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

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.

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….)

6 August 2014

Timelessness

Filed under: PhD!,Thin and Thick Places,Write on — annedegraaf @ 4:29 pm

time clocksWhen my big, fat, beautiful new 40-hour-a-week job at Amsterdam University College (AUC) became 60 hours a week this last year, time took on a different dimension. As I listened to my students, as I graded papers and exams, as I lectured on international relations, human rights, global identity, violence, and conflict, the best days were the ones when I was very present. I saw smiles. I watched eyes. I listened to the rain against the skylight above my desk. I tasted cool water. I heard questions and sought answers. I laughed. I have had the privilege of watching as students from all over the world expanded their borders, and with courage, learned to ask the questions that cannot be answered.

During the summer break I’m finishing my PhD. This last year trained me well: do the next thing and trust. All is well. Soon, soon, soon I submit.

It’s not that time is infinite, you see, but when the fear and anxiety of thinking about the past and future pass, all that is left is timeless present.

I see. I hear. I understand.

I live. I laugh. I love.

22 September 2013

Change of direction

_69699014_arrows_thinkstockSo is this up, or have I turned left? More than a year since my last post. Why is that? Look at the title of that entry, take away the first, second and fourth words, and you’ll have your answer.

And now…now I have a new job at the Free University and University of Amsterdam’s honours college: Amsterdam University College (AUC). Am in joy working with new colleagues from all over the world, and teaching my new students: so smart and engaged and multilingual and caring. They come from South America, all over Europe, Vietnam, and Pakistan.

We’re slogging our way through the theory now, but soon, soon they’ll be flying–choosing their own directions as we learn together how to better understand the world around us. Such a privilege to be part of that process. I threaten them with midnight phone calls, when I’ll ask them random questions about International Relations (IR):

  • 1648? (Westphalian Treaty)
  • The one sure rule in IR? (Don’t invade Russia in the winter.)
  • What is IR about? (Perspectives).

I’m a fulltime Lecturer at AUC–all IR classes, from the current IR Theory and Practice to next semester’s Human Rights and Human Security to Violence and Conflict, as well as Global Identity. Dream classes all–and with only 25 students per class. Started 1 August and feel very at home. So that’s good.

Direction is relative, right? One person’s up is another’s down. And left in the mirror looks like right. Yet, while all the gurus tell us change is good, it remains hugely threatening. BECAUSE WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

So my advice: Let go to lay hold.

And don’t look back.

2 August 2012

Peace and conflict studies

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Write on — annedegraaf @ 2:09 pm

Have been writing a slew of recommendation letters this week for students looking for jobs and internships, as well as ones moving on to graduate school. Thought to myself, does this deserve a blog entry? I’m always wanting to write about my students because they’re so extraordinary, but privacy issues keep me from saying too much. Still, I think I might manage to give you a few glimpses without giving too much away.

Two–count them–two former students have been accepted by the London School of Economics to do their graduate work. Another one is going to the University of Leiden to study Clinical Psychology. She may be followed by a second former student who comes from a country that everyone is afraid of these days. Both these women have degrees in psychology, yet they took my Human Rights classes last year because they wanted to understand. I’ve got one student who’s hoping to get into Stanford, and another who might land an internship at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia.

The absolute best part of teaching is watching young people find their way in this world. It’s such a minefield sometimes, that when one of them makes it to the next step, and if I can help in any way by putting words together so others see them as I do, then . . . well, it doesn’t get much better than that. I listen to young people and can create a space for them to realize the next step in fulfilling all they are meant to become, to really see themselves. And when they do, we’re all doing the happy dance!

Just a few weeks ago I sat in the pub with a group of friends, when one of the LSE-destined students (who hadn’t yet heard he was accepted) mumbled about how he couldn’t find a job, doors closing all around him. Now, he’s writing me of the magnificent opportunity awaiting him in London.

