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Hiroshima Flamewalk: Peace through Oakland

Earth our body, water our blood....
Its 10:35 and I'm hanging out at the InterTribe Friendship house in Oakland. Nice big space with some of the coolest posters I've seen yet of Native American issues. Another tired night of trying to work on today's audio and... well, now I'm embroiled in a conversation with a couple of people at the center on native devestations currently going on in our country. One of the guys is telling me that while I slowly write my articles dozens of tribes are having their rights, property, and lives taken away from them. He started off on a synopsis of Black Mesa, led up to the Sky City (Akoma Pueblo) in AZ/NM, and I'm left walking a trail of self doubt.

The man is now telling me that some of the chiefs wonder why new faces always appear and ask for information on the people instead of educating themselves. These faces, he continues, disappear without any work being done and are replaced later by new faces. My heart breaks as I can understand their plight and am humbled by my mistaken idea of help. He's telling me that when he was a child he was told that his people would close their trails to the outsiders, that their people would walk the trails into the forests and just disappear from the earth. He thought years before that there was still time for change but now thinks that its too late. Now, he says, its indigenous people around the world that are banding together and helping each other out. The sympathizers, he says, haven't done much. He tells me if I really want to help I have to talk to the elders who want to preserve their culture; people his age, he tells me, are too cynical to work with outsiders.

I told him that I think there is a willing audience out there of sympathizers who will help but I realize its probably just my naivete. I'm thinking about the deep relationships between the stealing of Native lands by Europeans, the raping of Mother Earth to steal the uranium, the atomic bombing on Japan, and the diverse group of walkers on this peace walk. Perhaps my immersion in the walk is preventing me from seeing how others view this walk. I'm tired and I'm lost in the political and spiritual aspects of the walk. I've also broken my fast today during lunch with Yuri Kochiama.

And that's where my heart breaks tonight. We were greeted by her during one of our morning breaks. I was surprised to learn she is now living in Oakland. She is definitely one of the heroes of the Asian American movement. I urge everyone to check out herstory. She has a rich history of working within the African American movement having worked with Malcolm X and Mumia. So, she talked to us and I recorded and then somehow lost the recordings. I only have a few snippets left which are or will be posted. While I feel pretty lame on having lost the recordings where she set the story straight for many of the walkers on the great work Malcolm X did for his and all people, I'm still riding high on having finally met her.

Yesterday and today have been the first times the walk has really entered into African and Mexican American communities - our route today snaked through downtown and east Oakland. We walked through neighborhoods I've lived in and, man, is Portland a fairly non-ethnically diverse town. Or maybe I'm just being a righteous jerk. A grade school boy yelled, "Gung Hay Fat Choy," at me. Chinese New Year!

We ended up taking the BART back to 12th St. to gather at the Japan Pacific Resource Center. We found a demonstration happening in front of the Oakland Police Department and a few of the walkers and myself quickly joined in. I knew today was solidarity day for the ELF spokesperson Craig Rosebraugh's congressional subcommitee hearing. From the protest I found out also that Oakland's North County Jail is once place where Middle Eastern terrorist suspects. Definitely a rousing protest at the end of a long day of walking for us. Its always great how a rousing protest really picks you up. Power to the people!

I'm being told now about the Big Mountain Weaver's Association - a group of elder women who weep their fingers to the bone weaving blankets that they sell at reasonable prices for to pay for legal Defense. Arlene Hamilton is the contact point. They also hold yearly conferences on the Uranium workers.

Eradication of California tribes started in waves from the Winnebagos in the mid west to the CA tribes who were only offered $680 per individual for just compensation for land stolen from them. There's a court case still in litigation. Some of the tribes refused the checks whereas some others cashed the checks. The government is saying that the fact some of the people who accepted the checks mean that things are now cool with the broken treaties.

The latest thing, the man is telling me now, is over a letter sent out by the Department of the Interior last December talking about changes to the somewhat vaguely reasoned blood quantum standard on Native American "authenticity". The man is telling me that the changes would mean that a person could not be considered a Native American if they didn't have a certain lineage or native blood but would have to have now a legally defined 1/4 blood of 1 tribe. Following the logic of the blood quantum standard and its insidious use to destroy future generations of Native Americans and now enacting a much stricter rule on deciding how one can get aid is just another nail in the "assimilation" of native populations. In addition, I'm told that federally recognized people would have to carry cards declaring that they are members of tribes and that these cards would have to be shown at schools, etc.

The kitchen we're all hanging out at now seems more familiar to me. It must be the time the time and my body's need for sleep. Tomorrow is going to be another long day of walking.

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