Johnny Cash and the AIM Movement

There have been quite a few celebrity advocates for the AIM movement over the years, but one that is little known as being an advocate for AIM is Johnny Cash.  Johnny Cash was always known as a rebel, and didn’t always act in ways that everyone agreed with.  But, by releasing his album in 1964 Bitter Tears caused him to receive some of the greatest backlash he would ever receive.  He was one of the first big celebrities to take a stand for American Indian rights.  Some even stating that it is the earliest and most significant statement about Native issues.

Early on in his career Johnny Cash knew he wanted make an album dedicated to the struggle of Native peoples.  His support for American Indian peoples stems from growing up in Arkansas, around a large Native population.  His family struggled with poverty not unlike the Native Americans; however, programs like the New Deal helped his family progress out of poverty.  However, he looked at his Native neighbors and saw no such progress with them.  Solely because they didn’t receive federal aid like his white family did.  He was so entwined in Native American culture and issues that he often claimed to be Native; however, refuting these statements later on.  Cash’s strong ties to the Native American community caused him to act on their behalf.  Speak against the mistreatment of American Indians in our country.  He decided to raise awareness about these issues the only way he knew how, through music.  So he released the album Bitter Tears containing 8 powerful songs all containing messages about the struggles of Native Americans in the United States.  However, only two of the songs rising to the top. Bitter Tears and The Ballad of Ira Hayes carried the album reaching the top of the charts.  Even with the success of these two songs, he received wicked backlash from the album itself.  Almost costing him his career.

When he released the album many radio stations refused to play the songs.  In response to this he wrote them a letter stating ” DJs, station managers, owners etc.  Where are your guts?  Ira Hayes is strong medicine.  So is Rochester, Harlem, Birmingham, and Vietnam.”  Even though Cash was deeply disappointed of the opposition of his album he continued to play songs from it in every concert after.  Even singing Ira Hayes for Richard Nixon when another song was requested.

Like many after him, Cash was a relentless supporter and advocate, of the AIM movement.  Spurring support from others like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Steve Earle.  His compassion, love, and respect for Native peoples caused him to stand up for what he knew was right.  Regardless of the impact on his reputation.  We can learn many lessons from Mr. Cash.  Standing up for what you believe in is one of them.

Social Movements Role in Society

Social movements have a complex, yet crucial role in society.  Social movements come about when there is a common issue that a group stands up for. Social movements can be highly organized like the National Rifle Association or semi-spontaneous like the Women’s march. They have a common goal of raising awareness and usually have some agenda in mind. That agenda could be simply raising awareness, or accomplishing some kind of greater change. Whether that change be in legislation or just a change in the way people think.

Social movements are a prime example of our first amendment rights. Being able to practice free speech, organize peaceful protests and having the power to make a difference in our government are all great privileges of living in our country.

Social movements have achieved many great things like women’s rights, the civil rights movement, the american indian movement has come a long way, and even  the Lakota at the Dakota access pipeline.  They may not have stopped the pipeline, but they raised great awareness and mustered great support for the AIM movement and the Lakota people.

Social movements role in society is not necessarily to achieve an agenda or solely change laws.  Social movement’s role is to allow people the opportunity to come together, speak their mind, and make people aware of an issue that is close to their heart.  They can practice their constitutional right, while making a difference in the world they live in.  Just because their main goals aren’t met or nothing was achieved on their “agenda” does not mean the social movement was not successful.  For a social movement to be successful, all they have to do is make someone aware of an issue, that they were not aware of before.


The Native American Tribes of the Middle Peninsula

For my next post I decided to write about a place that is very special to me, the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.  Now I grew up here, and am fairly familiar with the rich Native American History of this area.  Especially with Pocahontas’s birthplace being just 45 minutes from my house.  I have always been relatively educated about historical Natives in my area, but did not have much knowledge on the current tribes that reside on the Middle Peninsula.  So for this post, I decided to do a little bit of research and share it with y’all.

There are currently 5 state recognized Native tribes on the Middle Peninsula and one Federally recognized tribe.  The state tribes being the Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Eastern Chickahominy.  The only federally recognized tribe being the Pamunkey.

The Pamunkey Tribe is located in King William County on the Pamunkey River.  It contains 200 members and the reservation consists of 1,200 acres.  Only 36 members live on the reservation, with a majority living in the surrounding area.  Archeologists, historians, and anthropologists put Native occupation of these lands back 10-12,000 years.  With the Pamunkey land base being established as early as 1658.  The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7  council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years.  These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws.  The Pamunkey Tribe was recognized by the Federal government in 2015.

The Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County on the Mattaponi River.  It contains 450 tribal members and the reservation consists of 150 acres.  Like the Pamunkey the reservation can be traced back as early as 1658.  With their decedents inhabiting the area up to 12,000 years ago.  Only 75 members live on the reservation, but most members live in the surrounding area. The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7 council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years. These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws.

The Upper Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County and contains 575 members.  The tribe owns 32 acres where they currently hold events and plan to develop a tribal center.  These lands are not given by the state as a reservation, but purchased by the tribe.    On their 32 acres sits the Sharon Indian School, which is the only public Indian school building in Virginia.  It is no longer an active school, but is still used for tribal meetings and cultural gatherings.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Upper Mattaponi were referred to as the Adamstown band due to high number of tribal members with the last name Adams.  In the early twentieth century, during a nationwide native cultural revival, Adamstown band took on the name Upper Mattaponi Tribe.  Their tribe has been trying to gain federal recognition since the 1990s.

The Chickahominy Tribe (nicknamed the “Turtle Clan”) is located in Charles City County and is associated with the Chickahominy River.  It contains 840 tribal members and their tribal grounds sit on 110 acres; however, these are not reservation lands given by the state.   These are grounds purchased by the tribe to perform ceremonial gatherings and tribal meetings.  Every year they hold a Fall Festival and Powwow at their tribal center.  Their government consists of elected officials containing a chief and two assistant chiefs, as well as 9 other tribal council members.  The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1996.

The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe is located in New Kent County and  contains 164 tribal members.  They own 41 acres that they plan to build a tribal center and museum on in the future.  They currently hold meetings at Tsena Commocko Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe shares historical roots with the Chickahominy Tribe splitting off  from the tribe in 1910, due to travel inconveniences and political reasons.  Tribal government consists of an elected chief, assistant chief, and seven council members.  Office positions are held for four years without term limits.  The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1990.

This is just a snippet of information about the culturally rich Native American Tribes located in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia.  All the tribes are trying to improve for the future, while staying culturally rooted in their past.  These tribes have been here for hundreds of years, and without a doubt I know they will be here for hundreds more.

Source can be referenced here:

Pamunkey Indian Reservation Casino: A Debate between Morals and Money

As the Pamunkey Indian Reservation has received federal recognition as a tribe since February 2016. The talk of the town has been should they obtain their casino license?  If the Pamunkey Reservation were to build a casino it would be the first and only casino in Virginia.  However, this causes a large debate.

If they Pamunkey Tribe were to start a casino it could have grand economic benefits for the reservation.  Many natives and non-natives a like are all for it, and believe it could be a great thing for the reservation.  However, just as many people oppose this idea.  Including former Pamunkey Tribe Chief, Kevin Brown, Virginia government officials such as House speaker William J. Howell, Senators Timothy M. Kaine and Mark D. Warner, and Governor Terry McAuliffe.  All these people believe that the installation of a casino in Virginia will cause people to abuse casino gambling and the greed and slander that goes along with it could be detrimental to the community.  Former Pamunkey Tribe Chief Kevin Brown expressed his opinion on a Pamunkey casino here: “I have seen firsthand the greed and evil a deal like this can bring out in people and have changed my position regarding gaming as a viable endeavor for the tribe at this time.”  However, his tribal council and many Pamunkey Tribe members opposed him on this.  Brown also had this statement about his council regarding this issue: “Bob Gray, Brad Brown, Warren Cook and Ivy Hill, assisted by our former attorney, Mark Tilden, have taken it upon themselves to attempt to overthrow your traditional Government of a Chief & Council.”  Which this opposition eventually led to Brown losing his job as Chief.  Despite Virginia government official’s opposition they have stated that if the Pamunkey Tribe so chooses to go through with building a casino, they will not stand in their way.

Now this is a very heated debate with both sides having valid points and concerns.  It essentially becomes a battle between morals and money.  Which depending on what your morals are decides where you stand on this issue.  Having a Pamunkey Reservation Casino would no doubt be very beneficial to the Pamunkey Tribe, bringing in millions if not billions in revenue for the reservation.  Which would do a tremendous good for the reservation’s economy and the Tribe as a whole.  Not to mention being beneficial to Virginia’s economy as well by attracting more people to visit the state and stimulate the economy.

On the other hand there are some moral issues that need to be taken into account.  A casino could possibly be a negative influence on the community, as it encourages people to risk losing money they may or may not have.  Thus, there is a possibility of creating poverty because of this.  There is a possibility of an increase in crime, drugs, and alcohol usage centered around the casino.  These just being a few examples of negative affects from the casino.

