Anne de Graaf's blog: International-Intrigue-Injustice

24 July 2015

Tough-ass battle

Filed under: Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 4:05 am

Reservation-20150718-00466My students know that I threaten to call them up in the middle of the night and ask crazy questions like, “What happened in 1648?” Another thing they hear often is, “Listen to what’s not being said.” But perhaps my most (in)famous take-away phrase is: “It’s all about perspectives.”

This is a photo of the Wildhorse casino and hotel from somewhere else on the Rez. A different perspective. Blue Mountains in the distance. Wheat fields surround the area. Wheat is what the Tribes grow. Land is capitalized here, just as it is by my Jewish and Palestinian friends. The Land. Maybe that’s what happens when you long for something.

In 1855 the Umatilla, Cayuse and Walla Walla Tribes negotiated a peace treaty. It was a peace treaty because Article 2 guarantees the U.S. will supply arms and ammunition, so the Tribes can act as ally where necessary. Not many other Native treaties agree to arm the tribes. And the Tribes ceded 6.4 million acres to the U.S., in exchange for a reservation homeland of 250,000 acres, wisely reserving for the three Tribes land including three watersheds, and burial grounds. This wasn’t given to them, this was something they already had, and then reserved (I’m thinking hence the word reservation). They argued over reserving these rights for more than two weeks with States’ officials who wanted to send them north to live with the Yakima. In the end, with the threat of prolonged war hanging over the area, they ceded the 6.4 million acres. Then in the years to come, through a series of Land Acts which went against the Treaty, opening Reservation lands to sale to non-Indian settlers, farmers, and ranchers, the original 6.4 million acres which became 250,000 acres shriveled into today’s 172,000 acres, nearly half of which is owned by non-Indians. And if you look at a map of the Rez these days, it looks like a pixel checkerboard.

The Wildhorse casino revenue helps the CTUIR buy back this land, land that no one paid them for, but now they pay to re-acquire. So, as in this photo, the casino and the wheat are closely related. Land buy-back and education are the two top financial priorities, and increasing casino profits are earmarked for these goals. When the financial crisis hit, the Tribes bought surrounding ranches, offering “fair market prices” at first, then if that was refused, waiting for bankruptcy to bring the land back into the Tribal community lands.

For over a week now, I’ve been asking questions about governance style, youth participation, voice, visions for the future. And again and again I’ve heard, “People need to understand our perspective better.” In the Treaty of 1855 the Tribes reserved the rights to hunt, fish and gather on the 6.5 million acres that stretches across northeastern Oregon into southeastern Washington. They have a very vested interest in protecting the water, fish, and land of this area. “First in use, first in right” means Tribal claims have sometimes been upheld in the courts, so they negotiate with coal companies, agricultural interests, and water management authorities from a strong position. Though they could litigate, they prefer to negotiate. As mentioned in my previous post, “cooperation over confrontation” is part of the governance style. They strive for, and sometimes achieve, a win-win situation for all parties involved.

And this negotiating from a strong position, based on wise leadership, is a vein of gold I’m discovering runs through the generations. When I mentioned this to the leader of the Tribes who headed the negotiations that eventually brought salmon back to the Umatilla River, he said, “We’re tough, and pragmatic. It was a hell of a tough-ass battle.”

I’ve also heard that when Lewis and Clark came through in the early 1800s, the Tribes were extremely wealthy, controlling trade routes, and with huge herds of horses, more than 20,000. “The poverty of the last 150 years–your definition of poverty, not ours–was just a blip, and now we’re picking up where we left off. Seven generations is not so long at all.”

23 July 2015

After 70 years, the salmon are back!

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 2:16 am

Northwest Umatilla-20150722-00516This sign hangs outside a group of buildings 3 miles south of Umatilla. A high fence surrounds the buildings, with signs warning this is Tribal property and trespassers will be prosecuted. When I pulled up onto the dry, hot asphalt that I thought might melt the soles of my sandals, two police cars were parked alongside each other, the men inside chatting and laughing through open windows. I opened the unlocked gate and walked in like I owned the place. This policy has gotten me into the most surprising places in the past, and it worked again. Northwest Umatilla-20150721-00510

I wandered around the Three Mile Falls Dam salmon facility, took these photos, and finally ran into a human who said he worked for the Oregon State Fisheries department, and who was I again? I dropped a few names of people I’d interviewed on the Rez, but he said, he didn’t know the people in the Tribe. “They just rent us space here.” But he was kind enough to take 20 minutes and walk me through the facility, which includes sorting pools, video cameras that count the salmon as they come up the river and enter the ladders, sluices, and hatchery areas. When I asked him what their biggest challenge was, he said, “Water. The agricultural needs in this area are huge, but somehow, the Tribe got an agreement so more water would flow through the Umatilla, and after 70 years, the salmon are back! Not only that, but we had record runs of Steelhead and Spring Chinook.” And that’s where the sign comes in.

As quoted in my papNorthwest Umatilla-20150721-00512er (see previous post): The CTUIR views land as something that cares for them, and they care for the land. The right to fish is a right guaranteed by the 1855 Treaty. So tribal leaders and members agreed that fisheries policy should be a high priority. In 1980 they initiated the Umatilla Basin Salmon Recovery Project to restore water and salmon to the Umatilla River. The challenge was to achieve this while also protecting the local non-Indian economy, which is dependent on irrigated agriculture. The core of this ecosystem-based restoration plan is an innovative water-swapping agreement in which local irrigators agreed to relinquish their claims to water from the Umatilla and instead receive water piped from the Columbia River in order to raise the Umatilla’s flow to a level sufficient to bring salmon bacNorthwest Umatilla-20150721-00513k. (Record, 2008)

The fisheries policy exemplifies the Tribes’ approach of “cooperation over confrontation.” Antone Minthorn, Chairman of CTUIR’s Board of Trustees, or leader of the Tribes, said, “If we have to, we will litigate to protect our treaty-reserved rights, but we have seen that we can create solutions which meet everyone’s needs by sitting down with our neighbors, listening to each other, and developing our own solutions. … We believe the cooperative process between neighbors can be used as a model for success in the region and beyond” (Record, 2008).

Northwest Umatilla-20150722-00514The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development listed the CTUIR as an Honoring Nation award winner for its Umatilla River Basin project (2014). The Harvard Project recognizes conditions when American Indian nations use applied research and service to achieve sustained, self-determined social and economic development. It recognizes outstanding examples of Tribal governance through the annual Honoring Nations Awards. When the CTUIR won this award in 2002 for its Salmon Recovery Project, it was just the first of several such awards.

Non-academic me here again: I’ll be interviewing Antone Minthorn about this and I’m very excited to hear his vision for the Tribes’ governance style.

In the meantime, I’ve spent the last two days listening to their Youth Council, and to young adults helping mentor youth, and to elderly people. One of the things I learned was a Creation story that includes gifts animals gave when the first Human was being made. I won’t tell you the whole story, but the Salmon chose to give two gifts. And they were good gifts. The first one was its life, so humans could feed off salmon and live. The second gift was the Salmon’s Voice. But humans had to promise to speak on behalf of the Salmon and preserve it and the land and water in return.

In the Tamastslikt Cultural Center, there are many exhibits about the past, present, and future of the Tribes. One of them says that once the salmon returned to the Umatilla River, as the salmon thrived, so did the People. I’m wondering if Voice had something to do with it.

20 July 2015

Tamástslikt–the paper

Filed under: SWIP (Supposed Work-in-Progress),Write on — annedegraaf @ 8:45 pm

Reservation-20150718-00470(By popular demand-ha! here is the full text of the paper I presented at the International Studies Association National Conference in New Orleans last February. The response I received then, both from Native and non-Native academics, encouraged me to return to the Umatilla Reservation, where I am conducting interviews now. I post it to provide background and answer questions about why I’m here. Thank you everyone for your interest. All comments and suggestions are most welcome, as this remains, of course, a work-in-progress.)

Tamástslikt—

(to interpret, turn over, or turn around in the Walla Walla dialect):

The interpretation, turning over and turning around

of a Native community

By Anne de Graaf*

Amsterdam University College, University of Amsterdam

a.m.degraaf@auc.nl

Abstract

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) consists of three tribes, the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, located in northeastern Oregon. With a 10,000-year history, they view the past 180 years as a season to survive. According to their culture, the land and the people, both Native and non-Indian, make up the homeland, or regional world. The CTUIR exercises a unique pattern of governance that rejects an identity of victimization, and embraces “cooperation over confrontation.” Although they acknowledge that three generations of children were systematically humiliated and taken out of the community and forced into boarding schools, and despite a long list of land betrayals, the CTUIR has chosen what they call, a “path of survival.” Admitting that “past history is living history,” and encouraging creativity, they engineer projects crafted and implemented by local citizens, aimed at fostering understanding. Examples include innovative education policies such as a local school where children learn the tribes’ dialects and customs, earmarking profits from the reservation casino for scholarship funds and (re-)acquisition of tribal lands, salmon restoration in local rivers, and job creation. Their model for peacebuilding utilizes voice, agency, and youth and sees growing understanding as key to conflict resolution.

Introduction

The list of 566 federally-recognized Tribes within the United Sates includes the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla (CTUIR). Among the U.S. government and the 566 tribes there runs a tangled web of laws, treaties, court cases and appeals, in an attempt to establish human security, sovereignty and justice. National statistics on the Native American population reveal shocking statistics, such as 27 per cent living in poverty, the highest rate for any racial group in the country, and nearly double the national average (United States Census Bureau, 2013). Tribal communities undergo much higher rates of violent crime and domestic violence than the national averages (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011). In addition, the suicide rate of young people is 2.5 times higher among Native youth than non-Indian youth (Executive Office of the President, 2014), and Native communities seem plagued by high levels of alcoholism and substance abuse. After generations of living in such discouraging conditions, most reservations seem steeped in disheartening despair, and surrounded by local prejudice.

