12
Aug
2004

Temperatures rise after documentary

Michael Moore’s film doing what mainstream media is not

Posted: July 30, 2004 //indiancountry.com/?search=July+30,+2004 - 3:33pm EST
by: Brenda Norrell //indiancountry.com/?author=448 / Southwest Staff Reporter / Indian Country Today

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - While moviegoers flock to see "Fahrenheit 9/11", American Indians point out that Sept. 11, 2001, was neither the first time terrorism was unleashed in this land, nor was it the first time United States dollars were pocketed by war profiteers.

"Native people know what true terror is. It was turned on us by the U. S. military a long time ago," said Jennifer Denetdale, Navajo, assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico.

"And government corruption? We know what that is too. Just for an example: The imprisonment of Navajos at Bosque Redondo from 1864 to 1868 cost U.S. taxpayers $10 million and most of it went to contractors who made huge profits off of our suffering."

As Native peoples we also should be more critical of the cost we are sustaining as we sacrifice our children - young men and women to the war effort - when our rights as Native peoples in our own country is continually disregarded and undermined."

After watching "Fahrenheit 9/11" twice, Denetdale urged others to see the film and pursue real news from alternative sources.

"I have been continually frustrated and shocked by the national media’s treatment of the war. It has been benign and incredibly ill-informed. Given that the American people, including Native peoples, do not have access to some of the realities of the war in Iraq, most people remain unaware of the many consequences of America’s war-mongering."

Denetdale said it is important to know the connection between corporations and Bush and Cheney, including the fact that Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton, awarded a no-bid contract in Iraq.

"I am pleased to see Moore’s film out, the revelations of G.W. Bush’s family connections to the Saudis, the business connections - Cheney and Halliburton - and the sacrifices and costs that the average American family is enduring. At the same time Bush is cutting all kinds of domestic programs; it is past time for the American people to know this."

However, Denetdale said the film perpetuates another stereotype.

"While I found Moore’s film cathartic - finally, evidence that other people know what an atrocity the war is and how it’s based on lies the Bush administration perpetuates - there is also some racism in the film.

"For example, the ‘coalition of the willing’ images of ‘backwards’ countries peopled by brown and black-skinned humans - perpetuates assumptions and stereotypes. We can do without that."

Klee Benally, Navajo activist and member of the family rock band Blackfire in Flagstaff, Ariz., said he hopes Michael Moore’s next film will focus on the genocide of indigenous peoples and the seizure of their lands.

Klee points out that the war in Iraq is a longstanding war fought on the homeland. Klee’s father, Navajo medicine man Jones Benally, is from Big Mountain in Arizona, where Peabody Coal mining has caused a travesty for the Navajo and Hopi people on Black Mesa.

"‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is a remarkable and indispensable testimony to the tragedy of our times," Klee said. "I just hope that people don’t think that after Bush is gone all the problems will go away. Mr. Moore could have easily shown how our personal everyday dependency on fossil fuels and other non-sustainable energy is also what’s really behind this war."

One scene in particular remains with him.

"The image of the Native American serving in Iraq with the eagle feather on his helmet really struck me - it’s really difficult to see my brothers and sisters used as tools to invade other indigenous peoples’ land and take their resources. Lest we forget, it’s the people on both sides, not the politicians, who truly pay the price of war."

This war for land, oil and power stretches from the ancestral lands of the Western Shoshone to the Navajo Nation in the West and around the Earth, wherever indigenous people live and are displaced, he said.

"From Yucca Mountain to Big Mountain, we see human rights abuses being committed today for resource development here in the United States and nothing is done about it, maybe that should be Michael Moore’s next film."

Ben Winton, Native publisher of The Native Press online in Phoenix, said the United States government has long usurped land by destabilizing governments and abusing the rights of sovereign nations.

"I don’t think most people understand the significance of 1851 Fort Laramie or John Marshall’s trilogy and how it applies today. Fort Laramie was about the government promising that, forever and ever, tribes would be entitled to the land that was divided up among them by government agents at Fort Laramie."

Indian tribes promised not to harm settlers moving to the West. The tribes included Sioux, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, Arikara and others. But, 20 years later, Congress simply invalidated many of the agreements made at Fort Laramie, when members realized that certain lands promised to American Indians were ripe for farmers, oil barons and others, he said.

"Forget that U.S. Supreme Court John Marshall had already said that tribes should be dealt with as ‘domestic sovereign nations.’ And, by the 1950s, it got even worse when the U.S. government, who had employed as head of the BIA the same man who architected the Japanese internment camps during World War II, decided to simply ‘terminate’ tribes and all the rights that would be afforded to domestic sovereign nations.

"Then, on the heels of termination came relocation, a federal initiative to lure tribal members to the cities with one-way bus tickets and the promise of a better life off the reservation. The underlying motive was assimilation and acculturation in order to make it easier to terminate tribal members."

... these Indians, should they be educated and guided, there can be no doubt that they will become so illumined as to enlighten the whole world. Shoghi Effendi,Citadel of Faith p.26, quoting Abdul'Baha

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