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.

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

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!)

21 July 2012

Pedagogical geek

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:52 pm

I’ve recently discovered a new facet to my personality. Although I draw the line at wearing four different colored pens in my shirt pocket, I do seem to have certain characteristics that place me into a geek category. I’ve found I actually enjoy the whole educational world of assessment, syllabi, curriculum design, and learning outcomes. I seem to be able to entertain myself for hours with talk of rubrics as a tool for grading.

In May I flew to the mother ship of our university, in St. Louis, Missouri (or misery as my husband likes to pronounce it), and spent several days happily discussing general education objectives. I totally lost myself bouncing around ideas about such things as best practices with a roomful of instructors from all over the world.

But it was in Scotland a year ago, when I took some education modules at St Andrews, that I learned about the (what I think is very) exciting concept called threshold learning. And this is (so far) the most intriguing educational idea I’ve stumbled upon along this latest path in an unknown garden. Threshold learning is when we bring students to the edge of what they know, or what they think they know, or what they think they should know, and inspire them, or give them the courage to explore further, learn something new, seek out the unknown, to jump off the edge and trust.

I liken it to the phrase supposedly written on the Old World maps that the explorers used: Beyond this place, there be dragons! I checked into this and it turns out dragons were out of fashion by the time the 17th century rolled around and mapmakers added text to their charts. So actually, the warning wasn’t printed on ancient maps. I did find one consolation though, the Ottoman Admiral Piri Re’is (1513) refers to the Atlantic depths on his map with the words: “Here are monsters – all harmless souls.”

Learning how to learn: welcome to the New World.

10 July 2012

With you

Filed under: PhD: South Africa!,Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 4:00 pm

March. April. May. June. Last week I sent 7 packages to friends in South Africa. I wrote letters. I remembered the warmth and sunshine in our own summer, and I was able to pick up the journals with notes from over 100 interviews. My field work has waited for me four months as I taught and did what needed to be done at the university where I work. But now, this summer, I’m back in PhD mode and that means reading articles and books, typing up interview notes, and watching the themes in the research emerge like images in a darkroom tray.

This painting is called “Women in Motion,” and it is by Lesley Charnock of Cape Town. I brought it home with me and after months of waiting, it is framed and ready to be hung in our home. A woman in motion, that’s me. I’ve already booked my next plane ticket to South Africa. Must go back. Must breathe.

Have had the student BBQ, when my home world and school world merged. Quote of the evening: “Vodka, Miss–kudos!” That after my sweet husband made blinis and served caviar and vodka for my Russian students.

If summer is overdosing in the U.S., it seems to have forgotten northern Europe. Still gray and raining here.

Feel in a holding pattern. Writing. Reading. Remembering. What’s a PhD? It’s just a PhD, my supervisor told me the last time I saw her. What you have here is a book. Write just the PhD first. Filters: youth, narrative, agency.

Taught human rights theories last term, all about agency. Searching. Listening. Listening still.

End of August I start teaching again: Critical thinking–so happy to have the privilege to stretch young minds. Why? How do you know that? What is not being said?

I hear the wind and smell lavender. Rondebosch. I taste honey. Free State. Do you remember my questions? Stellenbosch. The neighbor’s child cries. Fish Hoek. My fingers tapping on the keys. Cape Flats. Young eyes hoping.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings, it ignites
my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

of my soul the retina learns to expand
daily because by a thousand stories
I was scorched

a new skin.

I am changed for ever.  I want to say:
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

You whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you.
-Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull

28 February 2012

Rainbow nation

I returned to Cape Town from the Free State a few weeks ago. Back to the mountain, the sea, the breathtaking beauty that is this city perched at the bottom of a continent where the next stop across the water is Antarctica. A poet friend told me that living in Cape Town gives you a whole new appreciation for gravity. Here we are dangling at the bottom of the world.

My days are full of words. I hear the most amazing things. Part of my research is about how to create listening spaces for young people. And this is one thing I have learned again and again…how to listen. How to listen to what is not being said: To hear the pain behind the small sigh, the despair when eyes don’t meet mine, the hope behind a blush. I meet with all sorts: teachers, youth politicians, wise old ANC lions, children, high school students, university students, poets, writers, artists, an imam, NGOs, and think tanks.

My first impression was that we are in mourning for the Mandela dream. People feel denial and anger about the betrayal of what they fought and hoped and voted for during the miracle in 1994, when the first free elections were held. So there is grief.

There is also terrible violence here: A rage like a volcano that erupts given the slightest provocation–murders, rapes, robberies, gangs, drugs.

What is terribly hard of course, are the disparities between rich and poor. The rich are fabulously wealthy, and the poor are truly hopeless. Sometimes only a highway separates communities (what used to be called townships) and a leafy gated suburb protected behind barbed wire. I have visited several communities and smelled the smells. No toilets, no running water, no electricity. Shacks. Some places are fairly clean; others had rats scuttling between the garbage on the streets in front of the shacks. People answer my questions in these places, trying not to stare at my hair, my shoes, my clothes, my camera, my tape recorder, my leather notebook, my pen, my sunglasses. All my possessions. My materials in this world where the losers have lost so very much.

