Native American Renewable Energy Models
Some stories so exuberantly shout out, 'pay attention to the history here!' that readers don't need a browbeating interlocutor to insist on such a focus. As an election approaches that politically sophisticated people are saying is going to be a comeuppance for 'liberals,' I would argue that an examination of important elements of the American past suggest that other matters have a vastly greater significance.
The old saying, "what's done is done" rings with the tone of a half truth. Nothing can turn back the clock and allow a different course. But 'putting it all behind us' is complete and utter nonsense. Death is the only way to leave behind what resonates in the psyche and flesh from the past.
Thus, when one has the occasion to consider current events that intersect with Native Americans, the annals of this nation's relations with the people who lived here prior to Europeans mass migration either require a mention or the choice to shirk these memories will poison the story. Henry Red Cloud, whom I had the honor to interview for this piece, did not mention a single specific incident from the past other than his grandfather's speech at Cooper Union in New York.
Mr. Red Cloud is the opposite of a bitter man; his entire entrepreneurial spirit emphasizes hopeful ebullience. But when I noted that "I'm always insisting that every story needs a grounding in history," I could feel the pause two thousand miles away, before he noted, "That is how we feel too."
In bringing to light for JustMeans readers something that happened 120 years ago, something ugly and brutal and criminal that indicts any pretense of imperial innocence or glory, I do so because to avoid such notice at best will destroy the story. At worst, and more likely, it seeds the ground for more bitterness, as if unrequited bloodshed remains restless until accounted for, acknowledged, and mourned.
Henry Red Cloud imagines all of the powers of wind and water and sun in the service of better lives for his close cousins; were some of his more distant cousins, such as this humble correspondent and JustMeans readers, also to benefit form these naturally available sources of cosmic energy, I am certain that he would respond with glee, recognizing, as he does, how all of us are interconnected with each other.
As the Winter sun lit the snowy landscape, over which the wind howled like a hungry beast, 120 years ago in South Dakota, the waters of Wounded Knee creek flowed in spite of the freezing temperatures. All of the capacity for empowerment that Mr. Red Cloud has tapped presented themselves there at Wounded Knee, but an altogether different sort of human potency unfolded instead.
A regiment of U.S. cavalry, having set up in raking crossfire positions above the encampment of fleeing Sioux, about seventy per cent women and children according to a careful census that the soldiers conducted, overlooked the camp at dawn. Also looking down on the still sleeping tents were four or five newly available automatic cannon.
The folks from the reservation were on the run because they knew that, only days before, around Christmas time, local police authorities had murdered Sitting Bull and several men who had been in his company. Within hours of that December 29 sunrise, either largely or exclusively as extrajudicial executioners, this substantial military force had slaughtered all but forty or fifty of the Sioux who managed either to slither away and hide from the murderous troops, or to fight themselves free from the lethal envelopment.
I tell this from a Lakota point of view for the simple reason that--whatever the surrounding context of a 'Ghost Dance' and magical beliefs that the dead would rise and sweep away the ecocidal incursions of the White men--what transpired there almost 44,000 days ago was homicide that can only be justified by a much darker 'magical thinking' in the superiority of Gringo ways. Black Elk was a survivor. His words still chill more than do the icy waters of Wounded Knee Creek.
|"I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream . . . . the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead."|
This historical recollection is especially pertinent for at least a couple of reasons, in regard to how Mr. Red Cloud envisions his present efforts' evolving. For one thing, though he did not say this in so many words, his labors and those of his collaborators hold real promise to mend the broken hoop of Oglala life.
Perhaps equally important from a broader perspective, in times when arrogant Americans spit at 'illegal immigrants' with close blood ties to the rightful original inhabitants of these extensive lands now the United States, is that Mr. Red Cloud foresees providing tangible support and improvement to Native American and poor communities all over the North American continent. As the potentiation of this dream evolves, observers might recall Wounded Knee and Black Elk and hope that the sacred tree returns to bloom.
Science, inasmuch as the technical developments that Mr. Red Cloud is overseeing are more or less 'state-of-the-art,' sits at the heart of what is happening in Lakota localities. And of course, as he makes clear repeatedly when I ask, another embodiment of technological acuity has long held sway over 'Indian territories,' in the form of Uranium mines and coal leases and so forth. That a new and more gentle and gaia-friendly expression of the muse is flowering on the plains represents the Lakota choice.
It also arguably represents wisdom in alliance with science. That's an important point, first because it shows that science can operate in tandem with sage choices, and second because it proves that scientific pathways need not always be unwise, an inclination for which the neutral onlooker might forgive many of earth's ravaged communities, who have all too often known only the rapine and plunder of which technology is capable.
