Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The most common reaction I hear from non-rez people when rez people demand control of their own affairs and concerns is,  “Well, fine.  Then let them pay for their own education, law enforcement, roads and housing!”  Of course, this is pretty hypocritical when it comes to ag folks who depend on national subsidies or counties and small towns who ask for infrastructure or law enforcement grants.  Much “national security” money is disguised local law and order subsidies.

These matters used to be settled in “Game of Thrones” fashion:  sword against sword, which at least made for population control.  Now we’re more subtle, particularly when it comes to “out groups” like sex workers or HIV sufferers.  (More like “Madmen.”) It used to be that lepers were sequestered, put on an island if possible.  And now at least one activist has suggested that priests who molest children be put on islands where they could devote their lives to repentance.  Nowadays we’ve figured out how to monetize sequestration, so there is even more motivation to capture and incarcerate needy people who are too ready to declare themselves powerful, even if they have to use a gun to do it.  They may face extreme sequestration:  solitary confinement for decades.  We’re talking criminal sequestration or possibly war captives.

If sovereignty triggers sequestration, as it did with Native American literature (only Indians can write about Indians), the risk is that transactions that depend upon open borders can’t happen.  Native American literature at first seemed to benefit by “owning” all the NA books, but pretty soon what had become a point of principle (let ethnic people gain the profits derived from their lives) turned into a battle and then a no-one’s-land, because it was just too much trouble.  The readers and publishers sequestered it.  This had not happened when colonial explorers sent back excited reports or anthropologists had worked out cultural patterns for an academic audience.  Those were markers for entitled knowledge among the readers.  Now they feel guilty.

“Roundup Ready” alfalfa and wheat is genomically altered so that glyphosate (the active ingredient in the herbicide) won’t hurt it.  The idea is that the weeds won’t have this gene, so they’ll die easier.  And the assumption was that genes are safely sequestered inside the cells of the wheat.  It was a shock when the weeds quickly grabbed that gene for themselves.  Now we have “roundup ready” weeds.  What’s worse is that the altered genes have made the wheat different enough to disturb human digestion of the grain: celiac disease.  The lesson is that SEQUESTRATION IS NEVER POSSIBLE.

People who want to treat people with HIV as lepers think that they can SEE HIV and thereby shut them off socially, avoid them, isolate them.  But they can’t.  If it were possible, there would be no lepers by now, but they still exist in spite of being obviously mutilated at later stages.  Life is a participation, a constant interchange of energy.  If participation is blocked completely, there is death and that’s what happened with HIV at first, frightening everyone until the persons who seemed most at risk, gay men who were “out,” seized sovereignty as surely as the Indians on Alcatraz.  Now they were “roundup ready.” 

The management of boundaries is an important factor in the constant process of exchange that is life.  From cell walls to no-fly lists, all these filters change everything -- not just one gene, one herbicide, one crop.  When law enforcement can’t keep order on a rez, people move to the nearby small towns.  Where the chickens go, the foxes soon follow.  Or maybe they are already there and grinning. 

Some boundaries are closed from the inside and others are imposed from the outside.  The folks who want their borders closed, ending immigration, must feel insecure, unable to handle any differences, any change.  They have not realized that illegal immigration is a long-standing phenomenon, economically entwined.  A soft version of it is the family that cocoons, as was common among homesteaders and small town people who had only themselves and nearest neighbors to help.  Of course, when times change the children break out and grow wings.  This has happened to plenty of younger Indians who flew the rez.

Gerrymandering is an artificial boundary-drawing which proposes to be promoting equity but is in fact oligarchic, serving those who are already rich and powerful.  Organic natural edges of populations are overlain with surveyors’ lines.  When a voting bloc is interrupted by the Rocky Mountains, only to make voters conform to certain types, the lines through the mountains are impossible to find, but there are too few people worried about it for the powerful to care so long as it prevents their opposition from gathering force.  Lines become irrational and unjust. 

A default line is covertly drawn between those who can afford HIV drugs and have lives orderly enough to self-administer properly and those others who either can’t afford them, can’t get their heads together enough, don't live in one place (like not under a bridge) long enough to take drugs properly, or who risk deportation or incarceration if they ask for help.  Tricks are the vectors who break the line, carrying the virus home to their families and lovers.  Not just the virus, but the attitude, the secrecy.  Part of the reason they do it is that they WANT to break the line, be dangerous, like white men who want to go live on the rez where they feel they can be violent alcoholics without interference.  Just now the law forbidding violence against tribal women by white men has been approved.  A line protecting white men who abuse Indian women has been erased.  The white men protest that they themselves aren’t safe now.  So?

So a line can be a law, a boundary, a social category, a chemical category, or any other concept grouping that our brains can grasp.  But then thinking must struggle to keep up with the implications.  Like teenagers who don’t know where the boundaries are, we want to be in charge of everything inside our walled community but soon discover this will cause us to be isolated.  So then we try to simply associate with “people like us” and watch the “guy on the left and the guy on the right.”  Most of the time that works, until we run into someone who’s not at all like us.  Esp. if it takes a while to figure out just how different.  How different is a gray hoodie?

So Shannon Augare, a handsome Democratic Blackfeet State Representative was drinking in Cut Bank one evening -- with his mother, Marla.  Only a short distance across the river that marks the edge of the reservation he was pulled over by a Glacier County sheriff’s deputy.  After a short discussion Augare simply drove off because the deputy had no jurisdiction.  The sheriff’s office contacted the Blackfeet Tribal police who found Augare parked and his mother in the driver’s seat.  Those officers drove the pair home.  No alcohol tests.  The Glacier County sheriff issued citations and there will be a trial.  Of course, the trial by society is already underway.  And somehow the FBI has stepped in.  Cue the music.  This is a discussion we need and Augare, with his lawyer Tom McKay, are eloquent.

You know what outcome might be interesting?  If Glacier County were redrawn to match the Blackfeet Reservation boundaries.  It’s been suggested before.  Cut Bank bar owners would be put out of business.  But maybe the rez is now “roundup ready.”

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