Thursday, August 15, 2013


The “long game” of the FBI is paying off (from their point of view) with raids that appear to be effective roundups of criminals: financial corruption, child trafficking, drug cartels, and the like.  It is a two step technique perfected in the continuing sand wars.  

The first step is to bring up the evidence for wrong-doing, vivid enough to rally public outrage.  Soon a committee will be formed “demanding” some action from the FBI.  They will have strong views, which they will indignantly express in what they assume is confidential testimony.  

In response, there will be a number of obvious offenders brought in and interviewed.  They are accused, pressure-interviewed separately, and the information triangulated and evaluated.  They are arrested, charged, and quietly released -- people assume because bail has been posted.  There is negotiation about indictments.  

Costs of litigation are very high and it is suggested to people that it may be sensible to simply plead guilty.  Or that sentences may be mitigated by cooperation.  As those accused sweat over the coming time, there are hints about cooperation.  As time goes on, the suspects become more willing to offer names and tell tales.  Nothing much seems to happen.

Maybe a year later, the accumulated information is used to dragnet the real targets, now well-enough documented to make conviction easy.  Often they are relatives of the original committee and/or the first accused, because that’s the information that is effective in getting  deals.

Reservation people are not good at long-game.  Poverty, war, culture-difference teaches people to grab today (Hey, what would that be like in Latin???) because there might not be another chance.  Until a century ago, the bands were held together by a common language, the need to cooperate in order to survive, and religious ceremonies that were an opportunity to make amends, get back into harmony with the universe.  Those have been destroyed.  

In a poverty setting a new economy of secrets grows up, because that’s all people have for barter and to form alliances.  Negative information is more potent than positive.  Sweet deals behind the scenes are the way business was done on the frontier, particularly with the government and especially after the Civil War.  (Still that way.)  Distances were great and many languages were spoken.  The status of Indians -- not citizens until late (though not as late as women) and just recently enemies -- was ambiguous at best.  It was a place where information was as crucial and faulty as it is on today’s internet.  Emotions were high enough that anyone believed anything and probably ought to.

The dictionaries claim that the term “long game” comes from golf and refers to the skills of a player in the phase where the ball must be hit hard enough to travel a long way, as compared to “putting” the ball in the hole once it’s on the green.   But the blog called “Britishisms” suggests that the term has jumped to something much bigger:   The most common contexts have been diplomacy, espionage, and statecraft, as in a 1944 comment in The Times that “ … so well and successfully have conspirators played the long game.” But it’s been used in all sorts of ways. In 1917 an anonymous author in The TLS intriguingly commented, “We are reminded of a pregnant saying of Hart’s that the long game is the Church’s game.” A 2005 episode of the BBC series Dr. Who was titled “The Long Game. . .”  There are video games and blogs called “The Long Game.”

On a reservation the short term “game” is at least surviving the next election (as it is in the whole country now) or maybe even as short as surviving a night of revelry or a weather emergency or a family row.  The white long game is about ending reservations and dissolving Indian identity.  This has been in play since Eisenhower.  In a sense it began when the first ships arrived from Europe.  There is a kind of apartheid always at play.  There is never any such thing as “separate but equal.”  Law on reservations is different -- not just for Indians, but for everyone on location or doing business.

The more Indians work for reparations to compensate for past injustices, the more they are risking the government (and the public opinion that gives it permission) being able to say,  “Okay.  We were wrong.  We’ve paid you off.  Now we’re even.  Don’t ask again.”  Since so much of the economy depends upon federal subsidies and compensations for the lack of state taxing power, this means that tribes will be crippled.

Corporations also play the “long game,” so that decades ago the leases were negotiated for laying the groundwork for present and future drilling.  Natural resources, including the marketing of scenery and the law differences (casinos), may seem like the way to guarantee sovereignty with economic viability.  The problem is that the kind of education that allows tribal people to operate on a level playing field with corporations and European governments is an education that will erase tribal culture in general and the identity of individuals in particular.  

“White” codes of operation and “Red” codes of operation are based on different assumptions.  The assumptions of the red man are cooperation, protection of the vulnerable, harmony with nature, because that’s what worked before “civilization” arrived.  There were other, less idealistic assumptions: for instance, always go to the limits of your capacity in conflict, even murder.  Or going out of one’s mind is a good thing (before alcohol).  White codes mostly boil down to control and profit.  Tight moral rules about sex, came in with the Christian missionaries and lent much energy to stigmatizing relationships that hadn’t been formally sanctioned by whites.  These are playing cards in the “long game” as well as putting on the green, getting reds into the hole.

The real long game pits sovereignty against assimilation.  The FBI has nothing to do with this except in the short term.  When there is true sovereignty on the reservation, which would mean self-determined and self-controlled law, a huge part of the FBI bureaucracy will be destroyed.  (This is also true of the federal Native American agents and systems, such as the Indian Health Service.)  Attacking these entities is in the short term a move towards sovereignty: demanding to self-prescribe the agenda and rules.  In fact, it is playing into the long term goal of simply abolishing those bureaucracies.  

In the long game, criticism of the governmental oversight and “meddling” can only be justified by assimilation, Indians being just the same as anyone else.  The reservation system was created because Indians were so very different from “whites,” but as they become more and more like all people, the justification can only be an historical remnant.  The People should have started Blackfeet language lessons the day the reservation was invented.  The government figured that time was on their side and that Indians would simply age out.  For the most part, they have.  

But the strategy also created a new category of people who are unregulated and hard to govern:  mixed bloods.  They have no long game.  This means their loyalties must be captured by other means than money and territory.  Thus we see the FBI strategies of stings, division, ambiguity, long waits, impenetrable rules and laws, intimidation and possibly even black ops.  All meant to separate the “swing citizens” from the tribal agenda.  Mixed blood people (who are more than just red/white but also red/red, red/black, red/yellow, and so on) can play on both sides.  They call it “code-switching.”

(There is no FBI field office in the state of Montana, though there are nine tribes located in Montana.)  

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