Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 8, 2014

John Karhiio Kane 'Here We Go Again'

Here We Go Again

By John Karhiio Kane (Mohawk)
Censored News

I'm sorry, but I can't resist the temptation. As we rip open a new calendar I can't help but reflect on the past year and the one that is now before us.
I won't attempt to list all those who completed their time with us in this last trip around our eldest Brother, the Sun. We have had people close and intimate to us as well as people we admired from afar who now serve us only in our memories and in whatever form we may have them recorded.
We had people rise up from obscurity and gain the spotlight. Some of them have shown genuine courage and integrity, while others walked on the faces, shoulders and necks of their own people past and present to promote themselves and their agendas.
Many of us forged great new relationships and rekindled some old ones. Conversations were advanced. Issues were elevated. And while our impatience for significant change and solutions seems to be a constant ache, small signs of promise for change show themselves daily.
Even in the absence of a coming-of-age ceremony, we have seen some of our young people stepping up and standing up to the challenges that generations have faced, some quite poorly and some against nearly insurmountable odds.
Of course, there are our new ones, all those faces that have come to join us. New children, new grandchildren, generations removed from petty conflicts and feuds that have kept many of our people and territories from standing with each other.
Creation had another tough year as it continued to be compromised for profit. Our land, water and air remain in jeopardy to those who only see value in terms of dollars and how quickly they can be extracted from our Mother. Our plants and medicines are being altered and affected at alarming rates, diminishing the value that the wisdom 10,000 years has placed within them. Our Cousins, the winged, four legged and no legs, continue to adapt as best they can while their habitats are destroyed yet all continuing to show us the same lessons taught to all those who came before us. But our Mother and Creation are not taking these offenses quietly. Climate change, severe weather, seismic events and major breaks in ecosystems demonstrated the planet's response.
Last year at this time a groundswell began. A movement, driven not by bold dominant leadership but simply by the people, captured the world's attention. The idea that many of those who never considered themselves activists would be Idle No More was powerful and encouraging but, unfortunately, that momentum would be squandered by distracting individual acts. Hunger striking on Victoria Island or wining and dining with the NFL in D.C. were great headlines for individuals but it was the participation of the tens of thousands that was significant last year.
So with one cycle completed what do we see for the next one before us?
Well, whether the people remain "Idle" or not; corporations, governments and our Mother will not. The planet will continue to lash out, not just at the culprits raping the earth, but also at all of us. This is no longer a Native issue. We have proven our ability to survive crimes against humanity but who can survive the crimes against that, which sustains us all?
This year and every year until we turn back global exploitation — what "they" call the "global economy" — people will face the choice of siding with the planet or cashing it in. The "Revolution" isn't what we need; it is what we need to prevent. When the planet presses reset, that is when the revolt happens. And like a true revolution the planet will attempt a new beginning, with or without us. Many of us will not survive a revolution by the planet.
Our Mother and Creation will fix what we fail to correct. In fact, they will restore what we broke. Our role as Native people is to lead the charge so we are part of the solution rather than the obvious problem. We can’t do it alone, which is one of the things we must realize, and must convince those who are still too wary to join us.
The challenge for us is to continue to resist the colonial subjugation while we defend our Mother. That resistance is, essentially, one and the same. We hear much debate about our people’s "sovereignty." This word, like many others we have added to our lexicon, must be defined. Much of the world defines sovereignty with almost an exclusive emphasis on authority and power. As our people began to own this word, it began as an expression of our rights and our freedom. Our sovereignty is our right to have independent or individual authority. It is our right to a freedom that predates European contact, Christian missionaries and the doctrine and dogma that came with them. That freedom is tied not to our "tribal governments" or "traditional councils" but to Creation. It is a birthright, the same as with all of Creation. Our sovereignty is not a collective right but a right we must defend collectively. Unfortunately, too many of our people have bought into "their" definition. The original meaning has become diluted and obscured.
Our responsibility to the earth is like that sovereignty. The earth was not "given" to us from God, Jesus or "The Creator," like the Europeans believed and espoused. No one has been granted the right to pillage and plunder our Mother; and no one has been specifically charged with defending her either. If we believe the earth is an “every man for himself” proposition or that any of us can truly do right by ourselves, then we are pitiful creatures indeed.
We are all in this together. We need to rethink the world order — new or old. This is what this trip around our eldest Brother has laid before us.
– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national expert commentator on Native American issues, hosts “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN Sports Radio WWKB-AM 1520 in Buffalo, Sundays, 9-11 p.m. Eastern Time. He is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. John’s “Native Pride” blog can be found at He also has a very active "Let's Talk Native...with John Kane" group page on Facebook.

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