ESSAY ON HUNTER GRAY [FROM JOURNAL OF INDIGENOUS THOUGHT -- WINTER 2001]
by Neal McLeod & Rob Nestor
Saskatchewan Indian Federated College
The Journal of Indigenous Thought continues in this issue to document the intellectual, philosophical, religious and narrative traditions of Indigenous people throughout the world. The current issue draws upon the insights of the work of several people, including Dr. Roy Wortman (Kenyon College), Christine Watson (Saskatchewan Indian Federated College), Solomon Ratt (Saskatchewan Indian Federated College), and Neal McLeod (Saskatchewan Indian Federated College). All of the pieces contained within this journal point to the dynamic nature of Indigenous intellectual/ narrative traditions, with a play between traditions and contemporary realities being demonstrated.
Dr. Wortman's pieces, "Telling Their Own Stories, Building Their Own Strength: Dr. Dave Warren on Framing and Imparting American Indian History" and " 'I Consider Myself a Real Red' : The Social Thought of American Civil Rights Organizer John (Salter) Hunter Gray" explore the work and lives of two prominent Native Americans. Wortman in the two pieces engages in a thoughtful dialogue with both Warren and Gray with neither being an "informant" or an "object of research." Rather, the words and thoughts of both are conveyed through the interviews which have been skillfully edited by Wortman. Furthermore, the interviews are placed within a larger interpretative framework with references to other contexts and situations which amplify the words and contributions of both Warren and Gray.
In the essay, " ' I Consider Myself a Real Red'," important points of contrast are drawn between the experience of Black Americans and the civil rights movement and the attempt of Native Americans to hold on to their identity in the wake of the pressures of assimilation: "Where Black Americans sought to become part of the broader United States society, American Indians sought to remain as much as possible apart from that sphere because of their historical and legal traditions based on treaties" (p. 7). The achievements of Gray demonstrate the challenges of trying to balance the need to maintain identity within the rubric of collective minority as well as the need to participate within the larger society. Perhaps, it is through ambiguity that emerges in this attempt to navigate various cultural and political frameworks, that Gray denounces essentialism. Instead, Gray holds that cultures are essentially an organic, fluid activity, but at the same need a real material/ physical grounding such as that found in Treaty rights (e.g. access to land base) and of the economic contexts that people find themselves in.
Roy Wortman and David Warren explore important issues of historiography within the context of Native American history in the paper "Telling Their Own Story, Building Their Own Strengths: Dr. David Warren on Framing and Imparting American Indian History." Given the rise of more writings about Native American history by Native American writers, the discussion of these issues is certainly timely. David Warren's contribution to the Native American history perhaps rests in seeing "oral traditions of a tribal group as a living source as a much as a document" (p. 6). Thus, instead of Native American culture and history existing only in the past as collections of relics waiting to be catalogued and preserved, Native American culture and history is rather a living process in a constant state of development. Like Gray, Warren is also suspicious of essentialistic cultural discourses, and urges historians to engage in multi-layered studies of collective historical experience.
Myself a Real Red:"
The Social Thought of American Civil Rights Organizer John R. (Salter) Hunter Gray
by Roy T. Wortman, Department of History, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022 USA
"Thanks to you and a few others we
now have a much better state. We owe to you a debt that obviously wont ever get
paid, except in the devalued currency of kind thoughts and appreciative words from those
of us who have some understanding of what you stood for and were motivated by."
---William F. Winter, Jackson, Mississippi, letter to John R. Salter, Nov. 21, 1990. Winter was governor of Mississippi, 1980 - 84. During the desegregation battles in the 1960s, while a state official, Winter courageously remained in a minority by refusing to join the White Citizens Council which endorsed segregation. Copies of letter in the Salter Papers, Social Action Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin; and in Salter Papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.
"I consider myself a Real Red. In addition to being a half - breed Indian, I belonged, in the 1950s, to the last of the really old-time Industrial Workers of the World and I was also an International Union of Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers man."
"Ive been a social justice agitator all my life and I always will be one: a radical.... I very strongly believe, from my basic roots, that, if youre going to really believe in something, make it something that serves humanity in a deep and enduring sense and not simply something that serves only oneself. "
---John R. (Salter) Hunter Gray, Manuscript letter to the author, February 21, 2000.
Civil rights, labor, and civil liberties organizer, and educator in sociology and Indian Studies, Hunter Gray, in his own words, devoted his entire life to "full - time organizing and part - time teaching; or full - time teaching and full - time organizing." This articles purpose is not to chronicle Hunter Grays involvement in political, civil rights, labor, and civil liberties organizations. Instead, it seeks to point to those events, environments, individuals, and organizations which made an impact in shaping Hunter Grayss social thought. An earlier brief article (Wortman: 1997) outlines in skeletal form Hunter Grays various organizational civil rights drives. The current article is based in large part on what that my earlier brief article could not say, given limitations of space and purpose in the Encyclopedia of Native American Civil Rights. This article, which examines those signposts that influenced and shaped Hunter Grays social thought, is based on a thirty -four page manuscript dated February 21, 2000, in which Hunter Gray responded to a wide variety of questions I sent him about influences on his mind and work. With the exception of those parenthetical citations that mention a source or letter from Hunter Gray other than the thirty-four page manuscript letter to this author, all quotations and paraphrased remarks herein derive from that manuscript. Aware of "the need to include Indian voices" (Mihesuah, 1998: 1 - 2) as an ethical and professional imperative, I asked for and received Hunter Grays assistance in verifying this article for concept and accuracy to maintain the integrity of his voice in this essay.