In fact, one might hold forth that, in looking at the origins of each particular emanation of science--living roots that consist of social and political and economic elements that are identifiable and capable of discovery--one's comrades and cousins can with a high degree of accuracy tell apart hideous scientific traps from almost angelic potentialities of the earth mother's knowledge. Henry Red Cloud would likely sign off on such a view, in any event.
Hopefully, readers may detect tinges here of Wendell Berry--a deep ecological sense, an insistence on interconnectedness, an honoring of community. In any case, one resource to which dear Professor Berry has contributed, At Home on the Earth: Becoming Native to Our Place, is part of an extensive series that the University of Wisconsin makes available, "Native Americans and the Environment."
Belief and doctrine, in this work that unfolds from these aging fingers, inevitably have some role to play in the communicative nexus. I constantly proceed from principles--as the estimable Ms. Rangnes repeated yesterday, only principled efforts are worth much--or strong beliefs about how things function, what has value, where an honest accounting of the past lies, and so forth.
But I am constantly aware of the dead-weight of doctrine to the allure of which I may succumb, just as I see so many cousins drowning because they cannot surface from the mire of certainty that accompanies doctrinal ideation. Whether the doctrine at issue is Marxist, capitalist, nuclear, or environmentalist, it must swamp all possibility of encountering and grabbing hold of the unexpected. Life, in some views--such as those of this humble correspondent, absolutely necessitate serendipity, absolutely unobtainable in the presence of ironclad doctrine.
Kaarina Kailo alludes to this in her essay, "Sustainable Cultures: Cultures of Sustainability."
|"An artificially created/imposed discourse of neoliberalism and global citizenship is a predatory neocolonial project and must be opposed if we are serious about saving the conditions of cultures of life, of the very planet: this is possible, however, only if a broad enough critical mass of activists and scholars join forces in providing more viable alternative visions for the planet’s future."|
Though he may not travel to many conferences in Europe to present papers, since he roots his activities so deeply in communities here, Henry Red Cloud would no doubt nod affirmation of Dr. Kailo's insights. He speaks again and again about the interdependence that underlies all that is. As a belief, but not in some delimiting doctrinal fashion, this notion of interconnection has constantly informed these essays of course.
And here it is once more. As a UNESCO teaching tool avers, the number one principle for any program of education for sustainable development is the recognition of "(t)he interdependent nature of our society and life on our planet." This touchstone informs all else.
A follower of the uber-cool 'Story of Stuff' links to multiple iterations of this gently relentless focus on interconnection. This writer highlights the way that uniform management models are mad to the point of suicide. She describes a "Predatory Oligarchy" and turns over the floor to Hervé Kemph, "a French environmental journalist and a student of global capitalism (who wrote) How the Rich are Destroying the Planet."
|"The Rich Stand Accused:...'We cannot understand the simultaneity of the ecological and social crises if we do not analyze them as two facets of the same disaster. This disaster derives from a system piloted by a dominant social stratum that today has no drive but greed, no ideal but conservatism, no dream but technology. This predatory oligarchy is the principal agent of the global crisis. ...The present form of capitalism ...has lost its former historic ends, that is to say the creation of wealth and innovation, because it has become a financial capitalism, disparaged even by capitalist economists.'"|
The connections stare us in the face, and we shoo them away because of a doctrine that has embedded itself in an irresistible narrative. This is a far cry from what Henry Red Cloud does when he shrugs and says that we've got to have jobs that pay decent wages, whatever name we assign to the underlying system. On the contrary this is a mediating device that essentially joins evolution and mythos.
'If we try to finesse competition, we're doomed; whether we like it or not, "survival of the fittest" rules.' The partner of Riane Eisler, she who wrote the brilliant economic analysis that appears in my WAND profile, has started the Darwin Project, which seeks to deconstruct and remythologize the affable genius from England, conveying that "We can change the world by changing the story we live by."
|"If he was told that for over a century, via all fields of science, all levels of schools, and the ever more rampant new power of the media, the Darwinian idea that 'survival of the fittest' was the essential driver for all levels of evolution was locked in place throughout America, Europe, and Western culture more generally. ...(an)implacable super-driver of industrial, governmental, religious, and scientific policies that were steadily increasing all of these threats to global well-being, and indeed threatened the very survival of our species, ... .What would he say?"|
The author, David Loye, draws our attention to such facts as these: "Today the focus is mainly on Darwin’s Origin of Species. But in the 828 page sequel in which he tells us he will now deal with human evolution, The Descent of Man, Darwin writes only twice of "survival of the fittest," but 95 times of love; (h)e writes of selfishness 12 times, but 92 times of moral sensitivity; (o)f competition 9 times, but 24 times of mutuality and mutual aid."
As readers consider Mr. Red Cloud's wild ride, they will hear his affirmation of this communitarian commitment to interconnection. Will those hear at JustMeans begin to move toward such interfaces? Inquiring minds want to know.
