I have recently become aware that a book entitled The Militarization of Indian Country (MSU Press – Makwa Enewed series) by ICTMN contributor Winona LaDuke will be published in 2013. The Anishinaabe visionary has authored/co-authored more than ten titles to date. Her critical eye this time focuses on a cutting edge subject, typified by modern American military drones currently flying surveillance over Indian Country and foreign “tribal” lands alike.
The United States historical emphasis of tribal dislocation to so-called federal reservations is an important aspect of the military institutional model. It remains an exercise in control.
Although the word “reservation” is mostly associated with North American Indian communities, it also serves to describe military “proving grounds” that preceded the modern bases we know by name today. Even the term “going off the reservation” alludes to a wider circumstance than just someone who went on a three day bender. It typically describes philosophical loss, a change of life decision, or leaving home, so to speak.
The dualism of Turtle Island and the military by now intertwines itself through all native communities. As LaDuke illustrates, American armed forces are disproportionally filled out by minority status groups, the highest proportion being composed of Native Americans (or Alaskan Islanders), who voluntarily serve despite compelling reasons why they might not do so. The exemption by birthright, unless one waives that avenue through enlistment, begins that rationale. The Mohawk traditional leader Tom Porter (Sakokwenionkwas) maintained that perspective during the Vietnam War, putting it to test as he conscientiously avoided American military service in the late 1960’s.
Historically, sovereign nations cannot be drafted into foreign armies. The United States and Britain warred over impressed (conscripted) sailors for that very cause during the War of 1812. It took a deliberate act by the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1941 that declared war on Germany to allow Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) to fight alongside American soldiers in the Allied armed forces. There is a reason why this had to be done. Sovereignty is an exclusive political status.
The contribution to American defense has indisputably been earned proudly by Onkwehonweh (original people), dating back to its beginnings in the American Revolution. The Oneida Indian Nation participation within that conflict is historically portrayed in the forthcoming major motion picture release, First Allies. Sweat and blood were the shares that American Indians paid into a usurping system, even from the beginning, to maintain their own existence.
Yet, these facts seem set aside, when I see the famed “military industrial establishment” fantasia of that culture they are aping, inspired by Onkwehonweh achievement. Apaches live on as Soviet-busting, fortress-like AH-64 attack helicopters, while Kiowas are lithe, stealthy observation helicopters that could still sting when they had to, carrying officers and forward observers over the front lines of Vietnam. This trend of tribal labeling of military equipment began after World War Two, although airborne infantry parachutists began yelling “Geronimo” once they exited their aircraft, since 1940.
Thus, when modern American democracy now brings domestic security measures to current levels within Indian Country, I have to take pause to grasp this. Under Barack Obama, the 44th Rahnatakaias or “destroyer of towns” as his elected office is known by the Haudenosaunee, unprecedented federal contesting of sovereign Indian nations is underway.
United States citizens are now able to be targeted for airborne drone strikes based on their individual level of agitation, or possibly resistance, to their own country’s agenda. Where does that leave those living along the proverbial Red Road, a population that has been targeted all along? Will that Red Road be scorched by smoking missile impact craters? Remember, airspace was never covered in any treaty language. Is this a violation of Turtle Island airspace? Onkwehonweh have never been consulted pertaining to this matter.
The United States military developed Fusion Intelligence Centers in Iraq in 2003 to combat the fledgling insurgency there, a major development in organizing information while under the gun. Now, the same approach is being brought to bear in northern New York under the name of the Northern Border Intelligence Center and championed by United States Homeland Security, in general interdiction efforts against the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation on the Akwesasne Territory.
Some local Mohawk military veterans feel the attention of drone surveillance overhead is but the latest of attempts to control the free will of a sovereign people; unremoved from their original land status. To them, the harsh weather is their ally, as is the remote location of the community. No one wants this land more than we do, for our unborn grandchildren and our own way of life, they have told me.
Prior to the Revolutionary War outcome, Onkwehonweh populations were the only ones then-called Americans. That implication seems lost on current federal policy managers.
Charles Kader (Turtle Clan) was born in Erie, Pennsylvania to a World War Two veteran. He attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in Communication and Library Science, as well as Mercyhurst College where he earned a graduate degree in the Administration of Justice. He has worked across Indian country, from the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana (where he married his wife) to the Saint Regis Mohawk