Jan 07 2014

A look ahead in Indian country

Published by at 2:47 pm under Trahant

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

It’s a new year — and a new story. There is nothing more important to political discourse than a good story. It shapes our thinking, sets the rules for the debate, and, sometimes, warps reality. Stories matter. We humans think in terms of story. We dream, tell, and remember stories. We live stories.

So what’s Indian Country’s “story” for 2014?

Before I answer that question, let’s look back at recent narratives.

The first story goes like this: Congress broke promises made to Indian Country by cutting federal budgets beyond all reason, especially through the sequester. This made reservation life far more difficult, removing children from Head Start, scaling back educational opportunities, severe funding for healthcare delivery, and basic government infrastructure.

The New York Times, in a July editorial, captured this storyline. “It’s an old American story: malign policies hatched in Washington leading to pain and death in Indian country. It was true in the 19th century. It is true now, at a time when Congress, heedless of its solemn treaty obligations to Indian tribes, is allowing the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester to threaten the health, safety and education of Indians across the nation.”

This is an important story to know. And to tell. But it’s also important to know that the story already has its ending. There are only two ways to change what happens next, vote out Congress or limit the damage. (More about both of those scenarios in future columns.) The second alternative is remote, but possible in 2014, with measures such as Montana Senator Jon Tester’s bill to fund Indian health programs a year in advance.

Another story told this year is about changing the name of the Washington NFL team. This story is important because it’s a success story (I know, the issue isn’t resolved. Yet. But it’s inevitable. The question is how long the team owner will fight on, not the outcome.) Forget the merits of the mascot debate for a minute and just think about the storytelling aspect.

This story is all about the long view. Suzan Shown Harjo, Raymond D. Apodaca, Vine Deloria, Jr.; Norbert S. Hill, Jr.; Mateo Romero; William A. Means; and Manley A. Begay, pressed a case calling for the cancellation of the team’s trademark protections. It’s step-by-step litigation that’s built a through record about “pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person.”

The velocity of change picked up in February when the National Museum of the American Indian held a public symposium on the mascot issue. This was a story told in the heart of Washington, challenging and burying status quo.

So much so that Harjo and her allies have already won the tides of history and public opinion. The NFL doesn’t see it that way. Yet. But it will will. And if not, the litigation continues in a new form, the case now known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc. This is a story that’s ready for an ending.

A third story — another one about success — is the signing into law of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, including provisions that recognize tribal jurisdiction. This law is a tribute to the power of story. It probably would not have become law until Deborah Parker, Vice Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes, told her story to Sen. Patty Murray and then in a Senate news conference. Parker’s narrative changed the politics. The law’s supporters built a successful coalition that trumped the politics of the ordinary, especially in the House of the Representatives. This Violence Against Women Act story, though, needs an ending. It’s not enough to pass a law, there has to accounts about how this law has really made a difference in the lives of women are abused.

One problem with stories, at least in a political context, is there potential for misuse. A story can be told that warps or ignores reality.

Consider the stories told about the failure about the Affordable Care Act. Yes, there are problems with the law, serious issues that should be explored, and, if possible fixed. But at the same time, every cancellation of an insurance policy is not “because” of Obamacare. Stories of millions of cancellations are not possible when only 14 million people have individual health insurance plans. Even before the law, those plans changed often. Cancellations were common. But it didn’t matter as a story because eight-in-ten Americans, before the law and now, get health insurance through their employer. But it’s so easy to use Obamacare as the excuse, covering up problems that existed long before the Affordable Care Act.

So what are the Indian Country’s stories for 2014? The long view stories will continue to unfold. Two years ago, in 2012, there was a successful effort to turn out Indian Country’s voters. Will that narrative come back? Or will history again show that off-year elections are wasted opportunities? Already there’s a projection of a Republican sweep this year from Larry Sabato.

But most of the stories for this year we won’t know until they, using the vernacular of the Internet, “go viral.” A story that’s told that suddenly resonates across Indian Country and beyond. It’s those stories that can be effective in shaping the world as we’d like it to be.

Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TrahantReports

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook

 


Pike Place's plans for a new waterfront entrance.

 

THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and how they're dealing with the day of the Internet. New Editions tells you where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here