Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Far Away

Some time back, I'd found an article about a deal to allow mining at a site that the local Native American tribes held sacred. The author made an interesting point.

If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, or for that matter Jewish or Muslim, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill — no matter what mining-company profits or jobs might result. But this is Indian religion. Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation isn’t afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.
Lydia Millet. "Selling Off Apache Holy Land"
Part of this is because of those "couple of million conquered natives," only 400,000 or so live in Arizona. The rest live elsewhere, and that takes us to the heart of the matter. The percentage of the other approximately 6,000,000 Arizonans who care isn't large enough for the congressional delegation to be afraid of them, either. And while Ms. Millet may very well be correct that they would value Christianity or Judaism (Islam, I'm not so sure about) over the promise of greater corporate profits (and hopefully, tax revenue from same), more jobs or increased national security (Senator McCain's stated rationale for backing this deal), anyone else's religion? Sure, throw it under the bus.

Part of this is simply the nature of the United States - for a broad swath of the overall public, not their problem directly equates to not a problem. But I also think that a large part of it is due to the Native American population being largely out of sight and out of mind. Even here, in the Puget Sound region, where Native American place names dot the landscape, actual Native Americans seem fairly thin on the ground. I don't think that I've actually met a tribal member in the nearly two decades since I've moved here. And I think that "out of sight, out of mind" status contributes to their lack of political clout.

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