The CTUIR is located in northeastern Oregon. With a 10,000-year history, they view the past 180 years as a season to survive. According to their culture, the land and the people, both Native and non-Indian, make up the homeland, or regional world. The CTUIR exercises a unique pattern of governance that rejects an identity of victimization, and embraces “cooperation over confrontation.” Although they acknowledge that three generations of children were systematically humiliated and taken out of the community and forced into boarding schools, and despite a long list of land betrayals, the CTUIR has chosen what they call, a “path of survival.” Admitting that “past history is living history,” and encouraging creativity, they engineer projects crafted and implemented by local citizens, aimed at fostering understanding. Examples include innovative education policies such as a local school where children learn the tribes’ dialects and customs, earmarking profits from the reservation casino for scholarship funds and (re-)acquisition of tribal lands, salmon restoration in local rivers, and job creation. Their model for peacebuilding utilizes voice, agency, and youth and sees growing understanding as key to conflict resolution.

Due to the space limitations of this paper, it will only summarize a wide variety of aspects pertaining to the CTUIR governance model. Further research is necessary in order to more thoroughly analyze the effects of this governance model, as well as its shortcomings. But in Indian Country, as the greater national Native community is referred to, the CTUIR stands out as an exception. This paper explores its governance model, in an attempt to provide a possible governance framework which might apply to other marginalized communities. It attempts to answer the question: How did the CTUIR set itself apart and develop such a different governance model, providing much more far-reaching support to its members, than other Native communities?

This exploration of CTUIR governance first paints the picture of modern-day Native communities in the U.S. by means of several statistics. The paper then provides a brief summary of the history of the Tribes, both before and after the Treaty signed in 1855, and the ramifications of the Treaty itself. An additional historical perspective is provided by means of Native oral histories of these periods. Voice, agency and youth are key concepts within the CTUIR framework. The paper then turns to a description of the CTUIR and its governance style and traditions. In this section an attempt is made to identify the turning point in governance style and the men and women responsible for this change in direction. Examples of CTUIR governance strategies illustrate this style, and include several programs for which the Tribes have received national attention. This is followed by an examination of how CTUIR governance specifically targets its youth, in terms of education, language, identity, and employment. This section ends with quotes by two young women, whose voices act as inspiration for the Tribes, and indeed, all of Indian Country. The paper concludes with statistics and observations which act as a counterweight to the positive results outlined previously, but calls for further research to establish additional contributing factors that might be avoided, in order for this governance model to serve as an example for other marginalized groups.

History

Pre-Treaty

The Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla tribes are part of an Indian presence that has hunted, gathered, and fished in the Northwest of what is now the United States, for over 10,000 years (Zucker, Hummel, & Hogfoss, 1983). Their particular tribal characteristics have been shaped by living on the broad plateau near the Columbia River basin. These characteristics include no dominant food resources, low population density, long-distance seasonal movement, and travelling by canoe or on foot. In the mid-18th century they acquired horses and the Cayuse especially, became famous for their horse breeding and riding skills (Jersyk, 1998).

The first non-Indian contact occurred in 1805-1806 with the Lewis and Clark expedition, sent out by Thomas Jefferson. It would take another twenty years before pioneers began to penetrate the Oregon wilderness, and tribes there met and welcomed them, granting shelter and food to the often undernourished and exhausted families travelling the Oregon Trail. The legal history includes milestones in 1823, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that settlers “discovering” land had the right to take it from Indian tribes, who were considered to be nomads. In 1831 in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court changed its mind and stated that tribes are “domestic dependent nations,” yet still subordinate to the U.S. In 1842 only 150 settlers used the Oregon Trail. By 1847, this had increased to 5,000 (Jersyk, 1998). In 1848 the Oregon Territory was created. By 1850, there were over 10,000 settlers living in Oregon, and many felt there was not enough space (Beckham, 2007). So, in 1850, the Oregon Donation Land Act was passed and the U.S. government gave away 2.8 million acres of tribal lands to settlers. The Umatilla Reservation was established on June 9, 1855.

1855 Treaty

The 1855 Treaty between the U.S. government and the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes marks a watershed moment at many levels, but especially in terms of land, and in terms of governance. Before 1855 their territory equaled 6.4 million acres. The reservation established in 1855 was only 245,699 acres. In 1887 the General Allotment Act/Dawes Act called for Tribes’ communal land to be divided into individual plots, which broke up the reservations. By 1979, the reservation had been reduced to 85,322 acres.

Non-Indian observers of the signing of the Treaty noted that thousands and thousands of horses grazed across the plateau. At that time it was common for a Cayuse to own 15-20 horses, with rich tribe members owning up to 2,000 horses (Jersyk, 1998).

Post-Treaty

From 1855-1956 a century of so-called civilization programs aimed to turn Indians into “sedentary, agricultural, English-speaking Christians” (Zucker et al., 1983). Children were forcibly sent to boarding schools as far away as Kansas and Pennsylvania, not to create future leaders, but to “westernize” them and make them forget their language and culture.

In the meantime epidemics of smallpox, influenza, measles, and venereal disease claimed the lives of 75 to 90 per cent of the tribal population (Zucker et al., 1983).

Native Americans fighting in WWI led to their being granted U.S. citizenship in 1924 (Woody, 2007). A major turning point for the CTUIR included the completion of the Dalles Dam in 1957, and the consequent loss of their traditional salmon fishing location, Celilo Falls. More positive significant milestones include the openings of the Nicht-Yow-Way Community Center, and the Yellowhawk Clinic in 1973.

By the 1980s the U.S government recognized that Oregon tribes have sovereign rights. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) continues to be the main institute responsible for Indian affairs, although Congress has the final say.

Native history as portrayed in history books and articles like the ones quoted above, often omit the Native perspective itself. Traditionally this is part of an oral historic tradition and as such, does not lend itself to the written word. Nonetheless, it is certainly a valid perspective to be included, as it is the perspective of the people themselves about whom history is written. To include their voices is to avoid their being spoken on behalf of, and this engenders agency.

Voices of History

The Native perspective on history brings a third dimension to the events and dates mentioned above. Indian history is often passed down from generation to generation by means of storytelling. The CTUIR culture recognizes the importance of oral traditions. Individual voices are often the vehicles for passing on this history, and these echo through the years shaping both the present and the vision for the future, as well as reinforcing identity.

Examples of this include the telling of a grandmother’s story (Carrie Sampson)of being chained outside during the winter because she refused to give up her language at St. Andrews Catholic school (Karson, 2006).

Another example of how this other Native voice can shed light on history, is how the 1855 Treaty Council is portrayed among the Tribes. It is the CTUIR who point out that the U.S. government paid 3 cents for every acre of Native land during the 1855 treaty (Wroble, 1998). According to Tribal history, the 36 chiefs and headmen of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes who put their “X” mark on the Treaty of 1855 are regarded as wise ancestors who showed the foresight to lead their peoples onto a path of survival. The words of Governor Stevens are repeated, when he told the interpreters to tell the chiefs that “if they don’t sign this treaty they will walk in blood knee deep” (Karson, 2006). The tribal leaders during the Treaty-signing event put on record how important the land is and how the children are their main consideration, while nearly 5,000 people witnessed the event, which lasted 13 days. Another part of the treaty these tribal leaders insisted on includes the U.S. government’s pledge to protect the Tribes’ rights to survive by means of hunting, gathering and fishing. In this way the Treaty that appeared to take away the Tribes’ rights and lands, actually became the means by which they could claim rights back, once the political climate had shifted. The Treaty is now something the CTUIR see as a gift from their ancestors, and a roadmap for their children.

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR): Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla Native peoples

Today there are over 2,900 enrolled members of the CTUIR, about half of whom live on the reservation in northeastern Oregon, near Pendleton. The 1855 Treaty and its guarantees make up a central part of the motivation and vision behind the CTUIR, as the Tribes are determined to press the U.S. to honor the Treaty. The governance style of the CTUIR reflects this priority in unique ways, and how this shift away from more common Native governance styles occurred can be uncovered in its history.

In 1934 the Collier Act gave U.S. tribes a choice of governance form. Three were offered, including a business council, or traditional governments. The latter was adopted, for example, by many tribes in the Southwest, in New Mexico and Arizona. The CTUIR chose to reject all these models and have a constitution instead (Karson, 2006).

When I explored how the unique governance style of the CTUIR came into being, I discovered that voices held the key, even more so than articles or books. One example is during an interview with Chuck Sams, III, head of communications and director of legislative affairs for the CTUIR. His voice took on a deeper timbre as his words echoed a cadence I surmised he had heard many times before. He told me how the big turning point for the Tribes’ governance style occurred just after WWII. At that point, Native men and women who had served overseas in the military returned to the reservation. “In Europe they saw something they wanted” (personal communication, 2015). There was a great deal of discussion between 1934-1949 about the government style the Tribes were considering. In 1949 they voted and passed by only seven votes, the motion to create a constitution. “That way we could fight the U.S. on equal ground, as a democracy with a constitution” (personal communication with Chuck Sams, III, 2015).

The generation that fought in WWII was the “bridging” generation (Karson, 2003), between the old life and the new. Maudie C. Antoine, Chairwoman, Board of Trustees, or leader of the Tribes, (and first woman to hold that position among the northwestern Native Americans) outlined this vision in her speech at the 1855 Treaty Centennial observance in Walla Walla, Washington, June 11, 1955. She said their role was to end

the 150-year long nightmare. . . . The past shadows every act and thought for my people today; it circumscribes our dreams and, to a large degree, has limited our future. Thus today for us, past history is living history. These truths have been handed down to us over the generations, not to create hatred but understanding and the ability to enable us to meet with faith and courage our responsibilities in a time and age when we face confusing accusations of being the offspring of generations of savages. (Karson, pp. 91-92, 2003)

According to Sams, this governance style is rooted in the belief of individual sovereignty. “No Indian can tell another Indian what to do. The Creator gave us free will. How you conduct yourself is what you do with the gift of the Creator. Rights give you individual sovereignty.” Embedded in the Tribes’ belief system is the conviction that personal security means the ability to hunt, gather and fish. These rights were also embedded in the 1855 Treaty. Sams said, “It is not just about surviving, but about thriving. This is paramount in understanding the significance of the Treaty. Because of individual sovereignty, our ancestors kept repeating that they could not give away the right to hunt, fish, and gather—this was an individual right. It meant keeping the people alive” (personal communication, 2015).

