Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chili Yazzie asks: Who will be on the spaceship to the new world?

Photo Credit: Robert Esposito

Stephen Hawking, regarded as one of the greatest modern day scientific thinkers on the realities of earth and space says the human race has only 100 years to find a new planet and to relocate. He suggests that life on this planet will come to an end because of climate change, nuclear war and viral genetic diseases.  So according to Hawking there are only 4 generations left. 

Going to a new planet sounds so far-out-there, science fictional and unrealistic, but science and technology say it’s possible. Who will be on the spaceship to the new world? It is not going to be us “regular folks”, if it happens, it will be the billionaires and millionaires.

America as much of the civilized world is hooked on extractive energy development, the addiction is fatal as it is killing the planet. And just like with any addiction, it craves more and more. The physical addiction is further driven by the gluttony to make more money profit. The Navajo Nation as an energy state is also hooked and contributing to the reality of climate change. Our Navajo leadership demonstrate that addiction by frantically looking for ways to keep Navajo Generating Station running and also appearing to be to be in favor of the dastardly business of fracking.

I understand that the current level of extractive energy development around the globe is already beyond the limits of what was considered “safe” in terms of realizing the opportunity for extended life of the earth. And that any new development will only accelerate the end of life of the earth. The advocacy to oppose new development is not to be against the livelihood of people, but to advocate for the extended life of the planet. 

From a traditional Native perspective, we have some understanding of the actual physical and spiritual damage that is being done to the earth with massive mineral extraction. We willingly take part in hurting the earth, then we talk about honoring the Earth Mother and how we should walk in beauty on her. Makes me wonder how those who pray with the corn pollen or sit at the sacred fireplace justify their support for hurting the earth….for those that do. The other great contradiction is, we say the future belongs to our grandchildren and generations to come; by participating in killing the earth, we are also killing the future of our children.

Chili Yazzie

Shiprock, Navajo Nation

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Fiction for Earth Day 2017 Part III

Penumbral Eclipse (cont'd)
by Frances Madeson

By the time we got back our scouts had returned with their report: A loner who emerged from his cabin infrequently. Firewood, food, elimination. At daybreak it was his habit to amble to an outhouse down a well-marked path from the cabin set in a copse of Ponderosa pine. 

That’s where we’d do him in.

Every night, from one moon to the next, as my belly swelled with the future, we wolves tunneled under trees, digging with our paws until bloody, claws raking the roots. The last time I’d moved dirt was for my pups’ den. I dug deeper now.

As I burrowed into the loamy soil I thought about their sire. That day, I'd had no idea what he was running towards. I never will.

Finally, we were ready to fell the trees. 

As he always did just after daybreak, the human emerged from his cabin and headed for his throne. We had three teams. On a signal we’d fling ourselves against the tall pines and let gravity, the wind, and other unseen forces do the rest.

The first tree snapped and crashed down fast just missing the roof, landing inches in front of the door barring the exit.  The second sliced the shitter in half, instantly killing the trapped human with a death blow to the skull. And the third, though it teetered as it fell, landed on the bullseye, smashing him down into the latrine.

Then we howled. Which would have been the end of the story, but we had to deal with all the others in the back of the truck, a reality which brought everyone a lot of pain to contemplate. 

We pulled the tarp off of the vests and jackets fashioned from our packmates, and spread them on the flatbed, under a sliver of a full moon. We bowed our heads and asked for guidance.

Five sharp puffs of black smoke escaped the chimney, followed by a long curl of white. The cabin door, unfastened, banged noisily. Inside the hearth fire roared. 

I don't remember any talking. I don't remember a decision. 

We laid the pelts in a single line right up to the hearth, placing the last one in the fire. The fur sparked and the fire spread to the next coat as we’d hoped. 

Outside, we howled the devil down as our dead took their revenge, and the house with its wealth of weaponry burned down to gray ash. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Fiction for Earth Day 2017 Part II

Jewelry by LTY Design, Placitas, NM

Penumbral Eclipse (cont'd)
by Frances Madeson

After that I really didn’t think I’d ever mate again. But later that Spring someone new came bounding into my life. His coat was the darkest I’d ever seen. As if he’d rolled in a carpet of night sky, brushed off the moons and stars, and emerged cloaked in a glistening blackness. 