Hunter Gray epitomizes a synthesis of progressive intellectual sensibilities on race and civil rights intertwined with an American Indian heritage as well as a radical critique of society inherited from the "Old Left" of the labor movement. Hunter Gray describes himself as a "Real Red: In addition to being a half-breed Indian, I belonged, in the 1950s, to the last of the really old - time Industrial Workers of the World [IWW] and I was also [a]... Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers man." The statement is deceptively simple: Hunter Grays affiliation with the old - time IWW and the Mine - Mill union connect him to an older era of struggles for working people even as his allusion to his "half-breed Indian" ancestry connects him to a lifetime of struggles for justice in civil rights. Hunter Gray uniquely synthesizes both civil rights and labor struggles while simultaneously maintaining a strong, lifelong belief in the sanctity of the individual and in the deep, traditional American right to keep and bear arms for lawful self - defense, especially against armed racist aggression. His social thought at once, and without contradiction to him, maintains powerful emphasis on cultural communities, recognizing the deep historical connections between past and present, especially for American Indians. Simultaneously, he maintains a strong and abiding libertarian sense for the right of the individual to maintain self - sufficiency and self - defense as a moral as well as a legal right in the United States: Hunter Gray argues that aggregations of individuals who form an ethnic or otherwise identifiable minority community are entitled to self - defense and the right to lawfully keep and bear arms against racist aggression and marauding. A contemporary reader of the progressive persuasion, be he or she in Canada or the United States, jumping to reflex reactions, would argue that civil rights and labor organizing on the one hand, and advocacy for the right to keep and bear arms on the other, are contradictory: one is on "the left," and the other is on "the right." Hunter Gray abjures this kind of simplistic political dichotomy; these issues are too complex to make for a simplistic divide either morally or in political terms. Given his experiences, there is no contradiction; to the contrary, there are multiple layers of complexity, with but one thing in common: all layers point to the potential of human beings not only to defend themselves from racist intimidation or aggression, but as well to develop their full potential as individuals within communities so as to reach as high as they can in fulfilling their lives within the American Republic. Hunter Gray puts this in powerful and passionate ways, although he modesty calls it "strong personal stuff." Indeed, there is a deep strand---not of romantic sensibilities, but of mysticism in Hunter Grays notion of what is right and proper: "I believe one should Keep Fighting, all the way through: in the green oases of rich and vibrant and far-flung struggle: and also in the long lonely stretches of desert with the bitter and critically important little fights ---and always with an eye on the Better World Over the Mountain Yonder [italics supplied]."
Hunter Gray was born as John Randall Salter, Jr. in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1934. As he looks back on his life and social thought, he credits, first and foremost, his family. His father, born Frank Gray, was a full - blooded Indian of Micmac, St. Francis Abenaki, and Mohawk ancestry, but was adopted by William Mackintire Salter and Mary Gibbens Salter, New England liberals active in the Ethical Culture Society, a secular group which affirmed moral and ethical principles without the dogma, creed , or faith of organized religion. It was William Mackintire Salter who changed Frank Grays name to Salter. Frank left the Salters in 1913, went to Indian Mexico for a while, and then served in the US Navy in World War One. William Salter left Frank out of his will. Mary Salter "left him what she could." It was the family of American philosopher William James which funded Frank through the Chicago Art Institute, and thus launched his career as both artist and professor. Frank later earned both an MA and an MFA at the University of Iowa. Frank was a Catholic, but "with mixed tribal religion." Keenly aware of his Native ancestry, he resented his adopted last name but did not change it before he died; but his son, John, did change it, in May, 1995, in District Court, to Hunter Gray: Hunter, after his mothers Scottish - American side; and Gray, from his fathers Mohawk side. Hunter Gray credits his father as a role model "who maintained his primary commitment to aboriginal values but [who] resisted all efforts to push him into a stereotypical mold." Hunter Grays mothers family was of Scottish and Swiss heritage. An Anglican, her family of ranchers "abandoned Calvin for Cranmer, [the latter, 1489 - 1556, a crucial figure in the English Protestant Reformation]" a reference to social and economic mobility as the family moved up to the perceived higher status of the Anglican, or "High " Episcopalian Church in the United States. She was a "fighter for good causes." Hunter Gray acknowledges his parents commitment to the causes of social progress, and always received their support for his goals. Additionally, although he never met them, he credits two ancestors about whom he heard much as he was growing up in Flagstaff: John Gray (Ignace Hatchiorauquasha), his great - great - great grandfather, a Mohawk, who, with his Mohawk wife, Marianne Neketichon (Mary Ann Charles) was active in both the Far Western fur trade and Indian rights in the early nineteenth century. On Hunter Grays mothers side, Michael Senn, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, was an early settler in the Kansas Territory, an Abolitionist and Union veteran wounded in the American Civil War at Gettysburg, who, after mustering out of the Army, spoke out against the 1864 massacre of the Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, Colorado. Senn was also one of the founders of the Knights of Labor, and was a friend of Eugene V. Debs, who would later become Socialist Party of America presidential candidate and spokesman. In addition to his ancestors heritage, his wife, Eldri, of Scandinavian, Finnish, and Saami heritage, "has been an extraordinarily positive influence on me from our first association, and our subsequent marriage, in 1961, to the present moment." The daughter of a Lutheran minister "and his faithful wife," Eldri graduated from Augsburg College, a Lutheran institution in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a degree in sociology and served as campus representative for the Lutheran Student Foundation at Wisconsin State College in Superior, Wisconsin, where she met her future husband. While her own background was not that of a social activist, recalls Hunter Gray, "she always had a hell of a strong social conscience!" They married in late June, 1961. In between the years from Wisconsin State College through the present "she lived with me under many dangerous clouds (the South, Chicago, other situations); picketed and was jailed in Jackson; helped much in my advising work with the Jackson NAACP Youth movements; heard death threats flow into our various settings for decades; saw Maria, our first baby, almost hit by a Klansmens bullet; saw me beaten and almost killed and constantly surveilled and red-baited; was by herself with the slowly - accumulating children while I was gone on the organizing road for days and sometimes weeks at a time; moved frequently; handled the almost always sparse finances; and has provided extremely basic and effective words of optimism and wisdom."
