By Brenda Norrell
The most censored issues five years ago remain the most censored issues today. The issues censored by Indian Country Today, 2004-2006, remain censored today by both the mainstream media and the national Native media.
When Louise Benally, Navajo from Big Mountain, Ariz., compared the war in Iraq to the Longest Walk and deadly exile of Navajo people from their homelands, Indian Country Today refused to print it. Benally remembered her great-grandfather and other Navajos driven from their beloved homeland by the U.S. Army on foot for hundreds of miles while witnessing the murder, rape and starvation of their family and friends.
"I think these poor children had gone through so much, but, yet they had the will to go on and live their lives. If it weren't for that, we wouldn't be here today. It makes me feel very sad and I apply this to the situation in Iraq. I wonder how the Native Americans in the combat zone feel about killing innocent lives."
When Bahe Katenay, Navajo from Big Mountain, Ariz., pointed out that the Navajos birthplace of Dinetah, Place of Origin, is devastated by oil and gas wells in northwestern New Mexico, it was also deleted. Further when Bahe described the Navajo Nation Council as a "puppet" of the US federal government, it was deleted.
"Gas reserves are drilled in places where White Shell Woman was found by Talking God and places where she did her Kinalda (puberty ceremony). Places where the Twin Warrior Gods made their divine deeds are also desecrated with drilling, piping, wells and recreation activities. The Dine' have lost these lands and their `puppet' tribal government has refused to fight for a claim to this area," Katenay said.
In one of the most blatant and long term cases of censorship, the uranium mining in Lakota country was censored along with an interview with Buffy Sainte Marie. Indian Country Today censored the article for seven years. When a portion of it was finally published, the portion that referred to Lakota lands targeted by uranium mining companies was deleted.
The fact that Raytheon Missiles has a manufacturing plant on the same land as the commercial Navajo farm, Navajo Agricultural Products Industries on Navajoland near Farmington, N.M., was censored. The article was censored at Indian Country Today as NAPI began offering its foods to Cuba in a trade agreement. NAPI also boasts of using genetically-modified seeds from Monsanto for its crops. Foods grown with Monsanto seeds endanger the health of people and the seeds endanger local Native crops by way of cross-pollination.
When Lenny Foster, Navajo, visited Leonard Peltier in prison, Foster's comments about Peltier and the religious freedom denied inmates in state and federal prisons was also censored. Today, there are few investigative reports on the fact that Native prison inmates are denied access to ceremonies, and many are forced to cut their hair. There are few investigative articles on the legal case of Peltier.
Apaches protesting the US senators involved in placing telescopes on sacred Mount Graham was censored. The most blatant censoring at Indian Country Today was an article on former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld profiteering from the sale of Tamiflu during fear mongering about the bird flu. The article was not only censored, but was rewritten as an endorsement for Tamiflu. At the same time, then Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was among those who pushed for his state to stockpile millions of dollars of the medicine.
Today, investigative news reports of Indian lands targeted by toxic dumps, uranium mining, coal-fired power plants and oil and gas companies are seldom the subject of journalists in Indian country. While an occasional press release may be published, or rewritten, there are few journalists that dig into the backdoor deals between energy companies, tribal governments, and the US government. There are few, if any, reporters out on the land really covering the news.
There are few journalists who question why there is no data on the longterm devastating health effects of uranium mining, coal fired power plants and oil and gas drilling in Indian country. Few journalists report on how the coal-fired power plants on the Navajo Nation and elsewhere are a major cause of pollution and global warming resulting in the melting of the ice in the Arctic, and the displacement of Indian people and the destruction of habitat in the Arctic.
There are no journalists out at Big Mountain or Black Mesa reporting on the hardships that the Navajo people endure in winter, hauling water and chopping wood, with grocery stores and doctors down distant impassable roads.
There are no investigative journalists digging into the role of Ariz. Senator John McCain, Peabody Coal and others in the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute. The real purpose for relocating Navajos on Black Mesa was to clear the land for coal mining which fuels the power plant operated by Salt River Project at Page, Ariz. It provides electricity for distant cities while many Navajos live without electricity. While coal fired power plants and coal mining drain the underground aquifers, many Navajos live without running water. Meanwhile, the US pushes to steal the water rights of Navajos and American Indians to rivers throughout the west.
Meanwhile, the urban newspapers, far from the pollution and desperation, are cheerleaders for the coal-fired power plants and the theft of Indian water rights.
Today Native Americans and other people of color continue to be targeted by recruiters and advertisements as expendables for the bogus wars of politicians and profiteering corporations.
The media continues to cheerlead the war in Afghanistan, without examining the facts. Further, Native Americans are censored when they protest the role of American Indian governments promoting the US military and wars. This includes protests of the Tohono O'odham Nation's partnership in constructing drones at Advanced Ceramics Research in Tucson; allowing the US Border Patrol to control Tohono O'odham lands; and of allowing US spy towers on Tohono O'odham land.
The media continues to create border xenophobia of people of color at the US/Mexico border, resulting in the militarization of Indigenous borderlands, the abuse of Indigenous peoples at the border and the promotion of profiteering corporations, including privately-owned prisons.
One of the most censored issues today is the fact that some casinos on Native American land provide millions of dollars to non-Indian management companies, donations to outside charities and as state revenues, while their own people live in desperation. This includes the Tohono O'odham who live in desperate need of housing, jobs, safe water to drink, firewood in winter, and even food.
For armchair journalists in Indian country, these are the untouchables, forbidden topics hidden beneath the superficial news coverage, plagiarism and ten minute phone call of today's journalism in Indian country.
See censored articles 2004-2006 written by Brenda Norrell at http://bsnorrell.tripod.com/
Brenda Norrell was a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today who was censored and terminated in 2006. She is publisher of Censored News.