A column by my colleague Duane Champagne and one of mine have kicked off an online debate among some very important people about assimilation. I am nonplussed because I thought I was walking into controversy with an entirely different column, but those of us concerned about the future of our tribal nations do not get to pick where the argument is. We must, figuratively, ride toward the sound of the guns.
The argumentative noise is being made by persons much more important in the long view than Prof. Champagne or myself: young, smart Indians. Articulate Indians, with skills far superior to the ad hominem nonsense they affect. After all, they can’t insult professors in their current situation, and so the Internet enables them to dash to the end of the rhetorical leash without consequence.
Consider this, as they will say, a thought experiment from the bottom of the apple barrel.
Let us suppose that “sovereignty” retained the meaning it supposedly acquired in 1648 in the 21st century. Suppose further that it were possible to assert sovereignty from a condition of dependency. Finally, suppose it were possible to negotiate with the US as arms length equals. We shall ignore, along with many other realities, the matter of supporting diplomatic missions to 100 plus nations when most of us can’t feed ourselves without the outside help we are assuming away.
We have negotiated a reservation that is, unlike most reservations, sufficient to produce our immediate needs. We have medical care from white doctors employed by the IHS to work off their school loans, so we are untouched by Obamacare. The idiotic wall along the southern border of the US has been erected around our reservation at our request, with a strand of electrified razor wire along the top of the fence tilted so as to prevent climbing.
Inside the wall, there is no need for petroleum, since the entire property can be crossed in a one-day horseback ride.
The most important assimilative influence, the one that is homogenizing culture on a global level, is the Internet, and so it must be kept out. In my apple book, I endorsed the statement that there is no culture on the face of the earth that cannot be improved by adopting something from another culture, but we apples have lost the argument and assimilation is the enemy.
Our treaty provides for radio and TV to be jammed at US expense. We play our own music and tell our own stories. We choose the language of the stories and we choose whether to write them down.
There are no cell phones or landlines because either could allow the Internet to pollute our culture. In the alternative, we could have landlines and criminalize possession of a modem.
We are assuming the land base is adequate to our needs, but our treaty provides for supplemental foodstuffs in case of a lean year. No more commodities. The tribal buyer gets a charge card for Whole Foods in the amount our harvest is short that year.
We have food, medical care, and protection from cultural contamination. We have this by treaty right in perpetuity.
Now some questions.
How many of our children who left to seek an education would return? As to that electrified razor wire on top of the rez fence, which way is it tilted?
It’s a bit ironic that the most vociferous defenders of the “traditional” do it anonymously. Anonymity is foreign to any traditional discourse within my limited apple knowledge. The first thing folks want to know is the identity not of you, but of your family. (I’m a Teehee.) And, of course, the defense against assimilation happens on the Internet, the ultimate assimilation machine for a world culture.
Back to our traditional paradise. It has been promised to us “for as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow.” Would it be tacky to point out that we’ve sat though this movie enough times to know we must defend these promises against the Andy Jacksons of the world?
Please enlighten me by expressing the following in your native language, since my appleness imprisons me in English: accountant, electrician, engineer, lawyer, lobbyist, programmer, statistician, and systems analyst.
Whom did you have in mind to fill these roles to defend tribal interests, non-Indians or apples? If you want “real Indians” in these roles, how do you imagine they will acquire the required skill sets without a bit of European culture rubbing off?
This method of argumentation is called reductio ad absurdum.
If it offends you, maybe you should come down from ad hominem.
To my knowledge, there have been no substantial improvements in methods of argumentation since Aristotle got translated from Greek to Latin. If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.
If I’m correct, and we are in agreement that our tribal nations are in dire straits, and the calendar is correct about what century forms the battlefield….then your skills are critical. You are the hope for the future. Prof. Champagne and I will not be in your way much longer. You are the future. You are the reason your ancestors struggled for freedom.
May you live in a manner to deserve the fruits of that struggle and may you acquire the skills to pass them on—whether or not you manage to avoid the cider press.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.