Ultimately it comes to the point of “are the risks worth the reward?” and “do the positives outweigh the negatives?”.  No doubt a Pamunkey Tribe casino would have great economic benefit; however, there is also no doubt that there could be some serious consequences because of it.  These are questions that nobody knows the answers too, and they are decisions that only the Pamunkey Indian Reservation can make.

All information and quotes came from The Washington post article Pamunkey Indians wanted to open Virginia’s first casino, letter shows. 

Ag Industry: An Answer to Native American Issues?

As I mentioned in my last post, the first step in converting a developing country into a developed one is progressing the country’s agriculture system into a self sufficient one.  Get to the point that the country can produce enough food to feed its own people, then further improve it to the point of exporting crops for cash.  Once a country begins exporting crops and making a profit from it, this gives them money to further develop, better their economy, and better the lives of the people that live there.  It’s the first step in a long process; however, it’s a crucial one.  There are very few developed countries in our world that have skipped this step.

I believe when trying to improve Native American Reservations we need to look at them as we would a developing country.  First step would be fixing their agriculture production.  Making sure that they are being as efficient and productive as possible (check my last post to see methods of doing so).  Once we have Native Americans producing the most they can they will have a highly profitable export, that can bring in substantial amount of revenue for the community.  With this revenue and the increased production of agricultural commodities, agricultural processors will either move in, or could possibly even be started by Native Americans.

Now you might ask, why would processors want to move in?  Well the answer is simple.  With Native Americans producing large quantities of crops the processors are going to start losing money transporting the commodities long distances.  To cut costs, as well as time the economical thing to do would be to start up processing plants in or near reservations.  Of course these plants, would need people to work in them, thus creating jobs for Natives, further stimulating their economy.  As they become more productive and their economy grows perhaps more production companies will move in.  Again creating more jobs and benefiting the Native economy.  This start up in production will cause more non-native traffic to travel through reservations even if it’s all due to business.  This will increase opportunities for other businesses to open such as restaurants, motels, grocery stores, etc.  Again further stimulating their economy.

Due to this increase in money that is circulating through the reservation, we now have funding to fix many of the other problems that remain in reservations, such as education, health care, and alcoholism.  Native youth now have careers to look forward to, and hope for a better future.  This will greatly reduce suicide rates, as well as gang activity.

Now this is all just a theory, but it’s a start.  And I believe it’s a feasible one.  All of the problems in reservations that are continually discussed could be fixed  just from a little extra money from a few little plants.

Amending the Wrongs Done to Native American Agriculture

If you take a glance at my last blog post you can get a quick history lesson of Native American agriculture.  How they progressed by domesticating wild edible plants and animals and adopting sustainable farming practices to regressing to hardly no farming at all by 1960, due to the colonization of America by the Europeans.  We gave them marginal lands, forced our practices upon them, yet didn’t give them the necessary education and technology to be efficient in modern agriculture.  This caused a dramatic decrease in the amount of farming done by Native peoples.  Often times having whole reservations without farming.

However, in the past several decades we have started trying to assist Native peoples in being more productive commercial growers.  Such as the establishment of two acts that protect and enhance Native American agriculture and natural resources.  These being the American Indian Agricultural Resource Act and the Protection of Indians and Natural Resources Act.  Each of these acts protect Native American agricultural land and natural resources.  The Agricultural Resource Act does so by implementing programs to enhance Native rangeland and agricultural land, increasing Native management of lands, and opening federal positions for Native Americans in the fields agriculture and natural resources.  The other part of the act increases education opportunities in agriculture and natural resource fields of Natives through scholarships, extension outreach, and training programs.  These acts along with others have caused an 88% increase in Native American farmers between 2002 and 2007 and according to the USDA census of agriculture Native Americans produced 1.4 billion dollars in agricultural commodities in 2007.  This is great news for the Native American community, but we can’t stop there.  Still only 75% of Native American agricultural lands is being farmed.  With only 50% of that meeting its full production capability.  Not to mention 1.1 million acres of Native lands could be farmed but never has.

Due to these issues, we need to increase government support through acts like the Ag Resource act, and increase agriculture educational opportunities and jobs for Native youth, perhaps buy more agricultural lands for Natives to farm, have an increase in interaction of consultant and support organizations such as Cooperative Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service with Native growers, and perhaps include government grants giving Native growers the most up to date technology and information so they can be as efficient and have the largest profit margin possible.  If we can fix the Reservations broken agricultural system I believe this could put Native Americans on the road to recovery in the United States.  After all the first step in converting a developing country into a developed one is converging their agricultural system from a subsistence one to a commercial one with high profit.  I believe the same idea could be applied to the American Indian Nations.

