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(AV17616) Free Land: Race and Land in America

(AV17616) Free Land: Race and Land in America


hi there
my name is Li Peng Vong and I’m a junior in graphic design and I was one of the
students who went to in coral assed Mei today I’d like to introduce to you the
keynote speaker for ice core area lucky area lucky is a hip-hop theatre artist
whose community and performance work dances in the crossroads of Education
art and activism articulate insightful and passionate lucky seamlessly weaves
storytelling spoken word poetry dancing acting hip-hop acting and hip hop music
and compelling narratives of personal and political transformation
Lucky’s lyrical language and political vision have inspired and transformed
audiences from the streets of Seattle’s WTO demonstration to Cafe Cantante in
Havana Cuba to the near Nuyorican poets cafe in New York City he has been a
featured artist at the North Bay hip-hop theatre festival la pena cultural
centers hom Khalifa’s festival the white privilege conference and the
intersection for arts hybrid project and has performed at theatres at conferences
community centers and classrooms across the country please help help me in
welcoming it was written spoken and screamed open
and dreams of vision for Vulcan a stream of consciousness transition this
intuition to listen we must make sacred decisions to listen we must break
hatreds divisions to listen to our elders weave and wisdom listen to the
lyric of our love and freedom songs instrumental I say a prayer to stay
aware of the potential freedom is essential within our discipline the
listening is influential because we can learn to live with alternative
perspective connected by a light that burns to be reflected directed to where
our paths intersected collective because our life is respected can it be our
family will be united Valley to a place to overcome the ways we’ve been divided
as we were bad it was meant to be as my name was sent to me intend to be a new
way identity a line of spirit now I’m trying to hear it sometimes our favorite
becomes too much when I feel the to touch it’s a double bladed sword I can’t
afford to not be clear I’ve got to steer my vessel toward the light that got me
here following the Stars as a guide to the
universe you can’t assume the worst when creating something better every
sentence and the letters and the letters and the sentence brings the meaning
together every seed in the land understands the plan we dig our hands in
the earth manifests the birth there’s some kind of harvest our future is
yielding as we start building a world for our children as we
or building a world for our children it’s great to be here
my name is Daniel lucky and yeah we’re gonna spend a little time together okay
with you all right so just you know this is oh this wall is
coming crumbling down right so um I always tell my family that I was
coming out to an ice core conference and they were kind of like since when have
you started doing athletic programs explain to them what it was and they
were all very excited but no this is actually my first time in Iowa I appreciate you guys organizing the
weather for me it’s very nice I appreciate that yeah it was good I’m
from California Oakland California been out to Oakland yeah that’s a good number
of people well next time you’re out there coming and and look me up so I
want to explore a couple questions with you all this afternoon questions like
how does the history of this country of this place affect who we are and how we
relate to each other looking at relationships between peoples
within our community and also between us and the land that we live on right these
are kind of questions that I get very excited about and I want to share with
you some more questions and different kind of ways to think about it this
afternoon but because I’m an artist I’m not going to just be talking about it I
want to share some of my creative work as a vehicle to explore and have this
conversation that makes sense let’s start again does that make sense now I know you’re with me so I’m gonna
be sharing um a couple different excerpts from my one-man show can
anybody guess what the name of the one-man show is okay yeah I’m displaying
it’s free land and it’s a 90-minute hip-hop cedar piece anybody know
anything about hip-hop theater all right what’s up two of us go you know some
about hip-hop though right yeah right okay so I’m just very very very briefly
hip-hop came out of the late 70s out of a city they refer to as the Bronx right
specifically South South Bronx came out of working-class communities of color
primarily Caribbean immigrants and African American folks I’m in the late
70s they had cut all the social services there were no music programs no creative
programs for young people and so they started creating their own work right
this is 30-plus years ago now so there’s a long history right coming from that
very specific community and then growing and then growing and then growing from
you know you got like Will Smith’s all the way up today to like jay-z etc etc
it’s a long story I think there was a workshop this morning so you all know
about it but hip-hop theatre in particular started coming around about
ten years ago and what that was was young artists theater artists actors
emcees etc he started taking some of the elements of hip-hop people talk about
bike dancing DJing emcee and graffiti art right so they were taking some of
those elements and using them in their theatrical presentations their plays and
their monologues etc etc um one other definition that I’ve heard people use is
that it’s theater hip-hop neither is theatre made for by and about the
hip-hop generation right which is some of us in this room
for everyone to appreciate and enjoy so I’m gonna share an excerpt of my show
it’s 90 minutes long so we don’t have time for the whole thing I’m gonna share
a couple different pieces with you to get the conversation started and then
we’ll go from there that sound good yeah with me okay I like
it I like it let’s see if this works hey beautiful give thanks to tech people
and let’s give life to the launch people fucking us up what a gift to be fed
right working hard at this conference we gotta get sustain ourselves so this is
an excerpt of free land and it goes a little something like this just a white boy attracted to the color
disconnected from my roots so I reach for another’s I’m discovering power and
beauty in Lakota culture like the sacred Eagle but I feel like a vulture dancing
on their graves and singing their songs I just want a community where I belong