Something else unusual about him, he’d been collared and tagged with a signal box. We soaked it in the river, I tried tearing it off with my teeth. We never gave up. When we weren’t hunting and eating we were soaking and gnawing. He kept thanking me over and over for trying, though it couldn’t have felt good, me tugging and gnashing, sawing away until my jaw ached and I was forced to rest.

When the thing finally fell with a thud to the earth, we nuzzled unimpeded neck to neck. He couldn’t get enough of that. More of a yipper than a howler, he yipped it up, while running around with it in his mouth looking for some deep dark hole down which to drop it. Finding none, we dug our own. From then on we were free, from then on we were inseparable.

It had been a year of heavy losses, not only my own but others we’d gotten wind of. Pain to go around many times over. We were hoping for a fat litter to replenish our spirits and ranks. When my heat came on, I lifted my tail for him, exposing my desire. He licked between my legs ardently, mounted me from behind, thrusting himself into the wetness. A dozen hungry eyes watched us, wanting to climb on, put it in, and lock on.

A few weeks later, we were out after dark scouting a place for a new den when we saw a human habitation in the distance, smoke coiling out its chimney. I instinctively turned away but my mate was curious, and stubborn. 

You’re looking for trouble—I called after him. Calling down Orion. 

I stayed up on the ridge, steeling myself for barking dogs, gunshots, mayhem. Just as he approached the human’s truck, the front door of the cabin flew open and a massive male lurched out. Unseen, my mate leapt into the flat bed, slipping under a tarp, and stayed down low until the two-legged was out of sight. With something heavy draped over his back, held fast in his teeth, he raced back, near flying across the arroyo. The thing he’d toted, he dropped at my feet.

One of many—he said, still panting. 

A human garment, half cow hide, half wolf pelt (more gray than sand, rust, juniper bark brown and cumulous white).

We have to warn the others—he said, eating snow for sustenance.

Usually surefooted, I faltered several times on the way, careless missteps, my head working overtime about this discovery. By the time we returned I was persuaded of two things: that the pelt was my former mate’s, that this act would be answered.

Every able-bodied wolf in the Gila answered the rallying call. I'd never been in one place with so many alphas, males and females. I knew we’d have to make this quick.

An elder asked—What’s to stop us from tearing him apart? He wouldn’t stand a chance against us all.

Retribution—someone wiser answered. If a wolf is even thought to be involved we’ll all pay with our lives. They’ll wipe us out completely, no mercy. 

Right—I said with my mate at my side. No evidence can be left behind when we destroy him.

We agreed to send our best scouts to observe the human’s behavior over three sunrises and sunsets; then we’d devise a plan. 

In the interim we mourned our pack mate all over again, doubling down on our grief at what had become of this fine alpha dog. We all had our memories: mine were written on my body, on my senses, on my scent glands. 

Together with our progeny, I traveled back to the old den. We buried the remnant of his fleeced life there, honoring him where we lost him. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Fiction for Earth Day 2017

Demonstration Drawing: Seated Figure, Tony Ryder, 2016, graphite on paper

Penumbral Eclipse
by Frances Madeson

That night the lambent moon was shrouded. A pinch of light subtracted, barely noticeable unless you spend time, as we do, contemplating the moon. It was a moon like this one above—partially in shadow, its glow subdued. Our faces pressed together, more gray whiskers in his soft beard than sand and rust, juniper bark brown and cumulous white.

He said—the reason you like me so much is because I lick you a lot.

We had slipped outside from where our babies lay sleeping curled into each other like pole beans on a vine, the strange dark moon had beckoned. Its luster died in my mate’s eyes like lightning bolts absorbed by the red-rocked mesa. I fell mute at the thought that he didn’t know, or was pretending not to know, all the other reasons I liked him so much.

Eyes half closed, he sent up a howl to Orion’s Belt, or just below it, urging the stars to burst the confines of their constellations.

