30 March 2005

National Walkout

National Work Walkout Day Called in Support of Native American Day

Posted by Senior Editor on 2005/3/7 16:22:44

"Why shouldn't Native Americans have a national holiday in their true home land?  We have national holidays for most all other groups of people in America.  If the federal government is going to have national holidays then one of them should honor the first Americans on this land now called America." Said Mike Graham, founder of United Native America.

Somehow and for what ever reasons our federal government has not seen fit to bring about a national holiday for Native Americans. When you look at the federal government's national holiday list you will see it covers a wide range of events and people.

If a group like United Native America and others have a say on this issue there will be a national Native American Day.  For over fifteen years Indian groups have been trying to persuade federal representatives to introduce legislation on this issue. It has now paid off.  There is a house resolution before the U.S. Congress calling for the National Day, House Resolution H. RES.76.

At this time the holiday resolution is before the House Resources Committee. It will need around eighty congressmen signed on before the resolution can come out of the committee, then it will go before another committees or to the full Congress for a vote.

One would think this holiday would be a slam dunk for our government to enact. Not so!  When the holiday resolution was before the last Congress, only 25 congressmen signed on.  The holiday resolution had to be reintroduced in the new 2005 Congress this year.  At this time seven congressmen have signed on.

United Native America is calling on the federal government to reevaluate it's national holiday list.  It should include Native American Day, not exclude it.  Over the years Congress has made many changes to it's holiday list.  They have dropped some and added others.  Congress has even changed the dates of holidays.

With the government to government relationship Indian Nations have with the federal government it is past time for this great country of ours to bring about national Native American Day.  Native Americans should not be written out of America's history.  "Our nation's history started with them." Said Graham.

Our federal government admits that the fundamental principles of freedom of speech, separation of government powers and federalism came from the American Indian Nation's style of government. This point is also stated in the Native American Day resolution H.RES.76.
"People of all ethnic groups and racial groups around the world have signed United Native America's on line holiday petition. Our federal government should take notice and step up to the plate and do the right thing by enacting Native American Day." Said Graham.

United Native America supports Danielle Willmottt's call for a National Work Walkout on April 11th 2005 at 3:00pm ET.   "All workers should walk out of their work place and go onto the sidewalks for fifteen minutes to show support for Native American Day.  Wear a red ribbon.  This event will be happening all across America, so let all your friends know about it.  Post a notice of the event on your work place bulletin board." said Danielle.

For more information on the "National Work Walkout Event" use contact information below.

Email contact: ddw5@u.washington.edu

Contact your US Congressmen.  Ask them to add their name as a co-sponsor of H.RES.167

For information on the National Holiday issue and other Native American issues go to:

R.I. Civil Jury Rules in Favour of Narragansett Man

It's about time! The raid was an armed, violent, illegal invasion of sovereign land in violation of treaty and federal law. Many members of the Nation, including some Elders, were hospitalized from injuries sustained in the raid...


Jury Finds Against Trooper In Smoke-Shop Raid

Jurors decide two other troops are not liable for similar damages and a federal judge drops complaints against three other officers.

09:21 AM EST on Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE -- A federal jury yesterday found that state Trooper Kenneth Jones used excessive force when he twisted a Narragansett Indian's ankle until it broke during the smoke-shop raid in Charlestown two summers ago.

After deliberating almost five hours, the 10-member jury awarded $301,100 in damages to Adam Jennings, who was working behind the counter July 14, 2003.

"It's good to see some justice done," Paulla Dove Jennings, Adam's mother, said after the verdict.

The six state troopers in the courtroom appeared stunned. Tears streamed down Jones' face. State police Supt. Steven M. Pare, who attended most of the five-day trial, declined comment after the verdict.

The jury concluded that two other troopers -- Ken Bell and Staci Shepherd -- were not liable for damages in the raid. Bell had been accused of excessive force and battery for wrestling with shop manager Keith Huertas. Shepherd had faced similar claims for allegedly slamming Dove Jennings into a wall.

During its deliberations, the jury played and replayed videotapes of the chaotic moments in which the state police raided the smoke shop on South County Trail. The defense and the plaintiffs had relied upon the images, which showed undercover troopers posing as customers. The clips, taken by the state police and the Narragansett Indian tribe, also captured Adam Jennings' arrest for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

In those few seconds, at least four officers assisted in taking a struggling Jennings to the ground and handcuffing him. Jones gripped Jennings' right leg.

Jones testified that he was unsure whether Jennings was armed and he had used a technique he learned at the state police training academy to bring Jennings under control. Jones joined the force in 1997.

Jennings testified that Jones twisted his ankle more forcefully after he warned him that it was previously injured.

In closing arguments hours before the verdict, each side accused the other of creating revisionist history.

Juror Richard Jackvony said the panel felt for Jones, in spite of finding against him on complaints of excessive force and battery.

"I don't think it was anything intentional. The bottom line is that it was done. Somebody got hurt. The guy's got permanent damage," said Jackvony, 30, who works in construction.

Jurors awarded Jennings $1,100 for medical costs and $300,000 for pain and suffering, he said.

Earlier in the day, Pare said the state would cover any damages awarded. He said no disciplinary action would be taken against officers, regardless of the verdict.

An internal state police investigation concluded in August 2003 that the officers "acted appropriately" with the "lowest level of force."

Michael Healey, spokesman for the attorney general, said his office would meet today to "assess its legal options." Rebecca Partington, who represented the state, referred all comments to the attorney general's office.

The civil suit -- filed by Adam and Paulla Dove Jennings and Huertas -- had originally accused seven troopers of violating the shop workers' civil rights, using excessive force, and false imprisonment. Pare had also been named as a defendant, but he was removed from the suit by stipulated agreement.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres dismissed the civil-rights claims last week. He trimmed the false imprisonment claims at the start of the yesterday's proceedings, ruling that the state had proved a search warrant had been served the day of the raid. The plaintiffs had claimed that the officers had not shown badges or a warrant.

The judge yesterday also dropped excessive force and battery complaints against Lt. James Demers, Cpl. Wilfred Hill and Trooper Kenneth Buoniauto. Cpl. Michelle Kershaw was released from the case last week.

State police raided the smoke shop on Governor Carcieri's orders to stop what the state claimed was the illegal sale of tax-free cigarettes. In a separate case pending in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the tribe argues that as a sovereign nation it is outside state taxing authority.

Paulla Dove Jennings said she didn't have high hopes when she originally asked lawyer Michael Bradley to file the lawsuit decided yesterday.

"I didn't come here expecting anything," she said. "I just wanted our voices heard."


Ethnic-Cleansing in Vermont?

The state of Vermont apperently wants to "delete" the Abenaki people, culture and history... I wonder, who and where will be next?


Abenaki Incensed Over Omission
By Victoria Welch
Free Press Staff Writer

SWANTON -- Revisions to a state contract with the University of Vermont prompted representatives to a state-appointed commission on American Indian affairs to claim the state is trying to "erase" the Abenaki community.

"I'm saying this is wrong, this is immoral and this must be rectified," Jeff Benay, chairman of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Native American Affairs, said Thursday during the commission's regular monthly meeting.

The commission received a copy of a contract renewal between the State Department for Children and Families and the University of Vermont department of social work, addressing a "cultural competency" program established about five years ago to train foster caregivers in proper care of at-risk Abenaki children. The program, Benay said, is intended to ensure Abenaki children can remain in their home communities and school districts when they are placed in foster care.
In the original contract, the state serves as a partner with UVM, which then works with Abenaki organizations in northwest Vermont. But the revised copy, reviewed by the commission Thursday, omits references to "Abenaki" and "the Title V Indian Education Program," the official name of the program. The program project is now described as an initiative to improve "cultural competency knowledge and skills of child welfare staff and foster parents in Northwestern Vermont."

Commission members said deleting the Abenaki references in the contract could hinder the tribe's efforts to receive state and federal recognition as a tribe. Vermont Chief Assistant Attorney General William Griffin told lawmakers in February that federal recognition would give the Abenaki special rights, the opportunity to pursue legal claims to homelands and an opportunity to seek the right to operating a gambling casino in Vermont.

Neither Attorney General William Sorrell nor Griffin could be reached for comment Thursday.

Jason Gibbs, Gov. Jim Douglas's spokesman, said Thursday night that the governor had recently learned of the revisions and has asked the Attorney General Office's to explain its rationale for changing the wording.

Gibbs said the governor's initial reaction was that the changes were not needed, given that the contract had existed for a number of years. However, Gibbs said, "Before we jump to any conclusions, we want to hear the reason they think its necessary."

The focus of commission members' outrage Thursday, they said, was the fact that children are directly affected by the program. A lack of direct reference to the Abenaki could be, they said, the first step in preventing cultural education to Abenaki youths.

Abenaki Chief April St. Francis Merrill said she wanted to know what state officials hoped to accomplish with the contract revision.
"Is it in the state's best interest to delete a race?" she asked.

Contact Victoria Welch at 651-4849 or vwelch@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com

Alicia Spike

Wakan Tanka nici un...


Saying Goodbye to Alicia Spike's Sweet Smilie
By Allie Shah
Star Tribune

REDBY, MINN. -- Perhaps it was the memory of her smile and sweet disposition that brought so many people to Redby on Monday afternoon to pay their final respects to Alicia Alberta White, also known as Alicia Spike.

The youngest of the victims in last week's deadly school shooting in Red Lake, Alicia was just 14 and a ninth-grader at Red Lake High School. Hundreds of mourners, many of them teenagers, gathered at the Redby Community Center for her memorial service.

"She was always making us laugh," said Jennifer Stately, 16, a cousin of Alicia.