and there’s something here that I feel in my core but I can’t really call it
having thought that before was it present in my synagogue or in the
church maybe it’s what I’ve been looking for on my search a spirit and energy
connection to the lair but why don’t my people have it I try to understand my
family sold our culture for American whiteness assimilated to make it
suppressing what was inside us changed our names and our language even our
religion in exchange for the privileges white people are given but the cost of
what was lost cannot stay hidden and there a hunger for spirituality and
tradition and I listen to the sounds and I want to sing alone but there’s
something missing it fills our well I’m standing in a room filled with empty
picture frames and I don’t know the languages the stories are the names I
can’t see my own reflection nothing is clutter Oh am i what am I
doing here where do I come from and what does it
mean is this what they wanted in the American dream I need to color in the
blank white faces fill the Bible memories dates and places I’m lost
without this knowledge of self I’m sick and tired of trying to be like everybody
else if you don’t have roots then how can you grow i’ma dig for the truth fuck
it I need to know I’d go to my grandfather my mom’s died and my last
grandparent I know about his life for the same old antidotes
I’ve heard like a thousand times stories of him growing up on some family ranch
in Wyoming riding horses birds being a cowboy and I fine whatever
but I need to know more what was really going on so when I asked him grandfather
why did our family come out west this is not where we came from how did we get
that land that the ranch was on he says his father
my great-grandfather brought the family out from Missouri and settled the ranch
as a homestead a free land grant from the government the ranch was a homestead
free land but he says it was empty empty I never said that to him I never called
him on it it’s just so personal it’s so painful he wouldn’t understand where I’m
coming from one kid the fact that I’m not trying to hurt him
I mean maybe he’d hear some of it or at least respect that I have my own
opinions but after everything he’s been through in his 88 years of life on the
planet don’t have his own grandson attack him and his way of life which is
how he would hear it it would really hurt him and our relationship I love my
grandfather I love him so much but we are so different he’s from a totally
different generation a different world sometimes some of the things he says
I mean he’s conservative and he’s racist and it’s complicated my grandpa
there was just a child when his father got that land he did what he was taught
to do he listened to the Lone Ranger on the radio and then named his favorite
horse Tonto he went hunting with his friends
and shot Eagles with bows and arrows he didn’t know about the Lakota and he
doesn’t want to know now but I was anything ever gonna change if we’re too
scared to challenge our elders I mean I gotta say what I believe it’s the right
thing to do regardless of how he takes it but what good would that do
really I can’t change his mind he’s not trying to change his worldview and I
don’t want to ruin our relationship he’s my grandfather the only one I have left free land Oh empty uh-huh okay yeah thanks
grandfather my grandfather didn’t have the answers to all my questions but I
needed to know everything I could about my family history about the ranch the
Homestead Act I asked my mom to pull out all the old black and white family photo
albums as I was going through one I found a black-and-white picture of my
grandfather as a boy he clutches a bow and arrow attenuata bird hunter on the
edge of a field on the family ranch in Wyoming 160 acres of free a gift from the
government in 1918 a homestead in America 190 million acres 10% of the
United States stolen from Native Americans and given to white people for
free first the army invaded with firearms and fire water burning death
across the plains all about waves of white settlers crashing across the
continents to civilize the newly claimed country pushing the border of white
territory west with the bad given rights to manifest destiny my grandfather in
ignorance but direct benefactor monumental genocide
look at the picture of my grandfather I see in three years my family learns to
claim the land with title in hand when I look at the black and white picture of
my grandfather I see the image that’s visible but for the first time I also
see the legacy that’s buried out of sight
my family’s roots and deep within the blood-stained soil of American history and then I realized my grandfather
hunted birds and rabbits on the very same land the US Army hunted Native
American men women and children one night I woke up shivering in a cold
sweat haha crazy nightmare I dreamed I was
being chased across the plains by soldiers who looked like me
the questions were haunting me who lived on that land what happened to them I
needed to know so I kept digging I figured out the ranch was in Johnson
County Wyoming so I called up the county records people and asked them to do a
search for any homestead land patents with my great-grandfather’s name two and
a half weeks later I put a large manila envelope out of my mailbox tear it open
and take out a copy of the original homestead land patent my
great-grandfather filed to get the ranch trip out it’s like the original document this little piece of paper holds so much
history the patent had the exact coordinates of the ranch so I busted out
a map did some quick calculations and figured out it was just southwest of KC
Wyoming in the heart of the plains I looked again and realized that was less
than a hundred miles from the Black Hills lots of tribes lived in that area
the Arapaho Northern Cheyenne the Lakota now going to have the exact location I
could search for events dates and people I jumped online plugged into some search
engines oh snap all kinds of information not only was
this land not empty but there were battles all over the plains it says here
in 1876 two years after General Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills
the tribes formed an alliance and fat against the whites invasion to defend
their land and they defeated the army and the Battle of the Little Bighorn and
then I found it within 10 miles of my family’s ranch it’s a National Historic
Site dull knife battle for you this is it this is what happened on that land
the story no one ever told me table all walking whirlwind walks visit burns red