Henry Red Cloud speaks of "develop(ing) new ways that honor the old ways" and serve to strengthen and expand community throughout Native American lands, and on into the realm of regular folks everywhere. He notes that, a hundred and forty years ago, his great, great, great grandfather, "a great fighter and negotiator and thinker," he says, gave a speech at Cooper Union in New York.
This occurred after the brilliant military strategist and indomitable guerilla of the Sioux had fought and beaten the U.S. Cavalry that protected mineral exploitation in Montana and Wyoming. When the favorable written terms of the Treaty of Laramie did not yield peace or honor, however, and violence again threatened to arise, in what Red Cloud knew was a long-term losing proposition, he visited Washington and New York seeking some kind of agreement that might allow his people to survive in the face of relentless White encroachment.
His words at Cooper Union drew a standing ovation from the audience in the July city heat. His reach as a spiritual leader ended up being even stronger than the prowess of his war-craft. Just before the standing room only crowd rose with its one voice a mighty cheer, Red Cloud humbled himself and spoke directly from the heart.
|"Look at me. I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the Nation. We do not want riches, we do not ask for riches, but we want our children properly trained and brought up. We look to you for your sympathy. Our riches will…do us no good; we cannot take away into the other world anything we have—we want to have love and peace.…We would like to know why commissioners are sent out there to do nothing but rob and get the riches of this world away from us."|
That the home that Henry Red Cloud constructed exists attests to the power of this man's battling ability and to potency of his plea for humanity, as well as a capacity to see clearly and deeply the forces that actually do drive the world in which we live. Despite his leadership and sagacity, however, the massacre at Wounded Knee still arose.
And over the century since this indomitable life contestant's demise in 1909, the pattern--of dissimulation, depredation, exploitation, and distraction--continued to characterize the relationship of 'the Great White Father' and the people who ruled in his stead with the Oglala Sioux, who nevertheless maintained a culture that flowed from a deep understanding of nature and a profound awareness that, 'win' or 'lose,' their insights were honest. Their survival testifies to their magnificence, given what they have struggled against.
Thus, when two weeks ago Henry Red Cloud became a laureate of the Nuclear Free Future Award and spoke at Cooper Union in New York, a full circle drum roll should have gone around the world. Here is a renewal, a resuscitation of the notion of another speaker at Cooper Union, a decade or so before his assassination at Ford's theater, that 'we should pray that right makes might()' and not vice versa.
The official website for Mr. Red Cloud's award proffers this message. "'Metake Oyasin' ... . is the greeting as the water evaporates on the red hot lava rocks and the ancient purification ritual of the Great Plains begins. 'Metake Oyasin' is the universal formula of the Lakota, the essence of their culture; it means 'all my relatives.' To the Lakota, we are all related – the frog and the grass, man, the earth and the sun."
Conchita Sarnoff reported on Henry Red Cloud's speech for Huffington Post. "In traditional Native American wisdom, time is conceived as being circular. One hundred and (fo)rty years (after the 1870 address), on September 30, 2010, Chief Red Cloud's great-great-great grandson rang a similar note. As Henry Red Cloud spoke from behind the red velvet of the same lectern as his predecessors he described parallel concerns about the future of his people and about his work on the Pine Ridge Reservation. ...His hope he said 'is that renewable energies will save the He Sapa (Black Hills) from a new wave of uranium mining.'"
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now's redoubtable driving force, interviewed Mr. Red Cloud the morning of his presentation. He reflected, "Great-great-grandfather, Mahpya Lta, spoke 140 years ago. His speech then was of how the light-skinned people could help his children to prosper. And through his vision, through his dream, that upon seven generations from where he stood, his people will again be living in harmony and balance, ... what I'm doing today with the renewable energy" has risen like a geyser.
"Metake Oyasin" also drives Lakota education, "underlaying both the decision of the Red Cloud Tiospaye (extended family) to raise a herd of bison and that of Henry Red Cloud to establish his own company, 'Lakota Solar Enterprises.' His people had always venerated the sun, dedicating the sun dance ceremony to it at the summer solstice, so it made sense to him to turn this power source into a source of electricity."
Most folks, when they know anything at all about the Sun Dance ceremony, think Kevin Costner and radical mortification. And while some practitioners of the ritual still do invoke this maximum engagement of the dervish-level expression of the process, the point is not macho, or self scarification.
|"(T)he object of being pierced is to sacrifice one's self to the Great Spirit, and to pray while connected to the Tree of Life, a direct connection to the Great Spirit. Breaking from the piercing is done in one moment, as the man runs backwards from the tree at a
time specified by the leader of the dance. A common explanation, in context with the intent of the dancer, is that a flesh offering, or piercing, is given as part of prayer and offering for the improvement of one's family and community."