Beyond family, Hunter Gray is quick to single out others who helped shape his social concerns: Ned A. Hatathali (Navajo), his fathers art student and close family friend at then Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University), founder and first president of the Navajo Community College (now Dine College); Frank Dolphin, left-wing farm worker organizer in the 1930s, volunteer in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War, and also an artist who was a student of his father; CE Payne, on of the founders of the IWW in 1905, an editor and organizer who mentored Hunter Gray in the Pacific Northwest in the mid - 1950s, and a person who asserted that traditional Native tribalism offered industrial and urban civilization a "trail to utopian development." Finally, another IWW, Fred Thompson, a Canadian of Scots and Micmac heritage originally from St. John, New Brunswick, also influenced Salter. Thompson, a socialist in Canada, settled in the United States and became an editor and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World based in Chicago, but active throughout the United States. He was instrumental in assisting in organizing the Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union 440 in Cleveland, Ohio after World War Two (Wortman: 1985). Thompson, editor of the IWW Industrial Worker, gave Hunter Gray in his "hot-eyed kid" days this advice: "You have to accurately describe the massive injustice all around you and sensibly discuss basic curative approaches and solutions." Hunter Gray followed that advice all his professional life.
Although Hunter Gray respected his parents religious heritage as well as the foundations of justice in the Judeo-Christian ethos, religion was not a fundamental influence in Hunter Grays social justice efforts. "I have never been a particularly churchy person," he wrote. Still, he acknowledges that Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy of the liberal Catholic Worker movement influenced him "a goodly amount." (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 2 March 2000). In his later career when he helped organize migrant Canadian Algonquin fur workers in upstate New York, for the Rochester diocese, Catholic Worker advocates were among his strongest supporters "through all sorts of struggles with reactionary Church authorities and many other official adversaries" (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 2 March 2000). Yet if organized , institutional religion played a minimal role in shaping Hunter Grays thought, his idealism in good part was shaped by a visionary and mystical spirituality that transcended formal organizations. Hunter Grays eclectic spirituality, in part define by the way he talks and writes of a "better world over the Mountain," and "reaching towards the Sun" are fundaments for an idealism supported by traditional American Indian beliefs coupled with the mystical vision of the Industrial Workers of the World, the "Wobblies," as they came to be called in history. James Jones best captures that Wobbly vision, even as he defines who they were, in his brilliant novel of the Second World War, From Here to Eternity when he describes a sergeant who had once been an IWW: " There has never been anything like them.... They called themselves materialist - economists, but what they really were was a religion.... It was their vision that made them great. And it was their belief in it which made them powerful." Jones also perceptively grasped the IWW in deeper ways as he explained their mystique, their strength, and their weakness: "They had courage, and whats more important, they had the soft heart to go with it. Their defeat was due to faulty technique of execution, rather than to concept. But also, I dont think the time was ripe for them yet." (Jones, 1951, 640, 644.)
In addition to the IWW as an American institution whose history helped shape Hunter Gray, a number of authors were significant in shaping his attitudes: they included Ralph Chaplin, a lifetime Wobbly whose book, Wobbly: The Rough and Tumble Story of an American Radical made an impact on Hunter Gray; Susan Mary Power (Yanktonnai Sioux), who emphasized Native intergenerational connections and cultural survival; Arthur Koestler, whose anti - totalitarian and anti Stalinist classic, Darkness at Noon, made an impression on Hunter Gray as a youth and who read it several times since; Texas author J. Frank Dobie, who wrote of the many - faceted cultures of the US Southwest; Arthur Parker (Seneca), anthropologist and ethnologist; and John Reed, Progressive Era radical journalist and author of Ten Days That Shook the World , on the Russian Revolution and who, significantly, had a strong streak of "romantic" revolutionary" within his thought. It is significant to note that with the exception of Koestler, a European - born anti - Stalinist, all of Hunter Grays formative authors were US - born. On the surface, this is a minor matter; beneath the surface, however, there is more significance to this than meets the eye: Hunter Grays radicalism and his quest for social justice stemmed not from European origins, not from Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Karl Kautsky, or V.I. Lenin, but from an indigenous radical tradition rooted in American history: the abolitionists, some of the populists of the 1880s and 1890, and Debsian socialism and the Industrial Workers of the World owed their formation less to European thought than to an American quest for justice, in some cases partly evangelical and in part linked to the idea of a "moral economy" which sought to correct grievances in the racial, economic or moral arenas (Lynd, 1968; Salvatore, 1982; Wood, 1992). Hunter Grays indigenous radicalism is in within this American tradition even as it in good part stems from it.