for spirits walking calf crow necklace and all those whose names were masked or
forgotten who died fighting for their freedom
against the United States Army in the Battle of chief dullknife November 25th
1876 rest in peace from the darkest depths of night comes a hint of light
shivering through snow and a while the winter white just before dawn when a day
is you can hear it in the wind I can hear it in the wind the whispers
of spirit the distant cries of men if that paddle hadn’t happened and the
Cheyenne weren’t kicked off their land my family would have never gotten that
ranch and then my grandfather’s life would have been totally different and
then so would it mine it’s so crazy how a single event in history can completely
change the course of our lives but it’s not like I think about that all the time
I mean who wants to think about how their family benefited from something so
horrific the battle it’s so intense I don’t think I can ever think of a ranch
in the same way again I need to go there beyond that land find the ranch in the
battlefield save for myself where my grandfather grew up find my roots thank
you thank you very much so like I said this is an excerpt right
so we’re stopping in the middle and it’s a particularly intense place to stop so
what I want to do is give you out just a minute or two to take a breath and
reflect so I’m turn to a neighbor and I want you
to answer the following question it’s just two or three minutes how are you
feeling what are you thinking about and anything that stood out for you from
that excerpt okay I’ll let you know in about two or three minutes and we’ll
come on back and keep it keep it going but go ahead and turn to your neighbor
talk for just a second all right go out and wrap up your
conversations I know that’s too short but there’ll be more time later thank
your partners for sharing and listening and bring your attention right back here thank you very much
all right so when I learned about that battle and the fact that it was on the
same land that my family got for free from the government it brought up a lot
of really intense feelings as you can imagine you know incredible sadness just
incredible sadness and anger and guilt and you know all kinds of things right
and um you know it’s been important for me to work through a lot of that but one
of the things that became very clear to me was a relationship between me and the
Cheyenne and you know like most people in this country at some point during my
16 years of formal education I learned that a long time ago Native Americans
lived on this land and then you know Europeans came and bad things happen to
them but that’s all over now and it’s very abstract and it’s very big and it’s
very far away right but all of a sudden learning this particular story the
specifics that my family got this specific piece of land in a specific
place that was taken away from a specific people made it so much more
real and so much more important earlier in the show I don’t have time to share
with you this afternoon but I play myself in high school in a US history
class learning about the homestead its standard curriculum for every you know
sophomore junior in the country we all learn it kind of but when I was in high
school I was so much more interested in talking to the girl next to me
when I was in following the lesson for a couple different reasons first pedagogy
you know it’s like read the chapter and answer the study questions that you know
I’m saying it’s like boring it really truly is very boring and if you’ve ever
read last my teacher told me by James lon you have an understanding what I’m
talking about the other reason is that the connections are not made if I had
known in my junior year of high school that my grandfather had grown up on a
homestead I probably would have listened a little bit differently but my family
we only talked about as the ranch right sometimes you’ll notice in family
histories and family story tellings people seem to sometimes omit some of
the more complicated details or the less savory stories or antidotes right
there’s a polishing that happens so my family really talked about the ranch and
I never knew the political context for the ranch if I had known that it was a
homestead and then I was sitting in class learning about homesteads and this
is my grandfather’s my mom’s dad right this is a connection I would have
listened a little bit differently so one of the things I want a conversation I
want to have is to think about how are we learning and teaching our young
people history and what needs to change right the other thing that became very
clear to me was that it was incredible benefit for my family to get a large
section of free land my great-grandfather had a ranch and it was
it was like a step up right in society my my family didn’t have that much money
so getting this economic opportunity helped me and that even today living on
the land that I live which is still stolen Native American land it’s an
incredible privilege to live on this land
this is beautiful land all over the country I get to travel around and talk
to students and perform at schools it’s a beautiful place to live and it’s a
privilege to live here and it’s not unconnected from a genocide
so looking at this dynamic of how my family benefited from someone else’s
suffering and someone else’s genocide is not an easy or fun thing to look at I
just want to be clear about that but it’s the truth and the truth is
important and this history has completely shaped the world that we live
in is I’m going to talk about in a few minutes so if we are concerned with the
truth if we are concerned with justice and equality in our society it’s
important for us to go to these places as challenging as ugly as they may be
y’all still with me okay so my family benefited right from this process and it
wasn’t just my family in 1862 the United States government passed the Homestead
Act its main mechanism was designed to take land that had been stolen from
Native Americans and distribute it to white families across the country that
was the point it gave 160 acres of free land does
anybody know how big this campus is anybody okay that’s all right look it up
compare it yeah 2,000 acres okay that’s big that’s a big campus um so one
hundred and sixty goes into that I don’t know help me out 12 times 12 13 times so
imagine this campus divided into 12 or 13 families and it’s all your land for
free right that’s 160 acres 12 families they get the entire Iowa State
University campus it’s a big piece of land right I don’t know 270 million
acres or 10% of the United States was homestead at at one point the act was on
