Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 24, 2011

Tar Sands, Obama and the New Censorship in Indian Country

Heather Milton Lightening, Tantoo Cardinal, Margot Kidder and Joshua Kahn Russell, after Cardinal and Kidder's arrest and release from jail on Tuesday. Photo Joshua Kahn Russell/Censored News.
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
WASHINGTON -- Cree actress Tantoo Cardinal was arrested on Tuesday at the White House, defending her homeland from the tar sands excavation that is destroying the land, air and water. Tantoo Cardinal was arrested with Superman's Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, born in Yellowknife, Canada, in the protest to halt the Keystone XL Pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
Normally, the American Indian news media rushes to post these stories, which are free and easily available online.

However, on Wednesday morning, Tantoo Cardinal's arrest was censored by five leading Native American online websites in the US. There was no mention of her arrest or of the ongoing protests.

What was the motive? Are Native American online news websites attempting to protect Obama from criticism?

Obama went on a 10-day vacation when the two weeks of protests and arrests began at the White House.

Today's censorship is disturbing because it continues the pattern of censorship in Indian country that has recently accelerated.

When Indigenous Peoples came together for the Protecting Mother Earth Gathering, the last week of July, on the land of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara in North Dakota, Indian newspapers did not cover it. Then, Indian Country Today carried out a counter campaign by publishing the press publicity of the tribal leader, Fort Berthold President Tex Hall, who is promoting the oil and gas drilling. The gangbuster drilling has turned the area into a disaster zone of dust, heavy trucks, spills, environmental destruction and deaths on the highways.

Then, the Arizona Daily Sun censored the dramatic protests of Native Americans in their struggle to protect the sacred San Francisco Peaks. The Snowbowl ski resort plans to use wastewater for tourists snowmaking on the sacred mountain. The clearcutting of the old growth forests has already resulted in extensive destruction.

The Arizona Daily Sun also censored the fact that Native American organizers of a peaceful march were dragged into the streets downtown by Flagstaff police and arrested. Then, the Arizona Daily Sun censored the dramatic lockdowns of protesters on Snowbowl Road, including the protest of Klee Benally, Navajo, who chained himself to an excavator. The Arizona Daily Sun's agenda is clear: It will protect the corporations and coverup for the police. It has made it clear that the newspaper's priority is not Native Americans, who both live and shop in Flagstaff.

The fragile environment of the Arctic is also under attack by the oil and gas industry and the Obama administration, threatening the precious Beluga Whales.
Although the Canadian press did cover Tantoo Cardinal's arrest on Tuesday, the Native American online news media in the United States censored it. Since the national Native websites do not actually go out and cover news stories in most cases, but simply link to the articles of others, or in other cases plagiarize or rewrite those articles, the question remains why there is no coverage today. It takes only minutes to link to a news story.

It only takes a quick glance at these websites to see that rather than protecting Mother Earth, the focus has become on destroying Mother Earth with drilling, mining, power plants and fracking. The spin doctors for corporations and politicians have found ways to influence the Native news publishers, editors and writers.

It is time to say 'No more!' to both the destruction and the manipulation of the truth as it appears in the news. It is time to stop allowing news websites with advertising to exploit the work of writers and photographers. It is time to hold the news media accountable for censorship, plagiarism and profiteering.

It is time to demand some dignity in death from the old guard newspapers that are now dying.

The online news media can not thrive on plagiarism and advertising alone, it needs readers.

It needs readers like you.

More at Tar Sands Action

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