Opinion

Chuck Trimble: Indian Country becomes united on the Internet





IndianCountryTV.com’s news anchor Kimberlie Acosta has a most powerful lead-in slogan to her reports: “One Million Indigenous Facebook Users….RED POWER!”

Acosta’s slogan predated the Idle No More (INM) movement by many months, and was indeed prophetic, for it predicted the power that the Internet offers for the cause of Indian unity and organization in our never-ending fight for our rights. It was that connectivity that enabled the Idle No More campaign to take off viral and become an international movement.

Prior to the INM tsunami, however, the cause of saving the Pe’Sla (PEH Shlah) sacred site in the Black Hills gave a hint to the instant mass communication possibilities of the Internet.

The INM movement got some of us on-line Indian old farts (OLIOFs) to thinking what we could have done many decades ago if we had such technological capability at hand. But now that it is at hand, we don’t have the energy anymore, even at the computer keyboard. One of the OLIOFs suggested an “ISM” movement for us – Idle Some More, and another suggested a “CMNW” – Call Me Next Week, and finally was the suggestion for a “Doksa” movement. Doksa (pronounced Tdoksha) is Lakota for “later,” and is often used to mean “Don’t hold your breath.”

Back in the late 1960s, when some of us Indian journalists of the Stone Age were first dreaming up the concept of the American Indian Press Association, the great communications guru Marshall McLuhan loomed large in the media and charged our dreams of someday offering multi-media services to our Native journals. Our new AIPA Washington News Bureau chief Yakama journalist Richard LaCourse and I had both read McLuhan’s books and were inspired by his theories. We would often talk of what might be done in the future to facilitate communications for Indian reservations and inter-tribal causes.

McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher and professor of communication theory whose works spearheaded the study of media theory in the 1960s, and influenced the television industry and the advertising that was driving media development. He coined the expressions “the medium is the message” and his views of “the global village” are seen today to have predicted what we call the Internet.

We could not have imagined the Internet, or even personal computers. But now that the Internet is at our fingertips, and newer generations are constantly griping how slow it is, and looking for light-speed communications, we must still be careful not to overuse it. Every Indian cause and everything seen as emergency cannot depend on marshaling all the one million Indian Facebook users, otherwise we’d be glued to our keyboards or texting on whatever the latest super toy is called.

And although “flash mobbing” to a round dance beat has got to be as fun as it is effective for airing our rage and determination, it is time-consuming, and we still have our regular dull work to do to see that food is on the table, and there’s a roof overhead.

Not long ago I began getting stuff on-line from a new organization called Lakota Students Alliance (LSA) that was doing a fairly good job of keeping their list informed on latest developments in a number of issues, and calling on the students to get involved. That worried me because many of these college students have professors who are from the last century, and still demand homework, physical attendance at class, and staying awake during classes, and correct answers in tests and pop-quizzes.

And if our students don’t do their homework, attend classes and stay awake during them, and pass the tests and pop quizzes, they will soon be sent packing and find themselves behind the counter at some fast food joint instead of representing tribes and others in courtrooms, saving lives in hospitals, or bureaucrating for big bucks in some BIA regional office.

The Internet, however, serves another purpose – that of expanding on and preserving our great traditions and cultures. I was delighted recently to receive an email from a strange source called Rez Rats. The writer was offended (a state in which Rez Rats seem to be perpetually) that the song was sung by some Ojibway folks, but sung in English rather than in their native language. The lyrics of the song are as follows:
"I read your status last night,
you posted that someone else was holding you tight.
You shared it with all our friends to see,
I don't wanna go through this Facebook drama,
so I pressed delete."

The Rez Rat didn’t seem to understand that this is pure “49” song poetry; and that “49” songs by their intertribal nature are always sung in the lingua franca of that genre – which is English.

I loved it! The internet is bringing into the 21st Century the romance, heartbreak, and Indin humor of the “49.”

By the way, it ticks me off when I hear people call the songs “49ers.” The 49ers are an NFL football team. The “49” is a genre of song that some tell came about in celebration when fifty Kiowa went to war (WWI or WWII, depending on who’s telling it) and forty nine came home. And some smart-alecky Oglala would add that those Kiowa obviously didn’t go to war with the Lakota, or they’d be singing a “3” song.

Oh well, enjoy yourselves. And to any Rez Rat who might read this, I say “Chill it, Takozja; try to be happy for a change. Go sing a 49 song, or a 3 song, whatever suits your taste or your tribal affiliation.”

Charles "Chuck" Trimble, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1970, and served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-1978. He is retired and lives in Omaha, NE. He can be contacted at cchuktrim@aol.com and his website is www.iktomisweb.com.

More from Charles Trimble:
Charles Trimble: The wonderful remarkable life of an Oglala centenarian (04/01)