Subscribe

Jill Stein, Tim Canova and Chase Iron Eyes Trace the Path Forward for Progressives

Donald Kaufman
Correspondent
Donald Kaufman is an L.A.-based producer, composer and mix engineer. He is also the songwriter and frontman of the band Visceral Design. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Kaufman began…
Donald Kaufman

On Saturday, Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2016 presidential nominee, and Tim Canova, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s August primary, spoke at the Greens’ Inaugurate the Resistance event in Washington, D.C. They discussed whether the Democratic Party is reformable and debated the importance of its progressive wing. Their talk also covered the future of the two dominant parties and the importance of grass-roots movements.

At that same event, Chase Iron Eyes, an American Indian activist and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, explored the importance of nonviolent resistance, the assault on Native American culture and women, and the situation on the ground in North Dakota concerning the Dakota Access pipeline.

Watch Truthdig contributor Donald Kaufman in conversation with Stein, Canova and Iron Eyes below (via YouTube). Full transcripts of both conversations can be found below the videos. Click here for a transcript of Kaufman’s discussion with Iron Eyes.

A conversation with Jill Stein and Tim Canova:

Donald Kaufman: You ran for the primary—

Tim Canova: Yes.

Kaufman: … and you’ve been recently crucified on the left for doing recount.

Jill Stein: Sort of. I mean, by some—

Kaufman: By some.

Stein: —not by others.

Kaufman: Do you think now that Trump has won, and now that people, in general… I mean, [Clinton] won the popular vote but has kind of rejected this kind of Plutonian way of politics, and they’ve kind of rejected the Democratic establishment. Do you think they are starting to understand that they need to reanalyze and refocus? Or do you think that they’re just trying to distract with things like Russia propaganda? How do you think it’s going to move forward?

Stein: Yeah. I mean, I think there is certainly an effort to distract, and to sort of corral people with the usual kind of mythologies like that the Democrats are the alternative to Trump. But they’re not, because most people who voted for Trump were not voting for Trump; they were voting against the other alternative that they were even more afraid of and distrusting of. So I’ve been really surprised to see how deep the thinking is here, and I really wasn’t sure what the mood was going to be like here. And out on the street, I’m not seeing people signing up for, oh, “Let’s just go back to the same old Democratic Party program” that’s the alternative to Trump. By no means. What I’m really seeing out on the street is that this is an indictment of both predatory politic parties. Trump is sort of the representation of a failure of corporate politics. He’s sort of the consummate expression of the oligarchy and its politics.

So what I’m seeing from people is kind of a deep yearning and commitment to a transformative kind of politics. And the numbers, I think, support that, that people were screaming for other alternatives. Seventy-six percent wanted open debates, 80 percent said they were disgusted with the election, 90 percent, according to an AP New York poll, said that they’ve lost confidence in our political system, the executive, Congress, judiciary, you name it. And there’s such an effort being made now by the political system to silence real alternatives and deep analysis.

Kaufman: Well, it’s interesting because yesterday I went to this… they call it the “deplorable ball.” And it was the gays’ deplorable ball, and it was… the whole headline was “gays for Trump.” And if you look at the policy issues, when it came to Snowden, when it came to Assange, people, they called them heroes.

Stein: They called them?

Kaufman: Heroes.

Stein: They did?

Kaufman: When it came to the drone program, they didn’t believe in it. They thought we should go out of the Middle East. The head person that was running the whole thing actually said she was a Jill Stein fan — and this was the head; these people are running these inaugural balls for the Trump administration. So I kept asking, what’s going on? Why is there such a disconnect? Why are you so excited by the Trump movement? And the only thing that was kind of consistent was it was an F-you to the system in place.

Stein: Yes, exactly.

Canova: I think that’s true. I think that’s a big part of the Trump vote. I think the Democratic Party has been trying to distract from the corruption of the DNC and from the failure of the Clinton campaign, and if we’re reaching any lessons, Clinton now defends Trump if it’s two to one. Money alone doesn’t win elections when you don’t have credibility anymore, and there’s a fight going on within the Democratic Party still, and I see this in Florida in just the past few weeks. It was a contest for who was going to be the chair of the state party.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Canova: And the establishment investor basically became the party leaders. And it was a loss for the progressive win, but the progressive win didn’t just go down silently. They organized, they fought hard. I think they’re gaining strength within the Democratic Party. And, I think, outside the party. When I look at the past year, what I see is an awful lot of the progressive movement woke up and roared. And you saw it in Bernie’s campaign. If Sanders had been at the top of the ticket, I think he would have destroyed Donald Trump.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Canova: I truly do, and their polls suggest that. And you saw that backlash against the establishment in Jill’s campaign as well. And in Trump’s campaign. So the American people, I think, are way ahead of both major parties, including the Democratic Party, in wanting reform. And in Florida — I know you and I were speaking about some of the environmental conflicts there. About twice in the past year voters of Florida statewide voted the right way on referendums dealing with solar power. And yet we can’t get anything through Tallahassee where the Republicans control it. You can’t get anything through the U.S. Congress. And the Democrats have a lot of reckoning to do if that party is redeemable, if it can be reformed. And I think that’s what’s playing out or will play out over the next two years as well.

