"Identity Politics"

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Fri Aug 16 13:07:19 MDT 2002

When we convened our preliminary Blackfoot Tribunal (more are to follow) at
the Apatohsipiikani Blackfoot reserve at Brocket Alberta, Louis, who had
been in Blackfoot Country once before, came out. In Browning, at the
Blackfeet Reservation, Louis was present for some very sensitive and very
private discussions (nothing illegal was going on) and even met a Blackfoot
activist deep undercover (I'm not sure he knew/knows that he was meeting
someone deep under) and no one said something like "What is this white man
doing here?" or "We don't need whites involved in our struggles; they are
OUR struggles". In the context of a highly toxic, dangerous and even lethal
environment (Browning was once called by Paul Harvey on national radio: "The
murder capital of America; if you want to get away with murder go to
Browning, Montana" ) and in the context of Blackfoot who have been serious
brutalized by some whites and sell-out nominal Indians, no one took any
exception to Louis being there; they welcomed him and immediately spotted
him as a dedicated activist and trusted ally. No one said "We need to be
only among ourselves".

At Brocket, Alberta Louis met the principal and most respected Chiefs (the
real ones) and Spiritual Leaders of the Blackfoot from all four principal
Bands. Again, not one took any exception to Louis being there, wondering if
he was trying to use Indian issues or add another notch to his CV; nor did
they discuss only "Blackfoot identity issues." We had full-ranging
discussions about the nature of capitalism, about the impossibility of real
sovereignty, self-determination and independence of Blackfoot under
capitalism, about the need to link-up with other oppressed peoples and
groups, about the need to link-up on the internet and other media, etc. When
Louis was present, those who spoke Blackfoot spoke only in English. Why? It
is simple: had they been speaking Blackfoot when Louis was present, in the
Blackfoot Way, and as a matter of just plain common sense, they would
explicitly or tacitly be saying: "there is nothing we are talking about that
would be of interest to you, or that you need to know, or about anything we
might value your opinion and experience on; sort of like writing esoteric
stuff with tortured syntax and contrived vocabulary ABOUT the oppressed that
many of the oppressed ABOUT WHOM something is being written never getting to
see, understand and/or answer/critique/add to what is being written.

Although most of the Blackfoot are "mixed-race" (In the U.S. only about 5%
of the "officially registered"--by those intent on the extermination of
Indians--are "registered" as "full-blood"; in Canada the percentage is only
slightly higher), many who had come to testify, at extreme risks to
themselves and their families (numerous threats of assault, murder, loss of
tribal employment for themselves and their families were made by the
sell-outs against anyone attending the Tribunal) and had been horribly
brutalized by some whites and sell-out nominal Indians and might feel that
they had good reasons not to want any whites near them or at Blackfoot
gatherings, not one took any exception to Louis being there or questioned
Louis' bona fides in any way; and these are people who have been under
extreme seige and surveillance by RCMP, FBI and Tribal traitors for many
many years.

As for Louis, he didn't come in with discussions about the labor theory of
value or about what happens to s/c+v (rate of profit) as a result of the
tendencies of capitalists to increase c/v (organic composition of capital)
when s/v (rate of exploitation) is falling. He didn't come in shouting about
"snakes in the pocket of the proletariat", "you people are practicing
identity politics and need to hook-up with the working class, forget this
Blackfoot identiy/sovereignty/self-determination stuff as only class
matters..."; nor did he pull out Stalin or Trotsky or whomever on "The
National Question". He listened patiently, learned, added, gave his
views---appreciated and understood by all--and asked (not tell) how he could
be of help.

It was a model of how activists who operate in certain arenas and on certain
issues can productively and principally hook-up with activists operating in
other arenas and on other issues and form principled alliances against
common enemies. I point this out because I witnessed all of it and
modesty/discipline forbids Louis from saying/revealing any of this.

In addition to Mine, I guess I am one of the few on the list who can say
he/she has "slept" with Louis (plus my daughter) and who has seen him "in
the field" at work. It was a pleasure and honor from which I learned a great

When I am back in Blackfoot Country, I am sure may will ask: "Where's
Louis"? We need him and all those like him.

Jim C.

James Craven
(Blackfoot Name: "Omahkohkiaayo-i'poyi-inaa")
Professor/Consultant Economics; Division (Business) Chairman;
Clark College, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, WA. 98663
(360) 992-2283; Fax: (360) 992-2863
blkfoot5 at earthlink.net
*My Employer Has No Association With My Private/Protected

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