At Great Remove: The Bureau of Indian Affairs

by Mark Harvey

I would go home to eat, but I could not make myself eat much; and my father and mother thought that I was sick yet; but I was not. I was only homesick for the place where I had been. –Black Elk

Chief Sitting Bull

According to Lakota Indians, in early June of 1876, the great tribal chief Sitting Bull performed a sun dance in which he cut 100 pieces of flesh from his arms as an offering to his creator and then danced for a day and a half. He danced until he was exhausted from the dancing and the loss of blood and then fell into a vision of the coming battle with General George Custer at Little Big Horn. Moved by his vision, thousands of Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapahoe warriors attacked Custer’s 7th Cavalry Regiment on June 25th, 1876, and overwhelmingly defeated it in what is today southeastern Montana. In the battle, Custer, two of his brothers, and a nephew were killed along with 265 other soldiers.

The battle was inevitable. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had insisted that the Lakota remove to a reservation by January 31, 1876, to accommodate white miners and settlers in the area. The Indians hated the idea of living on a reservation and giving up their life of hunting on the great plains so they refused to move to the reservation. Custer was sent by General Alfred Terry to pursue Sitting Bull’s people from the south and push them north to what would be a sort of ambush. But the brash young Custer far underestimated the number of Indians gathered near the Powder River and also their ferocious resolve to fight his regiment. Read more »

Reclaiming the American Narrative

by Mark Harvey

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” —James Baldwin

The election a couple of weeks ago came as a relief to many of us. It was not a feeling of happily getting back on track again but rather a sense of relief that we hadn’t entirely lost our democracy to shrill lunatics intent on building a bargain-bin version of American fascism. The Republican Party today is unrecognizable even to rock-ribbed Republicans. When someone from the Cheney family threatens to leave the party for its cowardice and extremism, you know you’re dealing with a party that has completely lost its way.

A Republican used to be someone like Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate who worked well with the opposing party, even meeting weekly with their leadership in the Senate and House. Eisenhower expanded social security benefits and, against the more right-wing elements of his party, appointed Earl Warren to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Warren, you’ll remember, wrote the majority opinion of Brown v Board of Education, Miranda v Arizona, and Loving v Virginia. If Dwight Eisenhower were alive today, he would be branded a RINO and a communist by his own party. I suspect he would become registered as unaffiliated. Read more »

America’s Stolen Sisters

by Mark Harvey

Three years ago while filling my truck with gas in western New Mexico on a cold fall evening, a young woman, barefoot and wearing nothing but a sundress, came up to me and asked if she could get a ride into the town of Gallup. Her bare feet and summer clothing in the biting air made me suspicious so I asked her a few questions. She told me she was traveling home to Taos after spending some time in the Pacific Northwest and that she had no money and had been hitchhiking for days. She was a little disheveled, startlingly beautiful, and her story didn’t make much sense. But she looked cold so I agreed to take her to Gallup, thinking I might be of some small help.

We got in my truck and started down the highway when she said, “Do you mind if we go back and get my boots?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“My boots, I left them on the road a little before the gas station.”

So we turned around and drove back a few hundred yards and sure enough, there was a pair of pink cowboy boots neatly placed on the side of the road. At that point—as if the signs weren’t strong enough already–I realized the woman might be suffering some psychological trauma and that her thinking was foggy. I asked her if she had some family to call in Taos, but she said she couldn’t get in touch with them.

I had just been shopping for groceries and the woman asked if she could have something to eat.  I told her to eat anything she wanted from the bag. She devoured a bag of almonds and a couple of apples as if she hadn’t eaten for days. As we approached Gallup, I asked her again if there was someone she could call for help. She said there was no one and that she would be fine. Read more »