While scoffing at such rites is easy enough, just as venerating them in a patronizing fashion is also common, a deeper and arguably significant message emerges from this offering of oneself to the sun and the tree that it and the waters of life bring forth. That belief is that the whole is so critical that no sacrifice is so large that we should resist it in honoring or succoring all that is.
Whether anyone at JustMeans has noticed. this honoring and boosting the natural systems on which we all depend is a large part of what my writing promulgates. And on that matter, Henry Red Cloud, this humble correspondent, and the Sun Dance Ceremony are in harmonious accord.
SIOUX SOLAR INNOVATION
This all started out of Mr. Red Cloud's being one of the four fifths of his cohorts who couldn't find steady employment, in the mid '90's. "I couldn't afford no housing, so I built me one." But then, the prospect of paying electric bills was so intimidating, that he constructed his own solar heating system, which remains operational to this day. "It worked pretty good too," I can hear him grin as kids cavort around him on the phone.
"I started out in solar before it was cool," he tells me. This was 1996, when he came up with this idea, for himself to start, of 'a new way to honor the old way.' Not only did the mechanism do a fine job, for the most part of keeping him warm for free, but it also "was pretty darned easy to put together too." That amazed him, and he thought about all of his cold friends, who didn't have jobs--the unemployment rate now is 86%--"and needed heat, just like anybody else."
"How did you go from that to thinking about creating Lakota Solar Enterprises?"
"Oh, I didn't think about that right away. I just wanted to find out as much as I could about how solar worked;" he adds wind and hydro to his list of renewable energy favorites much of the time too, not to mention green construction materials and various other aspects of living well, living cheaply,and minimizing what Mr. Red Cloud calls our 'carbon moccasin print.'
He started traveling all over the West and Midwest, "living out of my car." He'd hear about a workshop, or a technical college class, or a conference. "I'd go and volunteer, you know, do whatever I could so I could learn more" and not have to pay the several hundred bucks-a-pop 'entry fees' of many of these courses and such.
He quickly saw that almost all of the solar equipment, "except the PV panels," were possible to think about replicating. For several years, though, he kept adding extra capacity to his own home, a water heater and then some early solar voltaic panels.
And he started helping friends and neighbors and family to install the same sorts of materials and options that he'd learned how to utilize for himself. "So I found myself training people how to do this, and I thought, 'Well, we should have a school here.'" Drop out rates are hight, but "almost everybody was real interested in learning how to do this, if you give them a chance."
"I'd come back from volunteering, back to Pine Ridge, and I just kept thinking that the economic development potential was so huge." After a while, having helped a score of him cousins and friends and neighbors gain real skill in the field, he decided to formalize the business.
He mentions several times, "You gotta go to the website for Trees, Water, and People. They really been a big help." Of course, that's another story for this humble correspondent, either before or after I do the follow up on the political economy of Native American existence in the context of a corporate hunger for Uranium: all in good time.
When I ask about some of the new technology at his home, he notes that "we got a free standing solar-wind hybrid system for the compound," that has operated since 2008 and that they installed themselves, mostly 'out of the box,' but always with an eye to opportunities to substitute a 'do-it-yourself' local option for imported goods.
"Well what about expansion into manufacturing and design?" I ask him.
I can hear the sunbeam in his smile. "Oh yeah, we're helping people take outt heavy metals with a solar water purification system, and we're making home heating systems now too." And the training has expanded; they do basically all solar and small wind applications, and he and several close compadres have been studying up on household and community hydro.
I ask if he knows Don Harris, and he hasn't. Part of increasing 'awareness' is making sure that Don gets in touch with these folks. He already makes a trek out to Flathead Lake in Montana once a year to lead a workshop; he can meander East with the tributaries to the Missouri River next year.
"Oh, and we're also helping to make houses more energy efficient, and, you know, helping to build them that way too. We've even started to make straw bale and earth plaster housing," to make affordable, appropriate homes plausible with locally produced materials that in and of themselves improve heating and cooling efficiencies.
Of course, I can't help myself. I've got to let on that I'm a bit skeptical of capitalism. And I inquire, "What sort of enterprise is Lakota Solar Enterprises? In other words, is this a potential new Microsoft, or is it more oriented toward community and increasing local capacity and so on?"
And Henry Red Cloud doesn't care too much for theorizing about things the way that I do. "We have a training center now for all the tribes; economic development is key. We need to get some good jobs that pay some decent wages in here, so people can take care of themselves and their families." It's really pretty simple. LSE has ten full time employees year round, with many more when seasonal demand peaks. And he's doing training all over Indian Country, "so we can get some wealth creation and hope and inspiration out hear. It's hard to do anything if you don't got no hope."
