimately be ratified by enough states on August 18, 1920 and gave women the right to vote.
  • This week in 1972, Sally Priesand became the first woman rabbi to be ordained in the United States. She then became an assistant Rabbi at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City. She eventually moved on to Monmouth Reform Temple in New Jersey. During her tenure at Monmouth Reform Temple, she became involved in several social causes such as preventing drunk driving and creating a charitable fund for the homeless. She also assumed a leadership role in Planned Parenthood of New Jersey. She retired in 2006.
  • This week in 1972, Angela Davis was wrongly charged with and ultimately acquitted for murder and kidnapping. She was a target of COINTELPRO, a term used to describe the FBI's covert and illegal operations to disrupt and suppress dissident political groups. She was Gus Hall's Vice Presidential candidate in both 1980 and 1984 on the Communist Party ticket. She left the U.S. Communist Party during the 1990s, and now describes herself as a "Democratic Socialist." She remains a well known political activist working mostly on eliminating the prison industrial complex. She is also a retired professor from the University of California. John Lennon was so moved by COINTELPRO's politically motivated prosecution of Davis that he recorded the song Angela featured below:


Photobucket  GLBT NEWS THE KAT DRAGGED IN: Lesbian moms are the best (No offense, Ma)!

      by KentuckyKat, SheKos contributor

A nearly 25-year study concluded that children raised in lesbian households were psychologically well-adjusted and had fewer behavioral problems than their peers.  
Link to CNN story.

That sound that you hear? Fundies' heads exploding. They've been telling us ad nauseum that children do better when raised by a mother and a father, rather than two parents of any gender combination.

The study followed 78 lesbian couples through their insemination/pregnancy period and at four points during the children's adolescence.  The children were evaluated using the Child Behavior Checklist, which measures "children's behavioral and social problems, such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior and social competence."  (See the CNN link above.)  The information collected on these children was compared with the data for children raised in non-lesbian families. The results were impressive. The children raised by lesbians "rated higher in social, academic and total competence. They also showed lower rates in social, rule-breaking, aggressive problem behavior." Accordingly, the researcher (Dr. Nanette Gartrell) concludes that restrictions on child custody and reproductive technologies based on orientation are not justified.  

Identified factors contributing to the better outcomes include involvement of the mothers, that there was typically less power-assertion in the families, and the fact that the pregnancies were both planned and usually occurred later in the mothers' lives.

Personally, I would like to see this study taken a step further.  Let's compare the outcomes for children raised by lesbian couples who remain together with those of heterosexual parents who remain together, with a subset for married heterosexuals who remain married.  This could give us some significant data about whether outcomes relate to the parents' biological connection and marital status or simply to having two loving and committed parents.

If you have an interest in learning more about the realities of gay parenting, check out last week's WGLB: The Intentional Father.  And in another shameless plug for that diary series:

This week we were lucky enough to convince a founding member of Queer Rising guest-blog for us. I've mentioned Queer Rising in SheKos before here. I promised in the comments to try to score an interview with a member of the group...so, I hope that you will drop by to hear about what they have in store. They are a new and exciting departure from the GLBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign and I can't wait to read about where they are headed!



      by Oke, SheKos contributor

  • In A Simple Ideal, mconvente writes from a male perspective about the story making the news right now--the woman fired from Citibank for "looking too good", which distracted her apparently libidinous male colleagues.  The diarist makes good points about what a feminist "should be" from a male's perspective.  Worth a read.
  • In CriminalInJustice Kos: Women In Prison...Who Are They?, Criminal InJustice Kos in the weekly diary on "crime" and "criminals", diaries about women in prison, the statistic on their crimes, their education and race, their income and the likelihood and problems of being mothers in prison.  The conclusion: the poor, the uneducated, the minority and the female are targeted by the system, to the detriment of society.
  • In Free the Midwives, The Book Bear writes about midwifery and the "Midwifery Modernization Act", a bill which would remove the requirement that a midwife--that ancient tradition--requires the practitioner to "written practice agreement" with a licensed OB.  Why is this a problem?  The Book Bear tells us about the possibility that OB's will pressure midwives to engage in practices which are not the safest for the mother or baby.
  • In Is the Religious Right Winning the Battle of Abortion?, Frederick Clarkson tells us about writes about a report in Time magazine which details how the Religious Right is makng headway in restricting abortion in many states, convincing sympathetic legislators to introduce bills with more and more serious restrictions.  Frederick Clarkson reminds us that the battle for reproductive freedom is never over and won.