Peace and conflict studies is sort-of my thing these days. I write about it, research, and teach it. We read a lot about peace and conflict among nations, and among communities, but I see it in these young people’s very lives. The minefields they dance through often involve hardships: divorced parents, financial troubles, medication, disability. A few have confessed they went through rehab and now are picking up the pieces of their lives. Their stories resonate as I watch them engage and grow and redefine themselves in terms of their heart’s desires, rather than their parents’ or culture’s idea of what they should become. They find peace on the path, as conflict rages on behind them.

So what do I write in these magic letters that help them find favor? About their honesty, integrity, and courage. About their ability to use theory and analyze. About their hearts. How hardworking they are. And smart.

And then yesterday, I wrote a letter for a former student who probably has scored a job at Victoria Secrets. I just had too much fun avoiding every shape of double meaning. Of course, I mean shade. See, that’s what I mean! Peace and conflict studies can sometimes mean something very surprising.

29 January 2012

Hemayel Martina–In heaven for a year

Filed under: The Children's Voices,Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others,Write on — annedegraaf @ 11:32 am

It was a year ago.

Hemayel’s Words

If I go to Finder and type in hemayel a screen full of entries appears:

  • This photo
  • Various essays from his composition class with me
  • The different versions of his poetry book as we worked on the English translations of his poems
  • A Rwanda research proposal that looked more like PhD material than undergraduate work
  • Outlines of papers he was working on for other classes that I helped him with in the Writing Center.

Here is an excerpt from one of those papers, dated 17 September 2009:

Introduction: In post-armed conflict countries the active involvement of the youth in peace building from the ground up is a primary means of guaranteeing peace. This is based on the assumptions that: humans are creatures able to choose; disagreement is inevitable but resolvable through non-violent means; and that the youth have the potential to ensure transformation in the realm of resolving conflict. In this paper, the peace building process in Sierra Leone after the civil war will be used as an example, in addition to examples taken from conflicts in other geographical areas. The programs by and for the youth in Sierra Leone after the decades-long civil war, illustrate that the youth cannot only be used to perpetuate conflict, but to build peace as well. In partnership with the international community, (I)NGOs and UN, as facilitators. Besides that, the student uprising in Serbia shows that a non-violent approach to conflict is possible and that the young community does have a voice.

Conclusion: The youth should not only be seen as the victims or perpetuators of armed conflicts, rather, as one of the main means to ensure the absence of war. The challenge of the leaders today is to secure the absence of war, but the leaders of tomorrow face a greater challenge. The achievement of positive peace, where structural violence will be obliterated. Nevertheless, for that to happen tomorrow the seeds have to be planted today, if we do not want history to repeat itself.

So, as I read this in South Africa, where I’m conducting my own research for a PhD on the role of young people’s narratives in conflict and peacebuilding within a deeply divided society, goosebumps now cover my arms, despite the 34-degree heat. Hemayel’s words seem prophetic for my own research. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and his words act as a lodestar, pointing me toward the true North of understanding. And yet, this is true of all my students; the more I listen, the more I learn.

During this past Fall semester, students wandered into WRiSC (the writing center) and talked about Hemayel with me. “I dreamed about him.” “I heard his laughter.” “I’m writing a paper about a conversation I had with Hemayel—about how we cannot write about poverty until we’ve experienced it.” Some days he seemed more present than others. A few times the first-year students overheard these conversations. “Who is Hemayel?” they asked. It was a hard question to answer.

In the year since his death many have made him into whatever they needed him to be: prophet, saint, martyr, mentor, angel, idol, friend. I wonder what he would have said about all the fuss. To be honest, I see Hemayel as a reminder. I stand by what I said at his memorial: he was special, but so is each and every young person, searing with white-hot potential. For Hemayel then, if not for ourselves, learn all you can, reach deep and develop your potential to its fullest, face the fear and do it—whatever it is—going back to school, getting that degree, becoming a politician who is not corrupt, make your dream come true. Create a space for listening, to others, to young people, but most of all, listen to your own heart. He lives on in our hearts—if we listen there . . . we hear him still. Maybe everyone is a Hemayel, in his words.