Beyond the writers who helped shaped Hunter Grays mind and vision, he looked up to and admired heroes in American Indian history. In addition to Navajo educator Ned A. Hatathali, Hunter Gray, as a child, found meaning in Seneca ethnologist Arthur C. Parker, who was very much "a Seneca, Iroquois, Native American." Clearly, to Hunter Gray, Parker had no difficulties with identity. A founder of the Society of American Indians, a pan - Indian rights organization founded mainly by and for American mixed - blood intellectuals, (Hertzberg, 1971) Parker was also instrumental in the founding, later on, of the National Congress of American Indians. State anthropologist of New York, researcher and writer, and academic notable, he furnished comfort to Hunter Gray because he was someone who "refused to be stereotyped or cast into an iron block mold." Hunter Gray found meaning in Parkers words: "I dont have to play Indian to be Indian [Parker, cited by Hunter Gray, emphasis supplied]" Hunter Gray took the caveat as a role model; and from his parents "who always encouraged me to do my own thing," Hunter Gray "cut my own trail just as I saw fit." He also found inspiration in the historical roles of Billy Weatherford (Red Eagle), a mixed - blood Creek war chief who resisted Andrew Jackson in military combat; Louis Riel, martyred leader for the Canadian Metis Nation; Frank Little, revered in IWW history and hagiography as "half - Indian, half white man, and all IWW," who was lynched by vigilantes in Butte, Montana, in 1917 at the peak of anti - IWW hysteria in World War One (Dubofsky 1969); John Ross, Cherokee leader who used the US court system as a battleground to gain legal rights in the groundbreaking case Worcester v. Georgia (1832) which excluded state jurisdiction; Geronimo, Mescalero Apache guerilla warrior who, in Hunter Grays words, "recognized the value of firearms and relentless persistence" in opposing the United States Army in the Southwest during the "Indian Wars;" Susan Kelly Power (Yanktonnai Sioux) who helped found the nations first Native urban center in Chicago in the 1950s; and William "Bill" Redcloud (White Earth Chippewa), an urban Indian community worker who never sought fanfare for himself and who was executive director of the Native American Community Organizational Training Center of which Hunter Gray was chair in Chicago in the 1970s.
Hunter Grays consciousness about civil rights stemmed in large part from the very environment of Flagstaff, Arizona, in which he grew up. If there were any turning points in Hunter Grays coming of age they were through acts of discrimination and prejudice toward his father, who was "very visibly Indian." Hunter Gray recalls signs such as "No Indians or Dogs Allowed" posted in some cafes. He also remembers an incident where two Black churchmen, one a minister, the other a deacon, were shot and killed by a drunken White man on a Sunday morning. The perpetrator was not taken into custody. So too, Hunter Gray recalls Indians who died in city and county jails under mysterious circumstances, events written off as either "suicide " or "spinal meningitis." Hunter Grays parents helped to change these conditions even as they influenced him in his social awareness. Reflecting on his own past history, Hunter Gray synthesized his birth status and environment with two egalitarian and militant labor organizations which influenced him: "I was born, a half - breed, into the civil rights situation---with an Indian father and an Anglo mother and an often hostile Anglo social environment around us. The IWW was thoroughly egalitarian and Mine - Mills record for actively fighting for full minority rights was absolutely exemplary. While it was a gradual process, the River of Civil Rights Awareness moved with increasing rapidity for me [emphasis supplied]."
In addition to social justice in race relations, Hunter Grays consciousness on economic and social class issues was heightened by the Industrial Workers of the World, which he joined in the mid - 1950s. Although ferociously anti - Communist, the IWW, during President Harry Trumans administration in the late 1940s, was placed on the United States Attorney Generals list for subversive groups. Its radicalism was eclectic, and devoid of a rigid, compartmentalized ideological teleology. Anti - capitalist more in an emotional and visceral way rather than in the than a disciplined ideological structure of Marxism - Leninism, it emphasized democracy from the rank and file rather than absolutist, hierarchical organization and power from the top down. The IWW rejected the elitist ideological vanguard concept of disciplined, tightly organized cadres emphasized by Marxism - Leninism and the Communist Party. Hunter Gray did not become involved in the sectarian ideological battles that the IWW had with the Communist Party; there was so much red hysteria and red scare in the American Southwest that Hunter Gray selected his priorities to focus his energy on issues that mattered to him. "Ive never worried a great deal about, say, the Communist Party. Where I grew up, every movement that challenged the status quo was red - baited incessantly by the power structure types---and this was certainly true in the South where every civil rights organization---from the NAACP to the Southern Conference Educational Fund (old New Deal origins, Eleanor Roosevelt a long time supporter) was consistently called Communist" (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 1 March 2000.) Hunter Grays association with the IWW enabled him to nurture his incipient talents as both radical and organizer even as he was exposed to the mystique and working class egalitarianism of the organization. He remained with the IWW until 1960, but the Wobblies, by then, had lost their strength and receded into historical myth, memory, and shadow. Hunter Gray also joined the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, which he regarded as "consistently tough and consistently radical;" he served as a volunteer organizer in strike support and grassroots labor defense. His last speech to a Mine - Mill group--a large contingent of delegations from the Arizona locals-- was in December, 1963, when he traveled from the Deep South to Arizona to speak on the civil rights struggle. In the larger sense Hunter Grays involvement with both the IWW and Mine-Mill, as well as his own personal background, meshed and merged by the time he was in his twenties. By that time, the die had been fully cast for his intellectual development. An earlier two - year stint with the United States Army--Hunter Gray volunteered for induction early in 1953--only helped reinforce what he had found out over time: "In one company that had been until very recently all - Black (and which still had virtually all Black officers and cadre---I liked them a lot)," there was "a broad sweep of troopers drawn not only from the Southwest but the Deep South as well---I saw how quickly young White segregationist attitudes could change radically for the better....(Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 19 March 2000)"