Nobody can argue with that. He's sure as shootin' not advocating empire and plutocracy. He senses that I'm chewing on what he's told me. "Profit and community can mix; we're showing that here in Sioux territory."
I query him about any additional aspects of the company's operations. I've got half a dozen more questions, but my half hour was up ten minutes ago. He'd be back to work, I'm guessing, but he likes hanging out with the kids.
"Well," he starts, "We're also a recycling plant now." He pauses. "We're making cellulose insulation out of paper. So we're reusing the paper," I can sense him ticking the points off on his fingers, "plus we get economic development, we got people learning new things, and we got people with some savings, and we got a profit for the company too."
I ask about the Reservation history, and he laughs.
"Well, we're 45 or 46,000 Lakota Sioux out here now," and the White people who put their ancestors there "gave us land that was so cold and windy and sunny and hot and windy, not much in between." But that's become an advantage now. "All of a sudden it's all a commodity," which he pronounces with relish, all four syllables; "it's tradeable and saleable, and we got plenty."
"Do you believe that the Lakota communities with which you associate could, relatively quickly, make a transition to renewables?"
"We are today harnessing and developing for sustainable energy; we, and I believe all native peoples, will be energy independent within the next ten years."
Before he has to go, I make one final pitch. "I also am always putting in plugs for democratic policy making; is that an idea that you find appealing? Is lack of certification or 'expertise' a valid bar to participation?"
"We're training people so they can be experts and do things right." All the Tribes, he tells me, are looking seriously "at these issues of governance." Even though a long legacy of distrust can be a barrier, "through tribal counsels, through passing resolutions, through getting involved at the local level," he states confidently, "the Lakota Dakota peoples are taking control over their own economic devevlopment toward a sustainable technology that's good for the earth and good for the future."
In no small part, that's what his great, great, great Granddad was talking about when he made his appeal at Cooper Union four generations ago. Now it's an issue of keeping things going and making them spread out and grow. Henry Red Cloud could live to be a hundred and fifty and not run out of things to do.
Henry Red Cloud will never become a man with 'his head in the clouds.' Throughout our interview, his orientation remained decidedly down-to-earth and practical. Nevertheless, he has an instant awareness of the noxious evil which Uranium mining represents, especially for Native American communities. Though he has a 'spiritual' loathing of nuclear fuel cycles, his basis for this detestation is perfectly material.
"Oh yeah!" he affirms instantly, if I ask whether he has seen any impacts from mining for Uranium near the Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. "Lotsa people are sick; the water's bad. That's why we got the solar distilling rig as one of the first products to put out there."
Mr. Red Cloud is a gentle fellow, or at least, if he has much of a rough side, he keeps it mostly to himself. He accentuates the positive; he sidesteps invective at every opportunity that I give him to vent. His tens of thousands of followers are more wont to strike directly, not to pull any punches.
Here is one such booster of 'Red Cloud,' whom "We need to be building up all over the blogosphere, to make more awareness." This feisty writer continues, "(A) story being told and retold in so many ways everywhere(is one) of wanton destruction of the Natural world (and) the view that human life is totally expendable in all the spheres in which politicians and profiteers strive to conquer and control everything and everyone that opposes their greed driven agendas."
Among the environs in which these 'greed driven agendas' are most palpably--and tragically, from Chernobyl to Fallujah to a thousand mine sites across the west, nearly three-quarters of them on, or directly adjacent to Tribal lands--obvious are those where the nuclear fuel cycle operates. Henry Red Cloud gives me another quiet "Oh, yeah!" when I inquire whether he thinks Uranium mining is "an inherently toxic enterprise."
"Well, what do you think we should do about that?"
"We oughta leave it in the ground; that's where it belongs." And, gently, he puts in a plug. "We got a better way to do things at Lakota Solar."
He's right. In the follow up article, along with a deeper assessment of the political economy of U.S.-Sioux relations and the social indicators of life on the reservation, this humble correspondent will also examine more carefully the various allies and supporters of Henry Red Cloud who are facing what big business is calling 'renewed interest' in Uranium extraction. Readers should stay tuned.
Basically, the upshot of this text is twofold. On the one hand, human survival may well depend on getting more 'no-strings-attached' assistance to LSE and its ilk, which are now burgeoning for all the right reasons. On the other hand, our thriving as a species--and very likely our continued existence, will ensue if and only if we get more LSE knowledge and models out to the rest of humankind.
When I ask Mr. Red Cloud, "(W)hy do established institutions continue to treat renewable technologies as unwelcome stepchildren, or as 'damned with faint praise' interlopers?"he gives a sigh amid the noisy children at the other end of the phone line. "There's so little awareness."