19 June 2011

Zen and the art of golf: An inquiry into trust

There’s already someone who has invented zen golf, but what my title here refers to is the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM), which is a 1974 philosophical novel, by Robert M. Pirsig. This book had a profound effect on me as a teenager. Since studying for a PhD has drop-kicked me into getting in touch with my inner geek, and reminded me of what it’s like to be a student again, the title of this post seemed appropriate.

I am back home. Scotland and the moist, northern light and ever-present sea and St Andrews and my wise, dear friends are there, and I am here, in klein kikkerland, or little frog country, as the Dutch call Holland. I stuffed my books into my car, drove four hours south through amazing beauty and the Scottish Borders–cattle on a thousand hills–sailed across the North Sea in a ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden, and was home. That’s me the day, they would have said in St Monans.

I fear my books have multiplied like rabbits in dark corners. As my car disgorged them, they quietly filled corners on all three floors of our house. They are there still, sagging in the plastic bags I had to pack them into when the cardboard boxes would not fit into my car. They have titles with words like peace and conflict and path.

The two weeks before I left were filled with playing golf. I played ten rounds of 18 holes in 14 days. And I got my handicap! But in the meantime, I memorized the wind and rain slapping my cheek and tearing my hair out of my visor. I recited the number of shots like a meditation as I watched the sun come and go, the sea turn from blue to gray, the gorse shine gold, and the far hills rise and fall.

And that’s where I got the idea of the zen of golf. I have learned many things during this year of being set apart for creativity and research. I have learned that one must let go to lay hold. That when we are afraid because we cannot control our world, then this fear is a friend because it signals the time to trust. I used to call them the foreign tribes of fear and think they had to be slain and banished from the land. Then I discovered fear as a friend, a warning system, a means of communication for my subconscious. How to befriend the foreign tribes? Sounds hauntingly close to International Relations. Listening, respect, trading stories, admiring each other’s children . . .

Some of you will know the motto of this season for me has been unexpected gifts at unexpected times. But to receive the gifts we must see them, anticipate them, trust in them. “I trust” are words like “I hope,” stabs in the dark that may just tear through the tapestry of terror to let the light in. I’m thinking Plato’s Cave here, which is another blog post all together.

What about the golf, you ask? Well just before I started playing my manic 180 holes in 14 days, I received my MA in International Relations. Somehow I managed to write a master’s thesis (they call it a dissertation in Scotland), and put together a research proposal for my PhD dissertation (they call it a thesis in Scotland). I don’t know how I did all that work. Dreading it in January, I remember calling my daughter and freaking. Now, looking back, all I can remember is sitting at my wee desk in my wee house in the wee fishing village of St Monans and watching the tide come in and go out as hours ticked by and pages were typed and books perused. Day after day after day. Until it was done. I woke every morning and thought, I trust. My friend and mentor here says this is a great gift. I agree.

In golf, there comes a moment during the swing when one must stop trying to control it, trust the muscle memory and surrender to the power as the head of the club smashes against the ball and sends it flying. The grip is important. My handicap-4 son tells me I need to keep my eye on the ball more.

In golf there are giant bunkers that swallow your ball. But you get down into the bunker, dig your feet into the sand, aim for an inch from the ball to dig it out, swing as fast and hard as you can and follow through, then do it over and over and over until the rescue is complete.

On golf courses there and here, I count up and down, walk up and down, swing up and down. It reminds me of the rhythm of the sea out my window in St Monans.

In golf a handicap is a good thing.

Now that I’m home, when I walk in my woods, I remember myself pre-Scotland, and see the memory of me in flat, sepia tones. But here I am in living color! The pending workload of continued research and reading and fieldwork, coupled with teaching would have terrified the old two-dimensional me. New me smiles softly and beckons.