Kaufman: And so on that note, because there’s this kind of consensus that you have, and if you don’t toe this party line … and even the big criticism Sanders had was all of a sudden all the things he was talking about in the primaries, he goes around and then endorsed Clinton. And there’s this kind of … I’m wondering how we get outside of this toeing the party line. And just even yesterday I was in the inauguration and whether you agree with Trump or not, these people came from across the country. They were big fans. And they went to go see his inauguration and these protesters cut them off, sat down, they couldn’t go in, and were screaming at them, “You’re misogynist, you’re racist.”

Stein: Oh. Wow.

Kaufman: And that’s all that’s … It’s creating this divide.Canova: When I say that the Democrats have not had an honest conversation about the lessons from this election, this is part of the problem. You know, the Clinton campaign had so many flaws, but the message was awful. To be blaming people who might vote for Trump. When you give voters just the lesser of two evils kind of a choice, I don’t know how you can get so sanctimonious about when they choose the other evil.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Canova: It can go either way. You’ve got to give a much better alternative.

Kaufman: Well, Jerry Brown calls them “The evil of two lessers.”

Canova: Exactly. Yes. Yeah, I heard Ralph Nader years ago say that same phrase actually.

Stein: That’s right. And I have a slightly different perspective on reform of the Democratic Party. With all due respect for people like you who are really trying to fight the good fight in a principled way, I would just say as someone who was around in the ’60s, when we had the so-called realignment campaign—which was an effort to turn the Democratic Party into a social Democratic Party—it floundered on the rocks of the war in Vietnam because if you were a critic of that war, you no longer were a Democrat in good standing to be able to push for reform of the Democratic Party.

And that tried to harness the incredible power of the civil rights movement for God’s sakes. You know, one of the most powerful social movements in the last century certainly and the labor movement, which was much stronger then. And they couldn’t do it then; how are we going to do it now? And the Democratic Party is no less alive with the war industry right now. So I personally see it as kind of a hopeless case. You know, if, for those who are doing it in a principled way, I say go to it.

But, you know, personally, I feel like the writing has been on the wall here for quite some time. And at the debate the other night for the contenders to lead the DNC, you didn’t have … you know, they basically refused to reform the super delegates. They maintained this stranglehold of the political establishment on the Democratic Party. They refused to out, to ban lobbyist contributions, which even Barack Obama gave lip service to and did.

Canova: He did.

Stein: They won’t even go that far. And no word about banning corporate money. So, I feel like it’s a real exercise in futility that we no longer have time to keep beating this dead horse. It really is a dead horse. And in terms of the distraction, I think it’s all about distraction right now. And in the same way that people were screaming for an open debate before the election, they’ve also really been yearning for another perspective to have dialogue on where we are now and how we go forward.

And our participation in the dialogue is completely wiped out. It’s not allowed. Third parties are being caught in this snare now of the new McCarthyism, which has gone beyond just demonizing the Russians because they couldn’t come up with the evidence on the Russians. So, you know, that evidence still remains to be seen. That evidence that [inaudible] promotes to these IP addresses, which are basically non-specific. And then the rest of the evidence was, “Oh, look at the programming that RT had back in 2012.” That was clearly the sabotage of this. It’s a joke.

And now they’ve tried to include third parties as being collaborators because we had a debate on RT and because RT will cover us when the U.S. press won’t. Suddenly we are Putin’s collaborators who are interfering with the election. I mean, I can’t say it without laughing that they are having to now point to a third party because they can’t prove the Russians did it. So now it’s the third parties that interfered with the election.

Kaufman: And what’s interesting is in the WikiLeaks documents, it shows that in 2010 Clinton uses pro-fracking. She was saying these environmentalist groups that were anti-fracking were actually Russian propagandists. So this is kind of aligned.

Stein: Yeah. Exactly.

Kaufman: It’s not new. And, as you said, the Green Party has been marginalized [so] that the only way they can move forward is through a grass-roots campaign.

Stein: Exactly.