the books for about a hundred fourteen years so many many many many many
families got to participate and this and they’ve done studies that show that when
in white one in three white folks today have at least one ancestor like my
grandfather like I do who homestead it okay so you know I
don’t know how many white folks are in this room but chances are statistically
speaking at least one in three of us have family who have been directly
connected by this widespread that’s a bug number it’s a big impact this was
not really available to African Americans out of the 1.6 million claims
only four thousand African Americans were actually able to homestead okay so
four thousand out of 1.6 through institutional racism discrimination the
poverty that came out of slavery black folks weren’t in a position to be able
to take advantage of this opportunity similarly white women although there are
a few stories of women homesteaders they are the the very very exception the vast
majority of people who got free land from this institutional federal
legislation were white men talk about affirmative action right so this is the
picture of the Homestead Act this is the country you know we understand that 500
years ago Native Americans had control and youth oil of the country right that
would be a hundred percent over the period of that colonization process ninety-eight percent of the land base
was stolen that number is so staggering that you know I throw it out there but I
can you know 98 percent like that’s hard to really actually wrap your head around
and feel what that means right but 98 percent of the land was stolen and 98%
of the population was killed disease had a major role right but direct violence
murder and genocide also had a major role right forced relocation smallpox
blankets war etc etc so over several hundred years this has happened
you see you know in the corner it’s all green which is native land over here ona
opposite scuse me in this corner is all native land in that corner it’s all
today right this is current reservations the red areas are current reservations
right now two percent of the land it’s a big deal if you think about who owns the
land today this is the map right ninety-seven percent of privately held
agricultural land is owned by white people ninety-seven percent of privately
held agricultural land is owned by white people
the federal government has about 30% of the land states have about nine percent
white families make up about sixty percent of homeowners individual
homeowners right so if you looked up today in 2010 who owns the land in this
country the vast majority of people are white people this is not an accident and
I went back to the 1860s african-americans were not allowed to
own property at that time for the most part and many times the property that
they did held was taken away from them Native Americans were systematically
kicked off their property right Asian Americans on the on the west coast were
now allowed to own property they were explicit laws on the books a kept them
from owning property and we understand that land is the basis of your economy
right if you want to grow things you need land if you want to make things you
need land so the connection between land and political and economic empowerment
is really clear and this is the world that we live in today 2010 looks like
this yeah y’all still with me okay this question is for you how is your
family stories no matter who you are been shaped by this history of land
theft and genocide against Native Americans how have your family stories
in your lives been shaped by the legacy in the history of this place I’ll let
you all percolate on that and we’ll keep it moving so you know it’s important for
me to be clear right like this mostly this all happened in the past and I
can’t undo that history right until someone comes up with was it DeLorean
and back to the future yeah yeah until someone comes up with that time machine
we cannot go back and change what happened in the past right and I am NOT
taking responsibility for something that other people did right I can’t take
responsibility even just from what my grandfather did That’s not me
I am only in control of my own actions right so we can’t undo the past we can’t
change it I’m not taking responsibility for to ask you to anybody else too but
we can think about how it is affecting our lives in the world that we live in
today and then take responsibility for our actions the way we’re perpetuating
this process or challenging it and changing it right so you know I had to
work through some times I was feeling really guilty all kinds of stuff and I
was like no I have to be clear about it I am only responsible in charge of me
and my life that’s enough let me tell you okay I can’t take all this on but I
need to know about it and I need to understand how it shapes my life right
because ultimately all this isn’t only important in as much as it informs the
question of what do we do now right we have a present and a future to take care
of right so that’s where it goes and on that note I want to share with you the
next excerpt of free land you okay with that okay
so what happened was I actually did go out to Wyoming I’m gonna cover over the
parts that I’m skipping at the place he wondered you can follow along right I
went out to Wyoming with my mother and my grandfather
we found the ranch we found the battlefield I met the people who lived
there met Northern Cheyenne folks I had a
really profound experience and if you want to see it you’ll just have to check
out the whole show next time you have an opportunity to I am releasing the DVD of
the show next month it’ll be available on my website so if you want to throw in
that blank you can check it out for yourself
that’s Ariel lucky calm in case you were wondering so I’ll have this whole
profound experience in Wyoming learning the history of the land and then I get
back to Oakland right California where I have where I was born and have lived all
of my life and this next section begins there ready I now know the history of the ranch
and that land in Wyoming but what went down here in Oakland who lived on this
land what happened to them I’ve lived here my entire life gone
through 16 years of formal education and still don’t know jack about the
indigenous people of this land like what’s up with the Loney Park or Shell
Mounds Street there’s all these references to Native Americans but
they’re so easy to not pay attention to just fading into the background but
something changed back there in Wyoming a door was opened that I can’t close I
