The American Indian would be the first to say there’s far more pressing problems on every inch of every reservation from sea to shining sea than suing the U.S. Parks Service over a National American Indian Monument.
Never mind a historic ground-breaking at Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth in 1913 for Rodman Wanamaker’s original concept of a National American Indian Monument with President William Howard Taft and 32 tribal leaders from across the country wielding a genuine buffalo axe.
A presidential groundbreaking ceremony that, oh by the way, took an Act of Congress to sanction – the same Act of Congress it took for a Declaration of Allegiance to grant full United States citizenship to this country’s only true Americans.
When it came to actually building the monument, the rest of America went off to World War I and forgot all about Rodman Wanamaker’s quest, Rodman Wanamaker specifically, and Indians in general for the next 105 years and counting.
Today the American Indian remains the Great American Secret – tribes of conquered sovereign nations swept under the rug of a casino-driven reservation, the same reservation system that piqued Hitler’s inspiration for concentration camps.
Monuments are reserved for Washingtons, Jeffersons, the Robert E. Lees and even the Custers of this country’s history. Even Nathan Bedford Forrest, the human template for the Ku Klux Klan, is honored with a monument on a national highway just outside Nashville, Tennessee.
And once one is up, God help you if you think about taking it down. Just the hint of taking down a monument to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., turned the city into a white supremacists’ war zone.
Once upon a time when the buffalo roamed freely, Lakotah Nation had its own monument. Paha Sapa, or Khe Sapa in the Black Hills, served as Lakotah holy land where life is believed to have been created .
Then the government moved in. American Indian men, women and children were rounded up onto reservations, or at least the American Indians who survived the Trails of Death and Tears marches. Paha Sapa was carved into a tourist attraction defaced with the stone images of four conquering presidents.
The words of one of those presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, sums up the sentiments behind Mount Rushmore perfectly: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
The proudest of all American cultures was left with an alcohol-soaked 47-year average life span existing in subhuman squalor on the Pine Ridge Reservation where scraps of government cheese are considered a square meal and sweat lodge provides the only sanctuary – if the feds don’t trample over prayers to make an arrest.
The American Indian screams for help every single day, but there’s no government around to listen unless there’s an oil pipeline to be laid or uranium to mine. The scream is so covert, it took a movie to out this country’s heroic Code Talkers, the Native American military radio specialists who saved this country’s ass in two world wars and Korea just by talking their own language.
The country Indians defend to this day in numbers that top all ethnic groups is the same country that beat the language and culture out of Indian children in boarding schools. It’s the same country that continues to mock the heritage with cartoonish sports mascots. The same country that bulldozes sacred burial grounds and sends troops of police SWAT and military tanks into Standing Rock armed with guns, grenades, mace bombs and powerful water hoses shooting water into tipi camps in subzero temperatures at night to keep Indians from protecting the planet’s most crucial life source – water.
All for their monument to greed, an oil pipeline.
Did anybody notice Indian women at Standing Rock protecting the river armed with nothing more than sage, tobacco and prayers, yet getting rousted, maced, manhandled and handcuffed like they were the terrorists?
Apparently not. When the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota broke recently and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil into the soil causing the largest oil spill to date in the state’s history, Winona LaDuke may as well had been a tree falling in the woods with nobody around when she cried, “We told you so.”
But there’s not a whole lot anybody with the slightest respect for life can do when this president proclaims “it’s so sensible” to shrink 2 million acres of sacred Indian land at the Bear Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent, a natural Indian monument that was declared protected by President Barack Obama in 2016.
Five tribes are suing this president from turning their natural monument to Mother Earth out to uranium miners and oil drillers, arguing that while Congress delegated President Obama presidential power to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act, it did not give this president power to revoke them.
But house money says some federal judge won’t give a flying rat’s nut about any Antiquities Act or whether this president can get out of his own way or not.
Which is why Margie and Robert Boldeagle need much more than the Antiquities Act, much more than luck, much more than money, much more than the spirits of every tribal leader present at the original groundbreaking looking down on them when they sue the U.S. Parks Service for approval to finally build a smaller, long overdue National American Indian Monument overlooking New York Harbor.
They need a dream catcher full of miracles.
The Parks Service wouldn’t even waste a federal breath of comment on a television news segment that spotlighted the Boldeagles’ cause. Meaning, it’s painstakingly obvious the Parks Service couldn’t care less that a National American Indian Monument would be a badly-needed bright and positive light shining on this country’s First Americans and their plight. The American Indian is doing fine rotting on the rez for all they care.
Funny how the original National American Indian Monument was tabbed to be built to honor what was believed in 1913 to be this country’s vanishing race.
Now it’s Jan. 1, 2018, and guess what? The American Indian is still here.
No other conquered nation could survive such overwhelming third world conditions that suck all life from hope and leave nothing but smoldering remnants of culture, language, and profound ghosts of a proud heritage for so long. But the American Indian has always been as strong and resilient as the human condition can get.
For that alone this country should build a National American Indian Monument.
It’s why we are still beating our drums, singing and dancing in ceremony at pow wows, which have become popular summertime fests enjoyed by everybody throughout the entire country.
It’s why we continued to educate our children spiritually through the cultural sanctity of sweat lodge even before the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in 1978, as if anybody ever needed a law for permission to pray.
It’s why today we are politicians, such as Tom Cole, Chickasaw, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma. It’s why today we are federal judges, like the Honorable Diane J. Humetewa, Hopi, in the U.S. District of Arizona. And it’s why we have our own place among the United Nations, where Keith Harper, Cherokee, serves as U.S. Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
It’s why, in the southwestern/northwestern corridor of the Michigan/Indiana border in the Lake Michigan region known as Michiana, nobody is creating more jobs than the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Tribe. Four area casinos provide employment for hundreds, and the Pokagons also serve as the region’s number one land developer creating hundreds more construction opportunities every year.
It’s why a National American Indian Monument should be the first monument seen when entering New York Harbor. Not the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France.
A National American Indian Monument – a Native-born gift in honor of Margie and Robert Boldeagle’s ancestors those first immigrants saw before it was called New York.
Its place on Staten Island has certainly been earned.