Kaufman: And we have one of the biggest marches in U.S. history happening today as we speak outside. The streets, the city’s pretty much been shut down. How is the Green Party going to affect the grass roots, speak to the pain? I mean, what Trump did, he spoke … There’s real pain in this country. And it’s horrifying. How do you see for the next four years or the future, how the Green Party will tap into that and what they will do in terms of grass roots?

Stein: Exactly. You know, in the same way that Bernie Sanders tapped into that by speaking to people’s economic pain, that’s really what the Green Party agenda is about. It’s like Bernie is sort of a lesser version of the Green Party’s agenda for workers, for women, for indigenous rights, etc.

Kaufman: But what ways will that play out?

Stein: Local races, basically. In a nutshell. In the same way that Eugene Debs running for president helped gin up a movement of socialists and a progressive party and basically the leftie and red parties took office at the local level. And they had hundreds, if not thousands, of local electives. At the city level, school committees, all the way on up to senators, congressmen, and even a governor. And this is one of the points of running for national office. It’s not only so that we don’t give a pass to this mythology that the war and the TPP and all the rest. We need to challenge that. We can’t let that go without a fight.

But it’s also to get the word out to people at the local level with an agenda that can be translated into a local agenda. Into fighting for energy, municipal ownership of energy, of sanctuary cities, etc. All these issues—the fight to reduce the cost of tuition and to address student debt—all of these have their local equivalents. So, we’re very focused on boosting our local candidates. And we’ve massively proliferated our local chapters and the people who are stepping forward and helping right now.

Kaufman: And, on the progressive side, what do you view as the path forward?

Canova: Well, let me say I saw the Huffington Post debate of the Democratic National Committee chair candidates as well. And I was waiting for them to ask this question: Would you support banning corporate lobbyist donations? Obama had banned it in ’08. And it was Wasserman Schultz at our DNC that overturned that back in 2015. And the answers from almost everyone were really unsatisfying. I will say, though, that Sally Boynton Brown, the Idaho party chair, she was unequivocal. She said, “Ban it. Ban it right away. And even though we need money, by banning it, you incite debates. You incite the grass roots, and then small donations will more than make up for it.”

That resonated for me. When I ran, I made a pledge at the very beginning I wouldn’t take a dime from any corporate interest. I kept the pledge. Now, of course, I had the advantage of campaigning against somebody who had made herself very unpopular nationwide. But we raised an awful lot of money in small donations and gave it one hell of a fight. We didn’t fall short by all that much. What I’d suggest is you need to have a strong movement, progressive movement, both within the Democratic Party and outside the party through a third party like the Green Party.

The TPP was stopped, and it was in part because there were a lot of Democrats and Greens and even Republicans fighting back against it. We got to spread this progressive gospel, this message, all across the spectrum regardless of how somebody is registered at this moment. I think there’s a lot that progressive Democrats and progressive Greens have in common. I’m all for open primaries. I’m all for open debates. I would love to see a multi-party democracy, whether I stay in the Democratic Party or not.

Kaufman: Yeah. So responding to try to bring a little bit of conflict here. We have this side saying, here we have the Democratic Party. It is so, kind of … denigrated, corrupt. The conflicts [are] too big. You’ve ran against one of the openly famous, corrupt politicians of recent time. Bringing religion. Going through any kind of lanes. Still she gets the backing of the Democratic Party.

Canova: The entire establishment.

Kaufman: The way they tore up Sanders and the way they tore up his fans calling them Bernie Bros. This kind of—

Canova: They had a million—

Kaufman: Character assassinations.

Canova: —million-dollar super PACs go after me and then swept voted me. They photoshopped a picture of me speaking to senior citizens and in one hand they put a wad of cash, as taking outside money. The irony here is the outside money I was taking were $17 donations around the country.

Stein: Mm-hmm.

Canova: From school teachers and nurses, and you name it. She was taking outside money from a hedge fund operator, an offshore hedge fund who had, has $100 million in fossil fuels.

Kaufman: So, why stay in it?

Stein: Exactly. That was my question.

Canova: I hear you. And I’m not sure. Well, I’ll say this. I shouldn’t say I’m not sure. I was going to say I’m not sure how long I’ll be in it.

Kaufman: OK.

Canova: But for now, this is where I choose to fight. And I think it’s good to take the fight to them.

Kaufman: Do you think it is parties?