She and several other girls dressed in pink because they were attendants at the service. Leah Cook, 15, another friend who wore a pink hooded sweatshirt, said Alicia's smile and sense of humor were the attributes she loved most in her friend.

"I called her the prom queen," said her uncle Richard Johnson, who dubbed her that when she was younger after she dressed up in a fancy frock and high heels. "Unfortunately, she doesn't get to go to her prom."

Scores of flowers, photographs and greeting cards covered the long banquet tables next to the coffin, where Alicia's body lay surrounded by gifts. There were Care Bears, which her friends said she adored, and "friendship necklaces" and even small gifts of money placed in her hands. "I heard one girl say, 'Here's the money I owe you,' " recalled Alicia's grandmother, Alberta Spike, chuckling.

A long line of well-wishers snaked around the room as the air became hazy with tobacco smoke and the sounds of men singing and drums beating grew louder and more powerful. Theresa Spike and Rodney White, Alicia's parents, stood at the front of the room, receiving handshakes and hugs from all who came.

At the end of the viewing, the crowd walked to the Redby Community Church just down the road and filled the wooden pews. "Sorry I can't make the building a little bigger today," said Tom Pollock, the pastor. He spoke to them about the Alicia he knew and loved. She was a member of the church's youth group, he said, and she had a deep faith and the courage to stand up for her beliefs even when other kids snickered at it.

"I'm not surprised that Alicia had so many friends," he said. "She was a sweet girl. She was like a flower with sweet nectar that attracts the bees."

A tearful Alberta Spike recalled how her granddaughter used to call her "Jeema" and how close they were. "She helped me. She did everything with me. She shared stories with me, with her friends," she told the crowd. "I was getting stingy with her lately -- I don't know why. I just wanted her home with me all the time so we could talk."

Colleen Beitel, Marie Dearstyne, Carla Ellingson, Roslyn Hanson & Rochelle Williams

Heros and Warriors all of them...


Flood of 911 Calls Builds Bridge for Future
By Larry Oakes
Star Tribune

BEMIDJI, MINN. -- As shots rang out in Red Lake High School, frantic students and staff members dialed 911.

The calls quickly overwhelmed the Indian reservation's emergency dispatch switchboard and began rolling over to 911 operators in Bemidji, 35 miles away. Across the miles, dozens of voices made pretty much the same desperate plea: "Someone's shooting people. Help us. Hurry."

Sitting in front of banks of computers, five Beltrami County dispatchers took the calls. Their supervisor, Beryl Wernberg, believes they and their counterparts in Red Lake saved lives Monday.

Trained for a variety of scenarios, including this one, the dispatchers had a reflexive set of crucial, potentially life-saving responses for each caller: "Yes, we know. Help is coming. Be calm. Stay low. Go into a room and lock the door. Hide."


"We don't advise people to confront someone who is bent on destruction," said Wernberg, recalling in an interview the tense moments and difficult hours after Monday's shootings. "They followed their training exactly."

Know their names

Beltrami County Sheriff Keith Winger declined Friday to release recordings or transcripts of the 911 calls, saying they first must be reviewed by FBI investigators who are reconstructing the shootings moment by moment. He also declined to let the five dispatchers be interviewed while the investigation is in progress.

But he and Wernberg had high praise for the dispatchers' handling of the calls and said the public should know their names: Colleen Beitel, Marie Dearstyne, Carla Ellingson, Roslyn Hanson and Rochelle Williams.

It was Beitel, said Wernberg, who took the all-important call from a female security guard in the school, kept her on the line and got her patched through in a three-way hookup with the Red Lake police.

"She was able to keep telling Colleen where in the building the shots were coming from, and we were able to relay that information. At the same time, she was moving through the hallways, warning kids to get in the rooms."

Wernberg said that extensive training allowed the dispatchers to handle the calls dispassionately: "You run on automatic. If you had to sit there and think, you'd be wasting time and maybe a life."

Still, it was impossible, Wernberg said, for the dispatchers not to feel for their fellow dispatchers in Red Lake, knowing that they were taking calls from their own children's school.

Outpouring of help

There was an outpouring of emergency aid from other towns, too.

Ambulances came speeding from as far away as Longville and Bigfork, mostly as back-up, to stand by and handle any routine emergencies that might crop up in places that had diverted emergency vehicles to Red Lake.

If there are silver linings to the tragedy, Winger said, one might be that emergency workers forged a strong bond with their counterparts on the reservation, making past uncertainties and misunderstandings over jurisdiction and cultural differences seem paltry.

"In a crisis, you forget about obstacles and run to the aid of your neighbors," he said. "Maybe we'll see barriers come down."

Johnnie Cochran (1937-2005)

Key OJ Simpson Trial Lawyer Dies

One of the lawyers who represented murder suspect OJ Simpson in his trial in 1994-95 has died of a brain tumour.

Johnnie Cochran, 67, was also known as a crusader against police abuses, particularly in cases that involved black clients.

Mr Simpson was acquitted of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman on 12 June 1994.

The ex-football star paid tribute to Cochran, saying the lawyer's belief in his innocence was key to his acquittal.

"Without Johnnie running the ball, I don't think there's a lawyer in the world that could have run that ball. I was innocent, but he believed it," he said.

Cochran - who like Mr Simpson was black - portrayed the case as a conspiracy by a white police officer.

The verdict divided US opinion along racial lines, with most whites feeling that justice had not been done.

Flamboyance in court

Cochran first achieved recognition in 1966 with a failed lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over a black man shot and killed by police as he rushed his wife to hospital.

A stylish dresser, he became renowned for his self-confidence and flamboyance in court.

He had known Mr Simpson since their daughters attended college together in Washington DC.

When asked why he chose Cochran to represent him, Mr Simpson said: "I knew that I wanted someone who would reflect me to the jury, and who better for that than Johnnie?"

He was seen as bold and decisive in the trial.

He coined the famous phrase "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit", after gloves stained with the victims' blood found at Mr Simpson's home were apparently found to be too small for the accused.

Mr Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a civil trial and ordered to pay $33.5m in damages.

More recently, Cochran has been representing a family suing Walt Disney over alleged unpaid royalties from Winnie the Pooh.

1937: Born on 2 October in Shreveport, Louisiana
1963: Admitted to bar
1977: Criminal trial lawyer of the year, Los Angeles
1985: Defends former US football star Jim Brown on rape charge; case dismissed
1993: Wins settlement from pop star Michael Jackson after child abuse allegations
1994-95: Defends OJ Simpson against murder charges
1996: Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg acquitted of being accessory to murder
1999: Rapper Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs cleared of gun charges

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/30 09:06:46 GMT


More Abu Ghraib Evidence...

The shit keeps rolling down the hill...

Yet again the cronies of the Bush administration appear to be snagging pages from the playbook of the Third Reich. When will America wake up and smell the decomp?


US Memo Shows Iraq Jail Methods

The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown.

The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act.

The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez.

The ACLU says the measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.

The memo authorised techniques including putting prisoners in stressful positions, using loud music and light control, and changing sleeping patterns.

It also authorised the presence of muzzled military working dogs to, as the memo puts it, "exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations".

The presence of dogs and other measures, all of which required approval by Gen Sanchez, were rescinded a month later because of opposition from military lawyers.

Gen Sanchez says advance permission was required every time one of these techniques was requested, adding that he never gave such permission.

'Beyond army limits'

The Pentagon originally refused to release the memo on national security grounds, but passed it to the ACLU on Friday after the union challenged it in court under the Freedom of Information Act.

The ACLU says at least 12 of the 29 techniques listed in the document went far beyond limits established by the army's field manual.

"Gen Sanchez authorised interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in the union's statement.

"He and other high ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable."

The techniques included "environmental manipulation" such as making a room hot or cold or using an "unpleasant smell", isolating a prisoner, and disrupting normal sleep patterns.

The memo also allowed the "false flag" technique of "convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him."

It was during Gen Sanchez's time as commander that Iraqi prisoners were abused by US troops at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

The cases - highlighted in photographs of hooded and naked inmates - sparked international outrage.

Army investigations have generally found that, where proven, abuses were not the result of policy set by senior leaders.

The ACLU is currently taking part in a lawsuit against Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accusing him of responsibility for torture and abuse of detainees in US military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/30 04:24:23 GMT


The Freak Show Comes to Town

Come on in and see the show... if you dare!


The Savage Carnival
    By John Cory
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Monday 28 March 2005

    America has become a savage carnival of freak show religiosity and circus clown politics.

    Let's call them what they are: Ghoulish Obscene Panderers. How else to describe Tom Delay and Bill Frist, et al., as they crawl into bed with a brain-dead woman to pose for a political Polaroid?

    If Bill Frist is the paragon of compassionate-conservative medicine in this country, it is no wonder the GOP wants to do away with trial lawyers and medical malpractice awards. I mean, if Dr. Frist can diagnose via video, surely we can all be diagnosed and healed by touching the magic screens of our televisions, powered by the celebrated and all knowing all-powerful Dr. Oz and his media-evangelists, cured through Our Lady of the Sacred Cable Cathedral and the Holy Order of St. Arbitron, all included in our monthly satellite and cable subscription fees. Better than national healthcare. God is good.

    And while the circus of life unfolds before us, notice how no one acknowledges the rampage of giant pink elephants. The media, like a good Ring Master, barks and waves, diverting our attention to the death-defying trapeze artists, the bearded lady, the two-headed boy, and the miniature fire engine loaded with seltzer-spraying pundits fresh from clown college. Modern journalism under the Big Top.

    No one wants you to see what just happened. They hide the fact that Congress passed legislation that 80 percent of America thinks is wrong and invasive, that Congress passed this act with only a minimum of congressional and senate membership present, which should scare the living bejeebers out of all of us. What about separation of powers? GOP is the power. What about the rule of law? Only the GOP makes the law. Constitution? Just another dead document. What about activist courts and judges? The GOP will tell you when activism is good and when the evil liberals do bad activism, and never mind the difference!

