The Forgotten People: Restoring Justice for Indigenous Cultures

Magdalena Smieszek Ethical, Integral Justice Warrior, Perspectives, Values, Video, World Affairs, Worldviews 28 Comments

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“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”Hubert Humphrey

oin Mark, Corey, and special guest Magdalena Smieszek as they take a careful look at the many indignities and injustices that have been inflicted on indigenous populations in North America and around the world over the last several years, decades, and centuries.

How can we begin to heal the cultural and systemic traumas of the past and create new paths of integration for these populations within a healthy pluralistic space — allowing them to preserve their cultural heritage, traditions, and identities — instead of the forced strategies of assimilation that have historically been imposed upon them? What new wisdoms and opportunities would this new integration offer for all of us?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

If you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out more episodes of Integral Justice Warrior. Watch them all for only $1!

Written and produced by Corey deVos
Image by David Frank [+view gallery]

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Mark Fischler

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Notable Replies

  1. More than sensitive, I thought this conversation applied and upheld for cultures (indigenous cultures, anyway) the Integral thinking generally applied to individuals when it comes to development–that growth in consciousness is largely an organic process involving gradual change, which is why “forced” growth/development (e.g. assimilation) rarely succeeds.

    Re: the separate conversations about Teddy Roosevelt and about the US Supreme Court ruling declaring Indians as legal “owners” of a vast portion of Oklahoma lands–this is not to “cancel” Teddy :slightly_smiling_face:–I too appreciate that he loved and wanted to protect wild and beautiful places as National Parks–but I wanted to “connect the dots” between those discussions: that connection being that it was Teddy Roosevelt who dissolved Indian territory in Oklahoma, making way for Oklahoma’s statehood in 1907.

    Also wanted to mention that less than 20 miles down the road from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills is the Crazy Horse Memorial, under construction since 1948 but open to visitors. While (ultimately, when finished) featuring Crazy Horse on his crazy horse, the monument honors all indigenous people of North America.

    Finally, just a few words about indigenous people worldwide, who make up about 5% of the global population (370-500 million in 90 countries). If they were all in one place, that would make them the world’s 3rd most populous “country,” just behind China and India. (The U.S. would then be the 4th most populous country.) But because they are scattered physically, some very small tribes sometimes find themselves alone and up against huge corporations or governments when it comes to protecting their land and water rights, their way of life. Yes, there are many advocates and NGOs that assist them, and Standing Rock is a good example in recent times of various native people in the U.S. and Canada coming together to support the Sioux, with many non-Indians also supporting them, but the smallness of some tribes can make for situations in which their extinction is on the table.

    Indigenous people own, occupy, or use about 25% of the earth’s surface area. That surface area contains 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Insecure land tenure and insecure water rights are major issues for many native people in the world, but we do seem to be in a time when indigenous rights are being increasingly recognized. Still, we all might want to pay attention and think twice when it comes to mining, logging, petrochemical pipelines, dams and river deviations on indigenous lands. While there have always been and are occasionally divisions or different perspectives within a tribe, and also indigenous leaders who sometimes “go rogue” (or corrupt) and act against the best interests and the will of their people and the planet, on the whole, that remaining biodiversity is being safe-guarded by native folks.

    Finally, thanks to Mark for sharing his journey to the Black Hills and his ideas about pilgrimage and volunteerism with native people; the sincerity came through. Thanks to everyone.

  2. Hello LaWanna,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful words. I so appreciate what you add to our show based on your wisdom in your comments. Deep bows and please continue (I am deeply grateful)! I saw that you mentioned the Crazy Horse memorial as that was something we visited as well. Have you been? I have to tell you I went there excited and hopeful and left there not feeling the love. I left there feeling this family who is building it really will never finish it (it’s been 70 years and they aren’t close to being done). That the contribution to Native causes by this family were minimal compared to what they’ve made. I wish to heck I felt differently. The idea and principle make some sense to me though. Wishing you many blessings LaWanna. I look forward to further interactions on the path. Warmly, Mark Fischler

  3. Hi Mark,
    And thank you for the kind compliments, which I would send right back to you! I like your participation on the IJW show, not just for the legal and teaching experience you bring, or your apparent all-around goodness, but for the fire of compassionate justice that flares at times seemingly in your whole being. More than once my normally inner quiet while watching the show has exploded into a YES! said aloud in response to one of those flares. So I hope you stay around for awhile. The Integral community is lucky to have these podcasts and your involvement.