From the WWII veterans to current tribal leaders, having key individuals as elders and members of other management bodies has impacted the CTUIR. When viewed as individuals, these men and women have helped plot the path of the Tribes, heading it in the direction of health and survival, due to a wide variety of programs.

Examples of CTUIR Governance Strategies

The post-war leaders of the Tribes often felt inundated with good ideas and new plans, but eventually, with the consensus of the community, clear priorities emerged: Land and Education.

In 1965 the CTUIR won a court case against the government in compensation for lost land. The $2 million awarded to the Tribes was dispersed among members in “per-capita” payments, and became the seed for what would later become $1 million in education funds. Tribal leadership would have preferred the money to be invested in projects, but members made clear their preference for individual cash payments (Karson, 2003). Many in leadership saw this as a missed opportunity. In later years the Tribes took measures to reinvest future windfalls. Presently the CTUIR has an important economic and political impact on the economy of northeastern Oregon (Tower, 1998).

A large percentage of the present profits made by the Tribes goes toward the (re)acquisition of land (Karson, 2006). After the economic crisis of 2008, many ranches neighboring the reservation foreclosed, enabling the CTUIR to acquire land that was previously part of its holdings before reservation lands were sold off after the 1855 Treaty was signed (personal communication with museum personnel, 2009). The “Buy-Back” scheme sponsored by the Obama administration in 2014 is another example of how the CTUIR has set land strategy at the core of its governance style. This program involves federal subsidies to assist the Tribes in buying back sections of land so that the Tribes become a collective owner. It counteracts to a small degree, the far-reaching effect of the “checkerboard” reservation, or small plots of land, which may or may not be connected, but make up the reservation piecemeal. In this way the CTUIR aims to increase its collective landholdings and hold it in trust for future generations.

In addition to increasing their landholdings, the Tribes have set a priority on environmental restoration. Traditionally, they are a river people, and salmon has always been a source of survival and trade for the Tribes. To restore the water and the salmon to the Umatilla river became a project referred to as the “River of Hope.”

Fisheries

The CTUIR views land as something that cares for them, and they care for the land. The right to fish is a right guaranteed by the 1855 Treaty. So tribal leaders and members agreed that fisheries policy should be a high priority. In 1980 they initiated the Umatilla Basin Salmon Recovery Project

to restore water and salmon to the Umatilla River. The challenge was to achieve this while also protecting the local non-Indian economy, which is dependent on irrigated agriculture. The core of this ecosystem-based restoration plan is an innovative water-swapping agreement in which local irrigators agreed to relinquish their claims to water from the Umatilla and instead receive water piped from the Columbia River in order to raise the Umatilla’s flow to a level sufficient to bring salmon back. (Record, 2008)

The fisheries policy exemplifies the Tribes’ approach of “cooperation over confrontation.” Antone Minthorn, Chairman of CTUIR’s Board of Trustees, or leader of the Tribes, said, “If we have to, we will litigate to protect our treaty-reserved rights, but we have seen that we can create solutions which meet everyone’s needs by sitting down with our neighbors, listening to each other, and developing our own solutions. … We believe the cooperative process between neighbors can be used as a model for success in the region and beyond” (Record, 2008).

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development listed the CTUIR as an Honoring Nation award winner for its Umatilla River Basin project (2014). The Harvard Project recognizes conditions when American Indian nations use applied research and service to achieve sustained, self-determined social and economic development. It recognizes outstanding examples of Tribal governance through the annual Honoring Nations Awards. When the CTUIR won this award in 2002 for its Salmon Recovery Project, it was just the first of several such awards. The other qualifying projects are outlined below, as further illustrations of the CTUIR governance model.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (2002) is another example of programs that integrated fisheries enforcement, policy development and litigation support, fish marketing, and watershed restoration.

Healing Lodge (2002)

The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations (a cooperative effort with the Colville, Spokane, Kalispell, Kootenai, Coeur d’Alene, and Nez Perce Tribes) is a treatment center that helps Native American youth and their families heal from substance abuse. The focus combines culture and spirituality with mental health/chemical dependency treatment. It includes family counseling and a juvenile justice improvement project, recreation, education, and cultural activities.

ONABEN’s Innovative Models for Enterprise Development (2005)

This consortium of Native nations in the Pacific Northwest aims to increase self-reliance by promoting the development of tribal-citizen-owned small businesses and the diversification of reservation economies. The programs provide financial counseling, business mentoring, start-up financing, links to tribal efforts, and access to a network of experienced teachers and business people: Native and non-Indian.

Financial, Credit and Consumer Protection Program (2006)

This CTUIR program recognizes the links between promoting a strong economy, maintaining positive cultural connections and the ability to own a home. Information covered includes generating awareness about predatory lending practices, and developing financial literacy skills, and generally bringing the dream of homeownership closer to reality. It is recognized that as members build and own homes on tribal land, the community and the Tribes are strengthened.

Public Transit (2010)

In the last decades the CTUIR became one of the larges employers in eastern Oregon. This caused many tribal members to return to the reservation. Nonetheless, a lack of transportation options often prevented them from availing themselves of local employment opportunities. The present Transit program includes a free bus and a taxi voucher service, covering a large service area both within and beyond reservation boundaries, and is interconnected with other non-tribal regional transport systems. This transit system has helped alleviate poverty, promote stronger inter-governmental relations, and facilitated community engagement (Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, 2014).

Cultural Resources Protection Program (2003)

The aim of this CTUIR initiative is to educate non-Indian agencies about pertinent laws and treaties with regard to tribal, federal, state, and private lands. In this way they strengthen cultural resource laws and policies, craft government-to-government relationships, train other tribes, and incorporate Native knowledge into a field historically dominated by non-Indians.

Archeology policy

In addition to the projects outlined above, the CTUIR has asserted its sovereignty in the field of archeological remains. When a 9,000-year-old skeleton was found in neighboring eastern Washington State in 1992, the CTUIR and other local tribes protested when scientists took the bones to perform research on the extremely rare, largely intact skeleton. Native groups claimed they had the right to their ancestors’ remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The scientists sued and won the case in 2004. Rather than pursue the issue further in courts with an appeal, the Tribes decided instead to try to change the system from within through fostering a growing understanding. By means of the above-mentioned Cultural Resources Protection Program, they now do this by fighting artifact trafficking and burial desecration. “The CTUIR have and will continue to demonstrate that American archaeology is better served when there is a relationship between the non-Indian archaeological community and Indian people, tribes, and bands – the only legitimate and true owners of native cultural resources” (Preston, 2014, p. 51).

In Burney (2002) tribal leaders are quoted as saying that they have been prevented from handling their cultural resources because they are not certified, and are not considered experts. In answer to those charges, the CTUIR spent 1986-1992 developing a tribally owned and managed contract archaeology program. Though some non-Indian archaeologists view this as a threat to a discipline previously dominated by non-Indians, the Tribes say they see this as an opportunity to realize a vision, a vision of respect for all parties involved.

The CTUIR says this raising awareness is a form of reaching out to help allies build up resources and strengths through training and workshops. Tribal leader at the time, Armand Minthorn, stated, “The CTUIR eventually lost the case, and the Kennewick Man was subjected to scientific research. Instead, CTUIR decided to focus on improving NAGPRA legislation (Minthorn, n.d.).

Sovereignty

The Tribes continue to assert their sovereignty at as many levels as possible. For example, the updated Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will officially take effect in early 2015, but in 2014, the Umatilla Tribe was elected to become part of a pilot project that will enable the Tribes to enforce this law sooner. This means that non-indigenous men who assault Native American women can now be persecuted by the CTUIR itself, whereas previously this was impossible (United States Department of Justice, 2014).

CTUIR Youth

Within the Native American population, 39 percent are aged 24 and under. According to the 2014 Native Youth Report, researched and published by the Executive Office of the President in December, 2014, more than a third of all Native American and Native Alaskan children live in poverty. In addition, the high school graduation rate is well below the national average. And perhaps most disturbing of all: the suicide rate is 2.5 times as high as for other youths aged 15-24.

Education

Education policy is an extremely sensitive and complex issue within Native communities.

Past efforts to meet trust obligations often have led to problematic results, even when intentions were good. Education was at the center of many harmful policies because of its nexus with social and cultural knowledge. Education was—and remains—a critical vehicle for impacting the lives of Native youth for better or worse

The hallmarks of colonial experiments in Indian education were religious indoctrination, cultural intolerance, and the wholesale removal of Native children from their languages, religions, cultures, families, and communities. The overlapping goals of this “education” and “civilization” operated as euphemisms and justifications for taking culturally and physically injurious actions against Native children and their peoples. (Executive Office of the President, pp. 4, 7, 2014).

This history of Native education policy started with words like the infamous ones of Captain Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, founded in 1879. He said, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” However, in 1923, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, said, “The administration of Indian affairs [is] a disgrace – a policy designed to rob Indians of their property, destroy their culture [,] and eventually exterminate them.” The year 1969 saw the establishment of the Subcommittee on Indian Education, and the subsequent Kennedy Report, “Indian Education: A National Tragedy, a National Challenge.” Important changes in the law occurred in 1972 with the Indian Education Act; in 1975 with the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act; in 1978 with the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act; and in 1988 with the Tribally Controlled Schools Act (Executive Office of the President, pp. 8, 10-12, 2014).

Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, said in 2000,

This agency [the BIA] forbade the speaking of Indian languages, prohibited the conduct of traditional religious activities, outlawed traditional government, and made Indian people ashamed of who they were. Worst of all, the Bureau of Indian Affairs committed these acts against the children entrusted to its boarding schools, brutalizing them emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

The trauma of shame, fear and anger has passed from one generation to the next, and manifests itself in the rampant alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence that plague Indian country. (Executive Office of the President, p. 13, 2014)

As a result of all the above, only 13 per cent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a bachelor’s degree, whereas the national average is 29 per cent. Only 39 per cent of Native students who start a bachelor’s degree complete it, compared with 62 per cent of non-Indian students.