Remember when I first licked you?—he asked. Remember my tongue sliding over your surprised face, your ears, stroking your chin, bathing you in wetness and warmth.

I remember. Your breath came fast and hot, a potpourri of lavender and Russian sage. Your eyes alchemized from bright silver discs to incandescent orbs of gold.

Silver to gold? You never told me that. You never said.
You never asked—I whispered as I grazed his ear, scraping loose with my teeth a goat head burr buried deeply in his winter’s coat.
Give me your tongue now—he said. Lick me while I’m licking you.

Our tongues stroked and slathered, we nibbled each other’s faces, communing in our own lingua franca. Head thrown back, Go-o-o-old—he cried. The wind had died down. Above us an owl flapped, hopping on a branch, a harvest of cones fell at our feet.

He was hunted the next day, shot through the head. Hunted, and disappeared.

My gut had rumbled and cramped all morning—empty, a few sips of water was all I could hold. I let the others have my share of the day’s kill; I puked up the excess adrenaline. While they feasted on fresh elk meat, I hallucinated a predator behind every cottonwood tree.

When we heard the blade slap of the chopper in the distance I cried out—Hide, don’t run. Go underground. We’d discussed this and many other scenarios, as beings who are intermittently under siege do. I shooed the babies back inside the den, telling them others would follow, and to make room. Tight quarters until the threat passed over, but the snow was melty from a full day of sunshine and our tracks would be obscured in the slush. We’d be safest in our subterranean hideaway.

I'll come soon—he said, running toward danger.

Huddled with my wild little ones, we covered our ears, the babies mewled and yelped. Soon my brother came in grave and glowering, with one glance I felt his message, which was no less devastating for being brief.

They got him, took him. His blood pools on frozen ground.

Show me where.

We walked past the helicopter’s ruts, past Orion’s giant bootprints, toward a bloody stain on a field of snow saturated with my worst fears. Something else, a small object on a mound just beyond. My love’s tongue, still pink, shot clean out of his mouth.

We had a plan—I said approaching his sole remaining body part. But this wasn’t it.

Too shocked even to keen, I left it there for the circling raptors.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beyond the Pipeline: A Statement from Chili Yazzie on Dakota Access Pipeline

Chili Yazzie (Photo credit: Robert Esposito)

In struggles throughout history there is a positive and negative side, justice versus injustice, good against evil. The standoff at Standing Rock is such a story. The Energy Transfer Partners with its Dakota Access Pipeline and supporters on one side; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporters on the other.  
Standing Rock and multitudes of people oppose inflicting more damage to the earth. The pipeline will destroy waters of life and further contaminate the environment. The permanent consequences of climate change will be inherited by our grandchildren.    
In this confrontation between the Destroyers and the Protectors; the Destroyers have the power of physical advantage and the Protectors have the power of spiritual advantage. The spiritual always prevails over the physical.   
The only recourse the Destroyers have is to exert more brute force which has its raw limitations. The arrogant taunting with massive and lethal physical force can do two things; intimidate its target into submission or provoke injury and possible loss of life. The show of force has failed in its intent, as the Protectors are not intimidated.      
It is clear who will prevail and who must back off. We want life; DAPL and such ‘developments’ across the world threatens all life. The confrontation is beyond the pipeline, it is a battle over the waters and earth that will sustain the life of our children into future times. It is an ultimate stand that may determine the future of life on the Earth Mother.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Judge James E. Boasberg Earns $203,100, Per Annum: The Numbers Behind the Bio

DC District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, 53, is set to rule on the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday. The clean drinking water of 20,000,000 of his countrymen hangs in the balance--an historic responsibility. 

But if history tells us anything, it’s that class allegiance is rarely, if ever, bucked.

As reported by Democracy Now “Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions have, combined, extended a $3.75 billion credit line to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access.”

With such a significant investment from banks already designated “too big to fail" would a member of the monied class ever rule against his own?

