Followed by "A few thoughts on Natives and prisons"  [Hunter Gray    January 9, 2002]



From the abstract/introduction to the founding proposal of the Native American Community Organizational Training Center (very early 1973):

"The Native American population in Chicago is estimated at slightly over 22,000 -- 90% of whom reside in the general Uptown  area:   Belmont to Foster;  Western to Lake Michigan.  About 100 different tribes are represented in the Chicago American Indian population, though the major ones are Chippewa (Ojibwa), Menominee, Navajo, Oneida, Sioux, and Winnebago.

For the most part, Native Americans in Chicago are:

*  Subjected to direct and institutionalized   patterns of  racial prejudice  and discrimination

*  Poverty stricken -- unemployed or underemployed     

*  Inadequately educated in the academic sense and not technically trained

*  Deprived of Federal services associated with reservation life

*  Caught up  in a milieu of alienation and apathetic futility   "


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The all-Indian Native American Community Organizational Training Center -- early 1973 through the '70s -- was a most successful program that functioned in an extremely effective fashion on a number of critical fronts.

The Center had its formative origin in the Ecumenical Task Force on American Indian Ministries -- an association of Chicago-area and regional Native activists with  representatives of leading religious denominations -- which took shape   in 1972.  I (JRS/HG) was a member of the Task Force and I was also a member of the all-Indian fifteen member Coordinating Committee for the Great Lakes Resource Development Project (Illinois. Wisconsin, Minnesota -- tribal and urban) which was   sponsored by Americans for Indian Opportunity.  The Task Force asked me to draw up an extensive and detailed program proposal for a broad-based  Native-oriented   training approach  for Indian  community organizers.  This I did -- transcending factional winds  and meeting with each of the two dozen or so Native organizations in the general  Chicago metro area and region, securing the views of each, and incorporating those into the complex emergent proposal.  The Task Force approved the proposal and the Training Center was launched early in 1973 -- funded substantially by major religious denominations and private foundations.

We were extremely fortunate in having as  long-time Executive Director one of the finest community activists and workers I have ever known:   Bill Redcloud, a White Earth Chippewa.  I was privileged to serve as the Center's Chairman, with an excellent board, for many years.  Dozens of Native trainees, from many tribal backgrounds, men and women, old and young, passed successfully through the extensive training program -- and went on to play very positive, long-term roles in both tribal and urban Indian organizations.



Note by Hunter Bear: [March 31 2009]:

Last night, I visited by phone for a long time with one of our oldest family friends, the always community-serving and most capable Susan Kelly Power of the Standing Rock Sioux [the reservation is south of Bismarck, N.D.] and very much of Chicago. Susan is about ten years older than I and we've been involved in a number of Native doings -- especially Native rights and Native well-being causes. Our visit began, as always, with a one-by-one recounting of how family members are doing -- occasionally touching on national politics, and especially "Indian politics." She has many stories to tell -- and sometimes they involve her extraordinary mother, Josephine Gates Kelly, a trail-blazing activist and, for a long spell, the first woman tribal chair after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
She told me one last night which I had never heard. Carl Rowan, the Black journalist, having heard of the female leader of an Indian tribe, journeyed when young to Standing Rock to interview Josephine Kelly. He found her in her home -- a very small and very plain house, worn badly by the ferocity of Dakota climes. There was no electricity nor running water. She poured coffee for him and they visited.
"Why," he asked her, "do you live in this house? On my way to you, I saw others that are in much better shape."
Josephine Kelly looked at the earnest Black journalist for a long moment, then said very pleasantly:
"Mr Rowan, I certainly mean no offense to you or your people. I respect you. But all of you have the culture of the whites. Many of our people are living in houses just like mine. Maybe, maybe some day, when all of us here have the larger homes and running water and some of the other things, maybe -- maybe then I'll move into something a little bigger."
Carl Rowan was greatly impressed and wrote of this.
Attached is a 2002 post of mine on Susan Power and her family.

Note by Hunterbear:  [5/27/02]

[This is the introductory part of a post involving a newspaper article on a naming ceremony at Standing Rock.]

Naming -- in any Native American tribal/cultural context anywhere -- is
extremely important:  origin, ritual, name and meaning.

It's unusual anywhere in the Native world to bestow an Indian name on a
non-Indian.  This, at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is certainly an
instance where it's very much deserved and merited in all respects.

We happen, BTW, to know this setting -- Standing Rock Sioux Reservation
[just south of Bismarck, ND]  -- very well indeed.  One of our very oldest
family friends is Susan Kelly Power [Gathering of Storm Clouds Woman], of
Standing Rock and Chicago -- a life-long and extremely effective Native
activist [National Congress of American Indians and much more] who, in the
early '50s, was one of the several Native founders of the first urban Indian
center in the United States:  The always very active American Indian Center
at Chicago [on West Wilson in Uptown] of which she has been four-time Chair.
Her  great grandfather was Mato Nupa [Two Bears], the Yanktonnai leader who, in 1863 at age 67, fought a significant battle with the United States at
Whitestone Hill [south of present-day Jamestown, ND.]

