January 07, 2011

Reclaim land "by any means necessary"?

FBI asks about Dakota activist's controversial speech

By Laura YuenA Minnesota American Indian scholar's remarks that the Dakota people might have to reclaim lost tribal lands "by any means necessary" has drawn the scrutiny of federal authorities.

The Dakota historian who goes by the name Waziyatawin said she received a call this week from the FBI to discuss remarks she made in November at Winona State University.

Waziyatawin, a professor of indigenous history at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who used to go by the name Angela Cavender Wilson, told students that it's time for American Indians to abandon symbolic demonstrations. Truth-telling efforts haven't achieved anything, she said, according to a recording of the speech obtained by the Winona Post.

"We're going to need to take a different kind of action," said Waziyatawin, who grew up on the Upper Sioux Reservation in southwestern Minnesota. "All of you are going to have to figure out your role. For Dakota people, I know we're going to need to recover our land base, by any means necessary."

In an interview, Waziyatawin said her lecture was not a threat to commit violence as some have suggested. But she admits she's no pacifist. An author of books on Minnesota's history of oppressing, and then exiling, the Dakota people, she said removing people from their comfort zone is her job.

But in Winona, some students were shocked when Waziyatawin told them that anyone committed to achieving true justice might have to go on attack.

When someone in the audience asked whether that could happen without violence, Waziyatawin said she was doubtful.

"Right now, for Dakota people, we're going to need to reclaim land. We need to strategize about how we're going to do that, whatever it takes, and those are conversations we have that are internal to Dakota communities," she said. "But in terms of dismantling industrial civilization, I think that can happen in any variety of ways, and I think that's going to be about attacking infrastructure."
Comment:  Initially this story was about freedom of speech and journalistic ethics. The sole source of info about Waziyatawin's lecture was a student's letter to the editor. Several tribal leaders denounced her and the Winona Post published an article based on nothing more than the letter.

But now the FBI is investigating her based on the phrase "by any means necessary"? Really? I see liberal activists saying things like that almost every day.

It's called an "idle threat." It doesn't mean anything unless someone acts on it. It's not something the FBI should be investigating.

"Truth-telling" useless?

Waziyatawin claims that truth-telling efforts haven't achieved anything. Really? Seems to me we see cause and effect in the media constantly. For instance, you reveal a scandal about someone and the person suffers the consequences.

And we've just begun the era of constant information flow via texting, tweeting, and Facebook. It's ridiculous to suggest Indians or others have exhausted all nonviolent strategies at this point. Indeed, I don't think anyone can predict the future of activism accurately. Let's see what the situation is like in 10 years. By then we may have several ways of translating online chatter into on-the-ground action.

Of course, this presupposes that you have a cause worth fighting for. If your plan is to reclaim Indian land by proclaiming yourself the Republic of Lakotah, don't expect anyone to take you seriously. If Waziyatawin has taken reasonable steps to reclaim Dakota territory, let's hear about them. Then we can judge whether "attacks" are needed to achieve her goals.

Violence justified?

As for Waziyatawin's claim that violence may be necessary, longtime readers know I've addressed that several times. My position remains unchanged. I'd say the steps one should take to protest injustice are:

1) Work through the political or legal system.
2) Acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
3) Attacks against property.
4) Attacks against people.

One should exhaust each step before proceeding to the next one. The last step is acceptable only in a self-defense, kill-or-be-killed situation. You know, like when someone launches a war against you with guns and bombs.

"Dismantling industrial civilization" doesn't count as one of those situations. That probably won't happen unless profound physical, political, or philosophical cataclysms rock the world. And unless the majority of Americans and Westerners support the change democratically. It probably won't happen at gunpoint.

For more on the subject, see Violence Against Elected Government Justified? and Should Natives Kill to Save Trees?

Below:  "Dakota historian and activist Waziyatawin says a presentation she gave at Winona State University in November has attracted the attention of the FBI."


Anonymous said...

In the Republic of Lakotah links and all other old links replace the www with newspaperrock do not leave the www just put newspaperrock over where that goes.

Burt said...

The FBI is the muscle of the government and has always used violence and force against natives. I applaud her speech and encourage her to continue.

Today in AZ, there was a democratic representative shot in the head by a "lone" gunman but she was always "literally" targeted by tea party people and Sarah Palin firstly.

Why doesn't the FBI go after populist talking heads like Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, and others that place target symbols on their websites encouraging violence and threats against the president himself?

Yet, this woman is questioned for making a soundbite phrase?

I'd say the FBI is a part of the tea party movement also!

dmarks said...

Winona's actually been the site of truth-telling and other related activities in recent years:

see the Dakota Homecoming page

Rob has stepped into an area of my specialty knowledge, and he knew he'd get a comment here.


Burt said: "Why doesn't the FBI go after populist talking heads like Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, and others that place target symbols on their websites encouraging violence and threats against the president himself?"