As a student at Arizona State University, at age 24, Hunter Gray had a key role in organizing dormitories and fraternities and sororities to get better food and to increase the wages of student employees. In 1960, at 26, he assisted in demonstrations against the then-mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps. At Wisconsin State College, Superior, at his first teaching job, he helped organize--with limited success--the American Federation of Teachers. He was much more successful in organizing a large student contingent against "a thoroughly reactionary college administration" headed by a president who held a commission as a general in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. While in Wisconsin, he and his wife read of the Freedom Rides of civil rights advocates who protested legal segregation in the Deep South. Spurred on by his own consciousness and experiences, which all seemed to crest and culminate, Hunter Gray, after a solitary walk in the woods, decided that he should go into the South and teach in a Black college. Upon consultation his wife also agreed to this. In the summer of 1961 Hunter Gray, on the advice of a white Southerner who was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Glen Smiley, obtained a position at Tougaloo Southern Christian College, Jackson, Mississippi. There he became advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and met Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP. Hunter Gray, Evers and others, founded the Mississippi Free Press , the first civil rights newspaper in the state. And there, as they settled into their new home and job, Hunter Gray and Eldri organized young people into the Youth Council. In 1962 the NAACP Youth Council started its boycott of white businesses in Jackson, which rapidly bloomed into the large non - violent "Jackson Movement." Hunter Grays involvement in this episode is chronicled in his Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism (1979 and 1987). In brief, he was the leading link in the Movements strategy committee, as well as a teacher, organizer, and tactician who witnessed police and mob violence and massive arrests in one of the highest waves of civil rights protests and activity. Violence caught up with the civil rights organizers. Medgar Evers, "An eminently sensible activist, thoroughly committed, a fine and loyal friend," was murdered. Hunter Gray was seriously injured in a rigged car accident, but the Jackson Movement sustained itself with staying power and set in motion changes in Mississippi and all over the American South. After Jackson, Hunter Gray went into full time civil rights work as field organizer for the radical Southern Conference Educational Fund, where he served as grassroots anti-Ku Klux Klan and civil rights organizer "in a hard - core, Deep South setting."
Hunter Gray recalls that Mississippis Choctaw population in the early and mid 1960s "just tried to stay out of it all" when it came to civil rights issues. In that era the Choctaws were in a tenuous position. Hunter Gray notes that "The Mississippi band has always had a tough time," and remained, "in that era of generally limited roads," distant and isolated from Jackson, which was the center of civil rights activity in the early and mid 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s Hunter Gray had more contact with the Choctaws, and was especially active for Native rights in the American South in Eastern North Carolina where he brought Indians "into those hard - fought campaigns." In later anti - poverty organizing Hunter Grays work embraced both Native people in general and, more specifically, Indian youth training programs. In his Jackson, Mississippi years, however, most of Hunter Grays civil rights organizing work involved improving the standing of the states Black population. Hunter Grays over - three thousand page FBI file, which he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, contains a newspaper article from the Jackson newspaper which headlined his involvement as follows: "Salter led Jackson Agitation. Tougaloo Prof Joins Pro - Red Organization ." The newspaper ended its article with a brief sentence about Eldri: "His wife has also been active in the integration movement." (Jackson Daily News, 25 September 1963, in unclassified and released Freedom of Information Act FBI file, item number 100 - 9943 - 2, copy provided by Hunter Gray). Given the climate of opposition to civil rights as well as the violence endemic to that era and place, such a public headline was as good as a death warrant. From those idealistic yet stress - filled days Hunter Gray and his wife moved into militant anti-poverty organizing, and thereafter continued in both civil rights and anti - poverty organization as he taught in various places in the United States.
With a lifetime background in civil rights, Hunter Gray, upon reflection, views with admiration Black intellectual and social theorist W.E.B. DuBois as fundamental to his civil rights organizing and thinking because of DuBois emphasis on action coupled with his belief in integration grounded in egalitarianism. Hunter Gray points also to James A. Dombrowski, a White Southerner and founder of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in the 1930s and its organizational descendant, the Southern Conference Educational Funds in which Hunter Gray served as field organizer. Additionally, he cites Ella J. Baker, Black civil rights advocate who held various positions in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Martin Luther Kings Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Southern Conference Educational Fund among other organizations. Hunter Gray holds her up as an example of a person "vigorously committed to long - term democratic grass roots organizing and sensible independent political and organizational action." Hunter Grays other two exemplars in civil rights were James Farmer, active in the pacifist Fellowship for Reconciliation, a democratic socialist who supported labor causes and a leader of the Congress of Racial Equality; and the lawyer, Floyd B. McKissick, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.
Having worked in both Black and American Indian civil rights advocacy, Hunter Gray sees contrasts between the two. Historically, the quest for Black civil rights sought equality of the law and integration as its primary goals. Where Black Americans sought to become part of the broader United States society, American Indians sought to remain as much as possible apart from that sphere because of their historical and legal traditions based on treaties. Thus, civil rights for American Indians focused on self - determination and protection of Native resources, as well as protecting Native individuals from both tribal or federal government abuses. Hunter Gray is quick to point out that broad facets of federal civil rights acts in areas of public accommodations, fair housing and voting rights do apply, quite properly, to Native peoples in off - reservation situations. If there is an alternative to dependency and trusteeship relations between the federal government and Native Indian tribes, it is through the full honoring of treaty rights as well as substantial federal funding for urban, off - reservation rural, and reservation peoples. What Hunter Gray sees as the fundamental key here is maximum self-determination within treaty rights. He was concerned with what happened in termination during the Eisenhower years wherein certain tribal groups such as the Menominee and Klamath lost their relationship to the federal government and had no recognized treaty rights at all. (Fixico, 1986) In maintaining treaty rights, dependency, say Hunter Gray, whether directly or by implication, is unavoidable in a trusteeship environment. At one time the trustee relationship between Natives and the federal government was "sadly necessary," but in a situation where "the trustee has become increasingly Machiavellian and the wards increasingly more sophisticated and self-confident, the time has come to end the relationship, Hunter Gray asserts.