can’t pretend I don’t know what I know and I need to find out what happened
here in my hometown I walk from my house in Oakland four blocks to the border of
Emeryville through the brand-new non gentrification condominiums past the
train tracks over to the Bay Street Mall at the intersection of shellmound Street
and a Loney way I stop and look around 360 degrees of development are built in
the last 10 years it now has that new plasticky kind of feel like it’s a
Disneyland set or something ten hundred and fifty thousand cars
drive by this spot on Interstate 80 every single day I’ve driven do here
thousands of times but I’ve never stopped to really look to really see the
land below the city what’s down there down there to beat you down to be down
down down down like a DJ scratching archival records
I dig in crates of the past searching for the perfect beat like geologists
Reid rocks to tell time in Reverse this land holds history carved in its flesh
stories submerged in its structure starting at the surface into the unknown
history in the screaming silence of the past digging down down beneath sidewalk
and streets my construction disturbs bury bodies alone II ancestor sleep for
hundreds of years to the City Council’s play their game to win insult to injury nothing about the community alive today industry before I was born this land is hungry mouths punching
through hundreds of years of history show my material calcium-rich from
shells and bones used to brave Oakland Berkeley streets College Avenue right
way interstate 80 white people pave their modern roads
with bones of baloney ancestors paving the roads with bones working on a
people’s history without regard digging down 1876 the year Custer was killed and
blood rained down on the dull mash battlefield and entrepreneur establishes
an amusement park Shadowman Punk with horse hair style
traits that you Molina a shooting range a sarong fires and a dance pavilion
placed directly on top of the shell mouse wealthy white people flock from
big city across the bay to dance toughies Irish jigs and fast waxes on
the graves of baloney men women and children literally dancing on their
graves drunk and dancing until prohibition slows the stream of
amusement seekers to a lonely trickle aloni land littered with broken beer
bottles and empty bullet shells digging down 18:50 the story expands shyamalan
colonized into California state fevers bleeding gold in the great greed speeds
native genocide disease and murder explode like gunpowder US state leaders
tiny white militias when million dollars the hunt for native Scouts over 4,000
children kidnapped and sold into legalized slavery while the shellmound
screams in silence digging down 1769 the lan passes hands from u.s. to Mexico
from Mexico to Spain digging down 1769 Father Junipero Serra stabs the earth
with Spanish flag pole European invaders establish mission system slavery for a
lowly manual labor kidnapping convert children to save
their styles from a Christian devil alone he backs bumpkin back guns and
babbles survival ran like water from stone a people’s home gutted and burned
by heat and bloody and bruised bodies fatal diseases savage and waves or
widespread death down in this hole I’ve been digging for so long I’m tired and
cold my body aches with the puncture my hands are blistered and bloody it’s so
hard to open my eyes as truth the site hugger so many layers of pain my heart
to them and matter reality of what we’ve become on humanity last in this culture
of valence one of the status quo was entrenched and sickening silence this is
my home but nobody told me about the history of genocide against the aloni
about the toxic websites or the dead ecosystem I was searching for my hopes
because my ignorance was prison but this knowledge is so hard to bear to learn my
suffering and nobody cares and what can I do I’m just one person I’m not sure
that I have the strength to do with this hurt my heart is breaking to see my home
strip naked they destroyed and violated everything I
hold sacred and my life is implicated Who am I to love here just another life
man and profits from a blushing severe I don’t know what to do it’s such a deep
contradiction I can be able to pass neatly heating up the friction located
on the boxes that’s been coiling the choices that I’m making and then what
I’ve got involved in pulling out my hands and knees digging in the dirt
desperate for a way to heal this legacies hurt this history so happy like
bones the leg is broken open that’s why these poems look here I am I’m just laying down just
a man but my hand has been bug here I’m a home where I live I found love here
get this oath the same gravestones that concrete is it worth the pain
I dig back in time and search for names but I can’t reverse the games of my
family the hurts in the blames the curse send the shame my best for change from
the plains to the coastal range from cold time time to aim higher boys the
Indians won games it’s more the same the whole remains from Miami towards
dumpling to Iraq sounds you’re going to bang you can’t be neutral on a moving
train nothing the full accountability and justice pursued the paint my land of
blood bone flesh when the west colonial conquest destiny manifest the US Army
Preston mounted war how many innocent people murdered and unaccounted for so
my family history is homes are you prepared for the end my life digging down deeper into the dark when
the Christian calendar does not mark the year when season cycle with a corn
harvest an animal migration a time when birds darken the sky with
their wings grizzly bears and antelopes roamed through rolling hills and
redwoods sea otters swim and the crystal blue Bay encircled by the Shell Mounds for thousands of years the Aloni have
called this place home with a complex ecology of land and water brings an
abundance of food shellfish a central staple for the Aloni oysters
crabs gooseneck barnacles clams abalone gathered in wicker baskets cleaned and
cooked and eaten Charles de started on the ground accumulate over time into
mouths hundreds of years of shells layers of life and death the Aloni
buried their dead here bodies covered in red ochre buried with
precious possessions abalone ornaments and bone whistles bundles of Raptor
talons buried in fetal position next to their families share lounge cemeteries
sacred sites this shellmound was the biggest around the bay over 65
feet tall 350 feet diameter by guys in a city black belt by generations of shells
bones and bodies earth and rock and plants packed together like puzzle
pieces while the people collect acorns in the autumn and hunt dinner in the