They should go after those who encourage violence, only. Some of those you name above merely say criticize the President and don't recommend any actions. THAT should still be allowed. Palin's "target" metaphor raises a serious red flag, of course. But Limbaugh calling Obama a Muslim is only "encouraging violence" if you had no idea what you are talking about.

"I'd say the FBI is a part of the tea party movement also!"

Civics 101. The FBI is part of the executive branch, which President Obama runs. So I guess Obama is a "teabagger"?

The head of the FBI was appointed a decade before the "Tea Party" coalesced, and has never been connected to the movement.

dmarks said...

And this map shows some of the Dakota lands involved. Would she reclaim the lands granted according to these treaties? If so, which one? Or would she go back to much older claims (pre-US status ,really), which would be readily disputed by the Ojibwe, and perhaps the Ho-chunk and others?

Burt said...

Dmarks, its nice to hear you "trying" to make sense for once, but you are wrong again.

The FBI is under the JUDICIAL BRANCH of the government which was born out of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, but was only known as the BOI, or Bureau of Investigation with 12 agents from the Secret Service given to the "Department of Justice".

The FBI grew out of this force of special agents created on July 26, 1908 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

I would not be so rude if just at one time in the history of this country, someone from the right would not keep thinking and speaking like George W Bush.

Eight years is enough stupidity. Its time to grow into the intelligent little human beings like the rest of the planet!

dmarks said...

You are right about the branches.

So now, how about the Tea Party - FBI connection?

Burt said...

How is it that you do not see that they are both right wing conservative groups. One, as an arm of the government that has the right to "interfere" on Indian lands, and the other, a group of privileged citizens that have always been protected and hide behind words like "freedom" and "constitutional rights" while everyone else's is trampled.

How is it you do not see a parallel throughout American history where these "privileged" citizens (Tea Party) always use the government to take away human rights for other such as native land rights and soveriegnty, but at the same time hate the government for being too liberal and too big?

In other words Dmarks, and I know this hurts your brain to conceive, big government is okay when it comes to financing a military to destroy Indians or Iraqis, or to keep Mexicans out of "your" country, but not okay if "your" civil rights or taxes seem too much for your approval, especially from a half-African American half-white President.

You claimed Rob stepped into an "area" of your "specialty knowledge" and then you go on to rant on me, but do not COMMENT on this specialty area.

Well, where and what is your specialty comment?

dmarks said...

"In other words Dmarks, and I know this hurts your brain to conceive, big government is okay when it comes to financing a military to destroy Indians... or to keep Mexicans out of "your" country, but not okay if "your" civil rights or taxes seem too much for your approval, especially from a half-African American half-white President."

I factored out your willful mischaractarisation of the successful effort to fight against the terrorists in Iraq and to bring self-determination to the people there (never mind Bush.. it's also Obama's policy). That's another topic altogether.

OK then...

1) I oppose destroying the Indians. Why even bring that up? You've been caught time and again imagining some sort of anti-Native stance on my part, and caught time and again to be wrong on it.

2) My attitude toward Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and Mexican immigrants is probably more tolerant than yours.

Next time don't run wild with assumptions.

By the way, the President can remove the FBI director. You made some sort of big deal about Obama's "Race". Why bring that up at all? But anyway, he has chosen to keep the FBI director. So if the FBI is part of the "Tea Party", so is Obama.

And yes, I was wrong about the branch of government that the FBI belongs to. At least I've admitted when I've made a mistake here.

Burt said...

The issue is BIG GOVERNMENT Dmarks, using it to achieve racial legislation and appeasement for Tea Party types since Columbus.

Why is that a hard pill to swallow?

You can admit the Iraq invasion as a shared blame with Obama, but it is and was a "Republican-Right wing-Conservative" initiative and accomplished failure because the reasoning was to find WMDs, not to spread Freedom "dust" in a devout anti-capitalist, anti-democratic theocracy.

It is safe to say Obama would not have invaded Iraq if Bush didn't, so I don't see your logic of inclusiveness with Obamas foreign policy there?

We are also talking about the quickness with which the FBI, now backing off, reacts to a Native speech compared to how the Bush administration, his FBI then and all your fellow conservative colleagues made no issue of threats and warnings coming from Bin Laden, a former Bush Sr. CIA payee, and Al Quaeda intent to attack the US on 9/11.

Not one person or patriotic American from the right has ever stepped forward to admit failure and admission to 911 because at the time Bush was too busy fighting stem cell research and reading "My Pet Goat" while you rant against liberals and natives halfheartedly without cutting off and severing the complete ugly head of racism and violent rhetoric coming from the right because you really think words and rhetoric, placed in the wrong unstable hands of mentally unstable people should not be taken seriously?

When will the right apply responsibility for its damages as it so seeks and conjures up towards leftist extremist?

I don't see Che Guevara on Obamas t-shirts.