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Privilege of the Malheur Militants

On this past week’s Friday news round-up on Think Outloud there was a discussion about the issues brought up up by the militia in eastern Oregon, on the Malheur refuge. It was a good debate from people on the periphery of the event.

The guests essentially were saying that the militia have some valid points and there needs to be more discussion about these points, about land tenure in the west and the rights of farmers and ranchers. The host continued to delve deeply into the points, and one guest said that the discussion should not occur while there were armed militants at the refuge. Another said yes that that was not the best way to have the discussion but that they were sparking the debate about the land issues.

The discussion was amazing. When has the like ever occurred when minority peoples undertake similar actions? Native peoples have been recently in huge political discussions about the sale of the Black hills and about the LNG pipelines going across their lands. They have staged protests, marches, and sit in like demonstrations. There is right now a huge debate occurring, with the local tribes involved, about shipping coal down the Columbia Gorge. Yet none of their issues, or rarely do they, make it into the national media, and we do not hear discussions of their issues in regional media! I think Think Outloud have dealt a bit with the LNG and Coal issue but rest of the area media are rarely reporting on this looming environmental disaster.

I have to ask again, is it the privilege of these militants in eastern Oregon to have people actually listen to and respond to the political issues they raise, and have reasoned discussions in the public sphere. It seems to me it is! If Native peoples or Blacks or Latinos or any other ethnic minority were to do a similar thing would such a discussion even occur? This is yet another symptom of their privilege.

There are today huge demonstrations in Indian country against the taking over of lands, against pollution, against development of cultural sites. This has been going on sporadically for the past 30 years. The media has ignored these political issues and its been really the role of specialized academics, activists and ethnic minority media sources to bring these events to the fore.  The state of our country is such that we have a dual set of rules and laws. If minorities think something is important, they are ignored, while if white people are involved, it is suddenly important. Minority and even poor people can be ignored because they have no power to make people pay attention to their legitimate issues.

I have been watching the polluted water debate in various eastern cities. Nothing appears to be being done to help restore their water by the federal government or by their state politicians. The populations of these cities , like Flint, Michigan, are mainly black and poor, and so no one cares about these people. They are not important; they do not vote in great numbers; they are not a factor in the next political debate. On the news in just the past week, we now see white people of that community talking, now they are getting attention. The problem is not just with the politicians who are ruled by the pocketbooks, but with the national and local media who are not pursuing this and other similar issues unless white people get involved. The media is just as corrupt as the politicians.

Categories: eastern oregon Native Issues Oregon indians Uncategorized

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Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD

PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.

I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.

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