The 1890 lynching of Italian immigrants in New Orleans gave rise to Columbus Day, the Pledge of Allegiance

President Benjamin Harrison declared Oct. 12, 1892 “Columbus Day.” The back story echos contemporary themes of racism, unjust policing, and media-stoked mob violence.

Harrison’s Columbus Day proclamation was intended to be a one-time thing, honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Columbus Day might never have happened but for an international emergency. Harrison was trying “to help resolve a diplomatic crisis with Italy — and gain support among Italian American voters — after rioters in New Orleans lynched 11 Italian immigrants” in 1891, according to an article in the Washington Post.

This first Columbus Day also provided the spring board for efforts to get children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools across the country.

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News: MN gets federal office for MMIW cold cases; ski resort changes name derogatory to Native women, and more

In this blog:

  • Feds to open seven cold case units to investigate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, including one in Minnesota
  • California ski resort says it will changes its name, which was derogatory to Native women
  • Oglala Sioux Tribe declares state of emergency in response to suicides
  • RNC passes resolution backing Columbus Day
  • From the files of “Really crazy things federal law enforcement does”

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Racial Disparities in Metro Transit Enforcement; Small Town, Bigger Trend; This Day in History: U.S. Apologizes to Native Americans (sort of)

A Dec. 17 Minnesota Public Radio story says Metro Transits’ own internal analysis of its law enforcement data “shows a range of racial disparities in how the agency enforces transit and other laws.”

The information came from an internal analysis by Metro Transit. According to the MPR story:

• Native American adults were 55 percent more likely to be cited than whites, rather than merely warned.

• Native American adults were almost twice as likely to be arrested than whites.

The analysis also found that for one of the most basic violations, a first-time accusation of not paying a full fare, blacks were 26 percent more likely to get a criminal charge than whites and Native Americans were more than twice as likely to get a criminal charge, in the form of a citation.

Small Town, Bigger Trend: Belfast Nixes Columbus Day

OK, I have to admit to blinking twice when I got a brief email with a link saying that Belfast axed Columbus Day. “Wow,” I thought, “I didn’t even know Ireland recognized Columbus Day, this is really something!” Then I read the story.  Turns out it was from the Bangor Daily News. It said the city council of Belfast, Maine, “voted this week at a regular meeting to do away with the name Columbus Day and to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, making the midcoast city the first municipality in the state to rename the holiday.”

So Belfast joins other cities around the country renaming Columbus Day. The trend continues. Click on the link above for details.

This Day in History: A Lame Apology

On this day in history, December 19, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill, containing what might be the lamest apology in recorded history. Buried on page of Section 8113 of the bill is the “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.”

There was no media release, no public acknowledgement. Nothing. It is fairly brief, so we will copy the whole thing here.

Sec. 8113

(a) Acknowledgment and apology

The United States, acting through Congress—

(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;
(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;
(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;
(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;
(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;
(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and
(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(b) Disclaimer

Nothing in this section—

(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or
(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

So what do you think? Here is a piece from Indian Country Today in December 2011 commenting on this apology, titled: A Tree Fell in the Forest: The U.S. Apologized to Native Americans and No One Heard a Sound.


St. Paul Approves “Indigenous People’s Day”, Volunteer Tutors Needed, This Day in History

Following Minneapolis, Seattle, and several other cities, the St. Paul City Council has designated Oct. 12 as “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Check out the coverage in the Pioneer Press and MinnPost, which noted that: “St. Paul will live in both worlds, as the council resolution says the city will recognize Indigenous People’s Day and continue to recognize Columbus Day as a state and federal holiday.”

The resolution was authored by all seven council members. It reaffirms “the City’s commitment to promote the well-being and growth of Saint Paul’s American Indian and Indigenous community.” It reads in part:

the City of Saint Paul recognizes the occupation of Dakota homelands for the building of our City and knows indigenous nations have lived upon this land since time immemorial and values the progress of our society accomplished through and by American Indian thought, culture and technology …

Among the resolutions, it says that

Indigenous Peoples Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwe, other Indigenous nations add to our city.

Here is the full text of the resolution. Healing Minnesota Stories has a webpage dedicated to cataloging this and other government resolutions on indigenous issues.

Division of Indian Work Seeks Volunteer Tutors

The Division of Indian Work of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches is seeking volunteers to tutor youth grades 1-12 on Monday and Tuesday evenings, 5-7 p.m. Volunteers need to attend an orientation and complete a background check. For more information, contact Rica Rivera, 612-279-6323, or click here for more information.

This Day in History: Congress Creates the Indian Claims Commission

On August 13, 1946, Congress created the Indian Claims Commission. According to the National Indian Law Library:

The Commission … was created to hear claims of ‘any Indian tribe, band, or other identifiable group of American Indians’ against the United States. The Act provides broad grounds for recovery, including claims based on ‘unconscionable consideration’ for tribal lands … Claims not settled after 1978 were transferred to the Court of Claims.

According to the Wikipedia entry:

[The Claims Commission] was conceived as way to thank Native America for its unprecedented service in World War II and as a way to relieve the anxiety and resentment caused by the United States’ history of colonization of Indigenous peoples.  Together with the law, the Commission created a process for tribes to address their grievances against the United States, and offered monetary compensation for territory lost as a result of broken federal treaties. However, by accepting the government’s monetary offer, the aggrieved tribe abdicated any right to raise their claim again in the future. On occasion, a tribe gave up federal recognition as part of the settlement of a claim.

The Commission published a 141-page final report on Sept. 30, 1978. According the report, tribes litigated more than 500 claims and won more than 60 percent. The report opens with a historical survey:

Indian Grievances, the Government, and the Court of Claims, 1831-1946

The bases of the Indian claims against the American Government were rooted in what has been referred to as the “largest real estate transaction in history.” As the Indian’s possessions receded, his claim surfaced. This element of American history flowered in the period from the close of the Civil War to the First World War and the “wrongs committed, or at least initiated by our public servants in that period give rise to most of the claims that we are trying to redress today.”

Historical precedent and national policy called for the United States to acquire this land by the legal forum of treaty-making and legislation rather than the simpler method of conquest and confiscation. The separate Indian tribes were considered as sovereign nations during the treaty-making period and in 370 treaties they negotiated away nearly two billion acres of North America, leaving themselves 140 million acres at the end of that period in 1868. …

By the 1890’s, the contest for America was over and its possession signed, sealed, and delivered. But, though the white man was contented with his record in these dealings, the Indian was not. One Western historian has noted that “it would be difficult, indeed, to find a land cession made by the Indians entirely of their own volition.” The American right to buy always superseded the Indian right not to sell. The white man’s superior power allowed this policy, and pro forma use of the treaty conformed to his Anglo-Saxon tradition and concern for the law. For the Indian the legality of it all was of little comfort.

The historical analysis offers the following conclusion:

The Commission may terminate but, in spite of the Congressional mandate that Indian claims arising prior to 1946 also terminate, they will persist. The future of the debate on land claims rests now in a more searching examination of the treaties and the intent of both participants. It also lies in how far the Indians are able to push their claims for land and how far the United States is willing to acknowledge them. Between these contending positions the treaties will be interpreted or reinterpreted, or even revoked, as the ripening climate of American opinion allows it to happen.

Click on the link above for the full report.