Friday, November 20, 2009

We Hold This Rock... 40 years ago.

The nineteen-month occupation of Alcatraz Island that began on November 20, 1969 is a watershed in the American Indian protest and activist movement. Prior to this event, Indian activism was generally tribal in nature, centered in small geographic areas, and focused on specific issues such as illegal trespass on Indian lands or violation of Indian treaty rights for access to traditional hunting and fishing sites. The Alcatraz occupation brought together hundreds of Indian people who came to live on the island and thousands more who identified with the call for self-determination, autonomy, and respect for Indian culture.

Today, the Alcatraz occupation is recognized as the springboard for the rise of Indian activism that began in 1969 and continued into the late 1970s, as evidence by the large number of occupations that occurred shortly after the November 20, 1969 landing. These occupations continued through the BIA headquarters takeover in 1972, Wounded Knee II in 1973, and the June 26, 1975 shootout between American Indian Movement members and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Alcatraz was the catalyst for this new activism as it became more organized and more "pan-Indian." Many of the approximately seventy-four occupations of federal facilities and private lands that followed Alcatraz were either planned by or included people who had been involved in the occupation of the island.

The Indian people who organized the occupation and those who participated either by living on the island or working to solicit donations of money, water, food, or electrical generators, came from all walks of life. Some, like Richard Oakes and LaNada Boyer, were college students trying to better themselves and Indian people through education. Others, such as Adam (Nordwall) Fortunate Eagle, Dorothy Lonewolf Miller, and Stella Leach, had relocated to the Bay Area and were successful in their own businesses or careers. As the occupation gained international attention, Indian people came from Canada, from South America, and from Indian reservations across the United States to show support for those who had taken a stand against the federal government. Thousands came; some stayed, and others carried the message home to their reservations that Alcatraz was a clarion call for the rise of Red Power.

The success or failure of the occupation should not be judged by whether the demand for title to the island was realized. If one were to use this criterion, the only possible judgment would be that the occupation was a failure. Such is not the case. The underlying goal of the Indians on Alcatraz Island was to awaken the american public to the plight of the first Americans, to the suffering caused by the federal government's broken treaties and broken promises, and to the need for Indian self-determination. In this the occupiers were indeed successful. As a result of the Alcatraz occupation, either directly or indirectly, the official U.S. government policy of termination of Indian tribes was ended, replaced by a policy of Indian self-determination.

The people, young and old, who stood against the federal government for nineteen months endured severe hardships such as lack of water, heat, and electricity. However, days and nights on the island were often filled with a new-found sense of pride in Indian culture--what the occupiers called "Indianness"--and with a new freedom from government control. The days and nights were also filled with fear that the government might come at any time and forcibly remove the Indians from the island. And, in fact, on June 11, 1971, United States marshals, GSA federal protective officers, and FBI agents removed the remaining occupation force of fifteen Indians: six men, four women, and five children.

Professor Troy Johnson
California State University,
Long Beach

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fountain Fun

I love it when its time for another OUTDOOR WEDNESDAY...

The leaves have all fallen from the trees. The sky has lost the brillant blue of early autumn and has taken on the gray shawl of November. And with that, cold drizzle seems to be an every day occurance. It is the quiet, sleepy time between the colorful frenzy of Fall and the clean snowy white of Winter. I daydream of summers past. And my children - summer children, outdoor children - enjoying the world.

Every year as a celebration to the end of summer and the beginning of school days, we trek with Grandma to POWELL GARDENS, a short drive east of our home. Powell Gardens is beautiful bontonical garden. Our favorite part of the gardens is an awesome fountain designed for play.


Hold on!

You and me together.

Sweet William.

Their world.


Dance with me.

Big Sister will protect you.

Some bring swim suits for their kids to test the fountain waters. I watched, incredulous, as these tentative, suburban children walking the edge of the fountain. Not these two - reckless abandon would better describe them. That makes me smile. We save the fountain for last, looking forward to the cold refreshment after getting all hot and sticky on the garden trails. Somehow it seems a little more fun, perhaps illicit, to play in the fountain wearing your clothes. Mommy even gets in the water - sorry, no pictures of that. When they are tired, soaked, and happy, the kids laid on the cement path to warm and dry themselves (just a bit) before we made our way home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bristol Ridge Vineyards

Early last summer, Mr. L. & I got together with friends at a favorite vineyard and winery - Bristol Ridge Vineyards. It is still run by the same family who established it in 1979 as the first winery in Johnson County, Missouri. The winery itself sits atop a high hill and you cans see for miles. The grounds are lovely and the hospitality warm.

Bristol Ridge Vineyards & Winery

Tasting room courtyard.

We found a shady spot to relax.

Time for cheese, crackers, & conversation.

View north from the hilltop vineyard.

Sweet little gazebo.

Mr. L. & me. (A Guiness shirt at a winery?)