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”–Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

18 March 2011

Light years

Filed under: PhD: Scotland!,Write on — annedegraaf @ 7:09 pm

This is me. I picked up these cards this morning and said to the lady at the print shop: “I’m official.” And because all good things work together, today was the first day I didn’t think as I woke up: “What will I do next on my research proposal?” Why? Because I turned in my research proposal last night. Oh yeah! (Picture me doing the happy dance–It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday!)

What’s a research proposal? Ten thousand words mapping out the next 2+ years of reading, writing, interviewing, analyzing, reading and writing 80,000 words (not including the bibliography, but including footnotes, but at this stage-hey! Who’s counting?) for my PhD thesis (UK)/dissertation (N. America).

Way back in October I wrote a blog entry hoping and trusting in a shaky way that this day would come. Now I have a roadmap. So if I deviate, at least I’ll know where I’ve deviated from. The general direction has become a bit more focussed: To go where no man has gone before, to explore new worlds. . . . Sorry, got carried away there.

My research will explore the place of voice–specifically young people’s–and its role in conflict and peacebuilding. And my case study is South Africa, where I’ll be visiting for two months in 2012. But I’ve also been interviewing NGOs and individuals involved in youth policy here in Scotland. Which brings me to my business cards. Monday there’s a conference here at St Andrews put together by my wise supervisor, on violence and circulation of children. And Wednesday I’m going to Edinburgh for an “event” about Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has become EU law. Article 12 is about the voices of children, and requires that children be consulted on decisions that affect their lives. So since I’m looking into how youth narratives can be used as tools for policy assessment and policy design, this is my kind of event. I hope to meet Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, who has called for widespread interviews among young people before determining future Scottish policy. The last time young people in Scotland were asked what was most important to them, was by the NGO Children 1st. The overwhelming response–surprising to the adults who run this world–asked for one thing. What was young people’s number-one priority? To spend more time with their parents. Hmm. Anyway, for these two events next week I needed business cards. As I told my husband, next week I’ll have to be smart and pretty. He told me I should go to bed early.

I think I’ve been spending too much time around my PhD colleagues. The other day I ran into one and immediately we started discussing the socio-economic ramifications of a social-constructivist epistemology. What were the ontological implications? Was this rooted in Aristotle or Plato? Hegel maybe, pre-Marxist, that is. And was it too early to go to the pub? Well, those of you who know and love me have probably realized I’ve always been a closet geek. What’s worse, I may now have become a recovering academic.

Ok, enough. Onto Life in Scotland news: I love living in a small fishing village. I’ve introduced you to Bob the postman, but have I told you about Peter? He works at the post office, and whereas I stand in line for whole half hours at the post office in St Andrews, when I go to the one in St Monans, Peter is often sitting with his feet up on the desk, waiting for the next customer. He works with the door open so he can look outside, across the harbor at the wide expanse of water to the other side of the firth. Every time he sees me, he says, “Hello, young lady.” Speaking as someone who’s turned 35 17 times, this is music to my ears. I eavesdropped once when another woman entered the post office to see if he says this to all the girls, but he didn’t. So I’m convinced he’s sincere. The other evening I was out for my daily walk along the harbor, when I found Peter sitting outside. “Look at that light,” he said. “Aye,” I nodded in my best imitation Scottish way.

And this brings me back to a previous Scotland theme: the light. These photos are of my favorite walk. It starts the moment I leave my little house. I close the door behind me and look up, and this is what I see.

I walk along the harbor and say, “Hiya,” to everyone. Did I mention that we don’t lock our doors in St Monans? Took some getting used to, until I had to go twice to the package center in the next town over after I missed shipments from my drug dealer (amazon.co.uk–free shipping in the UK!). I noticed that on sunny days some people simply left their front doors wide open. So I stopped locking mine and voila! I come home from a hard day listening to seminars and reading in the library to neat stacks of packages and boxes on my living room floor. Bob cometh, he leaveth and he goeth.

My walk winds up, past coves, and toward the Newark castle ruins, the origins of which date back to the mid 1200s.