Now I don't normally buy into this notion. I still know that something else has to go along with the widespread ignorance that may in fact exist. The reason that I say 'normally' is that my sweet helper, having just returned from an art project that she is putting together with a couple of erstwhile progressive, spiritually attuned people, who care about the human condition, informed me that neither of these hip, young women knew that Georgia utilizes nuclear electricity, let alone that groups like LSE offer a potent alternative to radioactive hot coffee.
But this is where I insert the caveat about the need for awareness. Nothing can stop willful ignorance except those who are choosing not to know. In a sense, the political party of the mid-nineteenth century, that called itself the 'Know-Nothing' set, has become the predominant mental paradigm of the typical urban early twenty-first century American.
A smile in his voice as he cooed something soothing to a caterwauling youngster, Mr. Red Cloud interrupted my reveries, which had not yet processed the dispiriting news that my wife more recently delivered. "And that's where you come in; to raise awareness, so people will know what's happening."
And I thought, "Boy, are we in trouble." The five people who read this sh** in a week either already agree, or they are so firmly ensconced in the other camp that these pathetic attempts to reach an audience are laughably reassuring. How to become popular has never been my forte: I'm such an oldster at this juncture, that learning that trick looks like a gigantic long shot.
So my job has to look more akin to figuring out important questions, interesting ways to think about the issues, and documentation. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I am a wizard at documentation. I'd also like to think that I'm good at framing things, but then I'd be popular, so that can't be true. But the frames that I provide may be important, or useful, even if the audience is tiny.
The blood that courses through my veins is molecularly indistinguishable from the arterial flow that watered the Great Plains at Wounded Knee, that flowed from the back of Frederick Douglass' mother, that yesterday gushed forth in Afghanistan from a dying United States Marine from Georgia. This cycle of blood connects all of us, and it is a cycle that cannot continue except that the sun and the water and the plants continue to coexist in some semblance of balance.
The periodic bloodlettings that have appeared as a fixed expression of 'man's fate,' in some concrete sense are likely nothing more than a redressing of imbalances in these basic cycles, as manifested both by and from similarly out-of-whack social relations. This is one reason that the likes of Karl Marx looked to "community" to revolutionize capitalism, because at that basic level a recognition of a righting of the scales is much easier to effectuate.
Part of the historical process that has unfolded on this continent has been a dogged assault on every community that in any sense reveals a willingness or proclivity to resist the incursions of capital. A notable Supreme Court decision, essentially the Dred Scott case--'Black men have no rights which any White man is bound to respect'-- for Native Americans, brightly highlights this tendency.
Johnson v. M'intosh, in 1823, stated that in 1609, King James laid the basis to give away what became the thirteen colonies and more in his disposition of Virginia to "a diverse company of adventurers." Moreover, the Court held, "the uniform understanding and practice of European nations, and the settled law, as laid down by the tribunals of civilized states, denied the right of the Indians to be considered as independent communities, having a permanent property in the soil, capable of alienation to private individuals. They remain in a state of nature, and have never been admitted into the general society of nations."
In listening to Henry Red Cloud today, not to mention in perusing his great, great, great Grandfather's masterful grasp of American political economy, again and again this arrogation of 'right' over Native American 'property' seemed apparent. Alexis de'Tocqueville, as he watched a starving 110 year old Choctaw undergoing a forced relocation under the auspices of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, made a sage and frightening observation.
|"Americans of the United States, who are reasonable and unprejudiced, and great philanthropists to boot, have taken it into their heads... that God had given them the new world and its inhabitants in full ownership. ...They have discovered, furthermore, that, it being proved (listen well to this) that a square mile could nourish ten times as many civilized men as savages, reason indicated that wherever civilized men could establish themselves, the savages would have to move away."|
Chief Justice Marshall did not mince words; his opinion conforms precisely with Tocqueville's characterization. "It is a violation of the rights of others to exclude them from the use of what we do not want, and they have an occasion for. Upon this principle the North American Indians could have acquired no proprietary interest in the vast tracts of territory which they wandered over; ...for the lands occupied by each tribe were not used by them in such a manner as to prevent their being appropriated by a people of cultivators. All the proprietary rights of civilized nations on this continent are founded on this principle. The right derived from discovery and conquest, can rest on no other basis."
Were he to add mining to cultivation, he would be stating the way that many Native Americans believe United States policy still operates in regard to 'reservations' of 'unwanted lands' that, now and again, have become very desirable because of what lies beneath them or what is most convenient to pass over them. In fact, in its relations with Mexico, from the period of the Louisiana Purchase until the present moment, a similarly disparaging pattern of dominance is visible.
