To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What would you do with $310 million?

What started as a musing question on Facebook had to be moved to my blog. There just wasn't enough room to post my thoughts there.

Last night the Powerball was at $250 million, but with no winners, it jumped up by $60 million to the 5th largest Powerball Jackpot. And if no one wins on Saturday, it is conceivable that the next Jackpot could jump to over $400 million.

Here in Oklahoma, we have the option of cash or annuity payments. The future is uncertain, so if I won, I would opt for a cash payment, which would be in the amount of $193.4 million. I don't know how much more will be taken by taxes, but how much money does a person really need?

First, I learned from watching a documentary about big winners who went broke after a year or two, They squandered their money on expensive useless things to give them a sense of status, got conned out of their money, or drugs devoured it. They talked about all the letters they received from people they didn't know with a sob story and if they could send them some money. Relatives they never knew they had came out of the woodworks wanting a piece of them.

The safety of my family is my first priority, if I won, I would not claim the money in my name. I'd set up a trust through an attorney to protect our privacy, and the jackpot would be collected in that manner. I wouldn't brag about it, but I would get busy of pursuing my dreams and visions.

Some, and in no particular order, are listed below"

  • Establish a scholarship after securing commitments from a university or college, professors and other professionals to develop a curriculum of governmental studies based upon traditional Native philosophies & principles to provide our people with leaders who won't just go along with the system. These graduates would be the ones who may run for public office from municipalities to federal offices, including the White House. It isn't enough to support a person just because he or she has Native blood, it would take more than that, otherwise they are no different than any other politician. But they cannot do it alone, so on to my next vision.
  • In a collective effort, create a political party that is based upon Native philosophies and principles that is open to everyone. Regardless of race, sex and even tribe, we are confronted with a system that does not want to accept, let alone allow change in the way things are. Somehow, we need to arrive at a point where we can elect enough people to establish a majority.
  • Another project is to incorporate a business that builds alternative homes utilizing alternative forms of energy. As a model, I'd purchase a square mile of land, and conduct training workshops on how to create an entire community using these principles. Then I would assist the trainees in setting up branch offices and help in getting them started to where they could have an income to keep the business afloat, while training people in their communities to propagate this work.
  • The community created here through this training would be open to a committed group of people who wants to live in this way, maintain a community garden, self-govern through consensus. I attempted this once, but no one was willing to let go of their comfort zone and help to build from scratch. This community would be a model for others to follow. I've got a few friends who are trying to do this already and I wish them much success. And if I win, they can count on my support, but they will never know it is me!
  • Another thing I would embark upon is running for Chief. Having access to funds would allow me to reach as many tribal members as possible to campaign. We have over 200,000 members, and as a challenging candidate, we do not have access to the voters registration list. The incumbents have the advantage of the tribal paper being sent to members with the Chief and council having their names mentioned in every issue. During elections, the candidates may get a mention once, but not for their issues, just that they are the challengers. The paper refuses to publish anything negative about the Chief, Assistant Chief or the Council, so readers assume they are doing a fine job. Yet, I hear many complain of abuses, but fear to speak out because of retaliation in different forms. We would like to see more transparency and accountability in the Choctaw Nation, and we'll need to find a way to make a change in this system with or without the finances to do it.
  • There is a need for non-profit social service programs, with properly trained people to manage it. So I would establish a foundation to help with start-ups and serve as an umbrella. For example, years ago, I spoke with someone as to how bad the need was for suitable Native foster families to take in Native children through the Indian Child Welfare Act. He said it is huge, and that he gets asked quite often by judges if there is a list of Native families who have been pre-screened and received some training to comply with the intent of the ICWA. Another aspect is to develop agencies that move beyond "band-aid" type of approaches that can have lasting effects: women shelters and rehab centers, are two examples. I'd want to see a place that does more than just give them temporary refuge or a place to clean up, but to follow up in providing the skills they need until they have attained individual stability. Otherwise, we see a revolving door effect, which the children sees and often emulates.
  • A media center that can allow journalists the ability to cover and report the news without being censored for telling the truth. You definitely would not see ads recruiting for the CIA, FBI, or Homeland Security! There are many reporters out there, good people, but they have to operate on a shoestring budget, if they even have that. Print, audio or visual, we could use a media outlet to bring our stories and perceptions mainstream.
  • Something for the youth that I would love to do is hold summer encampments for cultural immersion, self-reliance and esteem building experiences. Also do training on organizing events, demonstrations,  or other activities to effect change in their communities. If we had the means to bring them together to empower them to present their voice, our future leaders would have a better foundation to build upon.