Canova: I’ll say that I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, except for three years as an independent. And during that time, I worked on Capitol Hill, I worked for a senator named Paul Tsongas, who has since passed away.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Canova: You know, I’ve identified with white democrats in history, John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt and Paul Wellstone. And when you identify with leaders in a party, you don’t want to give it up so easily. The party has a certain history and a certain poetry to that history that you want to redeem. So when I see people who … You might look at it as a futile attempt on the windmills. They are still trying to take the fight to the enemy and create an open space for third parties. Fifty percent of the voting public isn’t registered. Of those who are registered, 50 percent don’t vote. There’s enough new souls to recruit for the Green Party to go out and for the Democratic Party to become a less corrupt party. Kaufman: Do you think it’s possible to reform the Democratic Party in a new light?

Canova: I don’t have a crystal ball. I mentioned Sally Boynton Brown. You know, she’s not a front-runner for this position. But to hear a very straightforward response that hits it on the head, it gives me hope that maybe within the Democratic Party there are people who are going to be fighting. I don’t think I’m the only one fighting for it. And this Dems exit, Dems enter debate, I see it going on in south Florida. There are folks who, they exited, a lot of them, and voted for you. And they’ve reentered now to try to fight for the Democratic Party.

Stein: Mm-hmm.

Canova: And I don’t see that as inconsistent.

Stein: I guess if we had a lot of time, you could argue that we could keep going down this path that has failed over and over and over and over and over and over again for decades and decades and decades. And each time there is kind of a new generation or a new crop of people who become involved freshly. Then they are persuaded against the reality of what happens every time. And if it was only one or two times, or only 10 years of experience, I think there would be a case to be made. But the fact that this has gone on for many decades, and the fact that we have two feet over the cliff right now, then for the third year in a row it is the warmest year on record. And the climate science is very clear that by 2050, we may have tens of feet of sea level rise.

So, we are at it right now. We are at the brink, and we cannot afford another four years thrown into a failed strategy, a proven failed strategy.

Canova: I’ll agree that we can’t have another four years of it. And the failed strategy you’re saying is doubling down and hoping that the Democratic Party will reform.

Stein: What did you not do right with Bernie Sanders? What more could you do? What more could you do that was done with Barack Obama?

Canova: Others, others can say—

Stein: People went to the mat.

Canova: —the same thing about the Green Party, the third party—

Stein: Well, we know very clearly what’s going on there.

Canova: —that over the years a lot of people have put hopes in the Green Party. Ralph Nader and you, and it keeps falling short.

Stein: Well, because there is a very oppressive political system which people are mobilizing against right now. Whereas the Democratic Party have nobody to fault but their own internal sabotage for the theft of Bernie Sanders’ victory, for the shut-out of Dennis Kucinich. That was not inflicted on them by the system. That was them. The Greens have been held back. Look, the Greens are the only survivor right now among independent corporate political parties. The labor party was started at the same time. It has been wiped off the political map by this landscape of leader campaigning and smear campaigning which is used against independent politics.

But the numbers have changed right now. Most people have actually walked away from the Democratic and Republican parties. But the vestiges of this oligarchy maintain a stranglehold. And they prevent people from hearing who their choices are. If people actually knew what their choices were, and could vote in a ranked-choice voting system, we could see things begin to change very quickly.

Canova: I think it’s important to mention the brand new Congress and ideas like this as well, which is an attempt to reform the Democratic and Republican Parties. It takes a look at the reality of the electoral map. It sees that 80 percent or 90 percent of the congressional districts have been gerrymandered in a way that they’re very safely Democrat or Republican. And that if you don’t pose serious primary challenges, you don’t have any accountability whatsoever, and all your votes are on a third party in the general election.

So what they’re trying to do is to recruit progressives to challenge incumbents in primaries. Progressives that have one thing in common: They don’t take a penny of corporate money. They’ll push, they’ll work like hell for the finance reform.

And maybe this is going to be a big failure. We don’t know. But what I’m saying is people are waking up across the spectrum, within the party, the Democratic Party, and outside the Democratic Party. There is a great awakening going on. I think the internet, social media, has helped spread this. People are dissatisfied with both parties, the way they’ve been—I’ll grant you that completely. But we didn’t fall too far short in my race. And there are going to be a lot of others stepping up to challenge authority in the Democratic Party in the future.

I would love to see reforms so that the party, the Democratic Party, does start getting shaken from its corporate roots and at the same time opens a great space for the Greens and third parties.

Kaufman: And on that note, I think is something else that needs to be mentioned. The Democrats didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot. We have right now a media which, the Green Party has been having the backlash. But the Democratic Party itself … Trump got $5 million of free advertisement. And they’ve created paradigms of conversations that the Democratic Party has to live in. And as much as they might have to fight for different things, that’s not the only thing shooting themselves in the foot. They’re giving a paradig—you have Wolf Blitzer, or you have things as if abortion is the issue. I mean, how many of the debate questions were about abortion?

