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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, January 14, 2011

Law firm apologizes for insulting Yaqui prayer at Arizona Memorial

A law firm making big money in Indian country apologizes for columnist

Article copyright Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Rio Yaqui Sonora, Mexico, photo copyright by Monica Martinez, published with permission.

TUCSON -- A law firm apologized for one of its attorneys insulting a Yaqui prayer during the memorial for shooting victims in Tucson. However, some Native Americans say the insults published in a public column reveal how this attorney feels. Further, two other columnists have not apologized for insulting the prayer of Carlos Gonzales.

“Ugly” was the word that columnist and attorney Paul Mirengoff used to describe the Yaqui prayer in Mirengoff's Power Line blog. Mirengoff is a partner in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, with numerous American Indian clients, including the Gila River Indian Community, north of Tucson.

Mohawk John M. Kane said the apology was just damage control and the commentaries by Mirengoff and two other columnists, Michelle Malkin and Warner Todd Huston, are revealing.

“Is there any question how these people feel about us? On one side of the American spectrum you have the Democrats' ‘we take care of our Indians’ attitude (wards of the state) and on the Republican side we are just regarded as a bunch of pagan, primitive savages, inconsequential to ‘their’ political system,” Kane said.

Kane said Mirengoff’s comments reveal a lot about attorneys in Indian country.

“I don't think hiring a firm to represent your interests is like hiring a plumber. Perhaps you can ignore that the best plumber in town is a Klansman, after all, ideology won't affect plumbing. But I think ideology does impact representation, strategy and arguing a position. These ‘experts’ in ‘Indian law’ are just prostitutes. They don't really love us; they just screw us,” said Kane, who hosts Native Pride online.

The Akin law firm clients include the Crow Nation in Montana, which Akin advises on water rights, and the Seneca Nation in New York.

Jose Matus, Yaqui ceremonial leader, responded and addressed another issue concerning Gonzales.

Matus said that Gonzales "misrepresented the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. He has no authority to what he did. Besides the only person that can do the blessings is the Yaqui Spiritual Leader." Matus is a Yaqui ceremonial who brings spiritual leaders from Rio Yaqui, Sonora, Mexico, to southern Arizona to carry out ceremonies.

As for the online insults of the prayer by columnists, Michelle Malkin and Warner Todd Huston have not yet apologized.

Fox News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin insulted the feather Gonzales was holding and called his prayer “babbles,” on her blog.

"Native American gives rambling speech while holding a feather. His remarks are frequently interrupted by whoops and cheers. He gives a shout-out to his son serving in Afghanistan. Brags about his ethnic Mexican background. Babbles about two-legged and four-legged creatures and the feminine energy that comes from Mother Earth.”

Warner Todd Huston, a contributor to Yahoo News, also insulted Gonzales. “In fact, a whole weird vibe was set at the very beginning of the memorial with pseudo-Native American medicine man Carlos Gonzales. He began the off kilter scene with his pseudo-blessing of rocks and trees, northern doors, and -- well, whatever he was blessing, anyway. His self-referential promotion was also quite off-putting."

Mirengoff apologized with the law firm and his blog post has been removed. He wrote this in Power Line:

"As for the ‘ugly,’ I'm afraid I must cite the opening ‘prayer’ by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

“But it wasn't just Gonzales's prayer that was ‘ugly’ under the circumstances. Before he ever got to the prayer, Gonzales provided us with a mini-auto biography and made several references to Mexico, the country from which (he informed us) his family came to Arizona in the mid 19th century. I'm not sure why Gonzales felt that Mexico needed to intrude into this service, but I have an idea,” Mirengoff wrote.

Patricia MacDonald, Metis, responded.

"I feel their 'apology' is BS, meant to calm the waters, when all they really did was push the current down. They need to get rid of this man," MacDonald said.

MacDonald questions Mirengoff's lack of understanding.

"Would this man have said the same if a Jewish rabbi didn't refer to Jesus, as it would be more 'closely aligned with their religious beliefs'? An incredibly blind man."

Mirengoff, an attorney with an international law firm that includes Arizona Indian Nations, should be well-informed about the Pascua Yaqui Indian Nation on the southern rim of Tucson, and the Rio Yaqui villages in the state of Sonora, Mexico. If Mirengoff had even a little knowledge of current events in southern Arizona, he would have known that Yaqui maintain family ties with their relatives in Sonora and Yaqui ceremonial leaders routinely come to the Tucson area to lead ceremonies.

Common sense should have at least beckoned and prevented him, and other columnists, from insulting a prayer, especially in a time of so much hurt and healing.

Finally, in a column on why this Yaqui prayer does matter, Hopi Patty Talahongva shares her thoughts:

The Akin apology and more at Indianz:
Media Matters: Conservatives attack Native American prayer at Arizona Memorial:

More from John Kane at Native Pride:


Unknown said...

A good lawyer knows to carefully respect everyone around them, even their opponents. That's how some people end up in lawsuits in the first place. I'm sure this firm learned its lesson, while a lot of other ones just shook their heads and laughed. Thiago |

sunrisefamilylawyer said...
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