Thanks for fun day Bristol Ridge!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pause to Consider

~ Originally, I had planned a blog tribute to the WASPs, women pilots in WWII, for Veteran's Day. In light of the events at Ft. Hood, I'd like to instead discuss minorities in the military at times of war. ~

Last thursday, to celebrate upcoming Veteran's Day at work, we had a wonderful presentation from the Heart of America Chapter of Tuskegee Airman. It was truly inspirational to hear their stories. To share our own stories, my co-worker vets had brought in uniforms, pictures, medals, and other memorabilia to display. We had quite the competion going between the different branches of military service. Yep, a lot of smack-talking going on. After the presentation, we sat and chatted over cake and coffee, reminiscing about our days in uniform. I laughed at all the tall tales and felt good thinking of my own personal history in the Air Force.

Back at my desk, I turned on my computer and set back to my daily work. That was when I first heard about Ft. Hood. Several emails from friends alerted me to the on-going events. I read the first reports given by CNN and felt the rock in the pit of my stomach grow. I spent the rest of the day listening to NPR and thinking about Veteran's Day in a very different way. I was sickened to hear of the dead and wounded. Of all the places to feel safe in the military, your home base should be it. I wondered if those not familair with the military understood that people don't go around on base armed, guns slung. No, instead, base is home... where their children play and go to school, where they shop at the grocery store, where the meet friends to go to a movie, the playground, the library.

But as the reports of the identity of the shooter was came out, I grew concerned for a particular population on the base and in the military at large: Muslims. Though I am no expert nor do I possess any special information, it seems to me that we can reasonably deduce that the tradegy was the act of a mentally ill individual. The desire to blame a greater conspiracy, a lurking threat is strong I know. And I have heard, on television and the radio and amongst my own neighbors in the days since the shooting, the blame being transfered to Islam itself and by association all Muslims. The venom though understandable in the wake of tragedy is misplaced. I find this a very frightening course. Before we take that path, let us pause while the investigators do the deciphering work, to most importantly honor those whose lives have been taken but also to protect our own. Let's circle the wagons and examine history.

Although they had served in small numbers in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, African Americans were originally turned away from combat service in the military during the American Civil War. Law and white suspicions prevented them from bearing arms. Eventually, the North realized the need for additional troops and with the Emancipation Proclamation paving the way, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died.

In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. African American soldiers did not receive equal pay, rations, equipment, or even medical care to those of white soldiers. Additionally, combat troops armed with weapons were employed only as a last resort due to the lasting fear of where the loyalties truly lied for black troops. The confrontations were devastingly one-sided and bloody. However, the African American troops shined in their military service. An example is the July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, that was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. And by war's end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

In the early 20th century, German Americans were the nation’s largest immigrant group. Although they were regarded as a model of successful assimilation, they faced vicious—and sometimes violent—attacks on their loyalty when the United States went to war against Germany in 1917. The most notorious incident was the lynching of German-born Robert Prager in Colinsville, Illinois, in April 1918. Other incidents stopped just short of murder. Suspected of not strongly enough supporting the war effort, German-American John Meintz, who was subject to at several previous attacks by mobs was dragged from his home, tarred and feathered and threatened with lynching unless he left the state.

Again, predudices against racial, ethnic, and religious groups persisted in the military, especially during war when xenophobic fears were at the their highest. Yet, American minorities of the perceived "enemy" continued to honorably serve in the US armed forces. On December 7, 1941, America was jolted into WWII as the shock of the Peal Harbor bombing by the Japanese sunk in. Two months after the declaration of war, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. It provided the United States Army with the authority to round up Japanese Americans living on the West Coast and put them in so called "relocation camps" farther inland. It was justified as a security measure against possible spies and saboteurs. Ultimately, over 110,000 West Coast Japanese Americans were interred, 70,000 of them U.S. citizens.

It is sadly ironic that the same Army responsible for herding Japanese American families into the camps also drafted their young men into the armed forces to fight for America. According to Japenese-American Jimmy Konno, most men in the camps were willing to join, in spite of their anger. "Most of us felt, 'if this is our country, we have to fight for it.' You had to prove your loyalty," he says, then, with a strong emotion in his voice, quickly adds, "the '442' did prove that we were loyal. We stood together and we fought a war!" Indeed, members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment performed so many distinguished acts that the "442" became the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in the American Army.

The Japanese American troops, so clearly discriminated against, were treated with the same suspicoins and distrust as had German Americans and African Americans before them. Today, there are thousands of active duty Muslims in the American military and thousands more who work for the government. President Obama himself has stated unequivocally that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is not a war against Islam. Let us consider the Muslim soldiers fighting bravely and honorably in our army and navy today while remembering the minorities from previous wars, to whom we owe so much, and who have served just as bravely and honorably.

Thursday, November 5, 2009