Fw: JOURNAL OF INDIGENOUS THOUGHT [ Essay based on Hunter Gray interviews and much, much more!]

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Jan 10 08:33:12 MST 2001


[I want to emphasize the importance of Hunter Gray's importance to this
mailing list. About a week ago Phil Ferguson crossposted Fred Feldman's
charge that this mailing list was a project (proyect?) to launch a new
party based on the orientation of Peter Camejo, who broke with the
Socialist Workers Party in 1979 because had a vision of a more inclusive
revolutionary movement. In reality, Camejo did not invent this orientation.
You could argue that the Braverman-Cochran group were the original
pioneers. They launched a new group in 1955 called the Socialist Union and
a magazine called American Socialist that was associated with it.
Furthermore, you can argue that Braverman and Cochran were simply trying to
ground American Marxism in the living realities of the nation's
history--going back to earlier traditions such as Debs' Socialist Party--in
an effort to overcome the problems of a mechanical application of other
countries' revolutions, the Soviet Union in particular.

[Over the past year or so I have been scanning in the most important
articles from the American Socialist that will eventually end up on the
Marxism Internet Archives once I have indexed them. Among the articles is
one written by a young man named John Salter about the problems of uranium
mining in Navaho territory in Arizona. That article and several others on
indigenous struggles bowled me over. Not only did the American Socialist
tackle the pressing problems of sectarianism and dogmatism on the left, it
stood alone in paying attention to the concerns of a people who had been
either neglected historically by the Marxist movement or treated as
obsolete dinosaurs of a precapitalist past by social Darwinist-influenced
Marxist thinkers.

[Basically I believe that indigenous peoples constitute a "fault line" for
global capitalism that Marxism can ill afford to neglect, let alone treat
in a racist fashion. Over the past 3 years I have been involved in an on
and off again project to write a book about Marxism and the American
Indian. Now that I have finished the American Socialist archiving project,
I will turn my attention once again to that project. I am in the middle of
reading up on the original Zapatista movement, which was an indigenous
struggle in many ways, and the "Jungle novels" of B. Traven (author of
"Treasure of the Sierra Madre) which celebrates the struggles of indigenous
peoples in Mexico in this period.

[Just to make sure that comrades avail themselves of the opportunity to
read the profile on Hunter Gray at
http://www.sifc.edu/indian%20studies/indigenousthought/vol3winter.htm, I
will crosspost a couple of paragraphs. This is a life and career that
serves as an inspiration to one and all.]

Hunter Gray epitomizes a synthesis of progressive intellectual
sensibilities on race and civil rights intertwined with an American Indian
heritage as well as a radical critique of society inherited from the "Old
Left" of the labor movement. Hunter Gray describes himself as a "Real Red:
In addition to being a half-breed Indian, I belonged, in the 1950s, to the
last of the really old - time Industrial Workers of the World [IWW] and I
was also [a]... Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers man." The statement is
deceptively simple: Hunter Gray's affiliation with the old - time IWW and
the Mine - Mill union connect him to an older era of struggles for working
people even as his allusion to his "half-breed Indian" ancestry connects
him to a lifetime of struggles for justice in civil rights. Hunter Gray
uniquely synthesizes both civil rights and labor struggles while
simultaneously maintaining a strong, lifelong belief in the sanctity of the
individual and in the deep, traditional American right to keep and bear
arms for lawful self - defense, especially against armed racist aggression.

His social thought at once, and without contradiction to him, maintains
powerful emphasis on cultural communities, recognizing the deep historical
connections between past and present, especially for American Indians.
Simultaneously, he maintains a strong and abiding libertarian sense for the
right of the individual to maintain self - sufficiency and self - defense
as a moral as well as a legal right in the United States: Hunter Gray
argues that aggregations of individuals who form an ethnic or otherwise
identifiable minority community are entitled to self - defense and the
right to lawfully keep and bear arms against racist aggression and
marauding. A contemporary reader of the progressive persuasion, be he or
she in Canada or the United States, jumping to reflex reactions, would
argue that civil rights and labor organizing on the one hand, and advocacy
for the right to keep and bear arms on the other, are contradictory: one is
on "the left," and the other is on "the right."