    Wake up America! The Republic is dead. Welcome to the United States of Jesus, sponsored by the GOP Gospel Hour Medicine Show.

    It's all a cheap savage carnival on the midway of mendacity. If you want to know these people's moral values, look no further than their pocketbook. And remember, George Bush says their money is our money. Our values are their values.

    For every $1 we spend on education in this country, we spend $6 on the defense industry. Are we really six times more dedicated to killing than educating?

    While Congressional Christian Conservatives fight to keep a brain-dead woman alive, they cut millions and millions of dollars of VA Healthcare for the treatment of brain-injured soldiers returning from the Iraq war, as well as dozens of programs intended to help the wounded veterans and their families. Why are they so eager to bury the living while digging up the dead for political fundraising?

    Helping the poor and homeless is called "entitlements," while tax cuts for the wealthy and tax-subsidies for corporations are considered the "America way." Sort of like saying that kicking people while they are down is the best way to get a good shoe shine.

    They fight to keep a brain-dead woman alive while allowing our youngsters easier access to guns than to mental healthcare. But hey, it's only ten little Indians in Red Lake, and besides, Terri Schiavo is a true American.

    And like that old adage, "follow the money," if you watch the deposits and withdrawals of our moral leadership, you'll see exactly where their values are, and in turn, why they couldn't care less about your values. Because it is not about values, it is about power and winning and ruling. Values are like congressional ethics, flexible moral standards based on convenience and financial contribution. How else to explain Democratic support of the vile and onerous bankruptcy legislation? I guess it's true that a conservative Democrat is just a Republican in cheap clothing.

    These folks hold the Constitution as irrelevant and Catechisms as the only key to America's greatness. They want the Ten Commandments in all public buildings and the 12 Apostles in Congress. They want the Virgin Mary to teach sex education, and they believe in the Holy Trinity of Bush the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Rove.

    Money is free speech for those who can afford it, while "silence is golden" applies to the middle class and working poor.

    So here we are, in a nation that claims to value the sanctity of life above all else - even as Justice Scalia bemoans no longer being able to put teenagers to death - but content with enforcing capital punishment on mentally retarded prisoners.

    It's a freak show, folks. For one thin dime, one tenth of a dollar, you can dance with Christian cannibals while being baptized in the healing waters of the Potomac and witness the second coming of GOP's chosen children - them that's got.

    It is a savage carnival that fights to keep a brain-dead woman alive, while pulling the plug on democracy and the Constitution.


Quote of the Day

"... And my aim in my life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life, I hope to pass away, looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking, 'Oh, the pictures I might have made!'"

~~Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), artist

28 March 2005

Quote of the Day

(To Our Young People)
"...Yours is not a legacy of hopelessness & despair, but of strength & resiliency.  Continue the struggle against selfishness & weakness so that our peoples may live.  We can do this together – your generation & mine.  Remember what Sitting Bull said, 'As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together we make a mighty fist.'  Together, we will survive..."

~~Leonard Peltier (Anishinabe & Dakota/Lakota Nations), Political Prisoner

27 March 2005


These are wise words. Please, read and learn...

Megwitch --ryan

Gego Baapiineminaken Gidaabinoojiiyug

Posted: March 23, 2005
by: Scott Richard Lyons

There's an old Ojibwe saying: Gego baapiineminaken
gidaabinoojiiyug. Never laugh at your children. That
motto invokes a sacred Anishinaabe value:
manaaji'idiwin, or deep respect. We are to respect
others, no matter how young or weak or strange, in
part because what goes around eventually comes around.
This especially holds true for children. Not only
because they have power - as elders will tell you, the
only person who ever tricked the Trickster was a child
- but also because that child will one day be an

I thought of this ancient Ojibwe wisdom when I heard
about the horrifying and tragic school shooting at Red
Lake Nation. It was reported that during the assault
the shooter, Jeff Weise, was waving his arms and


Who, I wondered, had laughed at him?
This question of respect seems central to any
understanding of the March 21 shooting. If we are to
adequately comprehend this tragedy, we must approach
the perpetrator, his victims and their tribal nation
carefully and with utmost respect. So as we begin the
process of mourning this sad, senseless event, let us
be clear about one thing: at 16 years of age, Jeff
Weise was still a child.

He was no monster, although some will doubtless say
that he was. He was no Nazi, no matter how bizarre his
Internet habits. He was not an ''angel of death,'' a
''Red Lake rampager'' or a ''lost youth,'' or any
other gimmicky stereotype the media might cook up in
the absence of understanding. Jeff was a child. Yes,
deeply disturbed. And one who somehow lost all sense
of manaaji'idiwin. Why?

I'm not going to pretend to know the reasons why an
individual would pick up weapons and start shooting
children. Does anyone ever figure out why these things
happen? Did we ever discover the ''one true cause'' of
the Columbine killings?

These things are complicated - as complex and immense
as life and death and teenagers themselves. There can
never be one cause for events such as these, and we
should distrust anyone who claims to have easy
answers. There are, however, certain conditions to
consider, certain questions to ask, if we hope to
build a world in which such things never, ever happen.
And in Ojibwe country, we do have hope for that world.
First, as we find on so many reservations today, Red
Lake Nation is a community of poverty. Thirty-nine
percent of the population lives below the poverty
line; 4 out of 5 students at Red Like High School
qualify for free or reduced lunch. And we know that
poverty breeds violence. It just happens that way -
there are no impoverished communities free of

Furthermore, this condition of poverty is not
reducible to any failings of the Red Lake people, but
owes itself to a much larger and irrefutable history
of colonialism. Who among us has acknowledged that
gaping historical wound and the traumas it repeatedly
engenders? Is it possible to understand this tragedy
separate from the related contexts of colonialism and
community poverty?

Second, Jeff was a visibly Indian teenage male, which
means he was part of the least-trusted, most-feared
social group in northern Minnesota. Everyone who lives
in that part of the country knows it, whether they
admit it or not: Indian teenagers are generally viewed
as a problem. This is not the fault of teens (as if
they would do it to themselves). This is a problem
with the larger society, and its name is racism.
What social institutions hold great promise and high
expectations for Native teenagers? Schools?
Businesses? Mass media? Government? No. As with other
teens of color, in northern Minnesota Native kids are
typically more feared than nurtured, more disdained
than celebrated, and nearly always publicly discussed
as carriers of problems, not potentials. One
predictable result of this general lack of respect is
low self-esteem. Little wonder that, as a Harvard
study recently concluded, 1 out of 6 Native teenagers
today has attempted suicide. Aside from perhaps family
and friends, who in the larger society is
acknowledging that their lives are worth living?
Third, Jeff had no problem getting past the security
system that Red Lake already had in place at the
school, including a metal detector and a security
guard. Presumably the metal detector went off, and he
shot the security guard. As many have already noted,
Red Lake High School is one of the most ''secure''
schools in the region, with towering fences and barbed
wire circling the grounds. Can we now admit that
excessive security systems at schools probably don't
prevent massacres like this one? Might we suggest that
they could actually contribute to a sense of children
feeling like prisoners?

Fourth, as with nearly all Americans, Jeff had easy
access to weaponry.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, Jeff was raised in
a larger and truly worrisome cultural context of
American violence. I'm not talking about video games
and movies, although these too are problematic. I'm
referring to an America that repeatedly sends a clear
and disturbing message to its citizens and children:
namely, if you have a problem with somebody else,
violence is the best way to solve it.

At 16, Jeff would have possessed no memory of an
extended period of time when the U.S. wasn't engaged
in the practice of bombing some country it had a
grievance with. During his most formative years, he
saw this nation's president abandon diplomacy and
cooperation for ''bring it on'' and ''shock and awe.''
In this context, how can we reasonably expect Jeff
Weise, or any teenager, not to consider armed violence
an appropriate answer to life's problems?

It will likely be concluded by politicians and pundits
that this shooting was an isolated act of violence
committed by a lost youth, and that we probably need
greater security and harsher punishments for dangerous
teens. But clearly it was not an isolated incident. It
was a social incident. And Jeff was already subject to
heightened security and harsh punishment - which don't
seem to have done any good.

Let us stay focused on the big picture, the social
context in which children, including but not only
Natives, are raised. From the very moment of his
birth, Jeff's life was defined by violence - the
violence of community poverty, the violence of racism,
the violence of little respect and few opportunities,
the violence of guns, security systems, punitive
politics and growing militarism. Until these acts of
everyday violence are put to an end, how can we ever
expect our children to live peacefully? How can we
raise our children to treat themselves and others with

America needs a Peacemaker to emerge, and so does
Native America.

One bright light during these dark days is the
tremendous dignity with which Red Lake Nation, so
honorably represented by Tribal Chairman Floyd
''Buck'' Jourdain Jr., is handling the crisis. In
particular, Red Lake's refusal to allow media vultures
to harass the community was an act of great wisdom and
foresight. The community is already reorganizing
itself, and their spirit is strong. Red Lake will heal
from this. And all of Indian country is behind them.
There is courage and compassion and respect there -
and where those virtues exist, so too does hope.
Scott Richard Lyons, Leech Lake Ojibwe, teaches
writing, literature and Native American Studies at
Syracuse University.

How to Tell the Tale?

At least the Native press holds such issues such as cultural sensitivity to be important no matter how big the story is...


American Indian Press Grapples With Red Lake Shootings

News Feature
By Daffodil Altan, Pacific News Service

The shooting deaths of 10 people on a Minnesota Native American Indian reservation by a high school student has national Native media wrestling with how to appropriately cover issues raised by the tragedy.


