WALLEYE WARRIORS: AN EFFECTIVE ALLIANCE AGAINST RACISM AND FOR TH EARTH, Rick Whaley and Walter Bresette, New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143; 800-333-9093, 288 pages, maps, charts, tables, bibliographies, resource (info and support groups) lists, foreword by Winona LaDuke. paperback: $18 (U.S.), $23 (Can). 0-86571-257-3 . Hardbound $45, 0-86571-256-5
Bresette is a Wisconsin Red Cliff Reservation Ojibwe, and Whaley is one of the main organizers of what grtew to be a large non-Indian support network for the treaty-based land, wildlife, and environmental issues whose struggles over the years are recounted here. This book is of renormous importance from many different angles. I would like to see it be the basic text for all introductory Native American Studies colleg courses; if those college students are introduced to nothing else about Indian people but this, they will have a good grounding in historical, cultural, environmental and economic realities of Native Nations today -- and something else as well
This book recounts how a grass-roots-level alliance between Native people and non-Indian supporters has successfully worked in non-violent ways (one of the main ones described is the fishing Witness project) to overcome redneck racism, and more importantly the covert interest and support of those redneck racists (against Native land rights) by large corporations who are or plan to undertake major mining efforts on or near Native lands. Though this book covers a struggle that is particular to the upper Midwest Great Lakes region, and focusses on several Wisconsin Ojibwe tribes there, it is a paradigm or model with applications to Native nations all over the U.S. and Canada, where similar overt racism and covert economic and governmental backing trhreaten Native lands and environments -- and existing or establishable Native rights.
What is most politically significant about this book is that it rcounts a history that is in opposition both to self-defeating racism (i.e. Native people dumping on whites) and white wannabes who mosey around ripping off bits and pieces of what they regard as Native spirituality, which they want to consume like a commodity or product. Here the alliance supported specific Native rights, accepted Native leadership to define its (the support groups') tasks, and was actually a very effective political force. Without the support, the Wisconsin struggle would be less well known than it is (not that it is too well known anywhere). Without the support there would have undoubtedly been more violence, deaths (one of the racist slogans was "Spear a pregnant squaw, save 2 walleyes"). As it is, two known deaths (in 1989, by burning a home in the early morning hours) were most likely murders of 2 important white supporters, rather than killings of Indians. The struggle is not over. A 1992 injunction brought against the racists who mob the fish areas to "protest the Indians" has led to the state saying they couldn't enforce nonviolence against "potential riots" by the racists against the Native fishing families.
In lieu of a summary, here's a listing of the major sections of the book: 1. A brief history of the Anishinabe (with spiritual and cultural teachings as relevant, and an analysis of the treaties). 2. Fallout of the Voigt (hunting and fishing treaty rights): Anti-Indian backlash in Wisconsin. 3. Witness in our own backyard: the first year the (non-Indian) Witness joins the spearfishers (1988) 4. Mentors and Allies: Coming to leadership as Native American Activists. 5. Powerful Enemies and Steady Friends: Why are you (non-Indians) Involved? 6. The River Opens to the Righteous -- Civil Rights Legacy and White Backlash Today. 7. Small Miracles and Heavy Hitters: Year 3 of spearing and witnessing. 8. Interwoven Issues: Indian treaty rights and the mining threat. 9. A Solidarity Success Story: Healing, not Winning. 10. The "New People" Lessons and projctions. 11. Epilog: Recent Developments in Wisconsin politics (how the state develops strategizes and tactics to use against Indian land and treaty rights).
Everything comes together in this book. Real working multiracial alliances, cross-cultural friendships built out of sharing common struggles, the importance of the cultural values, teachings, and ceremonies in strengthening everyone to endure, and the activism. Yes, I don't believe a book like this has much chance of being adopted as a NA Studies text, because so far as I can see most of NA studies is a kind of University multicultural boondoggle, designed to dcoy potential allies into quietism or meaningless arguments about Indian, oops, Native American like they say in PC circles, culture, values, etc. This is Indian culture at work here; these are Indian values, survival motivates it, beauty and spiritual support against the gigantic, powerful, rich, power-controlling opponents are all that keeps this struggle going. I don't think they want impressionable college kids reading any books like that in their "multicultural studies" trivial little exposures to "Native American" this 'n' that. For students of either ethnicity, Native or non-Native, it's about building real working alliances that do work, or can work. This is the last thing the men of power in U.S. society want anyone at all to learn. So get this book on your own, keep it, read it carefully. Think about it. Learn from it. Reviewed by Paula Giese
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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 03, 1996 - 6:00:30 AM