    No, I have never been to the Crazy Horse Memorial. If I visited, perhaps I would detect a sour vibe and, like you, come away “not feeling the love.” I am aware of the controversies, both from reading and from conversations with a few Lakotas I know, have known, and I’m glad that you brought this up and your own experience, so that the community here knows that not all has been smooth chipping and chiseling, and that there are different opinions/perspectives on the monument among the Sioux themselves. They would not have known that from my earlier post alone.

    Of the several grievances, all of which I can understand and appreciate, most of them seem rather weak to me, other than this one of possible/probable white exploitation of Indians for financial gain. Nations, including sovereign tribal nations, need surface structures/symbols of pride, and it saddens me a little that the Crazy Horse Memorial, inspired by and intended as a source of nation-pride for the Sioux and other North American Indians, has been tainted by questions of wrong-doing on the part of the original sculptor’s family/descendants. Of course, Mount Rushmore has its taint of shame as well, the interplay of shadow and light seemingly being what makes the world go round.

    Last I checked, and you may from your visit know more about this than I, the estimated completion date for the monument is 2120, making it a 172-year project all told. That’s a long time, for sure, but I think of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty between the Sioux and the US Government; that treaty is now 153 years old and is still “in play,” very much alive, with the Sioux, as you mentioned in the podcast, refusing up to this point to take money from the government to settle disputes as they see that as their saying they agreed to sell the Black Hills in 1877, when the government “seized” the land, and they say they did not agree. (As the legal guy here, I’m sure you have a better grasp of those treaty details than do I.) Of course, things change, surprising developments arise, black swan events and such, so this treaty dispute may change too. And actually, so may the situation at Crazy Horse, who knows? I for one would be totally supportive if in some way the Indians could take it over (and also be in charge of managing the National Parks.)

    Reading I’ve done and Lakotas I’ve spoken to who are overall supportive of the Monument point to the fact it does provide jobs for some Indians in the area, and the commerce at the site has provided scholarships for native education in South Dakota. As you say, these benefits may be totally out of proportion to those gained by the family managing the site.

    But more than this, proponents of the monument hold fast to the seed-intent or formative idea of the Lakota elder who commissioned the sculpture: to show the world that Indians have leaders, and pride in their leaders, equal to those of the white world. As you no doubt know, the last military victory for the Sioux (The Battle of the Little Bighorn, or as the Indians call it, the Battle at the Greasy Grass) was in 1877, popularly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Less popularly known is that it was Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull who as chiefs and warriors/military leaders led that attack.

    And I too hold (probably not “fast,” actually loosely, but still I hold…) to that formative idea of appreciating Indian leaders. A couple of centuries from now, if indeed the monument is completed, it will be, in the words of one writer I read, a living testament “to the original people who lived there.” It will suggest and point in sculpture form to a more adequate/accurate history than Mount Rushmore alone does or can. That both monuments are in some ways tainted, well, here’s hoping that part of history gets recorded too.

    Deep bows to you too Mark, and sincerely, thank you for talking to me about this. If I ever make it to Crazy Horse Memorial, I may find myself thinking “well, Mark told me about this…” in which case, I’ll be bowing to you all over again! Much appreciation.

  4. Avatar for steven steven says:

    Part 2 Comment - distilled into 2 areas: first, continuation of this thing about TRoosevelt; second, deterministic inevitability.