SAN FRANCISCO - March 23, 2005 -T he story sounds familiar. A teenager shoots five of his fellow high school students, his grandfather, his grandfather's wife, a security guard, a teacher and himself. Newspapers report he wore a long black coat, and may have posted messages on neo-Nazi Web sites. It is said he was teased at school.

But the teen, Jeff Weiss, was not white. He hailed from a long line of Chippewa Indians. And the shooting, like others preceding it, did not happen in suburban America. It happened in Indian Country, on a stretch of wooded reservation with a glistening body of water known as Red Lake.

Whether this matters -- or should matter -- in the somber telling of this developing story is something that Native American media outlets, most of which are staffed by members of various national tribes, are considering in a way different from their mainstream counterparts.

When residents of the Hoopa Valley Reservation in Northern California looked at Columbine, "most of the opinion was, 'Well this doesn't happen here,'" says Joseph Orozco, station manager and radio host for Hoopa Tribal Radio. "But now it's Red Lake, a reservation, a native student. That one's a little tougher." It hits close to home, Orozco says, because of the belief that common tribal cultural standards should have prevented such tragedies from happening on reservations.

Some members of Native media are looking to cover the story in a way that will help tribal elders and members of various national tribes examine the demise of their traditional networks.

"The social contracts that used to be in place are not as strong or as cohesive as they once were," says Tim Johnson, executive editor of Indian Country Today, the largest U.S. Native American newspaper, with a circulation of 50,000. "And really, this requires our tribal leaders to respond in real time to these amazing shifts in mainstream society." Johnson is planning a series of stories that will examine the rise of anti-Indian sentiment across the country, as well as the rise of violence on reservations.

When something like this happens, Johnson says, Native tribes immediately consider what he calls "the social-spiritual balance" in someone's life. "When we see something like this we see that some folks in our community have lost their way, have lost their attachment to their own culture."

"I don't think (the Red Lake shooting) is indicative of Indians any more than David Koresh" represented white people, says James May, the West Coast correspondent for Indian Country Today, referring to the former leader of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. "Some of it has to do with just poor rural life."

Many media stories have focused on the now-familiar profile of Red Lake -- it is remote, poor and isolated -- as telltale signs of why the violence may have happened there.

Hoopa Radio's Orozco believes cultural elements in Native culture, beyond a shared oppressive poverty, do play a role. "It goes deeper than just being poor," he says, "Poverty is a symptom of our whole existence." Something else is being lost, he says. "The people who have carried on these traditions for a long time are somehow getting squeezed out, and that does damage to the psyche."

He believes teens who are the most traditional and spiritual have the hardest time meshing with mainstream high school culture.

But Duane Beyal, editor of the Navajo Times, believes that cultural and spiritual grounding are precisely what may keep teens from self-inflicted or outward violence. "For example, with the Navajo, if you have trouble, we would say you are out of harmony with yourself and the world. A lot of our ceremonies are geared toward restoring the harmony."

Walk across Navajo Nation, he says, and you will see these types of ceremonies happening all the time. "Obviously this youth was troubled and did not have that kind of mechanism in place to help him."

But the lack of traditional cultural support may not be much different from the lack of other support networks -- like sports or family -- that afflict many mainstream American teenagers, some say.

"Here we have clearly an unhinged kid, just like in Colorado," says Indian Country's May.

Youth violence, after all, has not been confined to Native American Indian reservations. "They're just things that strike out of the blue," says Navajo Time's Beyal. "You can't see them coming. In that sense it's not a Native American thing, or a racial thing. It's a societal thing."


PNS contributor Daffodil Altan (daltan@pacificnews.org) is an editor and reporter for Pacific News Service and New California Media, an association of over 700 ethnic media organizations representing the development of a more inclusive journalism.

Bush Breaks Red Lake Silence

As usual, Bush leaves a pile of Tatanka Cesli on a Rez's doorstep and calls it a gift...


Bush Breaks Silence on School Shooting
Fri Mar 25, 2005 04:44 PM ET
By Adam Entous

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush offered federal help and
personal prayers on Friday to the Red Lake Indian reservation in
northern Minnesota after being criticized for remaining silent for
days about the deadliest U.S. school shooting in six years.

Bush, on vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, spoke for five
minutes to Floyd Jourdain, chairman of the Red Lake Chippewa tribe,
about Monday's rampage in which a 16-year-old killed nine people and

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush sent his condolences to the "entire Red Lake community," and "pledged continued help from the federal government."

"The president ended the call by saying he is praying for the
victims and the families," Perino said, adding that Bush would
discuss the shooting publicly in his weekly radio address on

While White House spokesman Scott McClellan spoke briefly about the
shooting on Tuesday, Bush steered clear of the incident in public
remarks, focusing instead on the fate of brain-damaged Florida woman
Terri Schiavo.

Bush's silence drew fire from some American Indians, including Clyde
Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national
director of the American Indian Movement in Red Lake.

"It's kind of late," Bellecourt said of Bush's call to Jourdain. "He
should have been the first one to reach out to the Red Lake Indian

Bellecourt cited Bush's decision to rush back to the White House
from his Texas ranch last weekend to sign unprecedented emergency
legislation allowing Schiavo's case to be reviewed in federal

"He does not have any problems flying in to restore the feeding tube
to Terri Schiavo. I'm sure if this happened in some school in Texas
and a bunch of white kids were shot down, he would have been there
too," Bellecourt said.

Perino said the president had tried calling Jourdain on Thursday,
but got voice mail instead.

The White House said the FBI has jurisdiction in the case and has
responded by sending 10 victim specialists to Red Lake.

Perino said FBI specialists were now in Minnesota doing a "needs
assessment." The FBI could provide funds to help victims with grief
counseling and funeral arrangements.

Monday's rampage by Jeff Weise was the worst U.S. school shooting
since the Columbine massacre in 1999 killed 15.
Weise identified himself as an "angel of death" and a "NativeNazi"
in online material.

26 March 2005

Quote of the Day

"To know another language is to have a second soul..."


Guarding the Homeland...

The Original Department of Homeland Security: fighting terrorism since 1492...

If the federal government wants to fight the "OTM" threat along America's "soft southern underbelly", the Shadow Wolf program should be expanded to cover the entire border...

Hokahey! --ryan

Shadow Wolves

An all-Indian Customs unit—possibly the world's best trackers—uses time-honored techniques to pursue smugglers along a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border

Today's hunt got under way at 6 A.M., two hours after Bryan Nez's shift began. A full-blooded Navajo, Nez belongs to a 21-member, all-Indian Customs unit, nicknamed the Shadow Wolves, that patrols the immense Tohono O'odham Indian reservation in southern Arizona. Writer Mark Wheeler and photographer Scott S. Warren have joined Nez on a typical day searching for Mexican smugglers bringing drugs over the border. The long day will result in a bust of two smugglers with nearly 500 pounds of marijuana.

What makes the Shadow Wolves unique from other Customs units patrolling the border is its modus operandi. Rather than relying solely on high-tech gadgetry—night-vision goggles or motion sensors buried in the ground—members of this unit "cut for sign." "Sign" is physical evidence—footprints, a dangling thread, a broken twig, a discarded piece of clothing, or tire tracks. "Cutting" is searching for sign or analyzing it once it's found.

Nez relies on skills he learned growing up on the Navajo Nation reservation in northern Arizona, and he cuts sign like other people read paperbacks. Between October 2001 and October 2002, the Shadow Wolves seized 108,000 pounds of illegal drugs, nearly half of all the drugs intercepted by Customs in Arizona.

Even so, one agent speculates that Shadow Wolves capture no more than 10 percent of the drugs coming across the reservation's border with Mexico. "In recent years, we've averaged about 60,000 pounds a year," says Rene Andreu, a former agent. They all agree that they need greater resources. It will take more than a few reinforcements, however, to have any real effect on drug traffic. The Shadow Wolves know this dismal fact all too well. Still, without their dedication and that of other Customs officials, smugglers would be bringing drugs over the border, as one officer put it, "in caravans."

Teddy Draper, USMC (Diné Nation)

We owe an immense debt toall of the Code-Talkers...


Mid-Pacific Students Get Firsthand History Lesson

A Navajo Code-Talker Shares His Iwo Jima Experiences During a Live Webcast

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Navajo code-talker Teddy Draper Sr.'s World War II stories made quite an impression yesterday with students at Mid-Pacific Institute.

It was a rich and rare experience for sixth-graders who heard about the history of Navajo code-talkers and the invasion of Iwo Jima directly from someone who played a role in both.

During World War II, Draper and about 400 Navajos used their language to encrypt battle codes, which were never broken by enemy forces. Draper also sustained serious injuries from a mortar blast during the Battle of Iwo Jima. But it would take a nearly six-decade struggle to be rewarded with a Purple Heart.

Mid-Pacific student Katie Plunkett Franklin, 12, was one of eight students from her school selected to ask questions.

"I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience," she said. "It's one that most kids wouldn't have."

Draper talked during a live videoconference from Guam to sixth-graders at Mid-Pacific's Technology Center and students at Dine College, Navajo Nation, in Arizona about the Battle of Iwo Jima and his recent return to Japan.

The conference was sponsored by the Arizona Memorial Museum Association. It was also available to the public through a Webcast over the Internet.

Draper, 81, joined other World War II veterans on a trip to Iwo Jima to commemorate the 60th anniversary of that battle. Draper told students -- in English and his native language -- how he was a bit shaky about returning to the battleground, and the difficulty of finding exact locations due to the thick vegetation.

Draper's son, Teddy Jr., who helped his father answer students' questions, said the American flag raised by Marines atop Mount Suribachi still remains.