For American Indian civil rights issues, Hunter Gray believes that in the United States there has been "substantial progress on many fronts" to include an increase in Native Indian professionals; a more vigorous Indian leadership; an increase in inter-tribal coalitioning; better advances in health and education; an effective expansion in treaty rights and increased protection of natural resources; increasingly successful Indian land claims; a more heightened sensitivity to cultural preservation and heritage; better support for off reservation and urban Indians; and more effective laws protecting American Indian civil rights, self-determination, and religious freedom. All of these advances Hunter Gray sees as riding the crest of an increased Native optimism, political awareness, and confidence, coupled with a growing public awareness by the non-Indian public of both Indian causes and "the Native situation." Still, says Hunter Gray, the struggle is far from over: "there is still a hell of a long way to go on all fronts."
What Hunter Gray sees as major changes in American Indian history since his involvement with the civil rights movement in the early 1960s is an increased Native grassroots activism and organization connected to more litigation and political action against both state and federal government. He also singles out educational efforts in educating the non-Indian public. Increased Native self-determination, brought on by legislative efforts of the federal government in reaction to vigorous Native responses to grievances, and a more aware general American public are trends that Hunter Gray sees as major changes. To put it another way, "The End of the Trail" painting offers a vivid, sad image, replete with tired horse, downcast and fatigued rider, and an overall ambience that is devoid of any vitality of potential for a Native future. Erroneous as it is, it represented what many Americans thought of as the plight of American Indians at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yet Native history did not have a final end: instead, through the course of the twentieth century, it became, in Hunter Grays words, a strong, vital, and vibrant presence in which "late nineteenth and early (and some mid) twentieth century predictions notwithstanding, Indian people and cultures are a permanent part of the scenery." Thus, from a public perception as a vanishing people, the Native presence became, instead, a permanent part of the political, social, cultural, and economic part of the American landscape.
Hunter Gray would hope to see improvement in federal adherence to treaty obligations. He cautions that "self-determination" without treaty rights means, finally, termination. Thus, it is critical that treaty rights, as part of the "supreme law of the land," should be absolute. He hopes that there could be a speedier process for federal recognition of non-federal tribes. In this regard, he would like to see an expansion of the 1921 Snyder Act so as to allow the array of federal Indian services in the United States to be applied to all Indians within the United States, be they federally recognized or not. He would also include Canadian Natives living in the United States. The Synder Actss original intent was to broadly cover all Indians in the United States, but its thrust was limited by federal government fiat to only those Natives living on federally recognized reservations (Tyler, 1973: 247). This narrower application of the Act excluded rural, off-reservation Indians who lacked tribal or treaty affiliation with the federal government. It also excluded urban Indians. Beyond this, Hunter Gray would like to see the removal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Department of the Interior, which has been "perennially sensitive to the corporations." The BIAs elevation to a cabinet - level rank would, argues Hunter Gray, be appropriate. While Hunter Gray sees the Nixon administrations 1975 American Indian Self- Determination Act as "an important first step," he would like to see it taken a step further with additional and substantial federal government monies for Indian-controlled and Indian-directed programs in health, education, and justice in urban and non-reservation rural settings as well as in reservations. Federal funding for tribally-owned and tribally - controlled resource development and other economic programs, and federal assistance to tribes building back their reservation land base are other areas of government intervention and assistance that Hunter Gray advocates. He believes that tribes should operate casinos as they deem appropriate; the 1988 Indian Gaming Act needs correction and reinterpretation. It compels tribes to reach an agreement with the states in which they are located, and thus circumvents the Worcester v. Georgia decision of 1832 in which the United States Supreme Court excluded state jurisdiction over tribes. Hunter Gray sees the entire matter of Indian gaming in the United States as becoming more and more confused. "The tribes ought to be able to do their own thing their own way." For the 1988 Act to be operative and effective, clarification is required so that Native sovereignty is strengthened. As to whether or not gaming in the first place should be on a reservation, Hunter Gray believes that the decision should be left up to the tribe. Finally, Hunter Gray affirms federal government establishment of full tribal and criminal jurisdiction on tribal lands in an effort to extricate both government and Indians from the "current situation... a nightmarish mess for tribes, states, Federal government." Religious freedom and rights both on an off reservation, vigorous protection of tribal water rights, "and either freedom - with - pardon for Leonard Peltier or, at the very least, a new trial in a properly objective setting" would be appropriate goals for the United State government. To the National Congress of American Indians, to which Hunter Gray has been a sometime member, he suggests " more militancy," that it broaden its base of support to include non-federally recognized Indian people, and that it campaign for increased tribal and individual membership.
Hunter Gray does not believe that there is an "Aboriginal way of knowing" rooted in blood and genes. Given the fashionable emphasis on biological reductionism and essentialism in the Academy in the last decade and a half, Hunter Gray is "skeptical of anything that sees the conveyance of knowledge and basic nature stemming from blood and genes." He explicates that individual family genealogy can have tendencies toward intuitive temperament and general intellectual and mental ability but understands, finally, the impact of culture and environment when it comes to the formation of human personality. "The blood and genes concept," he cautions, "can easily--however inadvertently--veer into biological racism." He is equally skeptical of ideological strictures and constraints, as, for example, in a Marxist-Leninist worldview in interpreting American Indian issues: "In any case, from whatever ideological perspective they may spring, elitism and rigidity run directly counter to the ethos of any Native tribe or band. (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 17 March 2000)"
Hunter Grays experiences might lead one to believe that the grimness of human nature he witnessed in fighting racism made him into a skeptic or cynic about the nature of mankind. To the contrary, looking back on his career, and again forward to the future, he sees optimism. "From my earliest years onward--through all kinds of personal and social crises--Ive always felt that if I and/or we can just keep going, we can make things work out.... I have seen successes, big and small, in social struggles.... Maybe, basically, Ive always liked most people Ive met --can usually find some common ground. And perhaps, even more basically, Ive always felt that this is a friendly universe and that the Creator intends for all of us... to move, ever more steadily, closer and closer to the One Big Sun."
