The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: native americans

Pompeo Should Stop Lying About America's Founding

One of the many aggravating ills of the era of Donald Trump is having our intelligence constantly insulted. It is one thing to have spirited debate on divisive issues. It's another to have transparently fraudulent claims thrust upon us by people who are smarter than they pretend to be.

One of these is former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who weighed into the mostly manufactured controversy over "critical race theory" in schools with an ungrammatical tweet: "If we teach that the founding of the United States of America was somehow flawed. It was corrupt. It was racist. That's really dangerous. It strikes at the very foundations of our country."

Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, which makes it odd for him to suggest that what our forebears brought about in 1776, or 1789, achieved perfection. Christianity teaches that all humans are afflicted by original sin, dooming them to fall short in every endeavor. The philosopher Immanuel Kant channeled the Lutheran faith of his upbringing when he wrote, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."?

But you don't have to be a Christian to see the absurdity of Pompeo's position. Of course our founding was flawed, as was our Constitution. Of course it was racist, because neither Black people nor Native Americans were allowed the same rights as whites. Of course it had elements of moral corruption in upholding slavery, the second-class status of women and the dispossession of indigenous people. He might as well deny that the ocean is salty.

Many Americans think the Constitution was a miracle inspired by the Almighty. But you would think that if a miracle brought our founding charter into being, it could have omitted some major defects.

There was the exclusion of nonwhites from the rights granted to others. There was the exclusion of women. There was the outsized political power granted to slave states.

Even if conservatives want to defend these disparities, it's hard to see how they can attribute to God so many features that later had to be corrected.

The system for electing the president was so faulty that it required a constitutional amendment just 15 years later, after it produced an Electoral College tie — not between Thomas Jefferson and his opponent, John Adams, but between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr. Some miracle.

That wasn't even the first revision (not counting the Bill of Rights, which makes up the first ten amendments). In 1795, the 11th Amendment was ratified to grant each state sovereign immunity against lawsuits by citizens of other states.

These sorts of repairs are what you would expect in a design produced by mortal creatures who lacked the ability to foresee the future. A design that was — what's the word I'm looking for? — flawed.

That's not to say that Americans should be ashamed of our origins. A rational conservative — or liberal — can argue persuasively that the nation and system of government were the best that could be achieved given the historical circumstances, conflicting interests, and political passions prevailing at the time.

Accepting the existence of slavery was the terrible price of keeping the southern states in the same union as the northern ones. The undemocratic nature of the Senate, ditto. The inferior status of Blacks, Native Americans, and women was too entrenched to be altered.

The same conservative can argue credibly that the durability of the nation and the adaptability of the Constitution to a 21st-century society are proof of their fundamental virtues.

Pompeo is not stupid. He graduated first in his class from West Point and got a law degree from Harvard. One thing he was doubtless taught at both institutions is that to progress at anything, you have to be willing to admit your errors. You can't ace the final if you don't understand why you failed the midterm.

But either he has let religion and ideology erode his reasoning capacity or he has chosen to make baldly preposterous statements to hoodwink the ignorant.

That's a feature of much "conservative" advocacy in our blighted era: It demands the acceptance of obviously false claims simply because they serve political ends. It poisons discourse by elevating prejudice and dogma over facts.

Honestly confronting the bad as well as the good of our history is not dangerous. It does not "strike at the very foundations of our country." The truth is nothing to fear — unless you put your faith in lies.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Judge Shoots Down Gov. Noem Over Mt. Rushmore Fireworks

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A federal judge has rejected South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem's attempt to circumvent safety rules and hold a massive Independence Day fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. He said her request amounted to asking for "judicial activism."

"This country could use a good celebration of its foundational principles of democracy, liberty, and equal protection of law," wroteRoberto Lange, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.

But, he wrote on Wednesday, it would "be improper judicial activism for this Court to disregard settled law" for him to force the U.S. Parks Service to grant a permit for a July 4, 2021, show, as Noem demanded.

Noem blasted the ruling, again asserting that "The Biden Administration cancelled [sic] South Dakota's Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration on completely arbitrary grounds," and writing, "I am disappointed that the court gave cover to this unlawful action with today's decision." She vowed to appeal, in hopes of having fireworks next year.

The Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior, said in March that it would not grant a fireworks permit this year for South Dakota Department of Tourism for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

"Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event," it explained. "In addition, the park's many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial."

Fireworks had been banned at the national park between 2009 and 2019, due to objections from Native American tribes (on whose sacred lands the monument was built) and concerns about wildfires. In 2020, Donald Trump and his administration ignored those — and coronavirus safety measures — to hold a massive Independence Day fireworks show and political speech at the site.

Noem sued Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in April, demanding a permit and falsely claiming that it was a purely arbitrary decision not to give her one.

"There was no reason given as to why we can't host the fireworks events. It wasn't based on environmental issues, it wasn't based on staffing issues or fire danger issues, it was just because they didn't want us to have it," she told reporters on May 3.

Just weeks before, Noem had declared "dangerous fire conditions" in the state.

