Indians Promised “We Will Shut Down The Roads” – Now They Delivered [Updates]

Burning Man doesn’t even begin for another 5 days, but the chaos has already started.

By now you’ve probably heard that basically every single vehicle driving along the 447 near Nixon is being searched by the police, often with K-9 units.

The Reno Gazette-Journal had a story about it Burning Man Attendees Face Traffic Stops, Searches

Burning Man attendees face traffic stops, searches

Law enforcement officers from both the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe have been pulling over vehicles on their way to early Burning Man festivities in the Nevada desert. 

Bureau agents and tribal police were pulling over drivers passing through tribal land beginning last week and continuing this week. On Monday, about a half-dozen federal and tribal vehicles, some unmarked, were seen stopping vehicles primarily in Nixon, a tiny town halfway between Reno and the Burning Man site….There is one road, State Route 447, to and from the event; a large portion of that road goes through the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s land

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Council in the past month approved a memorandum of understanding that detailed the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ plans to have a law enforcement presence this year on the tribal land, according to tribal officials. The BIA  initially proposed the memorandum to the tribal police, which then presented the agreement to the council.

The tribe declined to provide the document, and the BIA has not responded to repeated calls for comment. It is unclear what the duration of the agreement is, and its purpose. 

Read the full story at the Reno Gazette Journal.

This is unprecedented in Burning Man history.

The RGJ for some reason did not make the connection between this new interference from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the cultural appropriation issues that were raised at the last Burning Man and through Burners’ involvement in the Standing Rock pipeline protests (see Dear Burners, Standing Rock is not Burning Man)

It was a really big story at the time, mostly in extremely heated social media discussions.

We Will Shut Down The Roads to Burning Man – Alarm at Cultural Appropriation

The Huffington Post had a suitably fawning puff piece on it – On Cultural Appropriation and Transformation at Burning Man – which sure looks like quickly produced damage control from the BMorg propaganda PR team. Then Caveat Magister hit the BJ with “Decommodification” and “Cultural Appropriation” – two great conversations that go great together. The usual self-congratulatory “we’re saving the world” stuff we’re used to from the official Voices of Burning Man.

What is it they say…“white man speak with forked tongue”? A couple of laissez-faire stories was not enough to put out this particular fire.

These people were seriously offended. Not just “hey fuck your fake headdress at Coachella” offended. More like “You have dishonored our ancestors and our entire tribe” offended.

Screenshot 2018-08-22 12.47.40

Read the rest of the comments here.

It sure looks like they made good on their threats. It is going to take a long, long time for the 80,000+ total participants to all make it into Black Rock City, if every single vehicle is getting searched. Be prepared.

Is this another case where the hundreds of year-round staff in San Francisco failed to pay sufficient respect to the objections of the local community? It might be far out in the desert, but Burning Man isn’t an island. It needs to be a net positive for everyone.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Org try to spin this to blame the Trump Administration rather than themselves. The proof will be in the pudding when Burning Man opens: is this treatment coming from all the Feds and cops, or just on the Indian territory?


[Update 8/22/18]

Statement from Burning Man. They are wondering why this is happening. They should read Burners.Me and they would know.

https://journal.burningman.org/2018/08/news/official-announcements/statement-on-police-activity-on-the-road-to-brc/

You might be wondering why this is all happening. So are we. We think the BIA’s efforts to target our community as we prepare for our annual gathering on public lands are misguided.

While BLM law enforcement has conducted aggressive traffic enforcement in past years on Gate Road in Black Rock City, this is the first time the Burning Man event has been targeted for an operation of this magnitude on public highways. The BIA stops appear to be pretextual and not based on actual violations of law.”

Predictably, many in the comments blame Trump. Only one person was brave enough to mention cultural appropriation (or maybe I caught their post before the censors did…)

[Source: burningman.org]

The previous head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs abruptly resigned in April, for an unspecified reason – it looks like another #metoo situation. President Trump proposed a woman, Tara Sweeney, for the position, but her confirmation was held up. She took the helm last week, in near-secrecy.

