Local Native American says Native American Month doesn’t go far enough

Nov 25, 2013

The month of November has been declared Native American Month, a time set aside to recognize the significant contributions of America's first citizens. But as WBFO's Eileen Buckley reports, one local Native American says it is not enough in dealing with the current struggles of those living on native territories. 

November is Native American Month
Credit Photo from Native American Month Webpage

"We live in a time where we are still struggling to assert our autonomy and our distinction. It's one thing to say we want to honor our heritage, but we are still here," said John Kane, radio host of Let's Talk Native in Buffalo.

Kane is often outspoken on Native American issues. While Kane applauds the federal government and President Obama for declaring November Native American Month, he tells WBFO News the "level of invisibility" for Native people continues to exist.  He points to the federal government probes of Native American cigarette sales as one example.  

"The Tonawanda Seneca Chiefs retail facility, who got charged for purchasing cigarettes for the smoke shop out there in a sting that was set up in Kansas City. There is an attempt the state and federal officials to use anti-organized crime bills and anti-terrorism laws to criminalize the very things we do on our territories," said Kane. "This is the stuff that I think people have to understand."

But it's important to note that this past June federal officials announced that after three years of litigation, lawsuits by several Native American cigarette retailers to stop a federal law seeking to restrict internet sales of cigarettes and sales to children, was dismissed by a federal judge.

In a news released issued by the U.S. Attorney's office in Buffalo, dated June 12, 2013, U.S. William Hochul stated "With the end of this litigation, the federal government can now begin to enforce the full breadth and scope of the PACT Act and help insure that our nation’s children are protected from the sales of cigarettes to minors,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “The PACT Act will also allow for the proper tax revenues to be collected on the sales of cigarettes by each state, revenues which will be used to finance additional health programs to combat the devastating health effects felt by Americans due to the availability of cheap cigarettes.”

Still  Kane accuses underlying racism against Native Americans. He said they are treated only as a "relative of the past". Kane notes while debates over the use of the word Redskins for professional and high school sports teams remains important, it doesn't go far enough in preventing stereotypes.

Trail of Tears
Credit Photo from PBS Webpage

"That's why people put us on the side of a football helmet. There were two high schools, this past week -- two separate high schools who cited the 'Trail of Tears' as a way to make a comment against a team that they were playing that were called the Indians.  One of them said 'Hey Indians, get ready to leave on a Trail of Tears'", said Kane.  

Kane places blames much of the mainstream media saying they ignore Native American voices and fail to write and broadcast about what is really happening within their Native American territories.