Draper also shared with students his experience when he first arrived on the Japanese island aboard a Higgins boat during the war.

"There was a tremendous amount of fire. It was smoky. It was a living hell," Draper said through his son. Artillery from Japanese soldiers came down like hail, he added.

Two weeks ago, Mid-Pacific students met with Draper during a stopover in Honolulu from Iwo Jima. "It can't get much better than that. You can't get more precise information," Franklin said.

"It's so boring when you have to learn it from a textbook," she said. "I thought meeting Mr. Draper was an honor."

Said Lisa Mah, a sixth-grade social studies teacher: "For any teacher, our goal and our mission is to create meaningful learning experiences. To provide this experience, to me, in two words, it's invaluable and priceless."

Draper, of the Navajo Reservation in Canyon de Chelly, Ariz., was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946.

The involvement of code-talkers in the war helped save many lives. But they were not given the right to vote at the time, said Draper Jr. The work of the code-talkers remained a secret for years until the code was declassified in 1968.

In 2003, Draper was awarded the Purple Heart for his service and obtained full veteran benefits. The movie "Windtalkers" was released that same year based on the code-talkers.


A replay of the Webcast will soon be available at www.pearlharbormemorial.com/teddydraper.

25 March 2005

Quote of the Day

"We don't have a choice about paying attention to the needs of our Young People. They are our tomorrow. Today we have a responsibility to give them what each and every one of them deserves, a good life, a strong body, and understanding of what it really means to be Indian..."

~~ Clyde H. Bellecourt, Executive Director of the AIM Peacemaker Center

Yellow Bird: "They Will Survive..."

A Suffering Red Lake Nation Will Endure the Worst of All Days

Posted on Thu, Mar. 24, 2005

In the long history of the Red Lake Nation, Monday will go down among the worst of all days. It is when the lives of 10 people ended before they could step into tomorrow.

Nine were gunned down; seven are recovering from shots fired by one of their own — a young student, Jeff Weise, who took his own life.

I arrived at Red Lake at dusk Monday. The serenity and calm of this Chippewa nation was broken by red and blue lights spinning from ambulances and police cars. Marked cars cruised the length of Minnesota 89, which runs through the community.

The reservation gate was marked by orange flares and State Patrol squads. From the highway, I could see the new Indian Health Service Hospital. Many people milled around the parking lot. I could see others crowded against the windows of the hospital, many with tears on their faces.

This is a community of about 5,000 residents. And it is a community in pain.

Being in Indian Country means many are related in some way to each other. When there is trouble or someone is hurt in Indian Country, we all come together to support that person and their family.

Where I'm from on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, it's common to find 20 or 30 people in a hospital lobby or waiting rooms, ready to stay with the injured person until he or she is well. Apparently that's common at Red Lake, too.

At the hospital, I could see groups of young people in the parking lot and standing on the sidewalks, holding each other, crying softly and whispering in low voices.

The anguish was deep and visible. Then I heard a crying and wailing so loud that the sound crawled up my spine. It was an older woman, supported by two young women, wailing as I've heard Native elders do when the pain is so deep that the sound comes from the depth of their soul.

I brushed away tears and swallowed hard.

When I returned the next morning, I saw a bald eagle perched on the top branch of an evergreen. Its head was crooked, as if it was watching the goings-on below. Earlier that day, a Pipe ceremony was held outside the hospital in Bemidji, Minn., where some of the injured were being treated.

An eagle circled high overhead that ceremony, one of our reporters said; reports from St. Paul said eagles also circled a Pipe ceremony at the Capitol.

The Eagle Grandfathers have come to help with the healing, I thought. The spiritual leaders are calling them.

I talked to friends I've met in inipi or sweat ceremonies and one of my Sundance brothers. They told me that beyond the media glare, the tribe's spiritual leaders were taking action. They were holding inipis and Pipe ceremonies that evening and would continue as long as necessary.

They would go to the school and wipe it clean, a teacher of Indian culture said. The terror and killing will need to be erased. It will need to be cleaned with smudge and prayer so the community can begin anew. It would be like a "wiping of the tears" ceremony, he told me.

Then I talked with people about those who passed away. The gut-wrenching hurt you feel when someone dear passes away was multiplied by 10, I could see. I lost my mother in December, and the hurt and deep sadness I felt was awful; I sensed their pain was so many times worse.

As I turned my car toward home late Tuesday night, I knew the Red Lake people are strong. They have lost so much over the centuries and have survived.

And, as some of the spiritual leaders said, this, too, they will survive.
Yellow Bird, a Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald columnist, is an Arikara member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, New Town, N.D.

Alicia Alberta White

Alicia Alberta White Obituary

Alicia Alberta White, 14, of Redby, died on Monday, March 21, 2005, at the Red Lake High School, in Red Lake.

      A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday at the Redby Community Church with Rev. Tom Pollock officiating. A wake will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Redby Community Center. Burial will be in Fox Point Cemetery in Redby. The Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji assisted the family with arrangements.

Chase Albert Lussier

Chase Albert Lussier Obituary

      Chase Albert “Beka” Lussier, 15, of Red Lake, died on Monday, March 21, 2005, in Red Lake.

      A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Red Lake with Rev. Pat Sullivan officiating. A wake will begin today at the Red Lake Center in Red Lake and continue until the time of service on Saturday at the church. Burial will be in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Red Lake. The Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji assisted the family with arrangements.

Daryl Allen Lussier, Sr.

Daryl Allen Lussier, Sr. Obituary

Daryl Allen “Dash” Lussier, Sr., 58, of Red Lake died Monday, March 21, 2005 at his home.

      The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Humanities Center in Red Lake with Rev. Pat Sullivan officiating. A wake will begin Thursday afternoon at the Humanities Center and go until the time of the service on Saturday. Burial will be at the St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Red Lake under the direction of the Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.

Thurlene Marie Stillday

Thurlene Marie Stillday Obituary

Thurlene Marie Stillday, 15, of Ponemah, died on Monday, March 21, 2005, in Red Lake.

      Arrangements are pending with the Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.

Dewayne Michael Lewis Jr.

Dewayne Michael Lewis Jr. Obituary

      Dewayne Michael Lewis Jr., 15, of Ponemah, died on Monday, March 21, 2005, in Red Lake.

      Arrangements are pending with Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.

Michelle Leigh Sigana

Michelle Leigh Sigana Obituary

Michelle Leigh Sigana, 32, of Red Lake, died on Monday, March 21, 2005 in Red Lake at her home.

      The funeral for Michelle and Daryl “Dash” Lussier will be held together at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Red Lake Humanities Building in Red Lake, with Rev. Pat Sullivan officiating. A wake will begin Thursday afternoon at the Red Lake Humanities Building. Burial will be at the St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Red Lake under the direction of the Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.

Derrick Brian Brun

      Derrick Brian Brun, 28, of Red Lake, died on Monday, March 21, 2005, in Red Lake.

      A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 28, 2005, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Red Lake with Rev. William Mehrkens officiating. A wake will begin Saturday evening at the Red Lake Center and continue until the time of service on Monday at the church. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery in Bemidji. The Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji assisted the family with the arrangements.

22 March 2005

Quote of the Day

"Like the miner's canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith..."

~~Felix Solomon Cohen (1907-1953)

Save America: Buy Blue!

Check it out today!


Buy Blue!

Lest You Think Bush Is Hero...

Lest you think Bush is a hero for rallying the federal fight to save Terry Schiavo, read on, and see the other, more sinister side...

Of course I find it tragic and morbidly funny that all these damn Republicans who bark and howl the alleged importance of "state's rights" against liberal intitiatives with almost boring regularity, nearly broke their hips in their obscene haste to insinuate themselves into the privacy of this sad episode. All for their political gain... Hey Republican Neo-Cons! Want to save lives! STOP the damn WAR! Get all these damn f*cking guns off our streets! PROVIDE HEALTHCARE TO THE POOR, THE ELDERLY AND THE NEEDY! STOP RAPING OUR MOTHER THE EARTH!



HealthLawProf Blog: Life-Support Stopped for 6-Month-Old in Houston

Life-Support Stopped for 6-Month-Old in Houston

Yesterday Sun Hudson, the nearly 6-month-old at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, diagnosed and slowly dying with a rare form of dwarfism (thanatophoric dysplasia), was taken off the ventilator that was keeping him alive.  A Houston court authorized the hospital's action, and Sun died shortly thereafter.  Today's Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News have most of the details.

Both papers report that this is the first time in the United States a court has allowed life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn from a pediatric patient over the objections of the child's parent.  (The Dallas paper quotes John Paris, a bioethicist at Boston College, as its source.)  If true, the unique Texas statute under which this saga was played out contributed in no small way to the outcome.  As one of the laws co-authors (along with a roomful of other drafters, in 1999) let me explain.

Under chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, if an attending physician disagrees with a surrogate over a life-and-death treatment decision, there must be an ethics committee consultation (with notice to the surrogate and an opportunity to participate).  In a futility case such as Sun Hudson's, in which the treatment team is seeking to stop treatment deemed to be nonbeneficial, if the ethics committee agrees with the team, the hospital will be authorized to discontinue the disputed treatment (after a 10-day delay, during which the hospital must help try to find a facility that will accept a transfer of the patient).  These provisions, which were added to Texas law in 1999, originally applied only to adult patients; in 2003; they were made applicable to disputes over treatment decisions for or on behalf of minors.  (I hasten to add that one of the co-drafters in both 1999 and 2003 was the National Right to Life Committee.  Witnesses who testified in support of the bill in 1999 included representatives of National Right to Life, Texas Right to Life, and the Hemlock Society.  Our bill passed both houses, unanimously, both years, and the 1999 law was signed by then Governor George W. Bush.)