James attended St. Albans, a private boy’s school in the nation’s capitol located in the shadow of the National Cathedral. The prep school's motto is Pro Ecclesia et Pro Patria, for Church and Country. Its tuition is currently: Grades 4–12: $42,484*, Boarding School for grades 9–12: $59,892*

*New students also pay a one-time, non-refundable registration fee of $1,850 in addition to stated tuition.

Student Ethnicities (per Zillow) reveal a negligible student participation by young First Nations Peoples.
White, non-Hispanic 75%; Asian 5%; Multiracial 4%; Hispanic 3%; Black, non-Hispanic 11%; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 1%; Native American or Native Alaskan 0.2%
James chose Yale, graduating in 1985 with an A.B. in History. Per Yale’s website: “Tuition and fees at Yale University are $45,800 without financial aid. With room, board, and other fees combined, total cost of attendance is $63,970.”

He crossed the Atlantic for Oxford where he earned an M.St. in Modern European History. The current fee for that program for overseas students is 17,555 British Pounds, or $23,548 per annum.

James then went to Yale Law School (his father had attended Harvard Law) where yearly tuition alone is currently $57,615. With the other ancillaries that figure rises to over $80,000 a year.

After receiving his J.D. he clerked for a year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the 2016 typical Law Clerk salary is $68,173. (Per Glass Door)

He went back to San Francisco, where from 1991 to 1994 he was employed as a litigation associate at Keker and Van Nest; salaries currently range from $211k - $251k. (Per Glass Door)

Then he left San Francisco to return to Washington, DC, and from 1995 to 1996 was an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans, which according to “Above the Law” pays base salaries that are well above market: $225K for the first two years at the firm, followed by $275K after that. All associates who join the firm get a starting bonus of $175K. 

He joined the Public Sector as an Assistant US Attorney in 1994. The current salary for that position is $137,086. (Per Glass Door)

He became a Superior Court Associate Judge in the District of Columbia where, according to a report in Legal Times, “judges have earned $174,000 annually since 2008, making them consistently among the highest paid general trial court judges in the country.” 

Now he's a District Judge, appointed by President Obama in 2011; his 2106 salary is $203,100. 

Contrast Judge Boasberg’s lifelong financial privilege with the reality of the members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. From Page 9 of the tribe’s Strategic Plan:
POVERTY: Widespread poverty is a major issue at Standing Rock, and is related to every obstacle addressed thus far. Both Corson and Sioux counties are “persistent poverty” counties, meaning that 20% or more of their population has lived in poverty over the last thirty years. The average 30-year poverty rate for the two counties is 42%. This kind of continuous cycle of poverty can be difficult to address.
OPPORTUNITY: Following a carefully considered Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy such as this one, which addresses many factors of the poverty cycle including employment, health, education, housing, infrastructure, and environmental concerns, will help begin to combat the cycle of poverty at Standing Rock.
The numbers presented by the American Indian Relief Council offer even more detail: 
Many residents live in remote areas, far away from medical care and healthy food. Housing, both in remote areas and in towns, is in short supply, forcing many families to live in overcrowded conditions. Two out of three tribal members are jobless and residents’ annual income averages only $4,421.
Dissonances which beg the question:

In the case of Persistent Privilege v. Persistent Poverty, who will prevail?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Give Efrén Paredes Back His Natural Life

When Efrén Paredes Jr. was only 15 years old, he was dropped down the rabbit hole of injustice in Michigan--the first teen there to be sentenced automatically to Juvenile Life Without Possibility of Parole known as JLWOP. Even the acronym elides possibility.

Next week on July 28 a federal judge in Michigan will rule on his own temporary restraining order entered into earlier this month that disallowed the continued use of JLWOP. There’s every likelihood that having come so far he will in fact make the restraining order permanent. I reached out to Efrén, who is one of the five prisoners featured in Natural Lifea film by Israeli documentary maker Tirtza Even, recently shown as part of the Experimental Documentary Series curated by Paul Marcus at the Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe. Efrén was also recently named in Latina Magazine as one of four Latinos deserving clemency right now. 

In the movie we're told that Efrén was already home when the manager at the restaurant where he worked was murdered, in fact the manager had driven him home. His whole family consistently and ardently swears it—they ate pizza, the tv was on, he said goodnight, they all went to sleep. There is a Facebook page that describes his ongoing efforts for liberation, which is how I originally contacted him. 

