Archive for November 7th, 2011

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

We know democracy’s slogan: “Elections matter.” Or if that doesn’t work, draw on so many other oft-repeated phrases that make up the melodies in our politics. “Vote for change,” “stay the course,” or these days, “we are the 99 percent,” and the result, as George Orwell once observed, is “political” language. Such phrases Orwell wrote are designed to make “lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

We want that solid wind – and a solid win. Victory feels good, especially when it’s “our” side that’s the “we.”

But the wind is never solid. The same storm that carried Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 also blew strongly for Republicans in the congressional elections of 2010. Both sides – two very different ways of looking at the world – claim the people’s approval for their course of action.

There are structural reasons for that. First, the U.S. Constitution is not a mechanism for solving complicated problems when the nation is this divided. It’s too easy for those out of power to just say no.

Consider the political math: Two houses of Congress must agree. One of those chambers, the U.S. Senate, essentially requires a supermajority of 60 votes before an idea can take hold.

The truth is neither house of Congress actually represents the will of the people (whatever that is).

The House reflects 435 congressional districts designed for the most part to be ideological islands where the majority is determined every decade through the redistricting process. Only a few house seats, just enough to decide who runs things, are actually competitive.

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Russell Means (Photo By REUTERS/Joshua Lott/REUTERS)

Russell Means (Photo By REUTERS/Joshua Lott/REUTERS)

Here’s an update, published this week by Reuters, on Native leader Russell Means who was diagnosed with aggressive throat cancer in July.

The cancer spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and neck, but Means has so far made remarkable progress in fighting it back, he tells Reuters.

    Means said he is improving daily under a regime that calls for a mix of traditional and alternative methods to help cure the cancer, first diagnosed on July 18.

    He said the indigenous medicines and teas were smuggled into the country from Mexico and Canada, and he has participated in several native healing ceremonies.
    He also is being treated with tightly-focused radiation therapy at a medical center in Scottsdale, a city that has become Means’ temporary home in recent months.

The story also examines Means’ past as an activist and actor, gives him time to reflect on times gone by, and what the future will bring.

    Means will return late this month with his wife, Pearl, to Porcupine, South Dakota, where he owns a ranch and operates a school that has gone dormant. The residence is about seven miles from Wounded Knee.

    From there, he plans a renewed effort aimed at teaching American Indian children their language, history and culture through the Internet. The “total immersion” approach is modeled after one developed by the Maori people in New Zealand.

    “Our language is our essence,” he said. “It explains who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Without our language, we are nothing but facsimile Indians.”

Jenna Cederberg