Indian issues highlighted

Posted Dec. 1, 2006

Education, medicine, social issues, human rights and rights for self-determination regarding American Indians held the focus for a panel discussion by the Peace with Justice Center of the Pomona Valley on Nov. 18 at the Scrooby Lounge in Claremont.

“The issues of indigenous people have always been overlooked,” said Imam Ali Siddiqui, event coordinator.

Irene Fredericks, an American Indian film producer who has worked with the United Nations, and Phyllis Karen Olsen, an American Indian studies professor from Cal State Northridge, formed the panel and shared some of their own experiences and qualifications before taking questions and comments from the crowd.

About 25 people joined the event that lasted two hours.

“The joy of these discussions comes from learning,” said Claremont resident Rhodes Thompson. “The people have long traditions.”

Fredericks, of the Mandan tribe of North Dakota, first became interested in the state of Indian people when she was a little girl.

While in school, her teacher talked about the Mandan tribe and said that they were extinct when she, in fact, was Mandan.

Olsen, of Wyandot descent who married into the Nakota Nation, currently teaches American Indian studies courses as well as criminology courses.

She has published articles on American Indian women’s spiritual practices, victimization, activism and identity.

The United States government recognizes more than 300 American Indian tribes.

There are actually more but the government will only recognize them if they meet seven requirements.

The American Indian people are also issued enrollment cards by the government, which describes their percentage of Indian blood as well as which tribe or tribes he or she may come from.

These cards have been referred to as a form of statistical genocide by many of the American Indian people.

“The Indian people are the only group that carries these cards,” Fredericks said.

One topic of discussion was how the Indian people have been denied their language.

Olsen, who experienced such prohibitions, said that the American Indian people are not permitted to speak their language in schools. This is affecting the oral traditions and stories that can be passed down from generation to generation as well as the language itself.

Posttraumatic stress disorder has become popular among the Indian people and has led to high suicide rates among young people.

“A lot of people are unaware that American Indians have the highest victimization rate in the United States,” Olsen said.

The victimization rate refers to general assault crimes and they are higher than those of Jews, African-Americans and homosexuals.

Some of the people who attended the event were American Indian and they expressed their displeasure with the way their people are portrayed in history books.

The American Indian people are often viewed as savages who stood in the way of progress when they were just protecting their land.

They were also angry about the way some people, such as General Custer and Lewis and Clark, have been made into white American heroes because they killed Indians who stood in their way.

From the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the Columbine shootings to the state of the Indigenous American Indians, the Peace with Justice Center of the Pomona Valley is designed to inform people with the ultimate goal of achieving peace.

Jason Jarvis can be reached at jjarvis2@ulv.edu.

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