Category Archives: Holidays

Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Lewis Borck, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Mississippi State University

The 2016 Standing Rock protest was only the most recent manifestation of the indigenous American values inherited by European settlers on this land. James MacPherson.

When President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 program that offered undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children a path into society, for a moment the ideals of the American Dream seemed, at least for this group, real.

We call these kids (many of whom are now adults) “Dreamers,” because they are chasing the American Dream – a national aspiration for upward economic mobility built on physical mobility. Fulfilling your dreams often means following them wherever they may lead – even into another country.

The Trump administration’s decision to cancel DACA and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall has endangered those dreams by subjecting 800,000 young people to deportation.

But the notion underlying both the DACA repeal and the wall – which is that “illegal” immigrants, most of them from Mexico, are stealing U.S. jobs and hurting society – reflects a profound misunderstanding of American history.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it’s worth underscoring something that many archaeologists know: many of the values that inspire the American Dream – liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness – date back to well before the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border and before freedom-seeking Pilgrim immigrants arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They originate with native North Americans.

A Native American dream

The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”

The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.

The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.

The indigenous communities of the Americas knew none of these modern-day national borders.
USGS

A more recent example of the power of migration reappears about 5,000 years ago, when a large group of people from what is today central Mexico spread into the American Southwest and farther north, settling as far up as western North America. With them they brought corn, which now drives a significant part of the American economy, and a way of speaking that birthed over 30 of the 169 contemporary indigenous languages still spoken in the United States today.

The Hohokam

This globalist world view was alive and well 700 years ago as well when people from what is now northern Arizona fled a decades-long drought and rising authoritarianism under religious leaders. Many migrated hundreds of miles south to southern Arizona, joining the Hohokam (ancestors to modern O’odham nations) who had long thrived in the harsh Sonoran desert by irrigating vast fields of agave, corn, squash, beans and cotton.

When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.

For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.

As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.

America’s egalitarian mound-builders

The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.

Massive earthen structures like these are often acts of highly hierarchical societies – think of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, constructed by masses of laborers as the final resting place of powerful pharaohs, or those of the rigid, empire-building Aztecs.

But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.

Poverty Point: a city built on cooperation.
Herb Roe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.

But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.

Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.

These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.

They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.

The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.

Native Americans at Standing Rock

The long indigenous history of rejecting authoritarianism continues today, including the 2016 battle for environmental justice at Standing Rock, South Dakota.

There, a resistance movement coalesced around a horizontally organized youth group that rejected the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American pioneers continue to fight for the same ideals that inspire the American Dream, including equality and freedom.
John Duffy/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The movement centered on an environmental cause in part because nature is sacred to the Lakota (and many other indigenous communities), but also because communities of color often bear the brunt of economic and urban development decisions. This was the indigenous fight against repression and for the American Dream, gone 21st century.

Redefining the North American dream

Anthropologists and historians haven’t always recognized the quintessentially Native American ideals present in the American Dream.

In the early 19th century, the prominent social philosopher Lewis Henry Morgan called the Native Americans he studied “savages.” And for centuries, America’s native peoples have seen their cultural heritage attributed to seemingly everyone but their ancestors – even to an invented “lost” white race.

America’s indigenous past was not romantic. There were petty disputes, bloody intergroup conflicts and slavery (namely along the Northwest Coast and American Southeast).

But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.

The ConversationSo the next time a politician invokes American values to promote a policy of closed borders or selfish individualism, remember who originally espoused the American Dream – and first sought to live it, too.

Lewis Borck, Archaeologist, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Prehistoric Archeologist, Mississippi State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Christmas Plea to World From Father of Drowned Syrian Child: Open Your Doors

‘Hopefully next year the war will end in Syria and peace will reign all over the world.’

Written by Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-24-15.
Abdullah Kurdi, a Syrian refugee whose son drowned off Turkey this year, recorded a holiday message for Britain's Channel 4. (Image: Channel 4)

Abdullah Kurdi, a Syrian refugee whose son drowned off Turkey this year, recorded a holiday message for Britain’s Channel 4. (Image: Channel 4)

The father of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey—the powerful photo of which captured the human tragedy of the refugee crisis—will deliver a Christmas message in which he urges the world to have sympathy for those fleeing the ravages of war.

Abdullah Kurdi, who, in addition to losing three-year-old Alan, also lost his wife, Rehanna and five-year-old son Ghalib when the boat bound for Greece they were on capsized, will deliver the remarks in this year’s alternative Christmas message on the UK’s Channel 4. An excerpt of the message and transcript have already been released. Continue reading

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Striking Fear Into Corporate Hearts, Labor Board Hands Big Win to Workers

‘Employers will no longer be able to shift responsibility for their workers and hide behind loopholes to prevent workers from organizing,’ say Teamsters

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-27-2015

Why is Thursday’s ruling bad news for McDonald’s? “If a fast-food brand or a hotel chain can be deemed a ‘joint employer’ along with the smaller company, it can be dragged into labor disputes and negotiations that it conveniently wouldn’t have to worry about otherwise,” one journalist explained. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/cc)

In what is being described as “one of the biggest labor decisions of the Obama administration,” the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Thursday expanded its “joint-employer” standard, paving the way for unions to organize on a much broader scale—and striking fear into the hearts of corporations that have used previous labor laws to shift workplace responsibilities elsewhere.