Susan Kelly Power's mother was Josephine Gates Kelly -- first woman to head
an Indian tribe after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.  In the 1930s,
Josephine Kelly and others hitch-hiked to Washington DC from Standing Rock
to protest Federal Indian policy.  In the 1940s, she and her entire tribal
council hitch-hiked to Washington for the same reasons.  At every juncture
that had any kind of newspaper at all, they stopped and gave a press
conference critical of Federal Indian policy.  By the time the Standing Rock
leaders arrived in DC, the Feds were only too happy to surrender on the
issues involved -- and paid their way back to Bismarck via train.  Josephine
Gates Kelly lived into her 90s.

Susan's daughter, Susan Mary Power, is an extremely gifted writer whose
best-selling novel, The Grass Dancer [New York:  Putnam, 1994] has gone
around the world.  "Susie" will have a book of her excellent short stories
appearing this Fall via Milkweed Press -- and another novel scheduled for
appearance in the near future.

Oldest and best of friends.

Hunter Gray  [ Hunterbear ]  ( strawberry socialism )
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´


Note by Hunter [Hunterbear]:

I'm very much pleased and honored that Portside [the excellent CCDS news
service] occasionally posts things I've written -- especially on Native
topics -- to its very wide [well over 4,000] circle of recipients. This not
infrequently brings very interesting, positive e-mail communications to me.
One has just come from a person in a Western state who is writing on Native
situations in the prison context.  Since the prison situation has been one
of the key interests on RedBadBear -- and is elsewhere, of course -- I'm
posting herewith a few observational thoughts I have on all of this that
I've just sent to him.

From Hunterbear:

Thanks very much for your good words, F.  I appreciate your forwarding
my things on to people -- am honored and complimented. Your forthcoming
article sounds very fine.

I'm certainly a strong opponent of the prison system -- and very much so of
"private prisons."  However, I may have nothing unique at this point that
would  be all that helpful to you.  At various point along the
trail, I've been involved in work on behalf of Native [and some non-Native]
prisoners -- some of it inside -- although in recent years, I've focused
mostly on  trying to keep people out of prison -- or getting people out of
there and with solid and enduring footing. [I've also done a good deal of
work with regard to Native alcoholism -- though certainly not as a puritan!]

At Iowa in the '70s, I was extremely involved in Native work inside the main
penitentiary -- at Ft Madison. There we -- myself [a  Univ of Iowa prof] and
a good many Indian and Chicano and some Anglo students went down there from Iowa City [about 90 miles one way] several times a month and successfully assisted Native and Chicano prisoners in setting up their very solid American Indian / Chicano Cultural Center.  I also taught volunteer
classes -- via the Center -- in Native history and Native concerns etc  and
these  also drew some non-Indian prisoners and eventually some prison staff!
We were able to get very good  Native speakers etc into that setting --
including, if you can believe this, Dennis Banks [AIM. ]  And Floyd  Red
Crow Westerman, the great  activist singer.

That Center, which as far as I know is still functioning, was quite
important in maintaining and strengthening  people as individuals and very
much so with respect to Indian [and Chicano] identity, in stimulating
sensibly futuristic personal [and collective] visions, in giving Native and
Chicano prisoners a "political base" within the institution for support and
advocacy  -- and with implications and ramifications that went well beyond
The Walls. And it was also an organization which, from many standpoints,
facilitated parole.

From the outside and the inside, we had to fight to get that started and
rolling.  Initially, there was much hostility and resistance from prison
authorities.  But it involved a public institution and we were able to build
effective political and media support from within and around the state.
Prison authorities were very sensitive to this -- especially when it came
from the State Capitol. Before things were cleared away for us, I had a
public fight with the warden via the Des Moines newspaper [the Register].
[ I recall he denounced me as "paranoid" -- when I charged he was
stonewalling our efforts, which he was; and I called him a "bureaucratic
Machiavellian."  ]

Later, I did some work vis-a-vis similar Native efforts in other settings --
though often long-distance  [ e.g., with a comparable Native group at the
main penitentiary at Oregon [Salem] in the early 1990s. [A good friend of
mine, an Assiniboine, had wound up in there.]  In that situation, we had to
fight to secure the admission into the Native center of large numbers of
Indian and related books that I gathered for the Native organization's
library.  We were successful there -- but it was a tough little scrap and,
in the end, I put heat on the Governor's office via media at Portland.

From what I've observed and gathered -- and you may well be much more up on this than I -- it's  much easier to pressure public [state]  prison
authorities in positive directions [hard as that can
be] -- than is the case with private prison outfits.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.  Your interests and commitments and forthcoming article are great!  By all means, F, let's keep in touch.

As Ever, Hunter [Hunterbear]