Canova: I think the problem, once again, is the corporate influence and domination, whether you’re talking about the mainstream media or the Democratic Party. And until the Democratic Party ends its addiction to this corporate money, it will seem irredeemable to many people. That’s what the focus of the fight really is. And you asked, can you win this within the Democratic Party? And of course I hesitate. No one has a crystal ball. The people are waking up and disgusted with this corporate influence. And I think the mainstream media has hurt itself a lot in the past year in the way they did their reporting and how WikiLeaks revealed their biases.

Stein: Exactly.

Kaufman: So just to end it, because right now people, I think, across the nation are very excited about the marches that happened. At least hundreds of thousands, it might have gone into the millions. What’s your take? What do we move forward with this? How will this look? How do we make sure this doesn’t become like [the] Occupy [movement]? What do you guys take out of it and find some positivity here?

Stein: It’s not only marches. It’s the strike by the longshoremen on the West Coast. It’s the walkouts from high schools and colleges. It’s very exciting, and the crisis of Donald Trump has really galvanized a lot of people to get involved. And I think the danger is that people are captured by the mythology that the solution is the same thing that got us into this to start with, which is the capture of both political parties. And it’s very important for people not to fall back into the capture of the Democratic Party, which is working to use Donald Trump as their foil to kind of bring people back into the party. And that is my worry.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool you, fool me, a thousand times, really, really shame on me, especially when there’s absolutely no wiggle room for survival here. I really appreciate the integrity of people like Tim and your saintly self-sacrifice to keep beating your head against this wall which has proven immobile for decades. And I would just say that there are a lot of young people out there who don’t have this historic allegiance to FDR and to JFK and lacking that kind of religious attachment of youthful connection to some of these Democratic Party leaders. The Democratic Party of today is not that.

The Democratic Party of today is Barack Obama. It is Larry Summers. It is Hillary Clinton. So I think you’re just fighting a very difficult reality that young people are grounded in because they are on the firing line here and bear most of this burden—not only of the climate collapse of this economy that has been basically devoured, thanks again to Democrats and to the deregulation of Wall Street by Bill Clinton. It is blowback from Democratic Party neo-liberalism as well as Republicans that has devastated young people, particularly student debt. Joe Biden himself had a lot to do with the rules of student debt. And there is no way out.

And the lack of an alternative right now is extremely compelling and mobilizing. It’s very exciting if we simply had an open debate about this. If we simply allowed ranked-choice voting, this problem would solve itself. And this debate between progressive Democrats and Greens would kind of be irrelevant if the rules were actually relaxed to allow a real exercise in democracy. But the Democrats have slammed ranked-choice voting and open debates for as long as we’ve been around; and if we can make progress there, then all these other debates kind of subside.

Canova: I would love to see some progress in ranked-choice voting and in open primaries. And to get that progress, you’re going to need some progressive Democrats pushing for it.

Stein: Absolutely.

Canova: And while you can name an awful lot of terrible Democrats out there, I don’t see what I was doing to be particularly saintly or religious adherence to old legends. I see folks within the Democratic Party fighting for justice and progressive values today. Bernie Sanders was an independent who ran as a Democrat, and he ignited a firestorm in the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Warren has done a lot of great things as a senator for Massachusetts. Jamie Raskin was just elected, a great progressive in Maryland. There are people stepping up all over the country to fight this. And I certainly don’t feel like the loser who is banging my head against the wall. A year ago, nobody knew who I was. I was a professor in obscurity. I stepped up to fight against the head of the Democratic National Committee [Wasserman Schultz]. And I got a huge following. To almost unseat her in only eight months is unheard of.

There’s so much potential in this movement, for Greens and for Democrats, it’s incredible. I’ll agree also that the time is short. This is an eleventh hour. When I went into the race, I wouldn’t say the environment was the top issue that I was campaigning on. But at this point, you take a look at what’s happening with pipelines all over this country and the fossil fuel industry trying to frack all over this country, and all over this world. It’s becoming an issue that galvanizes, and it shows so much. It shows the corporate influence in our politics, and it shows the existential threat that millennials really see more than anyone.

You know, millennials came of age with “An Inconvenient Truth” and Leonardo Di Caprio’s “[The] 11th hour’.” They know that there’s a window of time to solve these problems. And there’s a lot of room for hope for progress outside these parties. The divestment movement to defund DAPL to divest from the big banks that are funding the fossil fuel industry. These are things that citizens can do without waiting for the Greens to revive and win elections and for progressive Democrats to start winning fights within the party. We’ve got to start taking things into our own hand and going around the politicians. In Florida, with Progress for All, what we’re trying to do is to have referendums. Get them on the ballot. Go around the state legislatures. Wwe have solar. Let’s ban fracking from referendums. Let’s get rid of felony disenfranchisement, and let’s have open primaries.