The recommendation of the BIA to the Tribal Council about Burning Man happened before last Thursday, so President Trump’s appointment of a new BIA head does not explain the present situation.

Up until a week ago the acting head of BIA was Darryl LaCounte:  

The top official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs has resigned suddenly after serving just six months, and a Billings official will take over, the agency said Friday. 

The BIA confirmed to The Gazette on Friday that Bryan Rice, the agency’s director, resigned on April 24.

BIA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda informed agency employees by email Thursday, which BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling released Friday.

Darling did not give a reason for Rice’s departure. 

Darryl LaCounte, the regional BIA director based in Billings, will take over as acting BIA director.

“He is an experienced leader with vast organizational knowledge to maintain a smooth transition for our BIA employees and the tribal nations we serve,” Darling said of LaCounte in an emailed statement.

LaCounte started with the BIA in 1988 as an oil and gas specialist. He moved up through several positions in the Billings office and in 2014 became the Rocky Mountain regional director.

The exiting Rice, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, took over as director six months ago. He was previously a director of forest management for the U.S. Forest Service and a deputy director for the BIA’s Office of Trust Services.

[Source: Billings Gazette]

LaCounte is from Billings, Montana – where Republicans have won every election since 1996, and Trump won in 2016 with a 20% margin. Was LaCounte trying to make a big splash while he temporarily had the reins of power? Or was this a Machiavellian “Black Prince” situation, where someone was sent in to do the dirty work and be the “hated Prince”, only to then be replaced by the “good Prince?

 


[Update 8/23/18]

There are a bunch of threads at r/BurningMan with the latest updates on the Nixon situation.

The BJ comments had a conspiracy theory worth considering: that this is BIA revenge on the Paiute for bringing all those Burners to Standing Rock who disrespected the broader culture and caused concern amongst the LEO community:

[Source: burningman.org]

Dear Burning Man…

This video highlights the cultural appropriation issues, showing how some Burners really just don’t give a shit if some First Nations people are deeply offended by their antics.

Read the comments at Facebook…people are pretty upset about this. I’m not sure BMorg can take their usual approach of issuing a statement saying “we’ve listened to all of your concerns and we take them seriously”, then proceeding to do nothing whatsoever.

See also:

We Will Shut Down The Roads To Burning Man – Alarm at Cultural Appropriation

Dear White People, Standing Rock Is Not Burning Man

Standing Rock Coming To Black Rock

“We Will Shut Down The Roads To Burning Man” – Alarm at Cultural Appropriation

BMorg were very proud that Standing Rock Water Protectors were attending this year, staying at the Red Lightning Camp. There was a big vision to unite the world’s tribes in the world’s biggest drum circle.

From Standing Rock to Black Rock – Unite with us as One Global Family for what may become the world’s largest synchronized drum circle. Hundreds of locations will Unify and tune into a live drum circle prayer broadcast from Red Lighting located at the heart of the Burning Man playa and amplified by the Mayan Warrior. Indigenous Wisdom Keepers will be at the center of this prayer leading the drum circle and uniting the world into one global heartbeat.

The idea may have backfired, with reports that some of the Water Protectors (indigenous leaders) were deeply offended by the drug abuse and cultural appropriation they witnessed: so much so that they have threatened to shut Burning Man down.

[Source: Facebook]

Here’s the link for the interview. There is quite a bit more discussion in the Burning Man Update at Digital Smoke Signals

This is the video (Part 1, Part 2) where Myron Dewey of Digital Smoke Signals first shared his overall impressions of Burning Man, saying that people should not bring children there and that the experience was perhaps similar to what his ancestors felt going to Washington DC for the first time.

BMorg has previously asked people not to wear headdresses and war bonnets, but they are not banned as they are at many festivals.

 

Powwows.com has more specifics:

People across Indian country found themselves raising their eyebrows and scratching their heads as a viral Facebook video began making its way through pow wow circles everywhere.