These are just some examples of what I could do with $310 million. I've never been afraid to dream big, because the picture has always been bigger than me. I'll agree that money won't buy me happiness, but it will give me the means to begin to start making a difference. Maybe those of us who live near each other should create a pool to increase our chances. After all someone has to win sooner or later!

So what would you do if you won a huge jackpot like this?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Cobell Four: standing firm for justice

There is no doubt about how important the Cobell case is to so many people, but take a moment to weigh how really important this case is, and if the settlement is really the kind of justice your ancestors really deserve? I know some people have been upset with some of the class members appealing the settlement and putting the disbursement checks on hold indefinitely. I've spoken with a few people who have said that in some cases, they weren't allowed to file their own lawsuit, and if they did, it was consolidated in the Cobell case. The first round of hearings is scheduled for February 16, in Washington, DC.

I wrote about my experience and thoughts from the hearing last summer in Washington, DC. It was really long, but you cannot detail it simply, so I'll try it here, but you can read more at this link:

This morning, Tim Giago wrote a piece about the "Cobell Four" and I'm indebted to him for inspiring me to write in support of Kimberly Cravens, Carol Good Bear, Mary Lee Johns, and Charles Colombe. I would also encourage other writers to consider writing about the settlement.

The necessity for creating this awareness isn't something trivial. Recently, the Cobell attorneys publicly released the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the Cobell Four, and told people to ask them why they were not getting their settlement checks. This action resulted in threatening and harassing phone calls. “To put my name out there for the public, I think that's scary that these attorneys would use this tactic and intimidate me into dropping my appeal,” (Carol Good Bear) said. “I don't have protection. If somebody is upset about all this and comes at me with a gun, what am I supposed to do?” Since then, their names have been removed from the letter.

Now lets' take a look at this objectively. These attorneys, Dennis Gingold, et al., are attorneys, and it is difficult to understand that they could not explain the basis of the appeal to the members of the Cobell class members. Instead, they said "Ask them!" Pretty childish way to address a question. I feel it has more to do with the fact that any changes to the settlement would scuttlebutt their multi-million dollar payday! This tactic was a way to "punish" the Cobell Four for holding up the settlement. We usually call it divide and conquer, where you manipulate a group of people to turn on each other. With actions by these attorneys, they are worse than the snake-oil salesman I compared them to.

According to the Native Times article:

"Each objector is appealing the settlement for his or her own reasons. Craven and Johns both say the settlement does not include an accounting for how much money was lost, which is what Cobell originally set out to accomplish, and that many class members did not understand that they could have opted out of the deal.

Johns and Good Bear both object to the class of landowners that the settlement creates, saying each is different and their claims should be assessed differently. Johns added that the tribes should have been involved in the process from the beginning, not just individuals."
Internet gossip states that they are only after more money. A few months ago, I spoke with a woman whose family has been fighting to be paid from a mining company that has been taken resources from their lands, which would amount to millions. When she contacted Gingold about opting out and why, she said Gingold told her that he would fight her on it. When the Cobell Four were filing their appeals, Gingold attempted to force them to put up a multi-million dollar surety bond. The court ruled against this request.

Here are just a few of the points about why the settlement is like a term of surrender, and more info on the settlement can be found at

  • The federal government violated a trust, and in any case where this happens, the guardian is removed from that position. IN the early 1800's, we were decreed to be wards of the federal government, and that is why our lands are restricted or held in trust, and have Individual Indian Money Accounts. That is also why they manage our natural resources. If they were removed, they would lose control of this power. I objected and ask for dissolution of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it was ignored.
  • The 3.4 billion doesn't all come to us, only 1.4 billion. The Interior Department will be given 2 billion to purchase selected fractionated lands, which they state will be given to the tribes. My feeling is that these selected fractionated lands will be high in natural resources, and the tribe will be leasing to some corporation with the Interior Department in the middle.
  • Any unused funds from the Interiors 2 billion will revert back to the US Treasury.
  • If an heir to fractionated lands cannot be found, his share will be purchased anyway. And if that person does not claim his money within 5 years, it is taken out.
  • Another aspect that I raised in conjunction with the forced sale of these fractionated lands is that we have an inherent right of sovereignty attached to these lands. The real estate will be purchased at fair market value, but what is the fair market value of sovereignty? Also, didn't we once care for these lands in common, the fractionation didn't become an issue until the government made it one. When these lands are gone, it is gone.
  • The 60 million dollar education fund? Lets assume four years of college is $20,000 as an average. Do the math and tell me how many students will go to college on just 60 million. You'll find that it doesn't even make a drop in the bucket.
  • And opting out was a very difficult decision for many to make in light of the likelihood another attorney would take a case that resulted in a settlement that took over 14 years. And some were not allowed to opt out or didn't understand they could. It would have been better if the decision was made first if the settlement was approved or not, before allowing people the choice to opt out.
  • And of the 1.4 billion awarded, subtract the expenses the attorneys, which will make it 1.3 billion, and then all the associated costs with the administration of cutting checks. The likelihood of the settlement running out of money before everyone is compensated is real.
  • One of the bad deals is that everyone will waive any claims to sue the government if they discover that they were ripped off for millions and can then prove it. They will have accepted their small checks and it is over.