There’s a lot of energy out there. I don’t think it needs to be an either-or. I do think you need progress within the Democratic Party if you’re going to have an opening space for the Greens as well.

Kaufman: Thank you very much.

Stein: Thank you.

Canova: Thank you. A conversation with Chase Iron Eyes, an American Indian activist, lawyer and co-founder of the Native American news website Last Real Indians:

Donald Kaufman: This is Chase Iron Eyes. And you’re from North Dakota.

Chase Iron Eyes: Yes, I’m from the Standing Rock Nation of the Standing Rock Reservation, the site of the NoDAPL Pipeline Resistance.

Kaufman: And I would have to say, I was just there, actually, a month ago, um. And I think what happened there is probably one of the most important movements that have happened in history, in modern history, because it showed that peaceful, prayerful resistance can … even if it’s a temporary battle, win battles. And that there’s no excuse to not go out in the streets. There’s kind of this feudalism. Especially this nihilism of a younger generation thinking, there’s no point in protesting. We can’t beat the state. The forces are too big.

Chase Iron Eyes: Right.

Kaufman: And here, you guys won—or you’ve temporarily won.

Chase Iron Eyes: Right.

Kaufman: I mean, what do you say to that?

Chase Iron Eyes: Well, I definitely understand that despair, that nihilism, that place of—you know—the machine, the corporate state, however you want to name that. That set of institutions. That is kind of reflected and manifested in too big to fail finance, currency, debt—it’s huge. It’s a huge place. We’re talking about an abstraction of people’s spirit from their mind. Were talking about a colonization that has happened over a long period of time. When you think about colonization, you think about white people colonizing brown people or black people. And that’s a very real thing. That’s a very visceral thing, but the colonization we’re talking about is the one where we really are separated from our spiritual selves, our spiritual being in the whole world is in that state. That’s what I think. It lends itself to this nihilistic attitude.

Kaufman: And I think something that was really beautiful, and that wasn’t really talked about is that they had built a school there, for the indigenous. Can you talk about that?

Chase Iron Eyes: So that’s part of kind of decolonizing—teaching our own language, learning our own language. Because the language comes from the land. It’s a blueprint to civilizations that have existed in this hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. But what’s going on out there at Standing Rock is ongoing. There are about 600 arrests that have happened. My organization, Last Real Indians, has kind of taken over, providing the logistical support and the humanitarian aid to the camp. I mean, 80 percent of the firewood, all the propane, all the bio-waste operation, the solid waste operation. I mean we’re paying for it all through all the help from around the world, people who’ve been donating. But that fight, the unarmed revolution, is extremely important. Because the corporate state inflicts violence around the world. We are an empire. And we have to come face to face with what that means. It means that we have to inflict violence on others. We have to convert their resources to our benefit, for whatever those reasons are. And so that corporate state, that set of institutions, knows exactly how to deal with war. They’re the profiteers of war. They love war. They know how to deal with violence. They know how to deal with people who are unlawful and who seek out violence to assert their concerns. But they don’t know how to deal with intelligent people who know the power of peace. We have to be really careful because I believe in an unarmed and non-violent revolution. But I don’t believe in being passive because the power of peace is just not passive. It means that we can’t back down, that we have to stand in our own spiritual dignity and not let anything, any institution or any nation or any people, oppress us. I think everybody has that intrinsic value.

Kaufman I think it was beautiful. There it was on the front lines, and I’m sure it probably happened more than once. They were firing tear gas and rubber bullets. One of the police officers was crying and tearing. And you knew at that point, that maybe she’s there for now, but there’s something that’s clicking and something that’s turning that’s so viscerally, viscerally powerful. And another thing that I want to kind of explore at today’s Woman’s March and woman’s movement, and one of the first things you can read in Howard Zinn: That white imperialism and colonization was doing was attacking women and burning down the villages. And I remember when I went, they give you these kind of set ups to go on when you go out to the lines. And they say, you know, they first attack women and elderly, and I was like, that’s probably them being a little dramatic. And then that next day I went out and I would say around 15 or 20 people got maced and sprayed. And if it was 15, 11 of them were women. And this was when they were peacefully retreating. And this attack on women that is so prevalent with native culture of the white supremacy against natives—how do you build yourself from that? How do you build that foundation, that construction, that re-finding your community? Especially for something that is so important in Native culture.