spring weave baskets of willow and fern root wet ceremonies and timís gals and
sing to the spirits of the trees family clans and community councils
weave the web of relations a civilization too subtle for European
eyes called Barney Savage diggers who don’t know God but here at the bottom of this hole I think I can
finally see how the layers of dirt and our eyes blind us how genocide becomes
normalized and the people become lost in the truth forgotten our descendants walk
among us their names secret our landscape a street a park a dusty plaque
on the wall we deny their presence and exploit their memory as we live upon
their land but if you listen close you can hear it in the wind the whispers of
spirit the echoes from within only fragments of a lonely culture have
survived the genocide from the screaming silence comes a song and all the lonely
sound from ancient times all that is known this single line dancing on the
brink of the world thank you thank you very much so that’s what I
found out right as an adult when I had to go back on my own and learn the
history of that land they never taught me that at school pretty much any of
that so that brings us to an interesting question Iowa here we are right here we
are in Iowa so I had to go through that process learn the history of my homeland
I finally share just a few little pieces of information that I learned about the
history of Iowa this is the map of natives in Iowa
the thing about maps right is that folks were nomadic you know and in certain
areas so this isn’t completely accurate it’s just a snapshot it’s just an idea
right but some of the main folks were the Iowa’s I think I’ve heard that
before somewhere in the name the sock and the Meskwaki which also are called
the Fox this walking Fox same thing the Dakota and the ho-chunk right these are
some of the folks who live in this name in in this area go with me okay just a
little bit this is an Iowa at the chief from the Iowa days then I’ve TR they did
all kinds of interesting things learn about them the miss wacky they have some
land over by Tama right people with the right earth and and there they are some
of the miss walking right again this is uh this is a institution of higher
education learn about it right first contact with Native Americans with
Europeans here happen in the 1600s it was primarily French a little bit of
English and it was all about the fur trade because in Europe in the 1600s
wealthy women liked hats made out of fur okay so trainers came over here to kill
lots of animals to get the fur send it back to Europe to make hats to sell to
wealthy women y’all with me so what I was all about and for a long time
there were relatively peaceful relationships because the Native
American folks were like happy to go and hunt and they would trade for meadow or
whatever else they wanted from the French and English traders and there was
a like several a couple hundred years of pretty peaceful trade and coexistence in
this area then the Louisiana Purchase happened in 1803 now it’s funny thing
because the only thing that the United States purchased was New Orleans a very
small part of land the whole thing that you normally think about was actually
lived in and owned by Native Americans at a time and French didn’t have the
right to sell that land and the United States government at that time
recognized the sovereignty and tribal ownership of that land of all the native
folks so that’s interesting I loo easy an approaches which Iowa was a part of
well once the farms ran out because you kill all the beaver every day go kill
some more beaver go kill some more beaver all the beaver die no more
beavers sad and you know so we start to understand a little bit of the
connections between environmental issues and degradation and a colonization
process right well the next thing that Europeans wanted was the land and there
are two primary tools that they used to get that land the first beam guns that’s
pretty obvious right and the second were treaties there were 371 treaty signed by
the United States government with various Native American groups and they
broke every single one of them it is amazing the lack of integrity that this
country has in historically right absolutely mind-boggling a hundred
percent of the treaties so you know and maybe some of the people I imagine some
of the people who are on the on the white European American side who were
signing those treaties believed that they would be kept right so it’s not it
wasn’t all necessarily malicious and yet as a society as a government every
single one of those treaties were broken so the process will go like this hey
Native Americans we want some of your land let’s make a treaty okay
you go over here we’ll take this land right here’s our treaty we’re good five
ten years go by okay let’s make a new treaty all treaties old we want a little
bit more of your land you go over there and we’ll we’ll take more of this land
okay cool two three minutes okay a Native American you know what I’m saying
and it literally went by that treaty by treaty broken treaty by broken 3d from
the east to the west all the way across this area it’s crazy well you know
Native Americans resisted that right they were not super happy on about this
for the most part this is the Blackhawk war that is chief Blackhawk he is a sock
chief and I’m this took place just on the Iowa border on the Mississippi
between Iowa and Illinois is very close to here in 1832 he did not want to live
leave his village and you imagine that he grew up there his whole life he had a
deep connection to the land and he didn’t want to leave so he started
organizing and they fought back they fought this war it ended at the bad acts
Massacre bad news for the sock and miss miss Waukee folks wear white militia
killed hundreds of natives of their group it was like a band of like 800
people and you know just killed many women children elders and and warriors
so badly that basically that ended the war right it was one of those like
single battles and the people got wiped out so in the treaty that the United
States government the new treaty that the United States government made with
the sock and miss wacky they want even more land originally they just wanted
them on the west side of the Mississippi right we all know that Mississippi runs
north-south and then for in the early 1800s it was all about getting all the
Native Americans who were on the east side over to the west side but then that
wasn’t enough so then it crossed the Mississippi into eastern Iowa came out
of this treaty in 1982 then there was a rapid influx of white settlers as good
