Thursday, April 19, 2007

Report from FedBar 2007

"We cannot be what we cannot see."
Kalyn Free, April 19, 2007, Albuquerque, NM

These inspirational words were spoken by Kalyn Free, founder of INDN's List and Native political visionary, who this morning spoke to a group of well-over 500 Native attorneys, judges and tribal members who were all attending the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The common thread among all the conference attendees is a strong belief in the power and necessary continuation and strengthening of Tribal Sovereignty. Ms. Free's words were spoken in the context of her talk about the organization that she formed a little over two years ago as a response to her unsuccessful campaign for Congress. Kalyn believes that Native boys and girls need more role models with whom to aspire. Among the talks about shrinking land bases, an unfriendly if not outright hostile judicial system, and a growing epidemic of meth abuse and consequent crimes, Kalyn's words were a breath of fresh air. Her words described a reason for hope - something that has been in very small supply lately. Her words provided a basis for keeping the faith, fighting the good fight, working hard to achieve what is only possible at the moment. I looked around the room during Kalyn's talk and saw hundreds of role models, mentors, warriors, and fighters - all gathered to share ideas and discuss issues that impact Native people and by extension all of America and the world everyday. The collective mood in the great room where all the presentations took place was hopeful and determined (at least until Jim Cason made an appearance ;( ).

More later...

Update from Tulsa, having just driven in from Albuquerque a short while ago, I thought about what else I wanted to say on the drive back, inbetween listening to CDs of older episodes of the SMS and singing along with Janis (Joplin) and Melissa (Etheridge) at the top of my admittedly off-key and not very sonorous voice. I figured I could take this post either one of two ways - I could point to the senseless shooting at Virginia Tech and make some not too original remarks about copy cat killers (Columbine anniversary and all) and other kinds of role models that we, the people, the media, the bloggers hold up over and over again from Dick Cheney or Alberto Gonzalez endorsing torture to the mental illness that overtook the killer Cho last week on the Hokie campus, OR I could say a word or two about the sets of trading cards that we (TU Native American Law Center) sold at the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference. The set contains 40 cards, each representing either a faculty member or graduate of either the TU Native Law Certificate Program or the LL.M. in Native Law (also from TU). I've decided after poking around the blogosphere just a little bit tonight that I'll say a few words about the latter rather than rehash observations about gun violence or mental illness or a culture that glorifies war, murder, and outright ambush in seeking to achieve its ends.

"We cannot be what we cannot see," has a double edge on it for me tonight. We must be the change that we want to see in the world. That is much easier to say than to do. Today, as I was driving through eastern New Mexico, the Texas panhandle, and into the heart of Oklahoma, I was only flipped off once that I noticed and that wasn't until I got well into the state where I live (Oklahoma), the driver not only flipped me off quite vigorously, but he also drove up on my back bumper until I was forced to change lanes and motion to another driver that I thought that the pick-up truck (of course, that is the vehicle this joker was driving - at least a 3/4 ton - not to be too stereotypical, for purposes of this story, the truck was white) was out of control, the driver of the other truck (this other truck was red) nodded and shrugged as if to say "I completely agree with you, but what can I do?" I just kept making the universal sign for BACK-OFF (one that does not involve a single middle finger) into my rearview mirror. When it became clear that white truck was not interested in passing me (he'd already done that earlier and managed somehow to get behind me again) and was only interested in terrorizing me, I pulled off at the next exit and he pulled off behind me. Rather than turning as my signal indicated that I was about to do, I went straight ahead and got right back on the interstate. This move must have flumoxed him as when I looked up into my rearview mirror to merge back into traffic white truck was no longer on my rear end. Thank god. I almost became a traffic fatality today on Interstate 44 west of El Reno, Oklahoma, all because I have two stickers in my rear window - one says: "Pro-America / Anti-Bush" and the other says, "War" with a red circle and line through it. Two fairly mild pronouncements as far as I'm concerned.

I promised a few words about the sets of trading cards that NALC sold at the conference in Albuquerque, so here they are. The cards represent the best and the brightest students, many of whom were in attendance at FedBar this year. They represent the hopes and futures of many Nations and Peoples, they are stars in their own right, they each deserve much more than a trading card to acknowledge all that they have achieved. But with these trading cards we mark their achievements and their presence in this world, the smaller world of Native lawyers, but also the larger world of people who make a difference with their lives. To them, and not to Cho and all the other people who decide to dedicate their lives to misery and tragedy, I say "viva la lucha" ("long live the fight") to make this world more inhabitable and to not running each other off the highway just because we disagree with each others' basic political views.

This coming Friday, Darth Cheney comes to town to lunch with James Inhofe of the "gay-free family tree." I'll be there, selling baloney sandwiches to those who realize the public frauds for who they are, vamos a ver, los cuates, vamos a ver...

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