Look at this stonework:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading back, this is the view:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The St Monans church, which was built in the 1300s, is still standing. In all the UK, this is the church located closest to the sea.

And when I come home, before opening my unlocked door, I turn once more, because the light, which is so unique here, I’m told, because of the angle of the sun when you’re this far north, often has one more surprise for me.

I watch the water and the sky here all the time. Can you see in this photo the snow-covered hills across the firth? That’s North Berwick on the other side. As I write this, its lights twinkle across the water in sunset like fairy promises.

In the mornings as I drive to school, the snow on the distant hills sketch an anti-shadow against the treeline. Mist rises and falls. I watch for birds of prey, my sea eagle Norbett, buzzards, which are like hawks, and wonder why I haven’t seen the first lambs of the season yet. In Holland they’d be bouncing straight-legged beside their mothers by now. But maybe it is because of the eagles, maybe the farmers here keep them indoors. Or maybe it’s because it still drops below freezing at night. On these drives I count the hillsides with centuries-old cascades of daffodils, and listen for brooks thick with the spring run-off, until the spires of St Andrews rise to meet me.

This place tells me, time comes and goes, like the sea, an ebb and flow of ideas not set in stone. What is 600 years?

5 February 2011

Hemayel Martina–12 October 1990-29 January 2011

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others,Write on — annedegraaf @ 8:53 pm

Seven days ago my daughter called me with the news that messages of R.I.P. were appearing on Hemayel’s Facebook page. “No way,” I said. “He’s in Curacao. Or he’s flying back to South Africa. ‘R.I.P.,’ what do you mean?” I couldn’t fathom it, couldn’t understand. But it was true. He had died in a car accident in Curacao, back on his island for his uncle’s funeral and his mother’s birthday, due to return to South Africa where he had begun a six-month internship, supposed to fly back that same evening. And now gone.

Gone.

I cut short a holiday in the sun and flew home to The Netherlands Tuesday to attend a memorial service at Webster on Wednesday. The Minister Plenipotentiary of Curacao, Sheldry Osepa, attended and spoke of Hemayel’s book, Ansestro Preokupá (Worried Ancestors), how Hemayel had now become one of the ancestors inspiring us and he quoted Hemayel’s poem that tells the ancestor not to worry, we will now carry on his work. (This same poem appears at the end of the video below.)

It was a privilege to speak at this event. Below is the text of my talk. Friends and colleagues filled the room, as well as family members due to go to his funeral in Willemstad.

Today he is buried there.

I find I can’t sleep at night. The memorial service helped–to be with others who mourn, others who knew him–we drank whiskey and toasted him and told stories, and the next morning I thought, It’s over. But how could I think such a thing when I know full well that grief sneaks up on me, sideswipes me from dark corners, knocks me over and I am left gasping.

Now I am back in Scotland. Listening to the waves. My heart is so sore.

Hemayel Memorial talk at Webster University, Leiden, 2 February 2011

Bon dia. Hello in Hemayel’s Papiamento. This year I have been on study leave in Scotland and I never dreamed I would come back and see all of you again—for this reason.

The questions . . . I’m not even going there. Too much pain. Instead I want to thank all of you for all you have done to honor Hemayel, creating this great tribute to him, and coming here today.

I had the honor of teaching the writing class Hemayel was in for one entire year. Terms at Webster last 8 weeks, so this was unusual. For one year I learned from an exceptional class: Cesia, Rasheed, Jose Antonio, Catrina, Alex, and Hemayel. In January Anik, Eric and Taban joined us. They wrote essays about everything under the sun: past fears and future hopes. And in this way then, through his writing, I first came to know Hemayel.