According to the 2014 Native Youth Report, causes include:

  • Lack of tribal involvement/control over native education
  • Lack of support for poor Native American students
  • Lack of good teachers (wages too low, rural setting)
  • Lack of native languages and culture in schools (only 38 of 187 native languages in US/Canada are currently being taught to children)
  • Insufficient funding
  • Child poverty at 34 per cent, compared with 21 per cent nationally
  • Lower wages, employment levels than other groups
  • Obesity (40% of 2-4 year olds) and diabetes
  • Substance abuse among adolescents (alcohol, drugs)

The President’s Report made the following recommendations for change:

  • More tribal control over education (also beneficial for incorporating language/cultural education, adapting the curriculum to local needs)
  • BIE Blueprint for Reform: transfer control over education from Bureau of Indian Affairs to tribal governments
  • State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) grant program
  • Community based student supporters
  • More native languages and culture in the classroom
  • Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Native Languages between various federal agencies
  • Native American Languages Summit; Working Together for Native American Language Success – June 2014
  • Support for teachers and school leaders (to address current shortage)
  • Implement 21st century technology (internet is very slow in many BIA schools)
  • Suicide prevention
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Tribal Behavioral Health Grant (TBHG/Native Connections)
  • Address behavioral health issues

As a sign of the commitment on behalf of the Executive branch of the federal government, Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, states in the 2014 Native Youth Report, “The future of Indian Country rests on ensuring American Indian children receive a world-class education that honors their cultures, languages and identities as Indian people.”

I have included this extensive list as a means of highlighting how CTUIR governance has already been aware of these issues and working on similar solutions. In this way the 2014 Native Youth Report serves as a checklist for the CTUIR, affirming the direction of its programs. On their website the following categories can be found under Education:

  • Adult Basic Education
  • After School Education Program
  • Day care Program (Ataw Miyanasma)
  • Head Start
  • Higher Education & Adult Vocational Training
  • Language Program
  • Nixyaawii Community School
  • Summer school.

Before the Report was even issued, the CTUIR had targeted many of these areas as ones in need of time, energy, and investment. Their governance model also includes the need for language education, as this reinforces a sense of positive identity.

Language

The Nixyaawii Community school offers language immersion programs, with the aim of contributing towards revitalization of the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Weyíiletpuu (Cayuse) languages. The program is designed to “retrieve, preserve, invigorate and teach the three dialects to tribal members and wholeheartedly involve all fluent language speakers to their full capacity” (ctuir.org, 2015).

Currently, the Language Program offers a language immersion program for children aged 3 to 5, who spend four hours a day in the program. There are also adult classes offered for Tribal members to learn from fluent speakers. An annual Language Knowledge Bowl brings students together from the Warm Springs, Yakama, Lapwai, Kamiah, Goldendale, and Pendleton areas to compete in the annual event. The competition is composed of a large vocabulary list where student are required to translate verbs, nouns, adjectives, animals, plants and phrases in to their respective languages they are studying. In the past this event has attracted over 80 participants and 200 observers (ctuir.org, 2014). CTUIR sees language as a tool for renewal.

Language for the people of Nixyáawii, the place of many springs, is a way of life and being. Within the phrases and words of our language is the history of our people and the strength and emotion of our tribal community.

By tapping into the knowledge of our fluent speakers, we are working to recapture our language for the benefit of generations to come. Our Language Program is dedicated to recording fluent speakers, archiving language material, making language accessible for all tribal members and teaching the languages of Umatilla, Walla Walla and Weyíiletpuu (Cayuse) to all ages. (ctuir.org, 2015)

In addition, there is an Umatilla Dictionary, published in November, 2014. According to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, Umatilla has 100 speakers and is “severely endangered.” Today, speakers of all levels speak Umatilla and Walla Walla. The Umatilla language is the southern Sahaptin dialect and the Walla Walla is the northeast dialect of Sahaptin. Weyíiletpuu is a dialect of the Nez Perce language as used by the Cayuse people. A distinctive dialect of the Cayuse people has not been used since the 1940s and is designated as extinct (ctuir.org, 2015).

According to the Tribes’ mission statement: “The CTUIR Language Program will work towards revitalization of the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Weyíiletpuu languages.  And will preserve, retrieve, document, teach and increase or restore language usage to tribal English-first speakers and beginner native language speakers and wholeheartedly involve all fluent speakers to their full capacity” (ctuir.org, 2015).

The establishment of language education has strong ties with confirming a positive image of Native peoples, linking back to an affirming sense of identity. Giving young people, especially, something more than alcohol and drugs to relate to, in terms of identity, helps them reinvent their identity, or rediscover it, as in the case of the CTUIR.

Identity

The Tamástslikt center on the Umatilla Reservation is off of Exit 216 on Interstate 84, the connection with Pendleton. The center took 10 years to build and cost $18 million (Egan, 1998). Tamástslikt is a means of attracting tourists and increasing understanding about the Tribes’ perspective on history. The location is key because it is part of the old Oregon Trail that pioneers traversed in the 1880s.

As an example of the innovative way in which the CTUIR places itself in the tourist market, in 1998, they sent a delegation to Berlin’s biggest tourism trade show in the world. They handed out posters of a Cayuse Indian leader in a buffalo headdress with the slogan Nicht Ihr Durchschnittlicher Reisefuhrer or “Not Your Average Tour Guide.” The Tribes strive to be perceived as a “dynamic, evolving, healthy people. That’s not exactly what people expect to see when they visit a reservation” (Conner, quoted in Egan, 1998).

The center plays a key role in confirming a positive identity among all members of the Tribes, but especially the young people. According to tribal elder Les Minthorn, “Tamástslikt is a source of strength and a repository for all tribal members.” Here, the stereotypical and prejudiced scripts of Indians as nothing but drunks and drug addicts is countered with a narrative of strength and wisdom.

According to Thomas Morning Owl, a modern-day tribal member, “Children today don’t understand who they are. . . . They begin to accept and follow other ways, they shrug their shoulders when they are told what it means to be native, a person of the land. To be Indian is to be a person who is independent, who is worthy, who is disciplined in life and respectful of things around you – elders, home life, education. Too many of us fit the stereotype that fails and blames everybody else for our own actions.” To belong to the “Rez” means not daring to get off it because expectations are so low, they guarantee no failure (Phinney, 2007).

By providing an alternative script for the young people of the CTUIR, the community opens up a new, or renewed sense of who they were and who they are, as well as who they may become. This is, in fact, how the Tamástslikt cultural institute is structured. Visitors see exhibitions about the past, learn about the present, and share a dream of the future. Part of this future will be a continued renewal of water resources. As explained at the cultural center, the Walla Walla tribe’s own name is wánapam, which means “people of the river.” The Umatilla river project is called the “River of Hope” by the Tribes, because of its success in bringing back the salmon after 70 years of extinction. There is hope that the subsequent Walla Walla basin project may succeed in the same way in future years.

To be a people of the river, means that the metaphors of running deep, and the river of life, and peace as a river, all resonate among members of the Tribes. Members say it gives them a sense of being rooted in the land and having the support of not just their present community, but past tribal members as well. The leaders who fought in WWII are quoted as having handed down a work ethic to the Tribes, which has meant that providing jobs and training, especially among young people, is another top priority demonstrated by CTUIR tribal governance policies.

Employment

Across the street from the cultural center stands the Wildhorse Casino, which opened in 1994. Fifteen per cent of its revenues are paid to reservation residents in so-called “per-capita payments.” In 2006 these payments totaled $1400 per tribe member (Phinney, 2007). In addition, Cayuse Technologies, an outsourcing business, is located in the Coyote Business Park. Other enterprises owned by the Tribes include Arrowhead Travel Plaza—a truck stop; the Mission Market—a convenience store; and the grain elevator. The CTUIR is the second most important employer in Umatilla county, after the State of Oregon.

The presence as a major employer ensures that the CTUIR is taken seriously by political and economic leaders in Oregon. Keeping its members employed contrasts with the generalizations and prejudice usually associated with Native communities. Young people say they find inspiration and role models among themselves. What follows are two examples of youth voices that have inspired not just the CTUIR community, but all of Indian Country, as the Native community on a national basis is referred to.

Voices of the Present

An article in USA Today on 10 December 2014 quoted a CTUIR member, Denise Wickert. She attended the Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., which marked the release of the 2014 Native youth Report, commissioned by President Obama. Wickert is 26 and admits in the article to underage drinking and barely graduating from high school. While attending high school off the reservation she was stigmatized. “Being native, I was labeled a gangster. We were automatically seen as troubled youth.” Wickert took part in an Upward Bound program at the University of Colorado, then continued her studies while living on the reservation. There, she started a tribal youth council in 2012 with a $5,000 grant. She says her motivation was to provide other Native youth with a program supporting leadership goals. Wickert says she now celebrates sobriety, is taking online courses for a bachelor’s degree in social welfare, and she helps Native youth with college preparation. She admits that the statistics are against Native people, and she works full time in the drug, alcohol and suicide prevention programs at the CTUIR Yellowhawk health center.

Another inspiration for young people at CTUIR is the basketball player, Shoni Schimmel. She grew up on the reservation, but went to high school in Portland, where her mother got a job coaching the women’s team. She and her sister Jude both helped bring their school into victory after victory. Shoni then earned a scholarship at University of Louisville, where she was voted most-valuable player and again assisted in Louisville’s epic run throughout the NCAA tournament. Now as a player in the professional team, Atlanta Dream, Schimmel has had a film made about her, called Off the Rez. She is responsible for bringing huge crowds to women’s basketball games around the country. When asked about her rough style of playing, Schimmel said, “Rez Ball. It’s run and gun, shoot whenever you’re open, trust in your heart” (NY Times, 2013). Her older brother Shae says she played basketball with him and other boys on the reservation. “She used to humiliate guys,” he said. Schimmel describes her style of leadership as “stronger, tougher, wiser” (Schimmel, 2015). Her aunt, Michelle Moses, says of Schimmel, “She can be an inspiration, she can be a motivation. She can be a voice” (Schnell, 2010).