Yet his optimism is not absolute; it is tempered with a cautious and pragmatic realism. He understands the linkage between White poverty and the development of White racism in the United States. Once, in 1964, after a particularly "hard - fought and terror - ridden Southern rural civil rights campaign" Hunter Gray, one night, rested under a thicket of pine trees and watched as a Ku Klux Klan rally, well - lit by generators operating off a flatbed truck, took place in an open field. "I was struck by the obvious poverty stricken nature of most of the people who came--- battered cars and pickups and, even in their garb and from a distance, worn and lined faces." Much later in time Hunter Gray talked with former Klansmen including one who had put his name on a South - wide death list. "Theyre people and we have to sensibly and effectively address the situations which produce this sort of racial sickness." He is aware of their marginal status, and believes that "most of these economically poor White people can be effectively reached," through, for example, integrated labor unions. Hunter Gray differentiates between the economically disenfranchised and, on the other hand, ideological Nazis who are "more fanatically bent." Yet even in this situation Hunter Gray argues that there is a relationship between economics and virulent racism, especially with white youth subcultures. As to racial sensibilities among American Blacks, Hunter Gray believes that Martin Luther Kings vision is more pervasive than that of Black separatists. While fully understanding the appeal of Malcolm X to young ghetto Blacks, Hunter Gray sees no fundamental difference between those two visions which, ultimately, do not compete, but rather merge, given Malcolm Xs broader, more universal approach in his later years. Drawing on his own civil rights experience, Hunter Gray does not see Lewis Farrakhans separatist and racist agendas as having "any large stable following among Blacks although, at certain critical points, he can obviously rally people." "Jesse Jackson, whatever his limitations, certainly has more of a following than Farrakhan---and Jackson, too, has been blending King and the latter day Malcolm X more and more." It is a thoughtful, reflective assessment of how Jackson as a civil rights representative synthesizes King and the mature, later years of Malcolm X. While there is no doubt of the appeal of Black nationalism and separatism to some Black youth, Hunter Gray does not see it "as enduring."
Hunter Gray affirms recognition of both the individual and his or her dignity, and the community. He sees no contradiction between his strong civil libertarian involvement in the right to keep and bear arms for lawful self - defense and the collective and community - vision oriented IWW to which he once belonged and for which he maintains a historical appreciation and affection. With a good amount of accuracy Hunter Gray sees the old IWW "very individualistic indeed," although he qualifies this with a cautionary "in their own way." They were so eclectic and sensitive to hierarchical over-organization that "they would take orders from no one," and because of this they were on occasion divided by factionalism. Hunter Gray does believe that even a fierce individualism and a communitarian approach can not only live together but thrive in functional and productive ways. Emphasis needs to be given, he affirms, to the ancient principle of "tribal responsibility." While within tribal communities there are strong dimensions of mutual obligation between individual and tribe, there are none the less areas where individual and family autonomy are important to the point where the tribe does not intrude. In modernity, where tribal communities do not define the foundation of urban - industrial society, it is of paramount significance that there be "clearly defined areas of individual rights which are sacrosanct." There is never a "perfect balance" between individual and collective well-being, but "with vision, dedication, and hard work" humans can "build a balance and keep it essentially steady." There is a note of urgency in Hunter Grays assessment of individualism and community: "We absolutely have to reconcile individual and collective dimensions if were ever going to really develop a full measure of economic and libertarian well-being for long-suffering humanity." He admires Bertrand Russells genteel "guild socialism," harmonizing political socialism and industrial syndicalism with checks and balances on the government to include clearly defined civil liberties, voting rights, and the right of unions to strike against publicly-owned industries. It provides for Hunter Gray "significant long-range guideposts." His admiration of Russells guild socialism clearly leans more toward recognition of democratic than of authoritarian socialism. At the very same time there appears to be a tension in Hunter Grays thought in that he recognizes the power and importance of political action more "than I once did," yet "I really dont trust politicians or government." An older colleague of Hunter Grays understood this by telling him recently that "Youll always have a Wobbly heart, John [emphasis supplied]."
