LLOYD OMDAHL OF NORTH DAKOTA: A MAN OF GREAT AND STRIKING IGNORANCE [OR, HORATIO ALGER OF THE DAKOTA PLAINS [HUNTER GRAY APRIL 1, 2003]
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR; THIS INCLUDES LLOYD OMDAHL'S COLUMN IN THE GRAND FORKS HERALD OF MARCH 31, 2003 AND MY REACTION TO IT. THIS COMBO HAS BEEN WIDELY DISSEMINATED ON VARIOUS DISCUSSION LISTS -- INCLUDING THE MAJOR NATIVE LISTS. I HAVE RECEIVED A NUMBER OF REACTIONS TO HIS THING AND I'M INCLUDING SEVERAL REPRESENTATIVE ONES.
FROM HUNTER BEAR:
This, which certainly warrants a comment or two from
me, is a strikingly
profound and massively erroneous misreading of American racial minorities --
and of the effects of deadly racism -- and ethnocentrism [of which he is a
prime example] -- by a frequent University of North Dakota [Grand Forks]
professor and former [Democratic] Lt Gov whose UND "company man" career has
consistently been one of Big Administrative Pet. He knows absolutely
nothing about Indians -- tribal nations and cultures and Indian lands and
the primary Native commitment thereto; or the enduring and colossal
challenges faced and frequently -- against great odds -- transcended by
Indian people who remain true to tribe and culture. Native Americans abound
in North Dakota but he's never bothered to listen to them during his
multitudinous decades. He certainly hasn't gotten along with any Native
tribes or people -- Ever. And he also knows Zero about other racial and
ethnic minority groups.
In 1989, I was given three major awards for historical and contemporary
social justice activities: one, presented by the good Governor George
Sinner [Democrat], was the annual Martin Luther King, Jr award. The second,
given by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead, was the
annual Indian Education/Equity Award, And the third, somewhat unexpected,
was given by Grand Forks Air Force Base and presented by Commanding General
Pederson. Each [a very nice plaque -- no money] was very graciously
given -- and very graciously received -- at very well attended ceremonies at
which I spoke. Lloyd Omdahl came to none of these -- not surprising since,
among his other limitations, he'd been -- as Lt Gov -- the one member of the
nine person state King Commission who voted against giving that award to me.
Always a veiled enemy of our social justice efforts -- and certainly a foe
of mine at University of North Dakota, Omdahl has been and is just plain
devoid of sensitivity to the concerns of minority people and others of the
fewest alternatives -- but his riches-of-ignorance constitute one of North
Dakota's biggest and most spectacular mountains.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] Formerly John R. Salter, Jr.
Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
|Posted on Mon, Mar. 31, 2003|
COLUMNIST LLOYD OMDAHL: Time for a Native billionaire
In business, Oprah Winfrey was the first black person to become a billionaire. In government, Colin Powell was the first black secretary of state. In sports, black players are rapidly taking over basketball, football and baseball. As we see the successes of blacks, it is time to ask the question: Where are the Native Americans?
There are Native Americans who have as much stamina, imagination and genius as blacks. They, too, could excel in business, government and sports - or any other endeavor in society. As each year passes, they are depriving themselves, their tribes, the state and the nation of their talent.
Many Native Americans point to the past as the reason for their non-participation in the success of other Americans. But blacks experienced the same oppression at the hands of the Anglos. While struggling with the disadvantages of the same history, Native Americans and blacks chose different paths to the present.
Instead of focusing on grievances of the past, blacks have chosen to join the Anglos, the Hispanics, the Asian-Americans and other minorities in the battle up the ladder of success. Instead of looking back, they have been looking ahead. Meanwhile, Native Americans have denied themselves opportunities by isolating themselves attitudinally and geographically.
In the Old Testament is the memorable story of Abraham's servant who went to Nahor to find a wife for Isaac. When he discovered the right woman, he attributed his success to "being in the way," an expression that meant he was successful because he had placed himself strategically where something good could happen. When it comes to gifted Native Americans who are going nowhere, their problem is that they are not "in the way" where they can grab success.
Some Native Americans are hanging their economic dreams on casinos. Casinos may provide jobs for today's adults but they have nothing to offer young people who have the skills to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and professionals in business, government and sports.
The growing number of successful blacks attests to the fact that race is no longer an excuse for opting out of opportunity. Every day, they are demonstrating that they can break through the remnants of racism. Asian-Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are doing the same. They are succeeding because they are "in the way" where success is possible.
To their credit, more and more Native Americans are escaping the confines of reservations and taking up challenges in numerous fields of endeavor. But too many are still isolated where they miss the opportunities being seized by other minorities. To capture success, they must take a fresh look at themselves and the world that is passing them by.
Their first challenge is to shake off the shackles of paranoia that have hounded them since the dark days of their victimization. While their feelings are justified, reliving old grievances will not lead to building new futures. Dwelling on old wrongs produces nothing but debilitating anger and no progress.
Then Native American children ought to be encouraged to aspire to excellence. They ought to be convinced of their worth and their attention should be directed toward the future. Hopefully, they will realize that as society becomes more multi-colored, the opportunities for all races will be expanded.
Reservation leaders would do well to acknowledge that they have youngsters with skills beyond those than can be fully utilized in the geographic confines of reservations. Not only should they let go of their youth but they should also encourage them to rise to new levels of achievement, on or off the reservation.
The time has come for Native Americans to honor themselves by providing more secretaries of state, legislators, business executives and civic leaders. They can do it. And its time that some aspiring entrepreneur joined Oprah as the first Native American billionaire.
Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and UND professor of political science.
A FEW OF THE MANY NEGATIVE REACTIONS TO OMDAHL'S COLUMN:
Omdahl's thing is just plain weird.
JRS , Fargo, ND
Wow! That was pretty amazing. I've never seen
someone gloss over a whole history of a people and ignore existing present day
roadblocks. And when does becoming a billionaire a sign of ultimate success?
Does one Oprah Winfrey make up for the millions of other underprivlege blacks
living in third world conditions throughout our nation? Does her success
allow us to say "all is well" for everyone else?
And this guy "educated" people?!!
LM, Orem, Utah
A former UND student of mine and present union organizer comments on North Dakota's
Your letter makes me feel a bit vindicated. Lloyd Omdahl has, in my
opinion, been the main reason why the Democrats have been out of power in
North Dakota for many years. He was, I believe, the main thrust to move
out any progressive movement in that party and has worked behind the scenes
for many years to make certain that the party in that state be a whites
only business man club. The union caucus finally, but too late, understood
this a few years ago and refused to endorse him for Governor. However, it
will take years before anyone can repair the damage that man has done. As
a result, North Dakota now has a weaker labor movement than it has had in
years, no progressive wing to the Democratic Party, and a failing economy
that is now becoming a bleeding wound as people flee from the state looking
for work elsewhere.
That he is, on top of this, ignorant about race issues (which, I may add,
most people really don't have any kind of experience in race issues in North
Dakota - but that is no excuse for a man who wants to be a leader to the
people in his state) doesn't surprise me.
Most of this can be attributed, in my opinion, with progressive people
thinking Mr. Omdahl was their friend when he was working against them all
DF, Lincoln, NE