Conclusion

Despite the optimistic strategies and programs put in place by CTUIR leadership, when viewed as a group, troubling recent statistics point to results that might belie the pro-active governance style. Whereas the relative wealth of the tribe has increased over the years due to these programs, a new study (Guedel, 2014), the reliability of which is under question, reveals that the poverty level has increased. Tribal gaming revenue nationally yielded $28 billion in 2013, roughly the same since 2008, but up from $6.3 billion in 1996, when tribes across the country began using the loophole in federal laws to establish casinos on reservations. Tribal governments throughout the U.S. use these funds as a sovereign resource and utilize them for economic and human security development programs. In 2000, the percentage of CTUIR members living at or below the poverty level was 17.2, or 279 of the 1562 total members. In 2010, however, the poverty percentage had risen to 23.2 percent. Tribal members receive per-capita payments based on the casino profits, and these are often viewed as a form of collective support. Tribes that do not pay their members in this way, also do not show the increase in poverty levels (Guedel, 2014). The study itself, and the policy both are controversial, and other contributing factors to the increase in poverty need to be identified. In the CTUIR’s case, this increase reflects 94 more people living in poverty among the 2010 population of 1605, compared to a total 2000 population of 1562.

Future research could include further investigation into why there is such a disconnect between the rhetoric of CTUIR success, and the alleged reality of increased poverty levels.

However, the governance style of the CTUIR, with its emphasis on earmarking profits for scholarship funds, acquisition of tribal lands, job creation, and environmental restoration, provides a possible blueprint for other marginalized groups wishing to increase their voice and agency.

There is a legend among several Native American tribes that the sacrifices made in the last 180 years would be redeemed in the seventh generation. Modern environmentalists sometimes use this phrase, seventh generation, to refer to the need for forward-thinking and visionary environmental policies. But the Native seventh-generation prophecy, as it is sometimes referred to, is not about environmental policy. It is about hope. This governance model practiced by the CTUIR recreates an identity, rooted in youth role models, language, and tradition, while looking to the future, beyond even the seventh generation. In doing so, it gives hope to all communities battling to escape a legacy of despair and injustice.

References

Beckham, S. (2007). Chapter 11: Federal-Indian Relations. In L. Berg (Ed.), The First Oregonians. Portland, OR: Oregon Council for the Humanities.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (July 26, 20111). Census of State and Local law Enforcement Agencies, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2216.

Burney, M. (2002). It’s About Time: A Decade of Papers 1988-1998. Moscow, ID: JONA

Ctuir.org. (2015). http://ctuir.org/tribal-services/education/language-program

Egan, T. (1998, September 21). Indian Reservations Bank on Authenticity to Draw Tourists. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.blackfeetculturecamp.com/docs/Media-NYTimes.pdf

Executive Office of the President. (2014). Native Youth Report 2014. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/20141129nativeyouthreport_final.pdf

Guedel, W. G. (2014). Sovereignty, economic development, and human security in Native American nations. American Indian Law Journal 3, 1

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. (2014). List of 1998-2010 Honoring Nations award winners. Retrieved from http://hpaied.org/images/resources/general/finalhndirectory.pdf

Jersyk, J. (1998). Cayuse. In S. Malinowski (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of Native American tribes (V. 3, pp. 384-389). Detroit, MI: Gale.

Karson, J. (Ed.). (2006). wiyáxyxt As days go by wiyáakaa?awn: Our history, our land, and our people the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla. Pendleton, OR: Tamástslikt Cultural Institute; Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press; Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Minthorn, A. (n.d.) Human Remains Should Be Reburied. Retrieved from http://www.asd5.org/cms/lib4/WA01001311/Centricity/Domain/629/Human%20Remains%20Should%20Be%20Reburied.pdf

NY Times. (2013). Retrieved from   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/sports/ncaabasketball/final-four-for-louisville-american-indian-sisters-inspire.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Phinney, W. (2007). Chapter 9: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation: Modern Indian Peoples Sustained by the Land and Rivers of Their Ancestors. In L. Berg (Ed.), The first Oregonians. Portland, OR: Oregon Council for the Humanities.

Preston, D. (September 2014). The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/kennewick-man-finally-freed-share-his-secrets-180952462/?no-ist

Record, I. W. (2008). JOPNA (Joint Occasional Papers on Native Affairs). We Are the Stewards: Indigenous-led Fisheries innovation in North America. Retrieved from http://caid.ca/JopIndFis2008.pdf

Schimmel, S. (2015). Living My Dream …Off the Rez, in R. Minthorn & A. F. Chavez, Indigenous Leadership in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.

Schnell, L. (2010, March 5). 6A girls: Franklin star Shoni Schimmel driven to inspire other Natives. The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://highschoolsports.oregonlive.com/news/article/-6563077453568400416/6a-girls-franklin-star-shoni-schimmel-driven-to-inspire-other-natives/

Tower, C. (1998). Umatilla. In S. Malinowski (Ed.), The Gale encyclopedia of Native American tribes (V. 3, pp. 488-492). Detroit, MI: Gale.

United States Census Bureau. (Feb. 20, 2013). American Indian and Alaska Native Poverty Rate about 50 Percent in Rapid City, S.D., and about 30 Percent in Five Other Cities, Census. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2013/cb13-29.html#.

United States Department of Justice. (2014). Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization 2013. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/tribal/violence-against-women-act-vawa-reauthorization-2013-0

USA Today. (2014, Dec. 10). Native Youth Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/10/native-youth-initiative-obama/20208461

Woody, E. (2007). Chapter 1: The Tribe Next Door: Tradition, Innovation, and Multiculturalism. In L. Berg (Ed.), The first Oregonians. Portland, OR: Oregon Council for the Humanities.

Zucker, J., Hummel, K., & Hogfoss, B. (1983). Oregon Indians: Culture, History & Current Affairs. Portland, OR: The Press of the Oregon Historical Society.

* Many thanks to my Research Assistant Amanda Geenen for her tireless work. I am grateful to Professor Ali Watson, and to Bennett Collins, both of whom encouraged me in this research.

Tamástslikt

Filed under: Write on — annedegraaf @ 10:24 am

IMG-20150717-00460(The following is the first part of the paper I presented at the International Studies Association National Conference in New Orleans last February. The positive response to this paper by Native and non-Native academics encouraged me to pursue my research further by returning to the Umatilla Reservation. I post it here to provide background and answer questions about why I’m here. If you’re interested in reading the entire text, just let me know and I’d be happy to email it to you.)

Tamástslikt—

(to interpret, turn over, or turn around in the Walla Walla dialect):

The interpretation, turning over and turning around

of a Native community

By Anne de Graaf

Amsterdam University College, University of Amsterdam

a.m.degraaf@auc.nl

Abstract

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) consists of three tribes, the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, located in northeastern Oregon. With a 10,000-year history, they view the past 180 years as a season to survive. According to their culture, the land and the people, both Native and non-Indian, make up the homeland, or regional world. The CTUIR exercises a unique pattern of governance that rejects an identity of victimization, and embraces “cooperation over confrontation.” Although they acknowledge that three generations of children were systematically humiliated and taken out of the community and forced into boarding schools, and despite a long list of land betrayals, the CTUIR has chosen what they call, a “path of survival.” Admitting that “past history is living history,” and encouraging creativity, they engineer projects crafted and implemented by local citizens, aimed at fostering understanding. Examples include innovative education policies such as a local school where children learn the tribes’ dialects and customs, earmarking profits from the reservation casino for scholarship funds and (re-)acquisition of tribal lands, salmon restoration in local rivers, and job creation. Their model for peacebuilding utilizes voice, agency, and youth and sees growing understanding as key to conflict resolution.

Introduction

The list of 566 federally-recognized Tribes within the United Sates includes the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla (CTUIR). Among the U.S. government and the 566 tribes there runs a tangled web of laws, treaties, court cases and appeals, in an attempt to establish human security, sovereignty and justice. National statistics on the Native American population reveal shocking statistics, such as 27 per cent living in poverty, the highest rate for any racial group in the country, and nearly double the national average (United States Census Bureau, 2013). Tribal communities undergo much higher rates of violent crime and domestic violence than the national averages (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011). In addition, the suicide rate of young people is 2.5 times higher among Native youth than non-Indian youth (Executive Office of the President, 2014), and Native communities seem plagued by high levels of alcoholism and substance abuse. After generations of living in such discouraging conditions, most reservations seem steeped in disheartening despair, and surrounded by local prejudice.

The CTUIR is located in northeastern Oregon. With a 10,000-year history, they view the past 180 years as a season to survive. According to their culture, the land and the people, both Native and non-Indian, make up the homeland, or regional world. The CTUIR exercises a unique pattern of governance that rejects an identity of victimization, and embraces “cooperation over confrontation.” Although they acknowledge that three generations of children were systematically humiliated and taken out of the community and forced into boarding schools, and despite a long list of land betrayals, the CTUIR has chosen what they call, a “path of survival.” Admitting that “past history is living history,” and encouraging creativity, they engineer projects crafted and implemented by local citizens, aimed at fostering understanding. Examples include innovative education policies such as a local school where children learn the tribes’ dialects and customs, earmarking profits from the reservation casino for scholarship funds and (re-)acquisition of tribal lands, salmon restoration in local rivers, and job creation. Their model for peacebuilding utilizes voice, agency, and youth and sees growing understanding as key to conflict resolution.

Due to the space limitations of this paper, it will only summarize a wide variety of aspects pertaining to the CTUIR governance model. Further research is necessary in order to more thoroughly analyze the effects of this governance model, as well as its shortcomings. But in Indian Country, as the greater national Native community is referred to, the CTUIR stands out as an exception. This paper explores its governance model, in an attempt to provide a possible governance framework which might apply to other marginalized communities. It attempts to answer the question: How did the CTUIR set itself apart and develop such a different governance model, providing much more far-reaching support to its members, than other Native communities?