Since becoming governor in January 2019, Noem has earned a national reputation for aggressively ignoring public health and safety.

She was one of the only governors who refused to issue any stay-at-home order as the COVID-19 pandemic hit her state in early 2020. As the situation worsened, she was also one of just a handful of governors who refusedto issue any mask requirements. More than 120,000 of her constituents tested positive — nearly 15 percent of the state's population.

In November, she railed against "absolutely false" claims by "some in the media" that her state had the highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita. At the time, her state had the second-highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

CNN Fires Santorum For Racist Belittling Of Native Americans

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rick Santorum, the Republican former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, has been fired by CNN as its senior political commentator one month after his racist comments about Native Americans, including claiming there had been "nothing" in North America until white colonizers came.

"We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here," Santorum told students last month at an event hosted by the Young America's Foundation, a right wing group with ties to former Vice President Mike Pence. "I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn't much Native American culture in American culture."

Huffpost's Jennifer Bendery, who first reported on Santorum's termination, in April called his remarks "as offensive as they are inaccurate."

"Indigenous peoples had been living in America thousands of years before European explorers showed up in the late 1400s and 1500s," Bendery wrote at the time. "They had their own rich cultures and traditions. European settlers tried to erase all of that by forcibly removing Indigenous people from their lands, slaughtering them, infecting them with new diseases, rounding them up and putting them on reservations, breaking treaties with them and taking their children from them and putting them into boarding schools to try to assimilate them into white culture."

Since coming on the political scene in the early 1990's Santorum has tried to be at the center of America's culture wars, positioning himself as a right wing Christian religious warrior. He made a name for himself attacking the LGBTQ community, and after his disastrous 2006 U.S. Senate re-election bid, even headed a Christian film company for a short time.

CNN has confirmed Santorum's termination.

Wealthy Colonists Oppress Native Americans Again — In The Hamptons!

It's tough being rich. For one thing, you have to be on constant alert to keep commoners from encroaching on your turf and disturbing your lifestyle, tranquility and ... well, sense of proper social order.

So, surely, everyone can appreciate the angst of the swells who summer in the Hamptons, an ultra-tony seaside enclave of New York City's old-wealth families and Wall Street elites. Located on the far-eastern tip of Long Island, for generations, they've effectively used local ordinances to keep us riffraff from entering their exclusive communities. But now, to their shock and dismay, they find their fortresses of privilege besieged by — believe it or not — American Indians!

Marauding tribes from afar? No, they're local people, some 1,600 members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation who live on and around their tribe's small reservation that has also been on this tip of Long Island for generations. In fact, it's the fabulously rich white residents who are the invaders, for their Anglo predecessors first moved onto (and began taking over) Shinnecock lands in 1640. Today, the Indigenous people struggle with poverty or near poverty, gazing across a small bay at the perfectly manicured lawns of the huge summer mansions of their Gatsby-esque invaders.

But — look out! — to help lift their community from the mire of debilitating poverty, the Shinnecocks intend to build a modest tribal-run casino on their reservation. "Oh, the horror!" shriek the Hamptonites at this tacky intrusion! Yet, the reservation is the Shinnecocks' sovereign land, free from the Hampton elite's zoning laws. Some 200 hoity-toity Hamptonites have desperately formed a group with the war cry "Keep the Hamptons the Hamptons!" Pleading for someone — anyone — to stop the tribe's progress, one of them exclaimed that "A lot of us are bleeding-heart liberals and sympathetic to the oppressed. ... But it's not the right location."

It never is, is it? The tribe's chairman, aptly named Bryan Polite, notes that while a casino is an issue of elitist esthetics to the privileged neighbors, its revenues would "help the tribe expand its family assistance fund to help members with such expenses as rent, food, utilities and car payments" and would "change the quality of life here overnight." But who cares? A few of the snobbiest Hampton blue bloods haughtily warn they will move out if the Shinnecock casino comes in.

Hmmm, sounds like a good trade to me.

These days, the rich in our country have developed such an arrogant sense of self-entitlement that they've gone from being merely irritating to infuriating.

Unsurprisingly, their plutocratic greed and rigging of the system to benefit themselves has generated a political backlash across the country. This includes a widely popular push to tax — yes, tax! — the massive stashes of wealth that the powerful have amassed by shortchanging the middle class and the poor. Alarmed by this uprising, the rich and their political hirelings have launched a major effort to defuse public anger — not by altering their behavior or actually addressing the gross economic disparities they've created but by trying to hide their excesses behind a semantical twist.

You might have noticed that since "the rich" has become a negative phrase, it has been dropped from the vocabularies of corporate PR agents, Republican lawmakers, right-wing political commentators and other defenders of wealth concentration. Rather, the millionaire/billionaire class is now glorified as "high earners" and "high net worth individuals."

Yes, both are awkward phrases, yet both remove any tacky reference to the boodles of wealth such people have grabbed. Instead, these euphemisms exalt the fortunate few as superior earners and worthy individuals. Words matter, because they are powerful social constructs that frame our culture's moral values. For example.