After a brief correspondence I've now spoken with Efrén, who was able to phone me from the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility on a prepaid debit card. 

I asked him for his thoughts about US District Court Judge John O’Meara’s temporary restraining order.

A step in the right direction; I believe that it’s long overdue. Almost two dozen states have said the JLWOP sentence is unconstitutional; 192 foreign countries have said the same thing. I’m hoping for a nationwide ban by the U.S. Supreme Court within the next two years.

What about your feelings?

I think that I felt…I was…feeling very, really good about the decision. Everyone deals with things differently. For me, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m very reserved, because it’s been a roller coaster ride. I’ve been waiting for victory, waiting a long time. It’s emotionally taxing, very difficult. Four years ago with Miller v. Alabama, that should have ended it. So it’s difficult to get excited. But I  definitely had a good feeling, and my family had a good feeling too.

When you first saw the completed film, what did you make of your words appearing at the bottom of a blackened screen?

That was Tirtza’s artistic perspective, rather than just show a face frozen in a photograph. For many years we’ve been silenced and our voices have not been heard, so this film is an opportunity to talk about our human rights violations. The blackened screen represents that we’ve been silenced, not seen. We’ve been viewed as a surplus population. One that’s expendable.

In the film, your former high school teacher confesses on screen that she experienced societal pressure to self-censor, and was silent while you were transformed in public perception overnight from the hard-working honors student that you were to a murderous monster of the media’s making.

It’s not surprising. At the time I didn’t understand it the way I understand it now. I was the first juvenile to fall under the automatic waiver provision. I was sent to adult court, without a juvenile hearing. Previous to JLWOP, a kid in my position would’ve been sent to juvenile court for a hearing, and then if necessary to adult court. I went straight to the county jail,15 years old, I was the youngest person in the jail, possibly to this day the youngest ever to be incarcerated in that jail. 

It was heartbreaking that she couldn’t tell the truth. But to be honest it’s still difficult to get the facts out in certain communities. Where I was arrested is 97% white; everyone involved was white—the arresting officers, the prosecutors, judge and jury. The younger people involved pled guilty and received 6 months in a juvenile facility. One was not charged at all. The two Asian-Americans who pled guilty got 18-45 year sentences for murder and robbery. I was the youngest person, with the darkest skin, and received the most punitive sentence of all.

So it’s in that context that I now understand the self-censorship; the place was plagued with a pervasive racism. The treatment of people of color has been outrageous. All of the juvenile lifers from my county were of color. All of them.

I understand from your wife that you’ve recently been transferred to a new prison. Can you tell us what that’s like—if it’s any kind of improvement?

I’ve been transferred to a number of facilities over the years; it’s stressful to adjust to a new population, to lose friends, acquaintances of almost 30 years. I just left a guy who was with me when I was first a prisoner in 1989; we shared six months in the last facility. We reconnected; those separations are difficult to deal with. The ties you make in prison, they become part of your family, they see you more than your own family. Those relations…the separation can cause anxiety, bouts of depression. You’re not known. 

And you’re not given notice, it’s just one day they tell you to pack up and you’re transported somewhere new.

Do you dare to dream about being released, about living with your wife and three daughters as a free man, husband and father?

I plan for that every day, I work for that every single day. I strive to educate myself, and to continue to evolve and grow as a person. I always hope to use my stewardship, my place among peers, to be the light for others. I plan on speaking out in the free world to at-risk youth, to mentor them, to encourage literacy, and show them how to stay out of trouble, which could have a profound effect on the rest of their lives. My dream is to help our youth especially to deescalate racial tensions. Of course I long to reunite with my family, be productive. Is it possible? I hope so.

I urge people to contact their legislators in the 28 states that have not yet banned JLWOP. I ask people to do that, to make JLWOP unacceptable in a civilized society, in a nation that speaks to other nations about children's rights. JLOWP is diametrically opposed to that. 

A call, a letter would be helpful.