This exploration of CTUIR governance first paints the picture of modern-day Native communities in the U.S. by means of several statistics. The paper then provides a brief summary of the history of the Tribes, both before and after the Treaty signed in 1855, and the ramifications of the Treaty itself. An additional historical perspective is provided by means of Native oral histories of these periods. Voice, agency and youth are key concepts within the CTUIR framework. The paper then turns to a description of the CTUIR and its governance style and traditions. In this section an attempt is made to identify the turning point in governance style and the men and women responsible for this change in direction. Examples of CTUIR governance strategies illustrate this style, and include several programs for which the Tribes have received national attention. This is followed by an examination of how CTUIR governance specifically targets its youth, in terms of education, language, identity, and employment. This section ends with quotes by two young women, whose voices act as inspiration for the Tribes, and indeed, all of Indian Country. The paper concludes with statistics and observations which act as a counterweight to the positive results outlined previously, but calls for further research to establish additional contributing factors that might be avoided, in order for this governance model to serve as an example for other marginalized groups.

19 July 2015

Lions and tigers and bears

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places — annedegraaf @ 10:10 am

IMG-20150719-00480I did something very different yesterday. I had heard about a lake on the Rez, called Lake Hume-Ti-Pin, which translates as “Grizzly-bitten.” On the map it’s just called “Indian Lake,” though. The temps were due to reach 100 (38C) in the valley where I’m staying, so I thought I’d head into the Blue Mountains in the hope of cooling off a bit. My shiny red Ford Fiesta rent-a-car bravely carried me through Pendleton, and onto Hwy 395. At Pilot Rock we took a left onto East Birch Creek Road, which, according to the website, I should follow for 19 miles. On Google maps the road did go from black to gray, now that I think of it, but I hadn’t paid much attention when my trusty laptop tried to warn me.

I think “Grizzly-bitten” is a reassuring name, don’t you? In Pilot Rock I drove past one-story wooden houses with pickups parked beside, in front, and behind them. Car parts littered the yards. Large trailers had been converted into more permanent homes. And oh, there’s the left turn onto East Birch Creek Road. I began to switch back and climb past ranches, Black Angus cattle along and ON the road, the trees went from Live Oak to Ponderosa Pine, and slowly I watched the reading of the outside temperature drop into the nineties, then into the eighties. By the time I opened my window to see if the outside was cooler than my air-conditioned inside, I was feeling grateful for the two bottles of water and full gas tank I’d brought with me. Yellow, dry hills gave way to wooded cliffs with fallen trees and small brooks dribbling onto the road.

And then…oh yeah, the asphalt ended. My Ford Fiesta said to me, “Uh, Anne, I’m not a 4-wheel drive.” I said, no problemo. My little worried self said, “You will drive off a cliff and no one will find your crippled and thirsty body for weeks.” I said, come here sweetie, I love you, but you do tend to exaggerate a tiny bit sometimes. And with a spit of gravel and a cloud of dust behind me, off we went.

Where I had been walking the day before, near the museum, I had read a sign saying cougars had been sighted recently. Where I drove now looked like prime cougar country to me. I drove and drove and drove. I thought, hey, this is like writing a PhD: you think you’re almost there, then turn a corner and see that you have another stretch to go, then you turn another corner and you’re still not there. I drank water. I drove. I drove slower and slower because of the potholes. I thought, hey, this is like when Erik and the kids and I were in Botswana and we lost the road and he followed the sun and brought us exactly where we needed to be. Camel Trophy driving. My by now, dust-encrusted Ford Fiesta was not amused. Just once a large blue pick-up with two black labs in the back careened past. See, I told my hesitant self, if something happened, people would find us. She did not answer.

I think she was mad at the lion part of me who loves adventure. My friend in South Africa calls me a lioness, and PvK (see four posts previous) must have recognized that part of me since he once said I have more balls than most men. This part of me was having a party, soaking up the sight of mountain vistas and swaying pines and blue skies with red-tailed hawks criss-crossing above. She relaxed and let go in a way I haven’t felt for years. She said, you’ve come home, sweet Anne. Rest.

I kept driving. Twice I passed tiny wooden cabins tucked in between the trees. Every now and then a sign warned that this was Reservation land and no trespassing was allowed off the road. Did I miss the lake? How do you miss a lake? Nearly an hour had passed. How long does it take to drive 19 miles? How many kilometers is that?

I turned a corner. And there she was. Pristine. Isolated. Perfect. A sign said, “Check in with the Gatekeeper. Those who don’t will pay double.” I thought, hey, this is like heaven. Ha! It turns out, the Gatekeeper is called Mike (not Peter), and he sat behind a picnic table. ON the picnic table panted the biggest Rottweiler I’ve ever seen. I drove up, got out, shook Mike’s hand, tried to ignore the dog and said, I came over Pilot Rock. Is that the best route? “Oh you only had 9 miles of unpaved road. The other routes into here are 20 or 25 miles of dirt road.” He looked at my Ford Fiesta questionably. Thanks Mike. I handed him the $2 fee for State park day use and said, Hey, you have like the best job in the world. He looked startled, then smiled. “Yeah, sometimes you have to work. Number 10.”

Now I had planned to just find a shady place and stretch out in the grass somewhere. I had my picnic blanket and a towel and my bathing suit and sunscreen. But I was being sent to campsite number 10. Like a good girl I followed the signs around the lake until I saw 10, and pulled in. Nice. Blanket on the grass. Stretched out and felt all the muscles relax better than a yoga workout. I squinted up into the pines and heard them sigh. I hadn’t heard that sound since I was a little girl and we stayed in the Sierras at our cabin on Donner Lake. The pines sighed. I sighed. My Ford Fiesta sighed. I meditate and am gone.

And then I heard it. A woman’s voice, high and shrill, “He almost shot my kid. You keep your fucking kid away from him. And your god-damned gun! Who the fuck do you think you are, you and your fucking kid and your fucking pellet gun!” Well, you get the idea, it went on and on and was right next door at number 11! The kid is screaming. She’s screaming. The man is screaming. Their dog is barking. I told the part of me who wants to interfere and make things right that she is going to stay put and not breathe a word. In an instant I was that little girl again, listening to my mom, wondering how I could calm her down and make things safe.

The man: “I think you’re over-reacting.” Well, and you can imagine what she said to that. Then others joined in. Six pickups and an all-terrain vehicle later, it seemed a family reunion was weighing in. Someone turned up the radio, the dog kept barking, and I thought, right, time to go for a walk.

I passed more pick-ups, people laughing, people drinking, people swimming. “Ma’am, could you take our picture, please?” Me? I walked down into a hollow where four huge RVs were parked. One had a satellite dish on it and loud country music blasted out the doors. Ice chests all around, smiling people shake my hand, introducing themselves, “Come stay for a drink, who are you? Are you here alone, honey?” I took their picture with a type of phone I’ve never seen before, and smiled charmingly (the same one I used in the gun shop), thanked them and kept walking around the lake. I tried to remember the name of the movie where people said yes to hospitality and disappeared.

Slowly the noise died down, and the sighing pines remembered me. I found this spot in the photo–it called my name and I sat in the shade and memorized the smell of pine, the lap of water, the eagle’s cry. Rest. I rested and played with the silence, stretching time until it stops, inside the light dancing on water. I have come here for this moment. It stays with me.

Chuck told me these mountains are who they are as a People. Here they can visit their dead. So I visit mine: Dad, whose grave I stood by on Wednesday for the first time since the funeral–Dad, who used to say to me whenever I felt unsure: “Go get ’em, Tiger”; PvK, who never was supposed to die, and certainly not so fast; Hemayel, young and smart, who taught me about youth empowerment; other friends and family. They smile. I smile. Then I keep walking. For years I’ve longed to hike in the mountains again and today I do, picking my way through scented grass and scrambling up slopes, all the while, the sighing of the pines brushing my cheeks with cool air.

When I return to Number 10 the drama has shifted into low gear. I shake out my blanket and throw it into the back of the car, then drive to another spot and sit looking at the water for a little while longer. The peace of this lake soaks into me, and I carry it inside. If a place can make a people, then the Tribes are made well. No wonder they call this home.

Driving down out of the mountains I realize it actually only takes 90 minutes. No grizzlies. No cougars. No car spinning out of control in the gravel and diving off the cliff. No crazy Appalachian-accented people throwing me into a hole and tossing dirt over my face. No rabid Rottweiler foaming at the mouth. No child with a gunshot wound. The only real thing: the sighing of the pines, as they whisper to me still: All is well.

18 July 2015

Cowboys and Indians

Filed under: SWIP (Supposed Work-in-Progress),The Children's Voices — annedegraaf @ 5:04 pm

Pendleton-20150718-00472Pendleton-20150718-00473Pendleton-20150718-00474Pendleton-20150718-00475I’m just saying…I decided to explore the area around the Umatilla Reservation yesterday. There’s a tiny grocery store on the Rez called the Mission Market. “Mission” because that’s the name of the small town on the Rez. It’s actually not much more than a 4-way flashing red stoplight with an Appaloosa mare and her foal grazing nearby. Not going to comment on the irony of the name Mission, except to say, let’s hear it for manifest destiny. At the Mission Market I asked two lovely ladies where there might be more shops. “In town.” Which town? “Drive straight this way into Pendleton.” So I did, and 15 minutes outside of Mission, this is what I found. Couldn’t resist the Group Therapy sign (aiming for lowest prices). Then I walked into Garner’s Sporting Goods and holy shmoly, found myself in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie! Guys dressed in khaki all hanging around the door as I entered. They held it open for me, though. But these guns!!!! Ok, so I’m from a slightly different culture, and had to put on my social science hat and observe, not judge, right? When I tried to take these photos as unobtrusively as possible, the owner came up to me, “You’re not from some group, are you?” No, don’t worry, I smiled charmingly. And left quickly.