The History of Native American Agriculture

Agriculture is and always has always played a huge role in the wealth, health, and prosperity of Native American peoples.  Early on Native Americans progressed from hunting and gathering towards farming.  Often planting some of the wild edibles they harvested in their own  gardens.  Native Americans in North America are given credit for the domestication of many crops we know today such as corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, as well as several types of berries.  These people had a great knowledge of the land and soil health and were the first ones to practice the idea of sustainable agriculture.  Using food scraps and wastes as fertilizers and organic materials, they rotated crops and farmland, used no-till practices and used intercropping methods such as the three sisters.  Planting squash to shade out weeds, beans to fixate nitrogen, and corn for the beans to climb.  It has often speculated that Native American corn yields were far greater than the European wheat yields in the same time periods.  Not only did they grow crops, some Natives even domesticated animals such as wolves and turkeys.

Upon European contact, Natives taught colonists many of there agricultural practices and traded grain, fruit, and animals with them.  Europeans took many things back to Europe with them such as tobacco, corn, and turkeys and adopted many of their cultivation practices such as the Three-sisters.  The Natives also received crops and livestock from the colonists such as wheat, horses, cattle, and hogs.

The Eastern and Western peoples lived in harmony for a short time until the eastern colonists started the age old tradition of biting the hand the fed them. They started pushing the Natives west, and after the United States were formed broke up tribes and tried to eliminate Native traditions.  By doing so they also forced the European practices of farming on the Native peoples.  Pushing them away from no-till and intercropping, towards plowing and row crops.  Flooding many of there agricultural lands through dams and some Native novelty crops that would be lost forever with it.  This continued to modern day, with continual lack of support from the colonists.  They would push the practices on them without giving them the tools and technologies necessary for them to efficiently use these “modern practices”.  They broke up Native agricultural lands into sections and gave individuals the titles, that they often sold or leased to white farmers because they did not have the education and technology necessary to commercially farm.  Thus, moving whole Native populations that were known for farming to none of them farming at all.  However, in recent years certain government grants and acts have been implemented to try and encourage Natives to farm once again.

Appropriation and Assimilation

Appropriation and assimilation can often times have a negative connotation between peoples and societies in today’s world.  Yet, I often wonder if this connotation is accurate or necessary.  Far too often you find people getting offended or angry about other’s “appropriating” their culture.  This appropriation could be the music they listen to, the way they dress, or their religion.  But what I find curious is America is supposed to be the land of the free, the home of the brave, a place you can express your ideals without being ridiculed, and the “world’s melting pot”; where everyone comes together to form Americans.

Yet we constantly find ourselves being segregated and put into groups and then getting mad when others try to break these social norms.  Why does it offend you that I like your music and want to incorporate the style of your dress into mine?  Shouldn’t that be a compliment?  Why are you worried about me “stealing” it from you?  I would like to think in America that were all different, but we can come together learn from each other and  morph into a slightly different culture.  Everyone has different backgrounds, yet they are the same.

Now one might argue that this leads to the destruction of a culture; yet, a counter-argument could be that it is the birth of a new one.  It could be a culture that has many of it’s original ideals, as well as many ideals from many different culture’s that form one very diverse culture.  I believe that real beauty could be found in that.  Beauty in the fact that I could hunt and fish, listen to rap music, eat authentic vietnamese food, practice Islam, wear designer clothing, and be best friends with someone that is the exact opposite from all of that.

I understand that there need to be some social groups and cultural structures so that the best interests and rights of those people are protected.  But I do not understand the ideal of ethnocentrism.  That if your black you can only stick to the “black culture” because everyone else’s ideals are wrong.  There is no reason that someone can strongly practice their own culture, while assimilating to others and have a sense of community in any situation they’re in.

Maybe by having a more diverse culture, the rights of different social groups could be more secure and looked after.  By having more of an understanding of other cultures and ideals and having “walked a mile in their shoes,” people could be more open-minded and willing to look after other people’s best interests.

The whole point to my rant here is that maybe there is possibility to a different outlook on the middle ground between cultures.  Instead of having closed doors between them, they could be open for people to come and go as they please and build new houses based on ones they experienced.  Rather than labeling it cultural appropriation or assimilation, why not label it cultural creation.

Hey Everyone!

Hey everyone! My name is Scott Hammond and I am a Junior at Virginia Tech studying Agronomy. This blog is for my Intro to American Indian Studies class where I will be discussing issues, ideas, and opinions based on American Indian history, culture, colonization and cultural issues in the country. So check in for updates and I hope you enjoy!