    Corey, I’m pushing the Roosevelt point here because there’s something highly significant that still isn’t clarified. You speak of “ the painful irony that (Roosevelt) shared with the American Indians a fundamental appreciation for “sacred naturalism”. OK. Let’s play it out:

    Roosevelt, to the Indians: “The land that your ancestors have called home for 5,000 years is beautiful and sacred.”

    Indians: “Thank you. We think so, too.”

    TR: “I love your land so much and think so highly of it that I’m going to take it from you, because my God wants me to, and I will kill any of you that get in my way. But I will make sure to appreciate the beauty of nature along with you, you sub-human scum.”

    There is no Venn diagram overlap with TR and Indians; it’s two completely different things. Red apple, red fire-truck; two things. It’s like holding a portrait of Hitler against the face of a Jewish patriarch admiring the similar jawline. In addition to reflecting deep ignorance, it reflects deep disrespect, intended or not, and it needs to stop.

    There’s another point that I think you are not getting about the contextual differences between TR and Indians. It reflects the epistemological oil/water relationship of Roosevelt/Indians. TR is the epitome of Modern, rugged individualism and God-given dominion over nature; and that, in all regards, is in utter and total conflict with American Indian relationship of mutuality with nature. That difference – it’s epistemological, a difference in kind.

    In my post, I thought you could tell that I was not asking you about those specific historical catastrophes, but was just listing them as representative of world horrors. Thanks for your individual attention there, but not what I meant. (Or were you being facetious?) Also, I am not going to take or follow this into idiosyncratic Integral or SD theories (yeah, I know, even though it’s a kw site) because those specifics are not relevant to my points here.

    But I do get what you mean.

    You are saying that not only was it inevitable that TR impose extreme violent actions against Indians, (assessed anyway you want), but that it was spiritually inspired eg Manifest Destiny.

    In addition to TR, this deeply concerning issue involves a basic philosophical foundation that kw lays out and you plug it in when you repeatedly say, “I continue to believe that same violent imperialistic epistemology was also very much an inevitable product of history” and you say “many or most of the events you listed do seem to be somewhat inevitable” and you say “As for those other historic events, they feel like they are fixed points, in a certain way” and you say “historic inevitability.”

    **** Rearview-deterministic-inevitability is always accurate. And if that’s what you are looking for, pathogenic causations can everywhere be made to glisten; that is a very Modernistic thing to do. Every event of every moment of history can be framed, (or punctuated, in Bateson’s terms) in that manner, and any chosen horror will be justified by the historical conditions surrounding it, in which it arose. It means nothing because it applies to everything, and if that is your default position, the effect is to kill all dialogue. ****

    Corey, it seems to me, following an Integrally informed perspective, as you are interpreting, the basic response to any harm would be “Given the immediate and historical circumstances, your harm is an inevitable product of history; sad, unfortunate, but inevitable.” This descriptive dynamic would presumably apply across the board, whether the harm is to a rape victim, war crime victims, 9/11 victims, financial fraud victims, Palestinians, Indian tribes, Jews.

    Oh, and South Africa; they didn’t accept violent-imperialism-as-an-inevitable-product-of-history. The perspective of rearview inevitability would undercut the philosophy behind ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ commissions throughout the world. “Since it was inevitable, we can all just turn out the lights and go home; what’s the point, or the use, of talking about it since it was predetermined? It amounts to, ‘You want to talk about it, talk to God’.”

    In this context that you construct, one of deterministic inevitability, the whole notion of Truth and Reconciliation falls apart. Your position is that it was all God’s will, after all. A very vengeful, hateful vindictive Christian God, but a God nevertheless – the Manifest Destiny kind of God that your position continues to vitalize. Note, this is not the same as saying that they thought it was God’s will – obviously a bunch (but far from all) did think that. Here, you are going beyond that; you are actually vetting it as a viable truth. You are agreeing that it was, in fact, God’s will, or spiritually inspired. Is that really your intent?