Great interviews yesterday. I won’t tell you what was said, though. Why? Because for the first time in my many years of listening to young people in post-conflict areas, I heard young people ask me about how the information they were sharing would be used. I reassured them that before anything they said was made public, I would clear it with them and with the Communication Director for the Tribes. They were aware of their rights! That was amazing cool thing number 1. Amazing cool thing number 2 was that the CTUIR Director of Department of Children and Family Services, who is herself a former member of the Board of Trustees (9 elected members who govern the Tribes), reassured these young people that I was safe to talk to and had been vetted. So I really am in.

So, though I can’t tell you what they said, I can say they were just back from Washington, D.C., where they met Michelle Obama and were told that both she and the President have their backs. (But what does that really mean, I’m wondering. They looked so proud when they told me this.) And I can say they were articulate and honest and gutsy. I was thinking, oh, these guys would have been so good to have along on Peace Lab. (That’s the course I taught in June when Erik and I took 21 students to Kosovo.)

Had an excellent interview with the woman who set up the Youth Council. It’s barely two years old. The language of the documents is straight out of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. When I asked her about this, she said they used the language from their own Board resolutions. So this tells me a rights discourse is embedded in their governance structure. Voice is very prominent in the language, that youth have a right to voice. And despite older tribal members saying when they were young they were told to keep quiet unless spoken to, these same elders now embrace and encourage their youth to speak up and bring about change. Youth, voice and agency. This makes my young heart happy.

17 July 2015

High stakes

ImageWhen I checked in to the Wildhorse Casino Hotel on Wednesday, the front desk lady said, “Good luck!” I smiled and asked why, thinking, does she know I’m here not really knowing what I’m looking for?! And she said, “You’re checked in for so long, you’re here for the million-dollar high-stakes poker game, right?” I laughed and said not really. But then again…maybe yes, maybe no, maybe ice cream! Have never stayed in a casino before, ha!

Had my first interview yesterday—with Chuck Sams, III, Director of Communications, Confederated Tribes (Umatilla, Cayuse, Walla Walla) of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).  He had a different kind of job in Portland for 14 years, where he worked with the Trust for Public Land as National Director of the Tribal & Native Lands Program. Assisting over seventy tribes and native communities, he helped develop strategies to reclaim Native lands with a focus on watersheds, wildlife corridors, working forests, and waterways. He told me, “Then I came home.” Two more times during the interview he used that word, instead of reservation or Rez. “At home, we…” And each time, the word resonated.

Shocking thing to hear (but then I can be so naive sometimes. As my students know, it’s all about sovereignty): “Obama might have told our youth in Washington, D.C. that he has their back, but we cannot trust the courts, and Congress runs our affairs, contrary to international law. And this Congress will do nothing for us.” What was shocking was his resignation and acceptance. I KNOW this, I know the history, but to be sitting across from a nice 40-something man who is articulate and kind and willing to put up with my questions, and hear, “We don’t trust the courts,” in a tone which brooks no argument, brings the history into the room and I look at his photos of military buddies and think he might have been in Iraq during Desert Storm, and my heart is not happy.

I am struggling with many emotions on this trip, and as is my way, writing is how I process. Which is why my long-starved blog is now feeding on words. One thing is that I’m seeing through a Social Science point-of-view…me! Well, my own people. I’m not in South Africa listening to Eastern Cape Xhosa anymore, I’m in America, watching white (maybe) Christians in a casino. And what an eye-opener that is! I walked through the casino yesterday for the first time and had a physical reaction to the noise and cigarette smoke and passivity of the people I passed. They are either heavily tattooed or elderly, mostly very overweight, slumped in front of the 1200 slots, eyes glazed over, pushing buttons, as music and video game racket screams from each machine over and over. Multiply that 1200 times and it’s a shocking contrast to the Nixyaawii Governance Center where I met Chuck. This tall building of stone and wood reached out and welcomed me with its peace and quiet. As I waited for Chuck (arrived 10 minutes early in true Dutch fashion), an elderly Native man, tiny, sat at the reception desk and told me how he doesn’t mind the 90-minute drive to work every day because he lives in beautiful country. Where, I asked. “You know where Pilot Rock is?” I nodded I saw the exit the day before. “Get on that road,” he said, “and just keep on driving.”

The Governance Center, like their museum is an architectural delight: high ceilings, a turning and twisting of corners and hidden corridors, so I am disoriented, but willing to trust the being lost. A water exhibit on the ground floor explains water rights. So still, then laughter from an office. In the parking lot, there are spaces spray painted: Reserved for Elder.

After the interview I go to the museum, then back to the hotel to type my notes. I need a margarita, I think. But I discover no alcohol is served in the hotel. What, no alcohol served anywhere on the reservation except the casino? Is this the elders’ doing? I go to the sports bar in the casino. Have to walk through the casino again, and this time I find myself holding my breath as I pass the bodies hunched forward over the slots. There are more of them. The contrast with the people I just spoke with is as great as the living and the living dead.

I do a mini-interview with the bartender: Why no alcohol served in the hotel? “Tribal law. This is sovereign land, so some of the laws are different than those of the state of Oregon.” Like what? “No liquor store either. We allow smoking in public places, like the casino.” Why? “It draws more gamblers.” What else? “No pot allowed on the reservation” (Oregon recently legalised pot and there were farms selling it during my drive on Wednesday). He smiles. “But this might change.”

I order a margarita and it is a huge bowl of ice with some mix and a few drops of tequila. Ok, that wasn’t worth the walk through the casino. I look up at the screens and see the Open being played at St Andrews!!! Yes, something familiar!! And they all look so cold and windblown. My eyes feast on the green dunes of the Old Course.

On my walk back through the casino to get to the hotel, I get all turned around. It’s a confusing place with all the noise and Annie really doesn’t like it there. So I try and hurry, but I pass the poker room, where the first rounds of the million-dollar tournament are being played, and sneak the shot shown at the top of this post.

See who the dealers are? See who the security guard walking the tables is? Native. Back in the hotel lobby a young man is sweeping the stone floor between stunning bronze statues of horses. His hair tied back, reaches below his waist. I wonder what the people who work here, mostly from the Tribes, must think of the people who come here and provide them with jobs. Am I the only one who sees the irony of white greed providing jobs for a Native community?

More interviews today: a former member of the Board of Trustees (their term for Council of Elders), she is an advocate for children’s rights and helped establish a Youth Council, and I’ll be listening to some of the young people on that council. Chuck has set this up for me. And he is also setting up an interview with at least one of the Elders, who are very busy and very protected.

I keep wondering why I have been accepted, or am being tolerated. When I first spoke to Chuck on the phone in February for my paper (see previous post), instead of me interviewing him, he interviewed me and put me in my place. (“We don’t need your help,” when I had asked, what do you need? And he got all quiet and didn’t like it when I referred to them as a marginalized group. Steep learning curve for me.) Now I have found favor. Maybe the TEDx talk helped? Yesterday’s interview with him was all about my establishing trust. I found myself telling him stories of Dad; it’s a precious story he told on the Hoek van Holland beach as we were walking together many years ago. A story about when he was 18 during WWII and on the Navy carrier off the coast of Japan. A friend of his was gay and Dad woke up one morning to find his friend gone. He’d been thrown overboard during the night. Because it was wartime, they had called it a casualty. Dad said he was so afraid to speak up, scared if he did that the same might happen to him. So he kept quiet for 60 years. And I was the first person he told. He still felt so bad about not saying anything. I told him it’s high time to let it go; it wasn’t your fault.

And then, when Dad was with me and Juul in eastern Oregon during our road trip several years ago, he told the only other war story I ever heard from him, about how ashamed he was of friends who raped Japanese women at the end of the war. “Good Catholic boys like me,” he said.

So, for whatever reason, I told these stories to Chuck yesterday. Offered them up like gems. And it broke through, bringing a new depth to our conversation. He leaned forward and nodded. “Anne, you asked why our WWII veterans came back and took the tribe in a different direction. It’s exactly because of what your father experienced. They saw the American war machine close up and knew the U.S. can get what whatever it wants. They could come and take away our land at anytime. The only way we would survive is if we learned to speak their language. So they convinced the members we needed a constitution. And we hired a lawyer on a $5 retainer to write one for us.”

That constitution was the turning point for the Tribes.

Anyway, certainly a place of shrill contrasts here. A people not just surviving, but thriving. I’ve read their 2010 Comprehensive Plan and they have a long-term vision. They have grown from 200 members in 1900 to 3000 today, and had an operating budget in 2010 of $194 million. They use the money to buy back land (sometimes from bankrupt ranchers), and to give scholarships to their youth. I asked him about present challenges, and he said dealing wisely with their prosperity.

Doesn’t really fit the picture of your average Indian reservation, does it? That’s why I’m here.

16 July 2015

On the road again

Filed under: SWIP (Supposed Work-in-Progress),Words by Others,Write on — annedegraaf @ 4:29 pm
IMG-20150716-00455

View from my casino hotel room on Umatilla Reservation, near Pendleton, OR.

(I’ve come back to the U.S. to spend a few weeks in a Native American community I first visited with my father and daughter several years ago. I was so impressed by the books I read, bought at their museum store then, that I never stopped wondering how they had managed to create such a unique community. I wrote a paper for the International Studies Association last year, based on preliminary research and interviews done over the phone, and it was so well received, I thought it would be worthwhile to come back and meet people in person to try to understand more. So here I am–looking into youth, voice, agency, and a unique governance style. What follows was posted on fb, as well.)

Spent 9 hours driving from Vancouver, B.C. to the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon yesterday. Temps around 100 (38 C) in some places. So hot it hurt. I listened to the radio a lot and learned there’s such a thing as New Country music. And I heard pro-gun arguments. I sang along to the Classic Rock station (yay James Brown, Led Zeppelin, and Stones songs!). And I listened to preaching and tunes on several Christian stations. I listened closely, and heard something subtle and disturbing, a scurrying down the slippery slope. To my not-been-in-America-for-a-couple-of-years ears, it sounded like sexism and racism and homophobia–sometimes blatant, but mostly systemic–so engrained in the way of thinking and talking it could not even see, let alone hear, how hurtful the statements might be from a position outside of white privilege. A clear line-drawing in the sand of them vs. us. Who are they? I wondered. And why are “we” so afraid, so ignorant?