“True wealth” is a term I heard during one of yesterday’s interviews. It is self-confidence, a sense of who you are, where you come from, where you are headed, and where you are. Being present. Interconnected with others and nature and the ancestors. A sense of community. This is what Africa can teach the rest of the world: An inherent dignity.

I am back where I was when I interviewed aids orphans in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I hear children talk of 11 people sleeping in 3 rooms. One student told me both her parents are seriously ill, so she must do the shopping and cooking for her siblings and nurse her parents and study for her exams. But even worse, there is an undercurrent of sexual abuse. One counsellor told me of a girl who is being raped by her father. These most vulnerable of the population know no protection.

Today I asked four 12-year olds what they liked most about school: “I feel safe here, Miss.” “At home the gangsters have guns and knives.” “I saw a man beaten in the head with a golf stick.” “We children can get in the way.”

So I am torn between heaven and hell. Words of courage and faith and trust swirl amongst the pain and fear. Walking along a pristine beach last week I realized I am standing in the gap between them all. In this deeply divided society where everyone has more thems than us, how to find the space in between, the place where an unexpected gift may be given at an unexpected time?

One answer is to do what you can do. Which is why I am throwing a party. Fourteen people are coming to a thank-you lunch on Saturday, my way of showing gratitude to new friends for the doors they have opened to me and my research. This could be the most diverse guest list this country has ever seen: all races and socio-economic backgrounds and ages. We will eat and drink and tell stories and laugh under the trees in the sunshine. And maybe a space for listening will open up and surprise us all with joy.

3 February 2012

Die Bittereinder

Filed under: PhD: South Africa!,The Children's Voices,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 8:37 pm

I met an African-American today who told me for the first time in his life, in this place, he is no longer an African-American; he’s American.

I saw a sign along the Cape-Namibia highway that said: “No hooting! Ostriches being laid.” Of course my bent brain thought the words hooter and laid and it took another 10k before I understood what the sign meant.

I got on a plane and flew 90 minutes north to Bloemfontein, Free State, central South Africa. Came here for 10 days to listen to students and faculty at UFS, University of the Free State. It’s Afrikanerville here, Boer base. I speak Dutch and they tell me I’m talking funny. Baie dankie (thanks a lot). I feel like I’m walking around in a Dutch movie from the sixties. Men wear very short shorts. The shopping mall has two Christian bookstores, an embroidery shop and a fabric store.

UFS has done something unusual; they’ve created a space to wrestle with the messy issues of race and reconciliation. Incidents have happened, racial incidents, and the Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Jonathan Jansen, grabbed the opportunity and flipped it on its back to transform the university community into one that dares to ask the hard questions. Hostels (dormitories) are integrated and there’s an International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation, and Social Justice. That’s why I’m here. And to listen.

What else do you want to know about Bloem? It’s hot—5 degrees hotter than Cape Town, which means 37 degrees. This is the birthplace of J.R.R. Tolkien and they’ve redone his home to look like the “Lord of the Rings” (sort of).

Ah yes, and the world’s first concentration camp originates here. My Intro to IR students know this one; it was on their final. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the English could not defeat the Boers (farmers from Dutch ancestry), so introduced the “Scorched Earth” policy. They burned the homesteads and captured the farmers’ wives and children under 15 (boys aged 13 and 14 fought alongside their fathers and grandfathers=white African child soldiers—a new-old category) and put them into 39 concentration camps, where 29,000 women and children died. In addition, they put the black servants and farm workers into 65 concentration camps, where 24,000 people died.

“The English didn’t know how to battle the guerrilla warfare the Boers fought. The last time the English fought that kind of war was in Scotland.” Now I’m thinking “Braveheart,” and the old-new Scottish referendum for independence.

In the museum, my mind spinning, I asked out loud, “So, during the Boer war men shared the same race and religion as the women and children they incarcerated and starved and fed tins of food with chips of glass inside? But then this war was about. . . .” And the guide and I said the word at the same time: “Gold.”

In history we see it often; a society that is victimized, when it comes to power, then victimizes in turn. My class came up with the following examples: Israel, Liberia, America, South Africa. But we were thinking ANC. Now I wonder about the effect of losing all in a bitter, dirty war, then a generation later, coming into power. Were the seeds of apartheid sown by nations’ lust for gold and empire at any cost? Extrapolate that. Nations on this continent have learned that when oil or diamonds or gold are discovered, it almost certainly means war and famine.

Ignoring the Bosnian war has unleashed the Serb mafia (with many steps in between). Congo enjoys the involvement of seven nations in our generation’s own world war. Maybe there no longer is a “them” and “us.” We ignore others’ suffering at our own peril. We perpetrate human rights violations upon ourselves.

My new American friend shared a quote by Voltaire: “Because I am human, nothing human escapes me.” Maybe all the children really are our children.

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