Last February he asked  me if I would go to Curacao in October for the launch of his poetry book. I said, uh, ok, and then used up all my husband’s airmiles. By October I was already studying in Scotland, so I left from there and flew to Curacao. It was an amazing trip. I met his family and friends. A talented musician, Levi Silvanie had hooked up with Hemayel and together they were singing his poetry in clubs. Curacao had just become a new nation and I listened as these two men sang their country into being. These clubs—look at me, I’m the wrong color and the wrong age—but I went clubbing at night and became a sort-of Hemayel groupie. We visited groups of children where he and Levi listened and pulled creativity out of them. We visited a music group where Hemayel used to play the tjembe, and he spoke to the kids there, many of whom were being kept off the streets because of their involvement in music. I went with Hemayel and Levi to television and radio interviews. Throughout it all, Hemayel remained humble and a little overwhelmed. The launch of his book was a big event, with many of the founding families of Curacao, about whom Hemayel had written, present that evening. The children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who began slave rebellions and people who had put Papiamento on the map as a language all attended. Rosabelle came from Webster and recited poetry. Somehow I became the keynote speaker.

In my talk there I spoke about the importance of creating a space for listening to our young people, how Levi and Hemayel were singing this new country into being, and how Curacao may come from corazón, which means heart—and how Hemayel’s poetry was about listening to the heartbeat of this new country. I also expressed gratitude to everyone there for raising Hemayel into the kind, respectful, loving and intelligent man he had become. Today I express that same gratitude to you, here at Webster, for shaping him with your laughter and love and learning.

So last year he asked me to help him edit the English version of his poetry book. We met in the Paagman bookstore in The Hague several times. He wrote everything in Papiamento first, then translated it into English. Then we edited the English. By the end of the process he was writing in English.

I last met with Hemayel December 22, three days before he left for South Africa. It was one of those days when nothing was working in Holland because of the snow—few trains were running and the roads were a mess. Somehow he caught a train from Leiden to The Hague and I managed to drive in from Hoek van Holland and we met at Hollands Spoor. We had lunch at the Donor and talked for two hours about so much. About yoga and meditation and prayer. About my own experiences in Kwa-Zulu Natal, how important it is to touch and hold people with Aids because often they are outcast. We talked about his and my passion for all things having to do with young people in International Relations. We talked about Sierra Leone and Rwanda and Scotland. He told me of his hopes to get a masters in International Relations. He asked about all the members of my family. I told him I knew South Africa would resonate deep in his heart . . . I gave him four more notebooks so he’d have a place to put his emotions.

There are a few things I want to offer you today as means of comfort:

–Write out your grief. Those of us acquainted with grief know it hits like a knot of emotion. Anger and denial all tied up tight. A Zen master said that one death feels like 10,000. Give it a place and write it out, this way the emotions unravel and we may heal.

–And this: today we have heard how special Hemayel was, but you, each and every one, we are special for the knowing of him. In honor of his life, live your lives to the fullest, do all he hoped for: grab education and squeeze as much learning out of it as you can, resolve to end corruption, become politicians and advisers and teachers and poets, live and love and laugh and learn—for Hemayel. And know this, each one of you has as much potential and passion and promise as Hemayel. Reach deep, as he did, and become all you are meant to. Yes, he was exceptional, but so are each and every one of you. Honor his memory by facing your own fears, and do it—whatever it is—anyway. That we would do all to the best of our ability, that we would go for it and realize our full potential, that is how we honor Hemayel.

–Another thing: tell Hemayel stories. My favorite is during one of the crazy student barbecues at my house. It was 2 a.m. and they were jamming in my home. It was a typical Webster moment with a Pole, a Canadian, an Iranian and Hemayel, as he turned my coffee table into a tjembe and they composed a song in . . . wait for it . . . Farsi.

–Choose the one thing you loved most about him, and determine to keep that alive. Maybe it was playing pool badly, maybe it was his way of calling people up to stay in contact, maybe it was his urge to write out his heart. Maybe it was his smile.

–Lastly, create a space for listening, to others, to our young people, but most of all, listen to your own heart. He lives on in our hearts—if we listen there . . . we hear him still.

You can click on hemayelmartina.com to learn more about this extraordinary young man and leave a message of sympathy.

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