Then today when I interviewed a wise man of the Tribes, the Communication director and sort-of gatekeeper to the Elders, he asked if I noticed changes in the U.S. I said yes, and without his knowing I felt as I’ve described above, he told me about a retired congressman from Oregon he knows, who said instead of trying to improve the country, we have become only interested in protecting our own interests. Me. And at the political and many other levels, that means no longer saying I understand you and I disagree, or even help me understand you, it means give me what I feel I’m entitled to. Protect my interests. Me.

I sometimes say to my students, you’re probably wondering where we’re going with this. Something about the most powerful country in the world feeling so misunderstood and persecuted that its people have to lash out at others. See, and that didn’t make sense, until I read a blog entry by someone else (see bottom of this post), shared by my wise friend Howie. The victim rhetoric described here, and repeated on the radio stations I listened to yesterday is crippling for our society; it prevents people from entering into what is a sign of civilization: public debate. It blocks a society from growing and flourishing. When a discourse lashes out at others, alarm bells should go off because it’s time to start searching our own hearts. Referring to people with verbs used for animals, denigrating groups with a single story of being evil, is a path that ultimately ends in human rights violations and sometimes, horribly, in genocide. The alternative? Listen to others’ stories without judgment, try to see, hope to hear, and strive to understand. Realize we all share a common vulnerability.

(Hmm, so much for not lecturing during the summer….)

30 May 2015

Peter van Krieken–the passing of an extraordinary man

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:06 pm

image003(The following is the talk I gave at Peter’s funeral on Thursday 28 May 2015).

I’m going to do this in English for all the international students of PvK who are here.

Jet, Number One: Diederik, Number Two: Katrien, Number Three: Sebas, friends of Peter, family–Some of you might not know this, but Diederik and Sebas are both wearing suits that belong to Peter, tailored for them. And his bow ties. Katrien, a secret he did not want to tell you, was that he felt you were the one raising him, rather than the other way around.

As we know, Peter was an extraordinary man, and an extraordinary diplomat.

But I think I am here to talk about him as an extraordinary Instructor. I met Peter when I went back to school. I am what they call, a mature student. He taught my master’s class in International Law—and I was terrified of him and his infamous exams. What he didn’t know, was that I secretly took notes on his teaching style. We disagreed. A lot. About the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the protection of child soldiers. Among other things. And it took me a while to figure out that he did this to pull me out of romantic notions of injustice into the complex world of weighing different perspectives.

Then we became colleagues, and now I teach Human rights and human security, and Violence and conflict. Which means that we’re still arguing—well discussing, as he taught Comparative law and International law, and as we all know, there is often a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality.

He and I work at Amsterdam University College, the honors college for the University of Amsterdam and the Free University, the UvA and VU. He said these last years teaching at AUC were among his happiest. His students gave him this gift. His students, past and present, from AUC and Webster, are here today, and I thank you for making my friend so fulfilled.

Last semester our classrooms were next to each other, and we played a joke on our students. We hijacked each other’s classes. We walked into the wrong classrooms and pretended it was the most normal thing in the world. I tried to teach Comparative Law. He took my Human rights class, and later the students told me he basically turned upside down everything I had teen teaching them that semester. Among other things, he argued, as he often did, that the measures in place within the human rights world do not go far enough.

He taught all of us to be critical. He urged us to fight, fight for greater recognition of human rights violations in a world that often ignores what it does not want to see. He believed in the rule of law, and in his lifetime, he cultivated the tender rose that is international law, thorns and all.

As you may have noted on the funeral card, he founded the Toekomstig Fries Bevrijdingsfront, or Future Friesan liberation army, and that was so he could challenge us with the question of whether one man’s freedom fighter really is another man’s terrorist.

We met often, and talked over lunch every few weeks. When the pain in his shoulder got worse, I told him to go to a second doctor. Go to the fysio. Our last lunch, a few days before he found out he had cancer, he admitted he had lived a blessed life, never any physical ailments, except for the pain which had now laid claim to him. At this lunch we also talked about forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive everyone, past and present? He leaned forward and said, “It’s the best any of us can do, forgive others, and forgive ourselves.”

A week later I visited him at home, in bed, on morphine because of the pain. He told me he had no bucket list, no regrets. He was at peace. I said, “Well, I’m not.” We talked about the UvA and Magdenhuis occupation, the emphasis on grant money and research. “They don’t get it,” I told him. “The joy is in the classroom.” And we laughed together.

Among my colleagues, he is known for his positive attitude, his smiles and his bow ties.

Among his students, he is known for caring: about the issues, and about the people. I have been privileged to receive a deluge of words from his students. Stories of his dry humor. “He called me a dumb blonde and said I would never make it in the world of international law. Now I have been accepted into a master’s programme at a top university, all because he gave me the kick in the backside that I needed.”

Stories about his teaching style. “I learned more from him than any other teacher I ever had, even though I wanted to drop his class at first because I felt so challenged.”

Stories about confusion: “He wanted us to leave the class more confused than when we entered it. I hate being confused. But I grew to embrace it!”

Stories about his lies. “He told us he would tell one lie per lecture. We stay up late at night arguing about what the lie was.”

Stories about how he did not want to be called Dr. van Krieken, but Mr. van Krieken. In return, he called his students by their last names: Mr. de Vries. Or sometimes Ms. Latin, or Mr. Finland, depending on where they came from. One student wrote, “To this day I don’t know if this was because you couldn’t remember my first name, but one thing’s for sure, you showed us respect, something I always felt I needed to live up to.

Stories about grades: “He tried to convince us that grades were of no importance, that we should aim to attain knowledge, to think, to discuss.”

I think that he taught us that actually, we’re here to learn.

But, our Peter is not just an inspiration, he is a Fighter. He battles in the fight for asylum seekers- clear policy so they do not suffer in uncertainty. Fight for migration. A few days ago, I found out, he taught my daughter about fighting. When she was nine months pregnant he gave her a card that I hadn’t known about, when he was over for dinner with our family, and he told her, “Now you learn what it means to fight for a child, the greatest fight there is.” Something he did for you, Diederik, Katrien, Sebas.

Last Wednesday I sat with him a few hours before he lost consciousness. He had a box of the books he’d written and wanted me to give them to his students. “I should have written more books,” he said. I said, “It’s a little late for that, Peter.” He said, “You think?” We laughed.

I asked, “Are you ready for this?” He said, “I’m at peace. But my children—I can’t do this to them.” I said, “Het is goed zo, Peter. They are like you—strong and smart. And they have us. We will watch over them. And we will always be with you. And you will always be with us. Laat het maar los—het is goed zo. Let go.”

And so, this is now a PVKless world. One student wrote, “He inspired us to tackle the challenges of the world of international law, but I always thought we would do this, WITH him. And now it’s just up to us, without him. But what is even sadder is that he’s not here anymore to make the world a better place.”

He told me, he had to cancel several trips to Kabul, Laos, Islamabad, Kiev. He continues to make a difference through his students who have gone and will go on to work as diplomats and peacebuilders, lawyers, and teachers. He inspires us to carry on where he left off. When we doubt, remember how he believes in us. He is an incredible man and through his work and teaching he managed to touch and enrich so many lives.

I remember a few Januarys ago, when he joined me and my husband in South Africa. We were there for the birthday celebration of a close friend, the same one who taught us both that the joy is in the classroom. We sat outside in dappled light, and laughed and drank wine near Stellenbosch–he reminded us to embrace life.

It is my privilege to call him friend. You are his beloved family. You are all his beloved family. I wish us all strength and courage.

If we could still hear his voice, I think we would hear him say: I am with you always. In your hearts. Fight the good fight.

PvK, you are my brother, my friend, my Teacher til the end: you once told me I have more balls than most men, but you are the one who taught me courage, even til the end, as you taught me–you showed me–how to die with grace and dignity, and caring up until the very end, for the people who love you. Ach Peter.

***************

(What follows is the letter sent to Amsterdam University College students and staff, from Acting Dean, Ramon Puras.)

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you of the death of our colleague, Dr. Peter van Krieken. Peter taught Comparative Law and International Law at AUC. He brought with him a rich background in diplomacy and international law, and his unique ability to combine theory with practice enriched his outstanding and enlightened teaching.

He was recently named Lao DDR’s Honorary Consul to The Netherlands. As an international civil servant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for more than 16 years, he served in Geneva, Stockholm, Peshawar, Juba (South Sudan), Beirut, Sana’a, Addis Ababa and Zirndorf (FRG). In between these various assignments he headed Stichting Vluchteling 999, a leading Dutch refugee organization, and he was chair of the Röling Foundation, as well as the treasurer of the Netherlands Branch of the International Law Association (ILA) and inter alia also of Voorschoten Sinfonietta.

He has a long list of publications (150+) to his credit on subjects such as asylum, migration, torture, hijacking, statelessness, family reunification, migration, health, terrorism and repatriation. In particular his books Terrorism and the International Legal Order (2002) and The Hague, Legal Capital of the World (2005) have been widely acclaimed.

Peter recently retired from his position as special advisor with the Netherlands Government  and was actively involved in various EU projects in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Malawi.

He often commented that despite his busy diplomatic shuttling back and forth between countries, his teaching at AUC was his top priority. He said, to have a lasting impact on young people gave him deep joy.

Peter’s death is a shock to us all, as he was only diagnosed with pancreatic cancer less than a month before his death. He will be remembered for so many things, including his smiles and bow ties, and positive outlook on life. He is survived by his wife and three children. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

11 May 2015

My TEDx AUCollege talk is online!

Filed under: Aids survival,PhD!,The Children's Voices,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:30 pm

me at tedx in audienceWhat a great privilege it was to speak at TEDx AUCollege on 6 March 2015. To get an idea of what makes me tick, watch what I say about The Children’s Voices. Click here!

A big thank you to everyone who made this magic evening come together, and especially to my family who were there as support. (You can see them in the front row!)

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