Hunter Gray abjures this kind of simplistic political dichotomy; these
issues are too complex to make for a simplistic divide either morally or in
political terms. Given his experiences, there is no contradiction; to the
contrary, there are multiple layers of complexity, with but one thing in
common: all layers point to the potential of human beings not only to
defend themselves from racist intimidation or aggression, but as well to
develop their full potential as individuals within communities so as to
reach as high as they can in fulfilling their lives within the American
Republic. Hunter Gray puts this in powerful and passionate ways, although
he modesty calls it "strong personal stuff." Indeed, there is a deep
strand---not of romantic sensibilities, but of mysticism in Hunter Gray's
notion of what is right and proper: "I believe one should Keep Fighting,
all the way through: in the green oases of rich and vibrant and far-flung
struggle: and also in the long lonely stretches of desert with the bitter …
and critically important 'little fights' ---and always with an eye on the
Better World Over the Mountain Yonder [italics supplied]."

Hunter Gray was born as John Randall Salter, Jr. in Flagstaff, Arizona, in
1934. As he looks back on his life and social thought, he credits, first
and foremost, his family. His father, born Frank Gray, was a full - blooded
Indian of Micmac, St. Francis Abenaki, and Mohawk ancestry, but was adopted
by William Mackintire Salter and Mary Gibbens Salter, New England liberals
active in the Ethical Culture Society, a secular group which affirmed moral
and ethical principles without the dogma, creed , or faith of organized
religion. It was William Mackintire Salter who changed Frank Gray's name to
Salter. Frank left the Salters in 1913, went to Indian Mexico for a while,
and then served in the US Navy in World War One. William Salter left Frank
out of his will. Mary Salter "left him what she could." It was the family
of American philosopher William James which funded Frank through the
Chicago Art Institute, and thus launched his career as both artist and
professor. Frank later earned both an MA and an MFA at the University of
Iowa. Frank was a Catholic, but "with mixed tribal religion." Keenly aware
of his Native ancestry, he resented his adopted last name but did not
change it before he died; but his son, John, did change it, in May, 1995,
in District Court, to Hunter Gray:

Hunter, after his mother's Scottish - American side; and Gray, from his
father's Mohawk side. Hunter Gray credits his father as a role model "who
maintained his primary commitment to aboriginal values but [who] resisted
all efforts to push him into a stereotypical mold." Hunter Gray's mother's
family was of Scottish and Swiss heritage. An Anglican, her family of
ranchers "abandoned Calvin for Cranmer, [the latter, 1489 - 1556, a crucial
figure in the English Protestant Reformation]" a reference to social and
economic mobility as the family moved up to the perceived higher status of
the Anglican, or "High " Episcopalian Church in the United States. She was
a "fighter for good causes." Hunter Gray acknowledges his parents'
commitment to the causes of social progress, and always received their
support for his goals. Additionally, although he never met them, he credits
two ancestors about whom he heard much as he was growing up in Flagstaff:
John Gray (Ignace Hatchiorauquasha), his great - great - great grandfather,
a Mohawk, who, with his Mohawk wife, Marianne Neketichon (Mary Ann Charles)
was active in both the Far Western fur trade and Indian rights in the early
nineteenth century.

On Hunter Gray's mother's side, Michael Senn, a Swiss immigrant to the
United States, was an early settler in the Kansas Territory, an
Abolitionist and Union veteran wounded in the American Civil War at
Gettysburg, who, after mustering out of the Army, spoke out against the
1864 massacre of the Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, Colorado. Senn was
also one of the founders of the Knights of Labor, and was a friend of
Eugene V. Debs, who would later become Socialist Party of America
presidential candidate and spokesman. In addition to his ancestors'
heritage, his wife, Eldri, of Scandinavian, Finnish, and Saami heritage,
"has been an extraordinarily positive influence on me from our first
association, and our subsequent marriage, in 1961, to the present moment."
The daughter of a Lutheran minister "and his faithful wife," Eldri
graduated from Augsburg College, a Lutheran institution in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, with a degree in sociology and served as campus representative
for the Lutheran Student Foundation at Wisconsin State College in Superior,
Wisconsin, where she met her future husband.

While her own background was not that of a social activist, recalls Hunter
Gray, "she always had a hell of a strong social conscience!" They married
in late June, 1961. In between the years from Wisconsin State College
through the present "she lived with me under many dangerous clouds (the
South, Chicago, other situations); picketed and was jailed in Jackson;
helped much in my advising work with the Jackson NAACP Youth movements;
heard death threats flow into our various settings for decades; saw Maria,
our first baby, almost hit by a Klansmen's bullet; saw me beaten and almost
killed and constantly surveilled and red-baited; was by herself with the
slowly - accumulating children while I was gone on the organizing road for
days and sometimes weeks at a time; moved frequently; handled the almost
always sparse finances; and has provided extremely basic and effective
words of optimism and wisdom."

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org






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