The eclectic libertarianism and communitarianism of the IWW connects to Hunter Grays life - long quest, not only for civil rights, but for lawful self-defense within the American republican and libertarian tradition of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. His own self- defense weapons of choice, he once told a Kenyon College audience, included a Ruger .357 single action revolver and a Marlin .444 lever action rifle. This was, perhaps, the first time brand name firearms were given an endorsement in the civil rights struggle. He owned his first rifle at the age of seven. Hunting and firearms were a part of his boyhood environment and his coming of age even as they are now a part of his persona. "When I was seven I wanted a Red Ryder BB gun. Dad was all for it; Mother---who had nothing at all against guns... dragged her feet as mothers do with the first child. There was a three-way hassle: me and my two parents, Dad on my side. An older cousin settled the whole issue by giving me as a gift, when I was still age seven, a very nicely kept .22 Wincherster 1890 pump, 24" octagon barrel.... I never thought about a BB gun again (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 29 March 2000)." The culture of hunting and of safe, responsible use of firearms was simply a normal part of Hunter Grays growing up. As a rite of passage in his own maturation and personal growth, Hunter Gray, as a boy, killed his first Black Bear (estimated at 650 pounds live weight by educated adult guesses), "fulfilling a very important coming of age River to Cross. I used an old 30/30 Model 94, "24 octagon barrel, curved butt plate.... We ate every bit of his meat and his skull hangs from the wall over our bed, right here, right now. The Tooth has always been extremely important to us from the perspective of protection / self-defense: blocking malevolence and sending it right back into the perpetrator(s)---all of this perfectly consistent...with principled self-defense." (Hunter Gray to the author, 29 March 2000.) He qualified as an expert marksman while in the Army. At a broader level he understands that both American and Canadian "grassroots people " are knowledgeable about firearms and their safe use, but that media, "tied often to self-serving and frequently demagogic political agendas...continue to push the anti-gun campaign with no regard for truth and reality." Hunter Gray served as a volunteer National Rifle Association civil liberties and media organizer in North Dakota, and continues in these capacities in his retirement in Idaho.
Hunter Gray criticizes the mainstream media for failing to realize the importance of self- defense and civil rights in such situations as labor and civil rights as well as in mens resistance to violence. What concerns Hunter Gray for the United States is that the mainstream media deny that the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, is "a statement of natural rights [emphasis supplied]." Moreover, in their attempt to restrict if not prohibit firearms, politicians and media bypass the basic cause of crime: "economic deprivation, racism and ethnocentrism, and urban congestion---and, in that context, interpersonal and value alienation." Yet the existence of crime must not deter the law - abiding from lawful self - defense: "In the end, Roy, we are many, and there are lots of guns and will continue to be. I just hope that, in a generation or two, there are still many of us: the gun people. I think there will be." (Hunter Gray, letter to the author, 29 March 2000.) The point here is that Hunter Gray views lawful possession as a natural right, compatible with the democratic heritage and historical origin of the American Republic, which trusted its people to take to arms for defense of self and commonwealth. Added to this in Hunter Grays mind are the complex issues in a modern bureaucratic and regulatory society, which impinge on individual freedom. This makes for a draconian police state in the name of "gun control," which Hunter Gray fully understands to mean firearms prohibition and intimidation by government of the law-abiding. Predatory, violent criminals, as individuals or as paramilitary organized groups have been and will continue to be exempt from administrative and legislative measures to restrict the use of firearms. Hunter Grays concern is that only the non-criminal element in the United States will suffer and be denied the right to self-defense and resistance against tyranny. In this view he is in the company of the founders of the American Republic. Hunter Grays amplification of the right to keep and bear arms is also colored by the twentieth century experience of minority groups in Europe, North America, and elsewhere in suffering at the hands of armed racist state or paramilitary aggressors. Such minority groups must have the right, the sacred right and duty of resistance. For Hunter Gray it once again comes down to a principled matter of freedom with justice: not anarchy, and not chaos, but freedom for the law - abiding to resist violent dominators and intruders in their lives, and freedom from the bureaucratic heavy hand of the all-powerful regulatory state which, in this instance, rather than maximizing human freedom, constricts it with restrictive legislation and sanctions against self-defense. Once again, things come full circle for Hunter Gray, and once again, to him, without contradiction.
Reflecting on his career, he views several episodes as most meaningful: the Jackson, Mississippi struggle was significant in having a profound effect not only on Mississippi but on the entire American nation as well. In northeastern North Carolina he organized Indians and Blacks in grassroots movements even as they broke the primacy of the KKK in that state. In Chicago, for four years Hunter Gray directed large-scale community organization in the citys violent South and Southwest side through some three hundred block clubs which fought Mayor Daleys political machine and helped end White violence toward non-whites. "There were many organizing campaigns before Jackson and many since Chicago that have given me much satisfaction. Ill always be an organizer. Were damn busy working on basic civil rights/civil liberties issues right now in Pocatello, Idaho." If Hunter Gray had to live his life over again he sees nothing that he would do differently. Looking back, he thinks that everything seems to have fit together, to have worked out, "almost as though it was all quite meant. And perhaps it has been."
The author acknowledges, with appreciation, the energy and time of John Hunter Gray in answering numerous queries, most of which are contained in Hunter Grays thirty-four page compilation of answers to the author dated 21 February, 2000. Additional letters from him followed, in part because of a flurry of more questions, by telephone and e-mail, from the author. But more than that, I asked him to read and re-read my manuscript for accuracy in including his voice and view: Hunter Gray was neither "object" nor "informant." Ethically and professionally, the inclusion of his voice, and verification of factual material mattered to me. A brief biographical sketch on Hunter Gray is my essay on him in The Encyclopedia of Native American Civil Rights (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997). Hunter Grays major work is Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism (Kreiger, 1979 and 1987). His papers are in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi, and in the Social Action Collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. Hunter Grays articles, most of which have appeared under the name of John R. Salter, are in such diverse journals as Argosy, Mississippi Free Press, The Catholic Courier (Rochester, NY), Liberty: A Magazine of Religious Freedom, Klanwatch, Pacific Historian, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Labor Notes, Integrated Education, and Freedomways, among many others. Additionally, he contributed chapters to numerous anthologies. Among the anthologies are The Gun Culture and Its Enemies (1990), Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out (1979), Freedom is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1999), and Celestial Healing: Close Encounters that Cure (1999). The author gratefully acknowledges the outstanding aid of Jean Demaree of Kenyon Colleges History Department.
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Note by Hunter Gray:
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