land y’all right farm land all kinds opportunities out
here these are some white settlers they surged into Iowa and they literally
forced the Salkin wa Scotty to move over and over again during the 30s and 40s of
the 1800s it was like okay move a little farther west and little farther west and
little farther west until they moved to Nebraska in Kansas Oklahoma completely
out of the state in general right so this is the history of the land that we
live in in 1856 the United States government passed the Iowa land bill I’m
giving a bunch of land recently taken from the Salkin and with Scott with Miss
Waukee thank you and gave it to the state of
Iowa with the expressed purpose of giving that land to the railroad
companies right this is the Transcontinental Railroad wouldn’t it be
cool if you could get on a plane train in New York and go to San Francisco
that’s cool right let’s build that and let’s take all this land in order to do
that so what happened was the railroad companies were private corporations
owned by wealthy white businessman okay so the federal government took this land
from the Native American folks gave it to the state the state gave it to these
private corporations the corporation’s built the railroad and made a lot of
money now I was thinking about it last night as I was putting this together I
imagine there are direct descendants of those wealthy businessmen still alive
today in Iowa right we also understand that there’s probably I’m sure there’s
direct descendants of the whistle miss Waukee and the Sauk folks also alive in
Iowa I wonder how they’re doing and what what difference in economic and
political opportunities they have being three or four generations out of this
specific deal 1856 the government took this land from them and gave it to them
well now there’s great-grandchildren but they’re still here how are they doing
and how does this affect that our political organizing the way that we
understand the communities that we live in you follow me
I’m going a little faster than I would like to because we’re running out of
time and I want to share this information
with you okay moving forward whoa Ames what’s up hey Ames was founded a few
years later in 1864 right eight years after that little railroad deal and
interestingly enough it was founded as a train station stop oh there’s Ames there
is mr. Ames Oakes Ames okay he was a Massachusetts Congress man any it was a
businessman and he owned a lot of Union Pacific he was a bad player right he’s
like the CEOs of you know whatever Bechtel or you know Chevron today right
he’s a player right well um Ames was named after him
and he was very involved in getting the railroad to come through here and
apparently there is this very big scandal where he was giving stock from
his private company to other congressmen so that they would pass legislation
favorable to the company right this whole scandal came it actually came out
public and Congress censured him and threatened to kick him off and all this
stuff right so and then the city of Ames was founded as a train station stop so
this is like great-grandfather of Ames and I don’t know maybe it’s just a
picture but he doesn’t look like a nice guy you know I’m and we know that he was
uh he was you know manipulating our democratic system to make more money and
we also know that he was given a lot of free land from the state of Iowa that
they got from the federal government that they stole from the Sauk and miss
Waukee people y’all following me here what history is crazy right and while in
high school classes this interesting okay I almost eight land-grant
university in 1862 does anybody remember that year 1862 was the year that they
passed the Homestead Act well the government was like hey we got hell of
land we got to give it out to everybody so they
so packs the moral Act which granted federal land to States to create schools
look at that cuz we need Rao’s wouldn’t be cool if we go from New York San
Francisco on a railroad and we could stop and get educated along the way so
Iowa State University became the first school in the country to accept land
under the Morrill Act fascinating free land free land so here we are this is I
presume this is where you live and work and study this is the history of this
land what happened here was there a village on this land at one point was
there a battle a sacred site a massacre Cemetery you tell me what happened on
this land and how does that affect who we are today what we’re working on how
does that affect our understanding of race and ethnicity in 2010 so first
Europeans took the first right gotta have those hats then we took the land
98% of it that’s not enough no no no let’s take their images right all over
the country high school college elementary school professional you know
athletic teams have been named after Native Americans and if you can see
there’s some pretty ugly stereotypes here right that’s skin color the big
nose you have stoic – you know angry you name it right there’s been a movement
over the last couple decades to change and many schools on the high school
level college level have changed their mascots I was just just up at our
University of Wisconsin La Crosse a couple weeks ago and they were the
Indians for a long long long time and they changed their mascot I think this
is a good idea you know but we still have the Washington Redskins and the
Atlanta Braves right what does this mean that we’re using these racist
stereotypes of of another people for our mascots if these were Sambo figures and
blackface would that be politically acceptable in this country you know to
have the you know Seattle Sambo’s I don’t think so so why is this okay we
also take their names right the state of Iowa the state of Missouri
the state of Mississippi the state of Dakota all over the country place names
with names of parts from waterfalls bridges rivers everything is named after
Native American names we took their land and took their names name the land after
them even though we kicked them off it’s crazy right when you really think about
the implications of this on a spiritual level let alone a political level what
is really going on in our society cars you know you name it right we’ve named
things after Native Americans so this is for Karen right we were talking about
avatar last night right you know similarities again taking images
cultural images and icons from Native Americans using in pop culture who
benefits from this who gets to decide what is used and what is not what does
it mean how does this impact Native American people and then Twilight
