Posted by [EMAIL PROTECTED] :

From: "Robert Quiver" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Fwd: written statement to Civ. Rights Comm
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 11:54:55 PST
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed

>Subject: written statement to Civ. Rights Comm
>Date: Wed, 8 Dec 1999 11:07:09 -0800 (PST)

>MARY D. WITTER
>1720 Cherry Ave. #4
>Rapid City, SD  57701
>605/342-4337
>[EMAIL PROTECTED]
>
>
>
>STATEMENT TO THE U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS
>December 6, 1999
>
>
>First of all, I want to thank the Commission for
>taking statements here in Rapid City.  A close
>examination of apparent civil and human rights abuses
>against the Native American population is vital to the
>progress against ignorance and social injustice in the
>state.  Education and public awareness is essential in
>the war against racism and injustice.  I speak for no
>one but myself in this statement and sincerely believe
>that it is the duty of each and every one of us to do
>so.
>
>
>Personal Information
>
>My name is Mary Witter.  I am a 47-year old white
>woman, currently residing in Rapid City, South Dakota.
>  I moved to South Dakota from Seattle in 1991 to work
>at St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain.  After
>working there until 1995 as a residential childcare
>worker and at the school's Akta Lakota Museum, I was
>sole owner of a small trading post on the Crow Creek
>reservation. Concerns with Native American issues
>encountered during that time and in the years before
>spurred me to move to Rapid City in November 1997 to
>return to school.  I intend to gain legal skills with
>the ultimate goal of using those skills to help combat
>the rampant racism, exploitation and treaty violations
>of Native Americans.  I am presently enrolled as a
>third-year Legal Studies student at National American
>University in Rapid City where I hold the 1999 award
>for academic excellence and am the vice-president of
>the student association of legal assistants
>(NAU-SALA).
>
>As a young, single mother in Seattle, I taught my
>daughter to speak up when she encountered racism or
>injustice.  When she began school, she learned that if
>she stood by while another child was beat up on the
>playground, and she did nothing or did not get help,
>it was the same as if she struck the blows with her
>own hands; if she laughed at racist or gender-biased
>jokes, it was the same as if she told them herself-she
>would have to accept the consequences.  I try to live
>what I taught my daughter to live.  I sincerely
>believe that whether it is a child being beaten, a
>woman being raped, a person being robbed and shot, or
>genocide being committed, each of us has a duty to
>speak out if we do not choose to be complicit in the
>act.  That is why I am writing today.
>
>I love my daughter, now grown, and always told her
>that I would give my life to stand up for her should
>she get into trouble-but only if she was right; if
>what she did was wrong, I would be there to see that
>she was treated fairly, but I would also hold her
>accountable for her actions and see that she accepted
>the consequences.  I expect no less from my government
>and justice
>
>
>system; I expect them to be held responsible for their
>actions and correct the injustices so that we can move
>ahead as an honorable society.
>
>
>Treaties
>
>Article VI of the U.S. Constitution clearly states
>that treaties are the "Supreme Law of the Land".
>Historical violations are commonly acknowledged; less
>easily admitted are the continuing violations that are
>occurring, even at this moment.  A myriad of bills are
>introduced each year that attempt to erode Native
>sovereignty, self-determination and treaty rights.
>These bills are insidiously introduced, and frequently
>passed under the guises of jurisdictional, taxation,
>economic and environmental controls.  Specifically, I
>will mention here the Mitigation Act, wherein the
>state of South Dakota is attempting to gain control of
>land guaranteed to the Sioux Nation through the 1868
>Fort Laramie Treaty.
>
>This is clearly in violation of our own Constitution,
>of which our government and the citizens of our
>country are sworn to uphold.  The constitutional
>supreme law of the land cannot be amended away without
>eroding the very foundation on which our government is
>founded.  If we do not uphold our own supreme law, we
>cannot expect other nations to honor their treaties
>with us nor citizens to uphold the laws imposed upon
>them. Treaty violations may be thought of as
>constitutional racism; racism at the very heart of our
>laws, affecting each and every individual, and
>therefore our civil rights.
>
>I believe that the constitutional responsibility to
>uphold the treaties between the United States and
>Native Nations must be taught in the South Dakota
>educational system, from elementary school through
>graduate school, in ethics, law, history, economics
>and social studies classes.  We need to begin
>educating students and raising public awareness of the
>legal and ethical responsibilities of our government
>in upholding its own law.  Perhaps in that way it can
>regain the trust, honor and credibility that has been
>lost.
>
>This need became apparent recently in one of my law
>classes where the instructor, a former local
>prosecutor, was lecturing on constitutional law.  When
>I mentioned the treaty "supremacy" clause in Article
>VI, she had no knowledge or recollection of it and
>stopped the class to look it up.  I have no doubt that
>this very capable woman was not taught the import of
>upholding treaties made with Native nations.
>
>It is my impression that this is a common "unconscious
>blind spot" in the South Dakota legal community.  I
>refer here, especially, to our governor, William
>Jankelow.
>
>In an economics class last winter, the instructor, a
>retired airforce officer, brought up the subject of
>economics on the Pine Ridge reservation.  He commented
>that the desperate poverty there is due to the
>people's unacceptance that they are a "conquered
>people" and suggested that the treaties are relics
>from the past.  Again, I spoke up, but was silenced by
>the vocal and hostile reaction from the class and
>instructor.  I deeply believe that education and
>awareness are fundamental to ending the racism that
>permeates this area.
>
>
>
>
>
>Judicial Issues
>
>I join with others who support full and independent
>investigation into the deaths that occurred on the
>Pine Ridge reservation between the years of 1972 and
>1976.  Allegations of government complicity and
>involvement are to be taken seriously if these wounds