Image: powwows.com

Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard that there was a “powwow” held at the Burning Man festival hosted by none other than Standing Rock’s own attorney Chase Iron Eyes and his drum group…

In the video, Chase begins to explain his intentions with a comment that didn’t sit well with some Natives.

“We are all Indigenous, we need to transcend, and one way to do that is through the drum.”

Here’s that Facebook post. Apparently there is a satire video of this going around, anyone got a link for it?

Chase Iron Eyes explained himself

He spoke in his defense:

“Couple few things about Burning Man:

  1. I was not paid to go to Burning Man
  2. No one sold ceremony. [Please. BMorg sold Radical Ritual ceremony for up to $1200 a ticket- Ed.]
  3. I don’t do drugs or alcohol.
  4. We didn’t sing “going to a powwow.” That was a clever edit. Indigenous people came to share in good faith.
  5. I, along with others, went there to share the message of Water Protectors, to elevate this struggle, their current criminalization, into other platforms, and to share our truths.

 

Some facts and now some thoughts I hope you share with your network about my statements that “all are Indigenous.”

Everyone is Indigenous. All descend from the sacred waters, the land, the cosmos. Everyone has been subjected to the same forces of separation, abstraction, division. Spirit separated from mind, heart from intellect, being separated from relationships with food source, from relations with the waters, the star nations, from covenants with the sacred sites. All anyone has to do is go back far enough and there is a time when you were connected to the sacred.

Colonial forces asserted “dominion” over Mother Earth, over the older beings, the animals, the winged, and so forth. These forces declared themselves “superior”, instituted currency, the logic & institutions of capital, private property, the nation state, extraction. They are the purveyors of patriarchy, pop culture, of cool, of fashion, of beauty, of advertising and so forth. They are now the sources of this separation, fear, hate & division, from which we seek a liberation.

To liberate the spirit, to transcend the limits of body, language & perceived differences of race, religion is to take part in a great awakening, one which is evolving, which will compel us to civilize ourselves with divine order, to unite ourselves with the universe. Then our institutions of law, economy, energy, media, education and so for can reflect humanity’s pursuit of liberation and that of Mother Earth’s, more importantly because we will be morally and spiritually authorized to create that reality. We won’t let vampires destroy our planet.

Cultural appropriation is wrong, yes. Original Nations have survived genocide, slavery, holocaust, and an ongoing genocide, an ongoing deliberate attempt to undermine our dignity, liberation & self determination. For foreigners to prance around in a headdress is wrong. I have lived my life confronting objectification when I first learned of it at 19 years old from the Association of American Indian Psychology. I will continue to confront it and I thank those who fight that fight. Natives confronted people at Burning Man in teachable moments.

[Source]

Whimn.com.au had some other examples of cultural appropriation by supermodels and fashion designers:

The tribal elders want these ladies banned from Burning Man. YMMV.
Huffington Post had some further thoughts.

Upon leaving the playa where there is no cell service, we arrived back in civilization to see social media on fire with the conversation about cultural appropriation. There was much ugliness and ridicule, as is common on social media, but for those genuinely interested in understanding what happened the information is available. Yes the issue of cultural appropriation was with us at Burning Man as it is with us outside of Burning Man. It is being addressed and all the conversations are part of that healing when people conduct themselves with respect.

Many have entitled themselves to say what is a “real Indian”, what is a “real ceremony”, what is a “real prayer”, what is a “real culture”, and each is welcome to their opinions. We all have a choice to be guided by a desire for healing and come from a place of love, or allow ourselves to fall into the division, anger, and hatred that is also part of humanity’s cultural heritage. Burning Man is a microcosm of humanity. It is important to remember that there is a deep wound and the anger about cultural appropriation needs to be heard if it is to be healed. Any path forward to unity will have to account for and include letting go of the wounds of the past. How do we reconcile?

It’s not just cultural appropriation; apparently there is a problem with gender dynamics and too many beautiful people as well.

Paris Hilton made an effort to be culturally appropriate while looking fabulous

So Indian head-dresses are a cultural faux pas…what about Viking Horns?

Image: NY Post