Chase Iron Eyes: I think you’re right about the deliberate dehumanization or even objectification of women. That’s been a historical modus operandi. I mean, I didn’t think about this stuff until I had daughters. I didn’t think of why, why is female almost like, you know, ancillary to male. Or men is the base of women. It’s even in our languages. Why does a female, why is she expected to take a man’s last name? If you study these things, you can see a systematic oppression of women, of females, over the course of. I don’t know enough about it to tell you exactly when it started, but it’s very real. The objectification and sexualization in all communities [of women, but with native women there is also a fetishization that plays hand in hand with the global rape culture. And with the women’s march going on today, you know, men have to realize what we are taking part in, growing up in a culture that is promoting those values. Through all forms of consumerism, advertising, porn, everything. What happened today with the women marching was clearly a response to what Trump represents. Which is pretty out in the open, and it’s part of the… I think the path or the evolution that is deconstructing western hetero patriarchy. I understand a bit of that because I’m a Native American lawyer. I’ve studied the institutions of law and economy and the different processes that were put into place to subdue and to dehumanize and expropriate native nations. And the same thing happens to women. The same thing has happened to women. And as a man, I don’t fully understand what that liberation means for women. I have had to think about it differently, analytically and truthfully since I have daughters now.

Kaufman: There is a stat that’s at least one in three indigenous women are assaulted or raped.

Chase Iron Eyes: That’s right.

Kaufman: And the 80 percent, I think it’s 84 to 87 percent, it’s by non-indigenous white males.

Chase Iron Eyes: That’s right. If you look up missing and murdered indigenous women, all of these stats are detailed there, that one in three Native women are going to be raped or sexually assaulted. It’s almost always by a non-Indian or a white perpetrator. And even within Indian country, until very recently, Native nations lack the jurisdiction. They had the authority taken from them to prosecute and to make a, you know, make a redress to try to redress the victim and prosecute the perpetrator. We lost that authority because we didn’t have the military might to defend it by … the late 1800’s. It’s true. The women’s march is signifying that people are not going to lay down in the face of what a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled congress represents. Cause it represents a lot of things to a lot people. A lot of different demographics are gonna find themselves being antagonized by the forces of our state, our nation state under the color of law.

Kaufman: And, I guess. to kind of jump. So there was this Standing Rock. The veterans came. It was all over the news. Then they said they’d put temporary holds on it. And then it kinda went poof in the air. What’s going on there now? What’s the step forward? What’s happening? How is this movement moving? What’s happening there at the location?

Chase Iron Eyes: I think it was part of an orchestrated de-escalation. Cause when the vets came, there was 4,000 people added to an existing 8 to 10,000 people. And that’s just too big of a concern and, you know, my perception was that the law enforcement, the armed national guard, the riot ready law enforcement, could not afford the visual of armed military men faced off with unarmed uniformed military men.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Chase Iron Eyes: Who says what law and order is there? Who says who is a traitor and who is a patriot? Who’s a terrorist? I don’t think they could afford that visual. Not at a time like this.

Kaufman: Especially with the press. I know when I was there and the woman got her arm blown up they made sure it was night time, Sunday, there was no reception. They did it at night time where no one could see anything and when the media, there was going to be the least amount of media coverage possible. And that’s when the biggest assaults always happen. It was in the offshore sites. It was never in the city.

Chase Iron Eyes: Just like they did to Occupy. They moved on Occupy like that. And so right now on the ground, you know, the state of North Dakota has imposed this unprecedented militarized roadblock. And that has functioned as an economic sanction against my Native nation, the Standing Rock Nation.

Kaufman: How does it do that?

Chase Iron Eyes: I don’t know what the percentage is of our total revenue, that we provide governmental services with. We use profits form the casino to do that. We think it’s a very deliberate move on the part of the governor, the then governor of North Dakota, to impose this economic sanction. It’s just like in the late 1800s, when…

Kaufman: Sorry, so they’re blocking the road? There’s a roadblock there.

Chase Iron Eyes: Full, yes.

Kaufman: And so how does that financially block? From the casino to…

Chase Iron Eyes: Yeah, cause that’s the most convenient road to get to our casino.

Kaufman: Oh, so it’s blocking for people to get to the casino.

Chase Iron Eyes: Oh yeah. And it’s blocking emergency services that go to Bismarck.

Kaufman: Oh yeah, to the hospital.

Chase Iron Eyes: All that stuff. It’s, like, a mile of razor wire. Several two-ton concrete blocks, nation guard vehicles. LRAD’s. I mean, it looks like Gaza, you know what I mean?