While the ruling dealt specifically with a California waste-management company, observers said its implications could go much further. “McDonald’s, Burger King and every other company that relies on a franchise business model just suffered the legal setback they’ve been fearing for years,” wrote Huffington Post labor reporter Dave Jamieson on Thursday afternoon.

Continue reading

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Has Memorial Day become only a Memory?

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author's own work.)

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author’s own work.)

Across this country, today will see services at cemeteries as we observe Memorial Day. Most people will drive by a cemetery on their way to their recreation spot for the weekend, and that is about as much thought as they will give to the real reason the unofficial beginning of summer arrives with this day every year.

It all started in 1865 when black residents of Charleston, SC, decorated the unmarked graves of 257 buried soldiers, improved the landscape around the graves and brought honor to those who had been forgotten. Within a few years, nearly every state had their own observations during the same time of year, and by 1967 it became a federal holiday with the current name.

But there are some who remember. Some who actually memorialize the day by going to a cemetery. Some take their children, and begin teaching that this is important. To remember and honor brings respect to a family and to the next generation. Continue reading

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As Patriot Act Expiration Looms, Critics Hope for Sunset on Mass Surveillance

‘Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.’

Written by Nadia Prupis and Deirdre Fulton, staff writers for CommonDreams. Published 5-22-15.

With a deadline for the USA Patriot Act fast approaching, Congress has little time to decide how to proceed—but the call to 'sunset' the law is growing. (Photo: Dan Cook/flickr/cc/with overlay)

With a deadline for the USA Patriot Act fast approaching, Congress has little time to decide how to proceed—but the call to ‘sunset’ the law is growing. (Photo: Dan Cook/flickr/cc/with overlay)

With the fate of the USA Patriot Act still hanging in the balance late afternoon Friday—and lawmakers eager to leave Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day barbecues and campaign stops in their home states—the chance to see the sun go down on the controversial spying bill is still on the table.

The debate over the Patriot Act is centered around one of its key provisions, Section 215, which is set to expire on June 1 absent congressional action. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) previously relied on Section 215 to justify its mass phone data collection operation, but its expiration would force an end to that program. Continue reading

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HARD BARGAINING: Corporate America’s NEW PLAYBOOK

By Gretschman for Occupy World Writes

Cover.0315.260

When the Great Recession struck with full force in 2008, many companies demanded deep concessions.

Workers across North America, including thousands of IBEW members, made numerous sacrifices to help their employers make it through those tough times.

Since then the economy has made a major turnaround — but most of its benefits are going to the top 1 percent of earners.

Profits have hit an all-time high. At the same time, wages as a percent of the economy have hit an all-time low.

Even at unionized companies, IBEW negotiators are confronting cash-rich employers who have replaced mutually beneficial collective bargaining with a winner-take-all, adversarial relationship — an approach some union activists are calling “hard bargaining.” Continue reading

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To Honor Women on February 14

On the day known for love, the world will come together for the biggest event in world history to call attention to violence against women.

One Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.  The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS.

There is time for you to join this world action. Women and men who support their cause in every country, in major cities and places unheard of are joining together. Find the one nearest you and join the revolution.

We plan on attending with signs already made that state WHY WE RISE. Connect with others involved through social media. Send us your photos from your event and we will put them on our Facebook Page.

In case you still can’t get enough, here is the video from the previous year. At the end, there is a link that directs you to a video that teaches all the simple dance steps. It can’t get any easier to make a big impression.

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Kurdish Kids Get Gifts From Peshmerga

Some of us resolved to begin the year by doing more than just “slactivism” about our passions. If you are one of these people, this might be just what you are looking for.

On January 2, 2015, the Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan delivered packages and gifts to the Kurdish children at a refugees camp in Iraq. In the video, attention is drawn to the feet of the children. Many are is sandals or other open-style footwear while clad in coats. Continue reading

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What We Learned Our First Year

Image By Andrikkos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By Andrikkos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We envisioned this post to be a year recapped in pictures from our posts. Sometimes we are led in different directions without the ability to explain why – and this is a prime example of what that looks like.

On December 31, 2013, I sat at my computer desk and scanned a preview of the website one last time before pushing the “Launch” button. Ready or not, here we go.

One year later, we review the insights and activity logs, the posts that were read the most, the comments that have been made, countries you are from and what you liked the most. Continue reading

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Peace to All

Image from http://www.lynnegolodner.com/the-world-around-me/truth-peace-middle-east/

Image from http://www.lynnegolodner.com/the-world-around-me/truth-peace-middle-east/

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