Just Build It Already

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Ground has already been broken by a United States president wielding an ancient axe-head made from a buffalo bone, no less.

After President William Howard Taft plus a delegation of 32 Indian tribal leaders and other dignitaries broke ground for a monument to honor the American Indian at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, overlooking New York Harbor from the New York City banks of Staten Island in 1913, the American flag was raised while the Indian leaders signed a “Declaration of Allegiance to the United States.”

On that day, the leaders of 32 tribes of First Americans from around the country agreed to join a New America.

Never mind that this New America had already ripped away the land the First Americans worshiped, tried to wipe the First Americans off the face of the planet with a genocidal law called “Manifest Destiny” that allowed bounty hunters to kill First Americans and exchange “redskin” body parts for money, and herded First Americans into the Trail of Death march onto reservations where they were greeted with blankets carrying disease and fed starchy, sugary food that would cripple future generations of First Americans with inherent bodies susceptible to alcoholism.

Those 32 First American leaders that day,104 years ago, thought the new America would finally put a chill on any lingering hostilities with a National Indian Monument that would greet immigrants as they entered New York Harbor on a boat.

But all New America did that day was leave a hole in the ground.

Today, First Americans continue to live on reservations in Third World conditions where the average income is below that of Haiti, and the life expectancy rate is 47 years in a so-called civilized country where the average life can live to be near 80.

Suicide on “the rez” is most prevalent. And the once-proud culture of a First America that respects Mother Earth and all of life’s natural resources, even praying over the sacrifice of the mighty buffalo for food, clothing and lodging, is now denigrated and mocked – sprayed with chemicals, water cannons in subzero temperatures, and bombed with grenades by police in riot gear as First Americans pray to protect life’s No. 1 resource – water – when oil companies feel the greedy need to trample on Indian land, desecrate sacred burial grounds, and plant a pipeline.

A National Indian Monument ready to be erected for the past 104 years?

Forget it. No kidding. Even though Margie Boldeagle, her husband, Robert, and the Red Storm Drum & Dance Troupe are proposing a much smaller statute than the massive monument originally drawn up in 1911, a statue they will pay for themselves out of money raised by New Americans who believe in their cause, the National Parks Service, which has maintained Fort Wadsworth since 1994, has joined the long line of excuses by claiming the original declaration issued by Congress authorized the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy to construct the monument – not the National Parks Service.

Forget about an actual monument to honor First Americans. New America already honors American Indians with racist names for football teams.

But here’s a stone cold fact that not even New America can shake. The first monument was to be set in stone in honor of this nation’s first culture that, in the early 1900s, was thought to be a vanishing race. Since then, New America has thrown entire armies at the American Indian, not to mention guns, governments, courts and a legal system that only serves up convenient justice for white authority, all in an effort to wipe the First Americans away for good to be left dead for some movie based on whimsical, romantic stereotypes in a feathered headdress.

Well, guess what?

The American Indian is still here, still standing strong in honor of Tashunke Witko, Tatanka Iyotake, Red Cloud and Russell Means, still burning with the fire of Dennis Banks, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Winona LaDuke, Chase Iron Eyes, Arvol Looking Horse – modern-day keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Clarence Syrette, Andy Jackson, John Warren, Bob Moody and his wife Beth Earl-Jones Moody, Jake and Mary Pine, Kookoosh, and, of course, Margie and Robert Boldeagle.

So screw your excuses, New America. The American Indian has always been the true keeper of this country’s flame, since before Day One.

Build the National Indian Monument. It’s the least you can do.

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