Kaufman: Yeah, no it does. And the burnt up trucks.

Chase Iron Eyes: So, back in the day, what they would do was after they killed the buffalo, they caused an economic destruction that caused dependency. And then they would say, look, we are going to withhold your rations—your beef, pork, your bacon, your coffee, your sugar and your flour unless you sign this thing that gives us more land. This is what Indian…we are going to do this to you. That’s what’s going on right now. We’re going to put up this road block and until you comply.

Kaufman: So what do the Sioux Seven Councils, what do they want from people? What are they trying to do inside? What’s the steps forward that they are taking now? Because there was a thing that was telling people to go home for a little while. Non, non-natives.

Chase Iron Eyes: The government is still singing that tune.

Kaufman: Okay.

Chase Iron Eyes: But there’s 400 to 500 people that see it as a chance to create a liberated zone, something different than the oppression that we have known, that Native nations have known. And we could spend a lot of time on how Natives are being oppressed. Native nations are being oppressed in North Dakota right now. But what we’re saying is that we don’t want this pipeline built. And we’re willing to stay here until it’s out of the ground or we’re dead or arrested. There’s about 400-500 people who are making a stand right now in the liberty zone north of the river, which is the contested area. Which is the area we signed in our treaties and said this was ours, which was taken in 1889 and the boundary was moved. So we haven’t been there for that long. And the fight is bigger than us. This is about the integrity of all Americans’ constitutional rights and whether or not you have a right to free speech or the right to peaceably assemble. Because the army corps. said, “Here is the free speech zone.” You go here and chant and beat your tom tom’s as loud as you want in this free speech zone. But the pipeline’s going to be built right over here. And Fourth Amendment, legal searches, seizures and surveillance. That place is crazy. I’ve never seen drones like the kind.

Kaufman: Yeah. You hear them all night, all day. Everywhere you go.

Chase Iron Eyes: Just the whole thing. Um, facial recognition.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Chase Iron Eyes: It’s crazy stuff.

Kaufman: I saw they would go through cars, trucks with facial recognition.

Chase Iron Eyes: Yes.

Kaufman: And they would pick certain people and they’d arrest them. And the one person they arrested were Native. And the cop’s asking him what can we arrest him with, he was in his car. He goes, well, he flinched when we grabbed him so we’ll call it resisting arrest.

Chase Iron Eyes: Whoa.

Kaufman: And he went to jail that day.

Chase Iron Eyes: Yeah. They’re doing crazy stuff, saying they’re going to fine everybody. They are going to fine anyone who brings in humanitarian aid a thousand dollars and if you have a business and you sell it to the camps.

Kaufman: So, right now, because before they had front line action they were building communities. Are they still doing that? Like, I’m curious, like, cause I don’t know anymore. I mean, I have to go back for a court date, but I don’t know what’s happening? Like, what’s the step forward? What do they want from people? We know some of what they are asking for. You know, before they had the front line actions, and they were building a community, they had the school. They were trying to bring awareness and something very powerful.

Chase Iron Eyes: It’s important to understand there are three different camps.

Kaufman: Okay.

Chase Iron Eyes: And so, the school, there is still a functioning ecovillage being built, at what’s called Sacred Stone.

Kaufman: Yeah.

Chase Iron Eyes: But that’s on the south side of the [inaudible] uncontested zone. But they are not in any danger of being raided or anything like that. Those of us who are north of the Cannonball River are in danger of being raided all the time. And so, we are still building there.

Kaufman: You’re still building at [inaudible].

Chase Iron Eyes: Yes, but, it’s not a familial atmosphere, you know what I mean? It’s too risky. So it’s just people who are willing to bear the risks. There are people who are going to the bridge to demand it open up, who are being shot as they run away. A good friend of mine had a one-inch hole put in his leg because cops are shooting less lethal bullets at point blank range.

Kaufman: Wow.

Chase Iron Eyes: You can check it out. I mean, our organization is called Last Real Indians; you can check the photos on there. So the fight is still going to go on. Even if the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is completely backed out. We understand why they backed out. They are under pressure. They are being told: ‘Your rations are being cut off. If you just get rid of these protestors, we’ll turn the rations back on.’ You know what I mean. Money will start flowing back into your casinos.

Kaufman: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Chase Iron Eyes: Yeah. Thanks.

Now you can personalize your Truthdig experience. To bookmark your favorite articles, please create a user profile.

Personalize your Truthdig experience. Choose authors to follow, bookmark your favorite articles and more.
Your Truthdig, your way. Access your favorite authors, articles and more.
or
or

A password will be e-mailed to you.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles and comments are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.