Kenneth Underwood's dissertation, "MINING WARS: CORPORATE EXPANSION AND LABOR VIOLENCE IN THE WESTERN DESERT--1876-1920," "analyzes the class struggle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Mexico and the western United States to illuminate the social transformation taking place in this trans-national region." Underwood shows that the "emergence of monopoly capital" underlies social relations on both sides of the border.
|"To better understand the social changes in the US and Mexico as industry giants dominated these nations at the turn of the nineteenth century, this transnational analysis ... will examine the social struggles within these industrializing nations. ... (T)he similarities of the struggles that took place in both of them indicates a common and connected series of social transformations. This trans-national emphasis highlights the shortcomings of the traditional regional and national models that have marked scholarship on the American West and Mexico."|
Very similar socioeconomic forces, and actors, in other words--and the same political muscle too, in many cases--ruled the roost in relation to both Latino and poor American workers as held sway over the Native Americans existing in their apartheid compounds. And even more clearly, scientific and technical knowledge--whether in the form of the capacity to extract from the land or in the capacity to kill at will--provide key means to achieve this extension of dominance.
In many ways, the pattern continues to mark the ongoing gobbling of all that is good on the earth in the process we now call 'globalization.' One author has labeled this new packaging of the methodology of conquest "the prevailing asymmetrical power relations and the eurocentered, dissociated scientific paradigms that are themselves an element in the mastery over nature, women and other vulnerable groups."
Herve Kemph carried this argument to an assessment of the economic components that inhere in understanding ecosystems.
|"(E)cological concerns (must) be based on a radical political analysis of present relationships of domination. We will not be able to reduce global material consumption if the powerful are not brought down and if inequality is not combated. To the ecological principle so useful at the dawning of awareness - 'Think globally, act locally' - we must add the principle that the present situation imposes: 'Consume less, share better.'"|
One can see this political economy of deep ecology in the thinking of Karl Marx as well. "Man lives from nature -- i.e., nature is his body -- and he must maintain a continuing dialogue with it is he is not to die. To say that man's physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature."
That an evisceration of nature inherently means an annihilation of humanity thereby goes without saying, except that some folks either willfully ignore, or need the obvious to achieve a simple formulation in order to keep this in mind. Dozens of recent monographs, in addition, suggest the extent to which Native American and other 'marginalized' communities are bearing the brunt of this assault on Gaia.
Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on Environmental Justice, for instance, portrays how "(e)cological disasters are threatening the way of life of many Native Americans since many occur on or near their lands. This collection of essays illustrate the complicated issues surrounding the struggle for protecting the health of the environment and provide hope for the future of the planet as a whole."
This is not how most Americans view themselves, of course. And this is a problem. De Tocqueville was so incisive in the way that he nailed the character-traits of bourgeois-imperial American to the wall. "The Americans of the United States, more humane, more moderate, more respectful of right and legality, never bloody," or so they see themsleves, "are more profoundly destructive; and it is impossible to doubt that before a hundred years there will no longer be in North America, not just a single nation, but a single man belonging to the most remarkable of the Indian races."
That these most vilified and brutalized communities have not only survived, but at least on occasion also found ways to thrive, to transform themselves, to showcase once again the magnificent stewardship that always existed behind the humble facade that Whites have ever labeled 'primitive,' testifies to the deep spiritual and ecological resources available in these communities. But they are not magical.
As Henry Red Cloud has stated so poignantly, "We gotta have houses and jobs and ways to make a living that fit into the world as it is. We see, though, that the world as it is can't keep going, taking everything from the ground without giving anything back. We can't always be wanting more but not giving any more, not learning any more, not seeing how everything is connected to everything else."
Patrick Spears, of the Upper-Midwest Intertribal Counsel, put the matter more bluntly and more politically. "Indigenous peoples have provided the lands and energy resources in this country since the first piece of wood was burned by the non-Native immigrants who arrived in this hemisphere. Our people have continued to contribute energy resources from lands that have been taken from Tribes that contain coal, uranium, and the rivers that provide hydropower. It hasn't mattered if the Tribal lands were removed from Tribal ownership, leases or the right of 'eminent domain.' The resources are taken anyway, either by private industry or the government."
For awhile, this smash and grab aspect of empire, against the weakest and most dispersed communities, may look sustainable. But that is a problem with the definition of sustainability. It becomes little more than a fetish to cover up business as usual. Predatory Oligarchy capsulized this point for readers.
The author "takes aim ...at the concept of sustainable development and the alibi it now constitutes for governments and companies that use it to justify other drains on resources in the name of this new rationale that is supposedly harmless for the planet. Sustainable development...has become a semantic weapon to remove the dirty word, 'ecology.' Moreover ...(t)he concept has meaning... only in developing countries, because it can help them to avoid a development as brutal and lawless as the one we have effected in the West."
This is harsh. Perhaps this is unfair. Then again, Wounded Knee was harsh. Depleted Uranium and toxic mine tailings are harsh. 80% unemployment is harsh. Everywhere we turn, the harshness of capitalism creeps deeper into the fabric of everyday life everywhere.