    Personally, I consider Manifest Destiny an evil of epochal proportions which represented nothing more than a lo-ball capitulation to greed and deceit, even by standards of that day. Volumes have been written on alternatives to the genocidal narrative of Manifest Destiny.

  5. Hey @steven, thanks as always for the feedback. It’s clear to me that you care very deeply about these issues, and very knowledgeable about them. And I absolutely agree that I spoke ineloquently about this in the actual recorded discussion. It’s one of my major flaws that I try to be mindful of when doing these episodes — I communicate much more clearly through writing, than I do through speaking. So I thank you again for the pushback, as it helps me clarify my own views and positions, and hopefully do a better job communicating them. I am always 100% wiling to take critical feedback, so long as it is being delivered with kindness, respect, and good faith. So thanks for the opportunity to engage!

    So, just to reiterate — I was not speaking to the very obvious developmental and cultural differences between Roosevelt and natives. I was speaking purely in terms of states of consciousness, and I very much believe that it’s possible that Roosevelt was experiencing very similar states that are common to many indigenous cultures. That state, of course, then gets interpreted VERY differently, according to their respective kosmic addresses.

    So: Roosevelt’s opinion of nature? Most likely the product of a series of state experiences. And since we can ALL experience these states, regardless of our developmental achievements, then I think it is definitely possible that it was a similar state experience as was being commonly had by native peoples.

    Roosevelt’s opinion of the natives themselves? This was a the product of a) Roosevelt’s development in his moral, ethical, emotional, and spiritual lines, among others, and b) Roosevelt’s surrounding ethos and prevailing worldviews and moral standards of the time. Roosevelt was an imperialist who was elected by imperialists during the era of imperialism, and that was the primary filter he was enacting reality through.

    Spiritual states are different than developmental factors. They are even different than the spiritual line. Two different people can be at two very different places in the spiritual line, while having essentially identical state experiences. But of course, how they then interpret and enact those states will be very different.

    (Which reminds me of a science fiction story I always wanted to write – one day, everyone on the planet has a spiritual satori experience. Every man, woman, and child on the planet tastes Spirit-in-1st-person, all at the same time. As a result, the world ends the very next day.)

    So I agree that there is an epistemological difference here – and that difference is largely the result of development, both individual and social.

    I think this kind of interpretive flexibility — and always being careful not to impose contemporary moral standards on previous eras — is tremendously important when we are enacting history. It’s what allows me, for example, to appreciate the incredible achievements of, say, the Aztec empire, while simultaneously being horrified by their rituals of human sacrifice. I can plainly call human sacrifice “evil”, and I am sure you agree. But we both probably also know that specific perception of evil is itself coming from a higher/deeper/greater moral development than was available to the actual Aztec people of the time. (And this, of course, was one of the common justifications for how the Conquistadors treated these people.)

    But I don’t think that is what I am doing. What I am doing, is looking at the prevailing moral and ethical standards of whatever era I am focusing on, and trying to limit my judgment to those constraints. I expect my eight year old to act like an eight year old, not a 20 year old. I expect the Aztecs to act like Aztecs, and not like 17th century Europeans. I expect an imperialist like Teddy Roosevelt to act like an imperialist, and not like a 1960s San Francisco hippie.

    So it’s not about “determinism”, but rather the inevitability of changing selection pressures up and down the spiral, in all four quadrants. Yes, there could have been – and likely were – individuals who criticized the horrors of the status quo of any given era. The point I am making is, those individuals and ideas had no chance of being selected for by the rest of culture and society, at least until a certain threshold of social development occurs. Once more people can resonate with those higher, deeper, kinder values, that’s when they begin to seep into the rest of the culture, and then transform the culture from the inside out. Until then, the vast majority of people are simply products of their time. The same way your own views and values are, in no insignificant way, an accident of birth (as are mine of course).

    No, my position is that it was evolution’s will. That is a somewhat different argument, I think :wink:

    Thanks again for engaging Steven, and I hope my clarifications are helpful in some small way.

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