In the Hudson case, the hospital ran through the statutory procedure, but decided nonetheless to get a court order authorizing withdrawal of Sun Hudson's ventilator support.  The hospital undoubtedly had its own sufficient reasons for taking this additional step; the statute doesn't require a court order.  Indeed, the statute was designed to keep these cases out of court, if possible.

I am no great fan of unilateral withdrawals of treatment under the banner of "medical futility." When our drafting team agreed on the key language in chapter 166, I said that I hoped the authority to unilaterally withhold treatment would never have to be invoked, but I knew then what I know even better now: sometimes good, humane medical care requires it.

Since the 2003 change that made the law applicable to minors, I have participated in two cases in which life-support was ultimately withdrawn from infants over parental objections.  In both cases, the hospital extended the 10-day waiting period in order to attempt to restart discussions with the parents before unilaterally withdrawing life-support.  In one case, a previous hospital's ethics committee (on which I also serve) had twice agreed with the attending physician.  The hospital CEO overruled the committee the first time (before the 2003 amendment that added minors to chapter 166), and the second time the child was transferred to our hospital on the 9th day, and we restarted the statutory process from scratch.  In neither case did the hospital resort to a judicial proceeding to settle the treatment dispute.

My experience on five hospital ethics committees, and as co-chair of two, is that in both adult and pediatric cases, most futility disputes never get to this last step of unilateral withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.  In most cases either the families drop their opposition along the way or the patient dies before the due-process steps required by the statute have been exhausted.  Last fall, ethicists at M.D. Anderson surveyed Texas hospitals' experiences under chapter 166; I hope they will publish their results soon.  It will be extremely interesting to find out how often the statutory process has been followed all the way to the end, including withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment over family objections.

There is no telling how the Houston judge would have decided this case if chapter 166 were not on the books.  On the one hand, it appears that no judge in this country has ever sided with the family in one of these treatment disputes.  On the other hand, the physicians, hospital, and ethics committee appear to agree that Sun's condition was fatal and that his protracted death was not without some suffering.  (I don't know how to square this with newspaper reports that "[t]he hospital's description of Sun [was] that he was motionless and sedated for comfort.") 

But in this case, the judge wasn't writing on a blank slate.  The Legislature had already spoken, twice -- once in 1999 when it enacted chapter 166 and again in 2003 when it amended the law to make it apply to pediatric patients.  All the judge had to do -- and apparently all he did do -- was to find that the law authorizes the hospital to withdraw treatment over the objections of Sun's mother, Wanda Hudson.

The papers also report than another case is making its way through Houston courts: "Another case involving a patient on life support — a 68-year-old man in a chronic vegetative state whose family wants to stop St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital from turning off his ventilator — was scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Houston-based 1st Court of Appeals. But the case was transferred to the 14th Court of Appeals, which promptly issued a temporary injunction ordering St. Luke's not to remove the man's life support. No hearing date has been set."  More on this case in a future post.  [tm]

March 16, 2005

Bone Marrow Transplant Needed!

Go now and get signed up for the National Registry! You could save somebody's life. Call 1-800MARROW2 for info.


Navajo Teen Needs Bone Marrow Transplant
By Jim Snyder, The Daily Times
Mar 21, 2005, 12:23 am

FARMINGTON — The family of a Navajo teenager diagnosed with leukemia and in need of a bone-marrow transplant are hoping to find a donor match.

David Lister, 16, of Prescott, Ariz., is at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona.

His mother, Sandra Shorty Lister, is originally from Shiprock.

“He’s pretty weak. His eyes are hurting,” his father Ernie Lister said Friday from David’s hospital room. “He’s a pretty sick boy.”

David Lister, who was diagnosed in August 2004, has been undergoing intense chemotherapy sessions.

He was doing well but relapsed March 3, said his aunt, Laura Johnson of Farmington.

“For a 16-year-old to hear all of that, it’s overwhelming,” said Johnson, a nurse at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington. “We have to give him pep talks quite a bit. He’s in good spirits. He’s hopeful.”

The family is encouraging all races — especially Native Americans — to be tested as donors.

“When you sign up to be a bone-marrow donor all it is, is a pinprick,” said Ernie Lister.

Potential donors then become part of a worldwide bone marrow donor list comprised of more than 5 million people.
“There are only 60,000 Native Americans listed,” Ernie Lister noted.

The family has set up area bone-marrow drives:

• April 1, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Shiprock at The Door Christian Church.

• April 2, 9 a.m. to 3 pm at Farmington’s United Blood Services on 20th Street.

• April 8, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Chinle, Ariz., at The Door Christian Church, next to the A & W restaurant.

• April 9 in Gallup, with the time and location pending.

There will also be other drives on the Navajo reservation.

David’s brother’s and sister’s bone marrow matched each other, but did not match his, Ernie Lister said.
The family has set up an account at Wells Fargo Bank to help with expenses. The David Lister donation account number is 2121013268.
Jim Snyder: jsnyder@daily-times.com

A Troubled History...

Red Lake Reservation: A Troubled History

Sharon Schmickle
Star Tribune
Published March 22, 2005


The secluded Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota has been plagued over the decades by more than its share of the seeds of violence: troubled schools, poverty, unemployment and bitter intertribal battles over basic rights and control of the reservation.

Red Lake High School scored second-lowest of Minnesota schools last year on state comprehensive tests for 11th-grade math and third-lowest for 10th-grade reading. According to the state Department of Education's 2004 report card on the school, nearly one-fourth of the 355 students required special education, and the school failed to meet federal standards for reading and math. Four in five of the students met government poverty standards making them eligible for free and reduced-price lunches and other benefits.

On the reservation, which is largely closed to outsiders, all of the Red Lake High School students are American Indian, the state report said.

While school shootings have become a tragic reality for American students from a range of ethnic and economic backgrounds, many of the Red Lake students were born into a legacy of violence. And teens have lost their lives in earlier flare-ups on the reservation.

In 1979, dissidents staged an insurrection after tribal leaders removed one of the dissidents' sympathizers from the Tribal Council. Five armed dissidents broke into the reservation's law enforcement center and took several hostages. The FBI quickly ordered all police and sheriff's officers off the reservation, saying they faced life-threatening gunfire.

With no police presence on the reservation, dissident tribal members captured the police department's weapons and raided the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs storage area for confiscated liquor.

Then the insurgents set the law enforcement center on fire and went on a rampage of shooting and looting. The home of Roger Jourdain, who was then the tribal chairman, and other government buildings were burned to the ground.

When the rioting ended, two teenagers were dead of gunshot wounds, several were wounded and about $4 million in property was damaged, primarily by fire.

Five men were convicted and sentenced to prison in connection with the rioting.

In the 1980s, there was more unrest at the reservation over allegations of civil-rights abuses. Lawyers had been barred from tribal courts, and defendants were routinely denied bail, jury trials and other rights that federal laws were supposed to extend to Indians.

In 1986, a Red Lake band member, Gregory Good, accused Chief Tribal Judge George Sumner of running a court system that violated civil rights. One night after a dispute, Good shot Sumner to death. After hearing that Sumner had chased and beaten Good, a federal jury accepted arguments of self-defense and acquitted Good of homicide charges.

Under pressure of a losing federal funding, tribal officials moved to improve the courts during the 1990s.

Because of its isolation, Red Lake has had little luck with casino gambling, which has pulled some Minnesota Indians out of poverty. While the tribe has run casinos, revenues have been relatively low and many of the customers have been Red Lake residents.

Red Lake has pulled itself up recently, reducing its poverty rate during the 1990s, but more than four in 10 residents remained unemployed, according to a recent census report. During the 1990s, a new generation of tribal leaders also moved toward a more open and less autocratic government than the reservation had known earlier.

Sharon Schmickle is at sschmickle@startribune.com.
© Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

21 March 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Tragedy at Red Lake

Red Lake Shootings: 8 Dead, 14 Injured
Richard Meryhew,  Star Tribune
March 22, 2005

RED LAKE, Minn. -- A young man apparently shot and killed his grandmother and grandfather and then went to Red Lake High School where he killed five more people and injured 14, the FBI reports. The FBI also believes the shooter killed himself and apparently was acting alone.

Paul McCabe, spokesman for the FBI office in Minneapolis, said during a news conference at 6:15 p.m. that four students -- two boys, one believed to be the shooter, and two girls -- died. One female teacher and one security officer also died.

"This is a fluid investigation," McCabe said. "Right now there is still a lot of work to do. We're still clearing the school as a safety precaution even though we believe the shooter is among the dead."
He would not comment on the motive saying, "It is too early in the investigations."

McCabe provided no detail about the sequence of the shooting, but said the dead at the school were found in one room. When pressed for more information, McCabe said "We are not going to comment on any of the details right now. It's an ongoing investigation."

The Red Lake Net News, a webite supported by the tribe, identified the shooter's grandfather as a veteran law enforcement officer for the Red Lake Police Department, Daryl "Dash" Lussier.

Lussier and his wife, who was not identified, were at their home in the Back of Town area in Red Lake when they were shot, the Net News reported.

Tribal fire marshal Roman Stately told KARE-11 TV that the shooter entered the school about 2 p.m, carrying a shotgun and two handguns. "After he shot a scurity guard, he walked down the hallway shooting, and went into a classroom where he shot a teacher and more students,'' Stately said.

After the gunman shot himself, the school's estimated 200 students were evacuated, he said.

But Tribal treasurer Darrell Seki described the situation as "terrible. We see things like this happen outside the reservation, but now it's happened here, in our home. It's an awful situation.''

Red Lake High School principal Chris Dunshee called his wife Cathy shortly after the shootings occurred.

"He called to let me know he was OK and that was a relief,'' she said earlier today. "He didn't want to tell me any details, but said he thoughht five or six people were shot and that one was dead.''

