Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Obama: The New Lincoln? I Hope Not!
As the US crowns its new king, the world looks on with hope and wonder. The former Illinois Senator has from day one been compared to the most popular US President: Abraham Lincoln. The world looks at Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator, Freer of the Slaves and the Healer of a Divided Nation. Whether he deserves all this credit is rarely debated. History has closed that debate. However buried in that era of slavery and Civil War are a few chapters of the American Holocaust that began long before Lincoln and continues today. But what of Lincoln and the "Indians"? and what will Mr. Obama's legacy with Native People be? While Mr. Lincoln was earning his place in history he signed the Homestead Act, essentially opening huge tracts of Native lands to white settlement. In the conflicts that raged over this action thousands of Native men, women and children were killed and millions of acres of Native land were illegally occupied. The largest mass execution in the history of the US judicial system occurred when Mr. Lincoln signed the execution order for 38 Lakota. These details of American history are rarely visited. It must be noted that Mr. Lincoln is not the only President to have committed crimes against Native People with little or no attention. John F. Kennedy, who is allowed to bask a glow as a champion of civil rights, saw little problem with violating the Human rights of the Seneca People and nature itself as he approved the flooding of thousands of acres of Seneca land with the construction of the Kinzua Dam. Neither the fact that Mr. Obama is a Democrat or a black man should grant any solace to Native People. New York State has a Governor that is both of these, yet he has just signed legislation to destroy the existing economies of eleven Native communities. I know there are many Native People that have already embraced this new President and claim him for their own, but there are many of us who don't. While we are hopeful that a man may finally take office that will not earn the traditional title; Rahnatakias or "town destroyer", that the 43 before him have earned, we know he is not our president. To us, until he proves otherwise, he is just the 44th man to hold the title of Rahnatakias. Like Lincoln and Kennedy, Mr. Obama has many challenges and opportunities that may make history, but history has a way of clouding the truth and can be very selective in its recollection. We know Native issues will be a low priority for this administration, they always are, so I have followed Mr. Obama's advice and lowered my expectations for him. I don't expect Mr. Obama to be a solution for Native People, I just hope he isn't another problem for us.