Obviously, Lakota Solar Enterprises seeks different outcomes; its goals seek a gentler manifestation of human life. But it cannot stand alone. Citizens who maintain that they want 'business better' and renewable energy in their own, still relatively privileged, communities, instead of a plutonium-laced nightmare of depleted Uranium weapons bursting closer and closer to the home-front need to consider the words of my friend, Major Joice Marie Griggs.
"The time has come to take a stand." And we'd better be lining up with Henry Red Cloud, if we know what's good for us.
Back to Mr. Red Cloud's optimistic take on things, surely he's right that somebody has to see to the task of popularizing and spreading these works that people are doing, these breakthroughs that people are demonstrating, these evidences that communities are creating, that human beings needn't sit pack like passive cattle awaiting the killing thrust. We can manifest the energy, the vision, the technique, and the knowledge that we need to survive.
And I come back to the idea, still only modestly developed in these pages, though I have volumes about it in various files and piles, of Peoples Information Networks. Certainly, LSE on the reservation would benefit markedly from the capacity to get the word out to millions or billions of cousins. Just as definitely, the ability to employ media connections with other producers would be helpful. Furthermore, a 'spinning' ability in regard to this work, finding ways to make new myths and create new heroes, facilitates achieving something real with whatever is happening, whether than is LSE or a joint hydro project with Don Harris or something completely different.
But that brings us back to the original point: how to get N.-S.-A. grants-in-aid and in-kind help into the Pine Ridge developments. Even if I don't have any answers for that riddle just at the moment, I suppose that I do my task by positing the query in a comprehensible form--so I hope this is all clear.
Unfortunately, since the Lakota community is already real and solid, this first little hurdle is trivial in comparison with the second road block, which is getting the potentiation which Henry Red Cloud has so marvelously proven on the fast track, as it were, to other sets of cousins. The start, which he has already committed to doing, is to take such steps in solidarity with other Native American communities, and with Latino and Canadian 'mestizo' localities that have the consciousness to recognize that this is precisely what they've been dreaming about for the last five hundred years, more or less, even if at times what they imagined was more in the order of a dandy killing machine.
And maybe that would be enough. However, the volume of humanity unaffected by such outreach would have to be massive. Therefore, even if an almost equally massive quality-over-quantity calculation were plausible--in other words that the strategic placement of this net of widespread and marginalized and relatively tiny groups of cousins, which underwent a magically ideal realization of capacitation, brought about a huge shift in the consciousness of the cousins wallowing in urban misery and alienated ennui elsewhere--the chances of such a transformative shift would have to be, at best, very dicey.
So again, how to accelerate the transfer of the transformational social technology that is happening in Lakota territory remains a primary sticking point. While I don't have much insight about how, sans strings, further support might make the journey from the outside onto the reservation, I do have some ideas about ways in which the reverse sort of transference might occur. One such notion that I'll mention today concerns the article that I recently posted about TVA.
The democratic roots of such a beast, which our masters have sought to cast aside at every convenient juncture, mean that both a social memory and an institutional potential already exist for an uptake of new approaches, both rooted in communities and serving local interests that emerge from local leadership. With slightly different initial conditions, such an evolution might well have transpired already, but for the machinations of the plutocracy and such additional factors as the easily distracted engineers who love solving the hideous conundrums presented by atomic reactors and coal mines and refineries.
Another element that could conceivably serve to advance working in the South and through the TVA is that many so-called indigenous communities do still exist in the region, as all sorts of coverage of such matters as the Trail of Tears attest. This would likely play out as more fantasy than practical politics, but the notion of the great circle that is part of Native American thinking may indeed contain potent mojo, even if it is not something that one can plan, in the same way that one plans the building of one of Don Harris' nitro-powered motorcycles.
Finally, of course, once this two-way street of 'facility-in and capacity-out' actually begins to show up, the real work is only then ready to start up, like a nuke that finally has the fuel assemblies in place. This last step, the keystone, consists of the matter of all of these disparate, and yet clearly interrelated community developments, somehow forming or becoming a part of a networking process.
Once that started to percolate, like an experiment in social chemistry, even a relatively modest catalyst could yield the spark that evolved into an actual, conscious movement for a new way of conducting business. From this, the tsunami of human empowerment that would have to evolve, manifest, or otherwise erupt, in order for the sustainable business and renewable energy and human potential inherent in their separate and yet interconnected existence actually to happen is definitely possible to envision.
In some sense or other, this entire conclusion is a way of stating what such a 'movement' for sustainable business would have to be. Such a process obviously presents a puzzle. And, God knows, this may be just another case of this humble correspondent 'going off.' But if transition, and transformation, are unavoidable parts of continuing the human drama on this fair orb, this sort of puzzle-pondering has to start somewhere.