Sherri Birkeland, a spokeswoman for North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji, said at about 6 p.m. that six people had been brought to the hospital. One was dead and three were admitted. Two others were taken to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D., which can treat very serious injuries.

American Indian Movement leader Clyde Bellecourt talked this afternoon to several family members on the reservation and said initial accounts of the shooting were unconfirmed and confusing.

"A lot of it's still second-hand, and sketchy,'' Bellecourt said. "Nobody has a clear idea of what exactly happened. The first report was that a student drove his car right into the school building, got out and shot a guard.''

He said he was told the gunman shot at least one teacher and three students. He also heard that the gunman shot himself.

"A grandmother of one of the students called to say her grandson was shot,'' Bellecourt said. "She was crying the whole time.''

Audrey Thayer, who lives in Bemidji and works as a researcher for the American Civil Liberties Union's Minneosta chapter, said the reservation was locked down by police with roadblocks. "They have got it closed off,'' she said.

Today's shooting was the second major school shooting in Minnesota in recent years. In September 2003, two students were shot at Rocori High School in central Minnesota.

Aaron Rollins, 17, and Seth Bartell, 14, both died from their wounds — Rollins that day and Bartell 16 days later. Fellow student John Jason McLaughlin, 15 at the time of the shootings, awaits trial in the case.
The Red Lake Indian Reservation is in far northern Minnesota, about 240 miles north of the Twin Cities.

The school has 355 students in grades 9-12, with 31 teachers and a full staff of 55. The population is 100 percent Indian -- 81 percent of them are in poverty and 23 percent are in special education. The graduation rate is 57 percent.

Staff Writers Bob Von Sternberg, Jim Walsh, Josephine Marcotty, Simon Groebner, Jaime Chismar, Stan Schmidt, Vincent Tuss, John McIntyre and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


Eight Dead in US School Shooting

At least eight people have been killed and about 14 injured when a gunmen opened fire at a school in the northern US state of Minnesota, officials say.

The gunman - a local student - was believed to be among the dead in the mid-afternoon shooting at Red Lake High School, FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident at the school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

The school - close to the Canadian border - has about 300 students.

The dead include two male students - including the gunman - two female students, a teacher, a security guard, and a man and woman shot earlier at another location, Mr McCabe said.

Eyewitnesses are quoted as saying that the whole reservation has been locked down by police who had set up road blocks.

The reservation is home to Indians of the Chippewa tribe.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/22 00:47:54 GMT


18 March 2005

Put Us On the Map!

An excellent question: Why aren't we on the maps?


Put Us On the Map!

Our Esteemed Presidents...

Four of these people are carved in stone, defiling one of our Sacred Places...


Thomas Jefferson's promises to Iroquois Confederacy

Thomas Jefferson to Handsome Lake, Iroquois Chief
November 3, 1802:

"We, indeed, are always ready to buy land; but we will never ask but
when you wish to sell; and our laws, in order to protect you against
imposition, have forbidden individuals to purchase lands from you;
and have rendered it necessary, when you desire to sell, even to a
State, that an agent from the United States should attend the sale,
see that your consent is freely given, a satisfactory price paid, and
report to us what has been done, for our approbation. This was done
in the late case of which you complain. The deputies of your nation
came forward, in all the forms which we have been used to consider as
evidence of the will of your nation. They proposed to sell to the
State of New York certain parcels of
land, of small extent, and detached from the body of your other
lands; the State of New York was desirous to buy. I sent an agent, in
whom we could trust, to see that your consent was free, and the sale
fair. All was reported to be free and fair. The lands were
your property. The right to sell is one of the rights of property. To
forbid you the exercise of that right would be a wrong to your
Nor do I think, brother, that the sale of lands is, under all
circumstances, injurious to your people. While they depended on
hunting, the more extensive the forest around them, the more game
they would yield. But going into a state of agriculture, it may be as
advantageous to a society, as it is to an individual, who has more
land than he can improve, to sell a part, and lay out the money in
stocks and implements of agriculture, for the better improvement of
the residue. A little land well stocked and improved, will yield more
than a great deal without stock or

I hope, therefore, that on further reflection, you will see this
transaction in a more favorable light, both as it concerns the
interest of your nation, and the exercise of that superintending care
which I am sincerely anxious to employ for their subsistence and
happiness. Go on then, brother, in the great reformation you have
undertaken. Persuade our red brethren then to be sober, and to
cultivate their lands; and their women to spin and weave for their
families. You will soon see your women and children well fed and
clothed, your men living happily in peace and plenty, and your
numbers increasing from year to year..."


Thomas Jefferson's promises to Choctaw

Thomas Jefferson to the Brothers of the Choctaw Nation
December 17, 1803:

"Our seventeen States compose a great and growing nation. Their
children are as the leaves of the trees, which the winds are
spreading over the forest. But we are just also. We take from no
nation what belongs to it. Our growing numbers make us always willing
to buy lands from our red brethren, when they are willing to sell.
But be assured we never mean to disturb them in their possessions. On the contrary, the lines established between us by mutual consent,
shall be sacredly preserved, and will protect your lands from all
encroachments by our own people or any others.

I rejoice, brothers, to hear you propose to become cultivators of the
earth for the maintenance of your families. Be assured you will
support them better and with less labor, by raising stock and bread,
and by spinning and weaving clothes, than by hunting. A little land
cultivated, and a little labor, will procure more provisions than the
most successful hunt; and a woman will clothe more by spinning and
weaving, than a man by hunting.

Compared with you, we are but as of yesterday in this land. Yet see
how much more we have multiplied by industry, and the exercise of
that reason which you possess in common
with us. Follow then our example, brethren, and we will aid you with
great pleasure..."


Thomas Jefferson's promises to Mandan

Thomas Jefferson to the Wolf and People of the Mandan Nation
December 30, 1806:

"My friends and children, we are descended from the old nations which
live beyond the great water, but we and our forefathers have been so
long here that we seem like you to have grown out of this land. We
consider ourselves no longer of the old nations beyond the great
water, but as united in one family with our red brethren here. The
French, the English, the Spaniards, have now agreed with us to retire
from all the country which you and we hold between Canada and Mexico, and never more to return to it. And remember the words I now speak to you, my children, they are never to return again. We are now your fathers; and you shall not lose by the change. As soon as Spain had agreed to withdraw from all the waters of the Missouri and
Mississippi, I felt the desire of becoming acquainted with all my red
children beyond the Mississippi, and of uniting them
with us as we have those on this side of that river, in the bonds of
peace and friendship. I wished to learn what we could do to benefit
them by furnishing them the necessaries they want in exchange for
their furs and peltries..."


1807-Thomas Jefferson's threat against Natives

While president, Jefferson successfully acquired the Louisiana
Territory from France in 1803 and sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition
(1803–1806) on a mapping and scientific exploration up the Missouri
River to the Pacific. He also sent other expeditions to find the
headwaters of the Red, Arkansas, and Mississippi rivers and to gather
scientific data and information on Native Americans.
Thomas Jefferson warned John Adams in this letter that despite the
progress of some Indian Nations, such as the Cherokee, to adopt
representative government, many Native Americans "will relapse into
barbarism & misery, lose numbers by war and want, and we shall be
obliged to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony

In a previous August 28, 1807 letter to his Secretary of
War Henry Dearborn, Jefferson stated "if ever we are constrained to
lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till
that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi..."


Lincoln and the pardons in 1862 Santee/Sioux

The Native disappointment in presidential pardons started with
Lincoln. After being driven off of their land, and months of
fraudulent dealings on the part of agents of the government, four
Minnesota Santee Sioux killed five white settlers in August 1862. War
broke out between the Sioux and whites in Minnesota and Lincoln
appointed General John Pope to head the military forces in the area.
The war had come to an end in early October and over 1,000 Indians
were held as prisoners. General Henry Sibley, a former Minnesota
governor who had been involved in highly questionable trade and
claims deals with the Indians, subjected the Sioux to hasty military
trials and, one month later, Lincoln was notified by General Pope
that death sentences were to be carried out on 303 of the convicted
Santees. Pope expressed his view that Lincoln was certain to approve
the convictions and thus permit the executions: "The Sioux prisoners
will be executed unless the President forbids it, which I am sure he
will not do." Lincoln, however, telegraphed Pope requesting him to
mail "the full and complete record of these convictions" in order to
be evaluated before the executions were to take place.

In his Dec.1st message to Congress, Lincoln noted the "extreme
ferocities" of the Sioux uprising. Also on December 1, Lincoln wrote
Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt seeking Holt's opinion on what
should be done with the condemned Sioux, asking "whether if I should
conclude to execute only a part of them, I must myself designate
which, or could I leave the designation to some officer on the
ground". Holt's answer was that Lincoln would have to decide the
matter on his own, but that " In view of the large amount of human
life involved," perhaps the Attorney General should investigate "for
the purpose of more satisfactorily determining the question of their
[the convictions'] regularity..."

Finally, on December 6, Lincoln wrote Sibley ordering that 39 of the
303 condemned Santees be executed. One of the remaining 39 was
pardoned, and on December 26, 1862, 38 Sioux Indians were hung. At
least one Sioux who had not been approved for execution by Lincoln
was nevertheless hung, apparently being included by mistake. Nichols
notes that the hanging of the Sioux was "the largest official mass
execution in American history in which guilt of the executed cannot
be positively determined..."

