J. Weaver, a 74 year old Elder from the White Earth Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota, is on an 1,800 mile walk to see President Clinton in Washington, DC. Some of his concerns, which are outlined in the following letter to President Clinton, are the environment, child abuse and corruption in government on his reservation.
Our dreams must tell what we cannot speak, like footprints to Ishpeming (heaven). They become new songs weaving the winds to sing, fanning the stars to shine, lighting the trail to the sacred mound where we say... "Mountain, you are beautiful and I am not afraid."
Dear Mr. President,
This day, July 4, 1993, at the Mother of all waters called the Mississippi, I gather a handful of soil and a small jar of water and begin a journey. A journey which shall bring me to your white house eventually.
I carry only a little soil and a muddied container of Mother water. For you see, Mr. President, this is in reality all we have left... "a little soil and some cloudy water."
I grew to manhood here, near this beginning river. I do not come here too often anymore, for the pain is too great. I stand here in the quiet and listen to the sounds of the water spirits ... they seem to cry out to us the Anishanabe, asking us in the swirling language of their journey to be more mindful, remembering that they too are alive and share this beautiful Earth.
And because of this great pain, I have spoken out in the past, I did a hunger strike and tried to send messages to your government, only to have these messages fall on hollow ears. In the emptiness of your government's deafness, my people continue to suffer, and the land continues to be battered and bartered, with no thought given to the Original People or their inherent rights of sovereignty and stewardship.
Today I begin yet another part of my life-journey, now at a time when I should be carving wood, joining in the season's celebration of the Ojibwa People, or perhaps surrounded by young people and grandchildren listening to the history of our great nation.
Instead I walk, asking that you help us and lift this yoke of oppression, these BIA tribal governments created by the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). Under IRA we have governments representing individuals, contrary to our traditional value system. They represent a few and what they consider "their" inherent rights.
I bring to you today a message from a tired yet strong people: we want political freedom, not political domination which has come to us these many winters past.
We, the Anishanabe, ask how our Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution can be so openly violated with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior by way of the BIA. That document no longer speaks to the truth your government echoes so hollow, or perhaps I should say hallowed. You see, Mr. President, that document is no longer functional or valid to the people it purports to represent.
We have studied your language and come to know that your Interior Secretary has an oversight responsibility to approve or disapprove resolutions and ordinances as is stated in the tribal Constitution.
This document has not been amended to absolve him of that responsibility.
The BIA's gross negligence in allowing Darrell Wadena, Chairman of the White Earth Reservation Business Committee and president of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, to negotiate the 1986 White Earth Land Settlement Act was an act "ultra vires" per the Tribe's Constitution. He acted not in the interest of the Anishanabe, but in the interest of his own select group.
Believing he alone represents our community he has entered into agreements and compacts with no direction from the people. Indeed, he has come to completely ignore the traditional value system and has chosen instead the advice of self-seeking lawyer-men who profit from the land and its people's loss. It is still clear in my heart remembering the old ones who shiver in the winter wind, who must walk to inadequate clinics, many who cannot afford to change a light bulb in their meager houses, having to account for the sweat earned pensions penny by penny. Only miles away their (sic) Tribal Chairman enjoys the luxury of ostentation and ill-gotten automobiles.
We have come to expect little from your government, but when we are oppressed by our (sic) own, the pain is more severe. It does not go away. Indeed, it returns again and again in the cries of the children ... seeking the meaning of their lives in a world which seems not to hear them ...
And so Mr. President, empowered by the Elders Council to bring yet another message to your White House I write this letter. On behalf of my beleaguered community, the council, the legless ones, the armless ones, those children yet to grow, those old ones who sit quiet in their world ... waiting to die because their world and their government has not heard their plea. I begin my walk not knowing what lay in the roads ahead. Yet, I know that the Great Spirit shall continue to guide my way and give me the strength to carry the message ... from a grateful people as ancient as the winds and the clouded water I bring ... in Peace.
for White Earth Anishanabe