— Boeing Inc. was so badly managed in 2020 that it lost $12 billion and offed 30,000 workers, yet its CEO grabbed $21 million in pay.

— Tenet Healthcare made about $400 million in profit last year, partly by firing 11,000 workers, but its CEO pocketed a paycheck of nearly $17 million, calling the year a "learning experience."

— Hilton sent about a fourth of its corporate workforce packing last year and lost some $720 million, but the CEO got away with a $56 million paycheck.

Other gross failures at the top include AT&T, Disney, General Electric, and T-Mobile, yet each haughty top executive was rewarded with at least $20 million in pay.

In every case, the establishment media cloaked the greed with euphemisms that the failed bosses "earned" their millions and have a "net worth" of such-and-such. The perpetrators of these lies might ask the ousted workers how much they think the CEOs are worth.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at

Federal Task Force To Address Crime Epidemic Against Native Women And Girls

Reprinted with permission from The American Independent.

Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday creating a White House task force on missing and slain American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The task force will be overseen by Attorney General William Barr and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. It will develop protocols to apply to new and unsolved case and create a multi-jurisdictional team to review cold cases.

Trump called the scourge facing American Indian women and girls “sobering and heartbreaking.”

“We will leverage every resource we have to bring safety to our tribal communities, and we will not waver in this mission,” Trump said. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Trump’s announcement comes days after Barr said the Justice Department would invest $1.5 million to hire specialized coordinators in 11 U.S. attorney’s offices with significant caseloads from Indian Country to come up with ways to better respond to missing persons cases and committed FBI resources. Barr said the agency also would do an in-depth analysis of federal databases and its own data collection process.

The National Institute of Justice estimates that 1.5 million American Indian women have experienced violence in their lifetime, including many who are victims of sexual violence. On some reservations, federal studies have shown women are killed at a rate over 10 times the national average.

The executive order also directs the Justice Department to make grant funding available to improve public safety in tribal communities.

Trump was joined by representatives of the Navajo Nation, which extends into New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah; the Crow Nation in Montana; and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota.

Fond du Lac Chairman Kevin DuPuis highlighted women as caretakers of children and tribal villages and said it’s imperative that they be protected and not treated as second-class citizens.

“It’s very, very important that we, as a people, have a true identity,” he said. “And when we lose our women and we lose our children, that goes with them.”

The Seattle Indian Health Board urged the Trump administration to keep in mind that a majority of American Indians live off reservations.

“This action is a step in the right direction, but we look forward to seeing additional steps that are inclusive of urban Indian people,” the board’s chief research officer, Abigail Echo-Hawk, said in a statement.

The task force expires after two years. It is expected to report on its work in a year.

Trump Officials Exclude Native Tribes In Bears Ears Monument Debate

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Federal law requires our government to consult with Native American tribes about the Bears Ears monument in southern Utah. But Donald Trump is only giving lip service at best to attempts to consult the NavajoHopi, and others about what was once the second-largest national monument in the lower 48 states before Trump shrunk it by 85 percent.

Now, the public has less than a week to file public comments on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s plan that could turn could add more ATV trails and approve cell phone towers and utility lines to what are now two smaller monuments. Bernhardt has appointed an advisory committee that doesn’t include anyone who supported creating the monument in the first place.

“The BLM and the Forest Service are asking people who don’t think the monument should exist for advice on how to manage it,” said Josh Ewing, executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa.

Bears Ears, named after twin peaks that look like the ears of a bear, has about 9,000 recorded archaeological sites, including petroglyphs, woven cloth, human remains, and ancient roads.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke trimmed Bears Ears from 1.35 million acres to 201,876 acres, eliminating Cedar Mesa with its cliff ruins and rock art. He also took out Grand Gulch, a canyon, and other places that five native American tribes wanted protected when they urged former President Barack Obama to create the monument.

The management plan would allow “chaining,” a practice favored by Utah ranchers to clear land for cattle grazing.

“Bears Ears is not the kind of place for chaining thousands of acres of forest or stringing up utility lines,” said Heidi McIntosh of Earthjustice, one of the parties involved in the Indian tribes’ federal lawsuit against the Trump administration over shrinking Bears Ears.

Bernhardt appointed rancher Gail Johnson who holds a grazing allotment that was entirely within the original monument to a Bears Ears advisory group. Johnson and her husband, Sandy, have intervened in the lawsuits challenging Trump’s shrinking Bears Ears, arguing that a larger monument would put them out of business.

Bernhardt also appointed San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams and Ryan Benally, the son of former County Commissioner Rebecca Benally to the panel. San Juan County, the poorest county in Utah, paid $485,600 to a Louisiana law firm to oppose Bears Ears being named a national monument and then to lobby for reducing it.

Bernhardt did not appoint any of the seven people recommended by Rupert Steele, the chairman of the Utah Tribal Leaders Association. Steele’s picks included Navajo medicine man Jonah Yellowman and Kevin Madalena, a paleontologist from the Pueblo of Jemez, N.M.

Danziger: Gone Native

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at