Lincoln's decision was still yet another clemency act for which he
was roundly criticized. A number of Minnesota residents and political
figures, including Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey and Senator
Morton Wilkinson, expressed outrage with the pardons after having
pressured Lincoln to approve the execution of all the convicted
Indians. Responding to a resolution from the U.S. Senate inquiring
into his actions in regard to "the late Indian barbarities," Lincoln
stated that his primary concern was ensuring that those guilty of
rape were to be executed, followed by those who "have participated in
massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles". After the
1864 election, Governor Ramsey opinioned that while the President had carried the State, had Lincoln not pardoned the Sioux, he would have received more votes than he did, to which Lincoln replied, "I could
not afford to hang men for votes..."


A past quote from Chivington;

"Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to kill
Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under
God's heaven to kill Indians!" -The Reverand John J. Chivington


Past order from a President U.S. Grant:

Violating the separation of church and state he issued an
executive order in 1870, that gave franchise to various religious
denominations on the reservations. It was the intent to destroy
Native spiritual belief and further increase the process of "whipping
the Indian out of the man." Some denominations went so far in making
church services mandatory, that rations were denied those that did
not attend services, or withheld from those that continued to
practice their traditional beliefs. In some cases, when denial of
rations to a reluctant "convert" did not work, rations were also
denied to the relations, and family of the reluctant "convert" in an
effort to prod the person along the path of Christanity. It was this;
convert or starve.

Order to General Phillip Sheridan.


Passages from the 1763 smallpox letter

It is also during the eighteenth century that we find written reports
of American Indians being intentionally exposed to smallpox by
Europeans. In 1763 in Pennsylvania, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander of
the British forces....wrote in the postscript of a letter to Bouquet
the suggestion that smallpox be sent among the disaffected tribes.
Bouquet replied, also in a postscript, "I will try to innoculate the[m]...with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not get the disease myself..."

....To Bouquet's postscript, Amherst replied, "You will do well as to try to innoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this exorable race..."

On June 24, Captain Ecuyer, of the Royal Americans, noted in his

"Out of our regard for them (i.e. two Indian chiefs) we gave them two
blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it
will have the desired effect..."

It is also reported that smallpox spread to the tribes along the Ohio
River, 1763 to 1783.

History of the Victoria Cross

Very interesting reading...


History of the Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross was born in the carnage of the Crimean War, even though hostilities had ceased a good twelve months before the first award was made.

The Crimean Campaign was the first war to be covered by regular correspondents, especially by reporters as perceptive and critical as William Howard Russell of The Times. Under his scrutiny the errors of officers, their prejudices and rigid attitudes, did not go unnoticed. He reported the disgraceful shortages of proper clothing and equipment, the ravages of cholera and typhoid fever, which caused the deaths of 20,000 men against the 3,400 killed in battle during the war. He also reported for the first time the courage and endurance of the ordinary British soldier. When the infantry stormed the heights above the Alma River, when the 93rd formed the 'thin red line' at Balaklava, when the Heavy Brigade charged the Russian cavalry and the Light Brigade the guns, Russell watched and reported what he saw to the British public.

At the time, the most esteemed award for military prowess in the British Army was the Order of the Bath, but the Bath was awarded only to senior officers. Junior officers and even NCOs might win promotion in the field - or 'brevet rank', as this kind of promotion was called. It was also possible to win distinction by being mentioned in the general's despatches, but at the outset of the war most of these honours were given to staff officers immediately under the general's eye and very rarely to the officers actually engaged in front-line action. The common soldier might expect a campaign medal, but this would be issued to every man who took part in the war, whether he had fought bravely or not. To remedy this situation the Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted for NCOs and privates in 1854. This medal carried a pension and was highly valued but there was a growing awareness of the need for a decoration which would be open to all, regardless of rank and which would more fairly reflect the individual gallantry of men in the front line.

The British sense of fair play and a genuine admiration for gallant behaviour certainly played a part in the decision to institute a new award, but there may also have been an element of cynicism. Medals are a potent incentive to courage in battle, but they are also cheap.
The French, our allies in the Crimea, already had the Legion d'Honneur (first instituted by Napoleon in 1803) and the Medaille Militaire. The Russians and the Austrians also had awards for gallantry regardless of rank, and it was high time that the British followed suit. In December 1854 an ex-naval officer turned Liberal MP, Captain Thomas Scobell, put a motion before the House of Commons that an 'Order of Merit' should be awarded to 'persons serving in the army or navy for distinguished and prominent personal gallantry.... and to which every grade and individual from the highest to the lowest.... may be admissable'.

The same idea had also occurred to the Secretary of State for War, the Duke of Newcastle. In January 1855 he wrote to Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband), reminding him of an earlier conversation. The Duke suggested 'a new decoration open to all ranks'. 'It does not seem to me right of politic,' he wrote, 'that such deeds of heroism as the war has produced should go unrewarded by any distinctive mark of honour because they are done by privates or officers below the rank of major.... The value attached by soldiers to a little bit of ribbon is such as to render any danger insignificant and any privation light if it can be attained.' On 29 January the Duke followed up his letter by announcing the new award in a speech in the House of Lords. At about the same time an official memorandum on the subject was circulated within the War Office setting out the details of a cross to be awarded for 'a signal act of valour in the presence of the enemy'.

Events might have progressed quite quickly if Newcastle had not lost his job within a few days of this speech. But interest had been aroused. Lord Panmure, the new Secretary of State for War, corresponded with Prince Albert on the subject and the Queen herself was actively involved in the proposals. In a letter to Panmure Albert made pencil alterations to the draft warrant, which arose from his discussions with the Queen. It had already been decided that the award should carry her name, but the Civil Service's proposal was clumsy and long-winded: 'the Military Order of Victoria', Albert put his pencil through this and suggested 'the Victoria Cross'. Throughout the document, wherever the word 'Order' with its overtones of aristrocratic fraternity occurred, Albert applied his pencil. 'Treat it as a cross granted for distinguished service,' he noted, 'which will make it simple and intelligible.'

Queen Victoria took a great interest in her new award, especially in the design of the Cross. When the first drawings were submitted to her, she selected one closely modelled on an existing campaign medal, the Army Gold Cross from the Peninsular War. The Queen suggesting only that it should be 'a little smaller'. She also made a significant alteration to the motto, striking out 'for the brave' and substituting 'for valour', in case anyone should come to the conclusion that the only brave men in a battle were those who won the cross.
Lord Panmure took the commission for the new medal to a firm of jewellers, Hancock's of Bruton Street, who had a high reputation for silver work. From the beginning, however, it had been decided that the new decoration would be made of base metal and the first proof which the Queen received was not at all to her taste. 'The Cross looks very well in form, but the metal is ugly; it is copper and not bronze and will look very heavy on a red coat'.

Inspired perhaps by the Queen's remarks, someone had the happy thought that it would be fitting to take the bronze for the new medals from Russian guns captured in the Crimea. Accordingly, an engineer went off to Woolwich Barracks, where two 18-pounders were placed at his disposal. Despite the fact that these guns were clearly of antique design and inscribed with very un-Russian characters, nobody pointed out until many years had passed that the 'VC guns' were in fact Chinese, not Russian, and may or may not have been anywhere near the Crimea.
The Chinese gunmetal proved so hard that the dies which Hancock's used began to crack up, so it was decided to cast the medals instead, a lucky chance which resulted in higher relief and more depth in the moulding than would have been possible with a die-stamped medal.

By the spring of 1856 the Order was in hand, but there followed months of dilly-dallying on the part of Panmure and the various departments concerned, while they sorted out who would be eligible for the new award. Boards of adjudication were set up by the Admiralty and the army, but they took a long time making up their minds. Some commanding officers seized upon the opportunity to bring distinction to their regiments by putting dozens of names forward to the selection boards. Others ignored the whole thing. So while the 77th Regiment put forward no fewer than thirty-eight candidates, six regiments offered none at all. Lord Panmure declared that awards should be limited to the present hostilities, the Crimean Campaign. A rather parsimonious pension of £10 a year to each recipient was finally agreed upon, and the slow process of adjudication ground on for a full twelve months.

The Queen made it plain to Lord Panmure that she herself wished to bestow her new award on as many of the recipients as possible. The 26 June 1857 was chosen by the Queen as a suitable day, and that a grand parade should be laid on in Hyde Park and that she would 'herself' attend on horseback.
Preparations for the great day were made in something of a hurry. The final list of recipients was not published in the London Gazette until 22 June, and Hancock's had to work around the clock to engrave the names of the recipients on the Crosses. Those destined to receive the award had somehow to be found and rushed up to London, together with detachments of the units in which they had served. But because of the earlier delays some of the candidates for the Cross had left the services and were therefore not in uniform when they arrived for the ceremony. Nevertheless, the Queen herself was well satisfied with the arrangements.

Queen Victoria caused some consternation by electing to stay on horseback throught the ceremony of awarding the sixty-two recipients with the Cross. There is a pleasing legend that the Queen, leaning forward from the saddle like a Cossack with a lance, stabbed one of the heroes, Commander Raby, through the chest. The commander, true to the spirit in which he had won the Cross, stood unflinching while his sovereign fastened the pin through his flesh. The other sixty-one seem to have come through the occasion uninjured. The Queen managed to pin on the whole batch in just ten minutes, which does not suggest lengthy conversation, but the whole parade went off extremely well to the raptuous applause of the public.
Prince Albert's influence was clearly expressed in the terms of the Royal Warrant for the Cross which has survived, with some alterations, to the present day. It was a medal awarded 'to those officers or men who have served Us in the presence of the Enemy and shall then have performed some signal act of valour or devotion to their country'. Far from striking the public as something with which to 'find fault', the new award was greeted with great enthusiasm by the British people.


including: Captain-Surgeon Arthur Martin-Leake VC & Bar ( RAMC )
Captain Noel Chavasse VC & Bar ( RAMC )
Captain Charles Upham VC & Bar ( New Zealand Military Forces )
The US Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, Virginia