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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:

Censored News top stories week of Jan. 14, 2011

Mohawk, Navajo, Tongva, and Lakota are top stories this week
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo: Kahentinetha Horn holds the Haudenosaunee passport at the Indigenous Border Summit of the Americas on Tohono O'odham land in 2007, as a Mohawk warrior holds the sacred Two Row belt. Photo Brenda Norrell.
Haudenosaunee resistance and Kahentinetha Horn, 71, publisher of Mohawk Nation News, was the top story this week at Censored News. Kahentinetha suffered a heart attack from a stresshold applied by Canadian border guards, and now is being charged by the Border Guards. She recalls her history of resistance, from the Civil Rights Movement and Oka to the border.
Navajos resisting uranium mining protested at this week's inauguration of newly elected leaders. The Navajo elected leaders accepted funding for the inauguration from URI, the uranium mining company targeting Navajos in Church Rock, N.M. the site of the nation's worst uranium spill.
This week, the largest number of readers were from the United States, Canada, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Welcome to our readers in Jersey in the Channel Islands, among more than 500 new visitors to Censored News yesterday.
Here’s this week’s top five stories from Censored News for the week ending Jan. 14, 2011:
Mohawk Kahentinetha Horn: Resistance: The publisher of Mohawk Nation News now faces charges after suffering a heart attack induced by Canadian Border Guards
Censored: Navajos protest uranium mining at inauguration
Bracing against the cold, Navajos protested the inauguration of newly-elected leaders who accepted funding for URI, targeting Navajos with more uranium mining:
Los Angeles: Halt removal of Tongva remains: American Indians are calling for a halt to the digging up of American Indian human remains at a Los Angeles cemetery:
Also, listen to a broadcast from American Indian Airwaves on the desecration of Tongva remains (Jan. 11 archive):
Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council gathering
Chief Oliver Red Cloud: ‘As Itancan of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, I am calling for a Wolakota Omniciye for the Tiospaye/Bands of the Oceti Sakowin. The gathering will be held on January 28 and 29, 2011.’
An Akwesasne film crew was back in court after racist attack by Virginia State Police. Leadhorse Choctaw is to be released today, Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, after serving 10 days in jail following racist attack that was videotaped by the Indigenous film crew promoting Indigenous games to be held in Akwesasne:
Finally, the top Censored News story for the past six months was Canada's illegal wiretap of Mohawks, as exposed by Wikileaks:
SUNDAY: Read the new articles on the radio broadcast from Lakotas' Bring Back the Way on Pine Ridge, S.D., and how a Wiki Spoof, satire, on Canada's Indian Minister took on a life of its own. The latest article is "Law Firm apologizes for insulting Yaqui prayer."
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