[Marxism] Encounter With Bill Mandel

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 26 06:07:35 MST 2005


One of the most positive dimensions of our discovery of the Net and e-mail
has been my meeting thereby a great number of very fine people -- some of
whom I have personally known, some of whom I have heard in years past,
others brand new friends.  One of these great many souls has been Bill
Mandel.  A special name and good works not unknown to me over the decades,
we met first on the Marxist List several years ago and Eldri and I soon
obtained and read his fine book, Saying No To Power [1999] -- which covers
much of Bill's radical saga in the context of rich global travels,
observation, and interpretation.  It was clear even before I read that
monumental work that our respective trails had touched at many significant

When he asked me awhile back to interview/speak November 25th on his well
known radio program at KPFA, out of Berkeley, I was most glad to do so.  I
haven't, I should add, been in the Bay Area since I spoke at the San
Francisco Press Club years ago. [I've attached an excerpt from his
post-interview message to me.]

The realm, history, contemporary challenges of the people known as American
Indians or Native Americans [the latter term formally embraces, of course,
Eskimos/Inuit and Aleuts as well], makes up a Big Mountain Range indeed.  I
should add that, like many of us, I tend to use these two terms
interchangeably -- along with that of First People.

I try to be a reasonably well organized speaker and Bill, of course, is an
excellent host who, avoiding the extremes of non-directiveness and
interference, walks a judiciously fine and spare and thoughtfully effective
path.  In addition to  brief mention of my critical view of "Thanksgiving,"
I was able to cover the mountain peaks we deem especially significant: among
them,  the multiplicity of tribal nations and tribal cultures, primary
Native loyalty thereto, and the consistent and effective Native resistance
to assimilation by the so-called Euro-American mainstream culture. I sought
to delineate key issues such as the necessity of development of tribal
self-determination within the context of treaty rights and the importance of
those rights; the fight to restore lost sovereignty to the Indian nations;
the critical importance of protecting Native lands and natural resources;
the always high priority of tribal economic development and the deepening
and broadening of Native health services and strengthening and expansion of
Indian educational systems.

In the course of this I sketched something of my own Indian background:
growing up in Northern Arizona and Western New Mexico with always extremely
close ties to Navajo Nation and Laguna Pueblo; important multi-ethnic
influences; my shooting of the Great Bear as a coming-of-age ritual; life
long social justice community organizing; my father; our historic family
ancestral culture models --  John Gray [Ignace Hatchiorauquasha] and
Marienne Neketichon Gray, Mohawk activists in the Far Western fur trade.  In
a quick discussion of theology, I was glad to say a good and balanced word
for the Jesuits, their frequent respect for the Native cultures, and the
resultant phenomenon of syncretism -- the blending of Catholicism with the
traditional theologies.

[Got Tougaloo College and Navajo Community College [now Dine' College] very
nicely into all of this!]

 Expressing our own gratitude for the fact that I have been able to work
effectively and with cultural sensitivity with people of a range of
racial/cultural backgrounds over many epochs, I pushed [as always]
grassroots community organizing as Genesis -- sensibly militant and tough
and democratic with the critical two dimensional focus: the here-and-now
needs of the people, and the Vision Over the Mountains Yonder.

Took a shot at capitalism and spoke well of socialism.  And I closed with
that most basic current of all in the ethos of all of the Native tribal
nations:  The primary emphasis on serving one's community -- rather than
serving one's self.

Now this was all a very big meal -- if I do say so myself -- and it was
inclusively possible because Bill Mandel is a Host of the first rank.  Got
all of this in with deliberate speed and without an ounce of "preachiness."

I was also very pleased to mention our support for continuation of his
excellent radio program on KPFA.  For that struggle, past and current,
please see:


     Thanks from the bottom of my heart for appearing on my
show. The board operator seems to have hung up before it was
possible for me to say anything privately.
     The listeners must have been puzzled by both of us in
one respect. They have all heard the tapes of my encounters
with witch-hunters, on which I come across as one tough
character. Likewise, I think they found it hard to relate
the calm and even gentle academic I was talking to, with the
man with the bloody head and pistol in his hand I
described, plus your mention of the unnamed disease you are
now fighting.
     If they have thought about it, I imagine they realize
that they were listening to two elders in the positive
traditional sense of the term, men who've seen it all and
feel no need to raise their voices with another whose
experiences have been more or less equally rich.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

I am honored -- humbled -- by the 2005 Elder Recognition Award of Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. This particular, rarely issued
honor is one of several awards voted by the Caucus [board] of this
organization of writers, storytellers, film makers, and journalists.
http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm   Regularly

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and
mysterious and remembering way.  [Hunter Bear]

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