>are to be healed between the Native American and white
>communities in South Dakota.
>
>Further, I join with millions of others, worldwide,
>who call for full and public investigations into FBI
>misconduct in the case of Native American activist
>Leonard Peltier, as well as the release of documents
>still being held by the FBI concerning his case.  If
>there was no wrongdoing, the government should welcome
>the opportunity to clear its name in the eyes of the
>world, in this, the most blatant abuse of human rights
>concerning political prisoners held by the United
>States.  It is a monument of hypocrisy and
>embarrassment that the U.S. government could publicly
>scrutinize the president's personal indiscretion,
>while Leonard Peltier continues to languish in prison.
>  If we are to abuse the human rights we purport to
>champion in the international arena, we must hold
>ourselves accountable and accept the consequences so
>that we may move on with some semblance of honor and
>dignity between the nations.
>
>As to the recent deaths of Native Americans in South
>Dakota-the girl killed by a car driven by white
>teenagers in Sisseton, the death of "Boo" Many Horses
>in Mobridge, the two men killed in White Clay, and the
>woman killed while walking on the interstate by a
>white drunk driver, the inequality in sentencing is
>clear.  One need only ask how these cases would have
>turned out had the races been changed around.  If
>"Boo" had been the son of the Mobridge mayor and had
>been stuffed in a garbage can, would the Native
>American youth he was drinking with been so easily
>released?  One need only look at the disparity in
>sentencing between the white boy who took alcohol
>illegally on to the Pine Ridge reservation and fought
>with his two Native American companions and the
>Mobridge youth who were with "Boo" to begin to
>understand the inequality of the South Dakota justice
>system.  Certainly, the fact that although the Native
>American population is approximately 10 percent of the
>state population, 35 to 40 percent of incarcerated
>youth are Native American is reason for serious
>concern that something is amiss in the justice system
>of South Dakota.  (Adult correctional system
>statistics are even more startling).
>
>The deaths along Rapid Creek were too easily dismissed
>by local law enforcement as deaths by "natural
>causes".  I believe they were all too eager to cite
>alcohol levels for the media without fully
>investigating the causes of death at the time they
>were discovered.  Again, we can only speculate at the
>quality of investigation had these men been from
>comfortable white, middle-class homes.  This question
>speaks not only to the issue of disparity of justice
>between the races, but also between the class systems.
>  Is the life of a homeless man worth less than the
>life of a wealthy man?  I would respectfully submit
>that it is not.
>
>
>Conclusion
>
>I have been told many times, here in Rapid City, that
>racism does not exist here.  It is my belief that it
>is so inherent in the local intergenerational mindset
>that the people do not recognize it and will not admit
>it, even to themselves.
>
>  Nearly every day at school or work, I hear "dead
>Indian jokes" ("Hell, they threw a handful in the
>creek, there's plenty of room for a hundred more!"
>etc.) Some of these people are not traditional
>students but non-traditional, going to school on
>veteran's benefits.  When confronted, they deny
>racism, saying that they have nothing against black
>people.  They believe that racism, bigotry, and civil
>rights concern only African Americans-not Native
>Americans, women, or people living in poverty.   Even
>in the class room, racism passes without challenge by
>the instructors (EG: student: "I'll give you five
>bucks for extra credit, just let me run down to
>Prairie Market to get them" Laughter by the class and
>instructor.)
>
>In June of 1998, I went to the NAU parking lot to get
>my car after work.  I started to drive home and
>noticed a flier under my windshield wiper.  I stopped
>to remove it and was horrified to find that it was an
>Aryan nation recruitment flier.  I immediately turned
>around and returned to the school.  I took the flier
>to my supervisors in the library where I had recently
>begun my work-study job.  The director and assistant
>librarian joked and lectured me on first amendment
>rights.  The assistant librarian sat in front of me,
>looking at the flier, and said, "we don't have
>anything like that around here" (!).  Being new to the
>school and the area, I asked who else I could report
>it to.  They replied, "to the director of student
>services".  I took the flier to his office, and he (an
>employee of twenty-plus years) gave me the same
>lecture on freedom of speech.  We walked out to my
>car, by that time the only one in the lot, and he
>picked another flier up off the ground, saying that my
>car apparently wasn't the only one, so I shouldn't
>worry about it.  He pointed out that the phone number
>on the flier was for a number in Wallace, Idaho, not a
>local number, therefore it wasn't from a local group.
>Feeling very frustrated, I couldn't help but wonder
>what kind of place I had moved to.  I take recruitment
>by hate groups on school campuses very seriously.  I
>didn't know anyone outside of school in Rapid City,
>and no one I talked to at the school seemed concerned.
>
>
>Approximately one month later, in July, a small
>article appeared in the back pages of the Rapid City
>Journal about a similar incident of recruitment fliers
>on cars at the School of Mines & Technology, about a
>mile away.  A student had reported it to campus
>security, who then called the police and the incident
>was investigated.
>
>I e-mailed a letter to the editor, commending them and
>the parties concerned for letting the public know
>about hate crime recruitment on local college
>campuses.  The editor called to ask if they could
>publish my letter, and I agreed, because I thought it
>was important to let people know it wasn't just an
>isolated incident.  My letter was never published.
>
>I relate this incident to the Commission to illustrate
>that racism does indeed exist in Rapid City.  It is
>pervasive, insidious and goes largely unrecognized by
>the local white population.  It is being perpetuated
>intergenerationally and through the educational
>systems.  I respectfully urge recommendation for a
>public awareness campaign, full investigation into the
>issues and concerns of the Native American community,
>and strong and swift action to correct the injustices
>that continue to occur.
>
>Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.
>
>Sincerely,
>
>
>
>Mary D. Witter
>

Reply via email to