These are just some of the downfalls to the Cobell Settlement. Some people will get more than the $1,500 people have heard about. I could use even that amount, I won't lie, but I don't believe that is what our ancestors suffered for all across this land in trying to hold on to what we have left, nor is it what our children deserve. I hear a lot of arguments that we can't wait because people are dying who will never see a check. You know what? People have been dying since this injustice started over a hundred years ago. It isn't about us, it is about our children and this lawsuit was about getting a full accounting so we could have justice for once.

Only for lack of having the finances to file my own appeal, the Cobell attorneys could not put my name out there as a target. My communications to the court went unanswered as to whether I could file an appeal without paying fees. I couldn't afford justice, but fortunately these four warriors have stood up for us and maybe this despicable settlement will be scrapped, and the fight for true justice may continue.

And for all those who are badmouthing and threatening these people, three whom are women, I know your mother did not raise you to threaten or speak badly of women like these. You only bring shame to your family and your nation. This is not how Native people are suppose to act, like rats being thrown pieces of rotten meat to turn on another. I expect better than that, so remember who you are and that this battle is for the birthright of our future generations!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Punished for saying "Hello" & "I love you" in a Native Language!

Hopefully, many of you have heard about the story of a 12 year old Menominee  girl, Miranda Washinawatok, who was benched from a basketball game simply because she shared a couple of words from her language that means "Hello" and "I love you". The school has apologized, but this just doesn't seem to be sufficient. Many other Native people and myself have suffered at the hands of teachers just because we spoke our language, and this has been ongoing since the boarding school days in the 1800's.

This story compelled me to send an email to the Principal, Daniel Minter, which I have posted below. If you have a mind to send a message, here is the contact info for the Principal & school:

Daniel Minter:

Sacred Heart Catholic School

124 E. Center St.
Shawano WI 54166

school website:

And please feel free to share through your networks!

Dear Mr. Minter:Through the Internet, I, as well as many other people have became aware of the trauma suffered by Ms. Washinawatok, due to the immature actions of a couple of your staff members. for simply sharing her language.
This is a matter where I feel decisive action is necessary. If the teacher who heard this would have conducted herself like a teacher, with patience and compassion, instead out of anger, the results could have been different. The second teacher who joined in and ganged up on a 12 year old would have taken the same tact, then again, a different result would have ensued. But to go to the coach and enact a form of summary punishment by benching her goes beyond reason! I would expect, even for  private school, there would be some form of due process to ensure fairness before someone is penalized.
The schools actions should include discipline for the teachers involved such as anger management training, cultural sensitivity training and maybe even host an event to honor the memory of Ingrid Washinawatok who lost her life in Columbia South America 13 years ago this month when she was kidnapped by the FARC guerilla's and executed. She was there to assist the Uwa people in establishing a school to protect their culture and their "Language". I hope that you do not miss the irony in this, no matter how tragic.
The summary disciplinary action taken against this young woman is a traumatic form of abuse. I speak form experience as to the punishment and humiliation I was subjected to by my first grade teacher for speaking my language. Just look at the facts, what basis did either of the teachers have to warrant suspicion that there was any element of a threat in merely sharing Menominee words that says "Hello" and "I love you" to justify their actions.
I feel that an apology from the school should go beyond words in a letter. Appreciate that you have taken the time t read my message.
Sincerely,Ben CarnesChahta (Choctaw) NationBroken Bow, Okla Hummv (Indian Territory)