And from outside the Orange:

  • The Trauma Myth: Understanding the True Dynamics of Sexual Abuse

    As a graduate student at Harvard in the mid-1990s, I participated in research studies carried out by the psychology department that began in October 1996 and continued until August 2005 to interview adults who had experience sexual abuse as children and learn what effects the abuse had had on their lives. Although I was sure I knew what I would discover—that the abuse would be remembered as a horrible experience that overwhelmed the people I interviewed with fear when it happened and had always been viewed as a traumatizing occurrence—what I heard in the hundreds of interviews I conducted was quite different. In nearly all the cases, the adults I questioned had not experienced the abuse as traumatic when it occurred and only came to regard it as so years later.

  • ACLU Files Appeal Brief Challenging Sex-Segregation Case

    On May 28, the ACLU Women's Rights Project and the ACLU of Louisiana filed an appeal brief challenging the legality of sex-segregated classes at Rene A. Rost Middle School in the Vermilion Parish School District of Kaplan, Louisiana. The ACLU contends that the school district's policy, which is based on the idea that sex-segregated classes cater to the different learning styles of boys and girls, is in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Equal Education Opportunities Act, and the US Constitution.

    The case originated in August 2009 after "Joan Doe", a mother of two students at the school learned that her daughters would be forced to enroll in sex-segregated classes, despite Rene A. Post being a public, coeducational school. Several weeks later, after Joan Doe was told that the district would be revising their system to introduce more coeducational options, she found that the revised system only allowed students to choose between sex-segregated classes and pre-existing coeducational special education classes.

  • Why Self-Help Books That Promise Happiness Are a Scam

    This month hormones are to blame for the fact that men and women can't get along. But for only $29.95, you can learn the easy cure.

    According to John Gray, in Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, the solution to what ails us is simple. The modern world is stressful for men and women, more so than ever, and thus humans produce more cortisol in response. But while cortisol gives us the jolt needed to outrun saber tooth tigers, or deal with equivalent emergencies like mis-addressing a sensitive email, over time, cortisol suppresses other good hormones like oxytocin (for women) and testosterone (for men). That makes us each wound up and run down. Ugh. Men and women are from different planets, and it takes lots of energy to communicate with aliens. And this hormonal problem means we have an even harder time of it, and end up arguing more, which produces more cortisol and less happiness.

  • Not a Lone Wolf

    As soon as Scott Roeder was named the sole suspect in the point-blank shooting death of Wichita, Kan., abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the vestibule of the Reformation Lutheran Church Tiller attended, a predictable story began to be told. Following the lead of a recent Department of Homeland Security report characterizing right-wing terrorists as lone wolves, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC, NBC and FOX News all ran stories calling Roeder a "lone wolf" gunman.

    It is the oldest, possibly most dangerous abortion story out there.

  • Parental Notification Initiative to Appear on the Alaska Ballot

    On Wednesday, the Alaska State Supreme Court ruled that a parental notification initiative will appear on the Alaska primary ballot in August. The validity of the initiative, which would require parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion, was challenged in court by Planned Parenthood. If enacted, the parental notification law would include a judicial bypass provision. A parental consent law was overturned by the Alaska State Supreme Court in 2007.

    Planned Parenthood argued that the petition process for the initiative was flawed and contained omissions that could have misled the more than 32,000 voters who signed the petition according to the Associated Press. According to the Anchorage Daily News, approximately 47,000 signatures were submitted, well above the legal requirement of 32,734.

  • Christian 'Pregnancy Crisis Centers' Masquerading as Health Clinics Tell Women Abortion Causes Cancer and Infertility -- And You're Helping Pay for Them

    She sat in the counseling room, looking at the posters of fetal development covering the walls. In her hands she held the pamphlets urging her to forgo abortion.

    Together with a partner, the young woman, Alexa Cole, had entered the crisis pregnancy center – CPC, for short – hoping to get more information about abortion and birth control options.
    "[It] was in kind of like a shopping plaza area," Cole later recalled. "It had a sign on the curb or by the sidewalk advertising Pregnancy Resource Center or something along those lines."

Originally posted to SheKos on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 10:04 AM PDT.

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