anybody seen Twilight or our new moon yeah right so the queen of the tribe is
actually a real tribe in the state of Washington for a long time you know they
got their land stolen – rest assured there were
and guns in Washington State as well so for the last you know long generations
they’ve been living in a lot of poverty in rural rural state of Washington well
I have all of a sudden a white woman decides to come and write a story and
she takes a piece of their cultural heritage they do have a story about
wolves and their origin myth not werewolves but wolves she takes an
element of their cultural heritage distorts it fictionally but still uses
their name and she releases a book in a movie and now you know any kind of
product line and has made millions and millions of dollars right this is a big
industry in the United States today go anywhere and a high school student will
tell you all about Twilight well what about the Queen Lewis folks for the most
part they’ve still been living in poverty and have not benefited
economically from this process in fact one of the TV channels that were running
stories about it started leaving tours on their land on their reservation for
tourists who wanted to get an authentic tour of the Indians right so what how
does this inform our work how does it inform our discussions in higher
education around race and ethnicity how are we addressing these issues and for
me one of the things that come up you know thinking about how I’ve benefitted
right my family has benefited from the
genocide of Native Americans not intentionally but indirectly but
nevertheless benefited so I think about you know what can I do in terms of
balance in terms of healing restitution what can I do to support Native
Americans today in the issues that they’re facing right sacred site
protection appropriate mascots environmental conservation energy
extraction sovereignty and human rights what are the issues that Native
Americans are working on today are struggling with today in their
communities and how can I not necessarily out of a
of guilt or shame but out of a sense of justice and equality and democracy how
can I support them and their leadership in making the changes that they are they
are working on you follow me I would pose that question to you as well how
can you be engaged in that process of building community with Native Americans
across the country and the important issues that they’re working on so we are
almost done it’s one more little question just a little little question
how can we heal from the past it’s a big and ugly painful past how can we heal
from this past transform our present and create a better future I have two little
boys in my life four years old and eight months old
and they saw about them right I don’t want them to live in that world right we
got a we got to stop this cycle so all night now I want to share one last
little short segment of the show it’s at the very very end and you can run that
last track now if you would walk through this conference I’m performing the
entire freelance show is just in nyle across country little axe and big axe of so many things
we can do right make a difference after all the bloodshed generations of war
after all the broken treaties our lives and brute force after 500 years of
colonization the Vulcan backs and heart attacks have built this nation
he’s stand on stolen land with the past and our hearts and the future in our
hands are we prepared for the changes of character breaking the barriers in
Native America how can we carry the legacy and move forward as builders
features artists healers warriors offer this part of the plain map humanity and
the name of my family this is a testimony and one man’s tourney this is
a drop of water for history burning this is the prior a call to action a
confession for all of my people on both sides both questions for the generals
the soldiers and the civilians advantage the parents of the children for the
Aloni people and the Northern Cheyenne for the people living in Wyoming a no
plan for the kids on reservations and the kids in the burbs for the kids in
the meadows and rich kids who’ve been splurge for the children of the slaves
and the slave masters for the victims of genocide and its benefactors for every
single human being caught in the mix faced with generations the promised to
fix I don’t have the answers I’ll be neither to you if we look at it together
we’ll get a better view but if we ask the questions and then for the trunk we
might find the power that comes from my roots and maybe just maybe maybe we can
make this world less crazy maybe we can turn this thing around
maybe we can stand together on common ground maybe we can raise our children
to understand we need a place of healing for the people on the line call it free
land because the place will see the land is separated from the chains of poverty
and purples invaded from the chains of poverty and I’m Charles and liberated
from the chains of history life is a mystery we do the best we can
every day a chance to practice because you learn I don’t have the answers
probably neither to you but if we look at it together we’ll get a better view
and if we answer questions and look for the truth we might find the power that
comes from I hope to maybe just maybe maybe we can make this world less crazy
maybe we can turn this thing around maybe we can stand together on common
ground maybe we can raise our children to understand we need a place of eating
for the people and the more cool it frees land cuz the paper feed line is
liberated from the chains of faculty the Purple’s are divided from the chains of
poverty ourselves already from the chains of history thank you very much thank you very much
thank you very much thank you thank you thank you so much just very quickly I
just want to say that um I have books for sale that includes some of the free
land script and songs that you heard today and we’re releasing the DVD of
free land this spring it’s available on my website and in the flour we’re gonna
be releasing a study guide for educators to be able to use the DVD and do lessons
in your classroom there’s an email list if you want to sign up and stay informed
about my work and there’s free stickers and business cards and other stuff so
come on by thank you so much I will also be in a some room yeah um talking to
whoever wants to come talk so come see me thank you I just want to say um hurry
to your next session the students are there prepared and waiting for you thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks

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