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Opinion
Harjo: The Mantle of Shame Awards for 2005


"I've given Mantle of Shame Awards to the deserving, mostly for the holiday yuks of family and Capitol Hill friends, for 25 years. This started with the worst ''Indian'' stereotypes, references and statements in politics, sports and pop culture generally, which I once kept on the mantel of a fireplace.

The constant reminders of deliberate and unthinking offenses against Native people in American society were so unpleasant that I stopped the practice of displaying them. Following the custom in some cultures to throw away all trash at year's end so it isn't carried into the New Year, I got rid of the junk on the mantel.

But some junk is worth noting, from a safe distance, before it's entirely trashed. So, here, in the spirit of bundling trash and hoping against hope it won't return in 2006, are my picks for toxic activities for this year. And the winners of the 2005 Mantle of Shame Awards are:

Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Ralph Reed and other lobbyists for taking Native nations' money, greasing the palms of cronies and intentionally or coincidentally harming the tribes that were paying them top dollar for their help. Scanlon is singing like a canary and Abramoff is poised to join him on the perch.

Tribal leaders and employees yet to be named for hiring all the above and their ilk as attack dogs against other Indian tribes and people; for giving campaign contributions to their lobbyists' favorite office-seeker; and/or for thinking that paying mega bucks to white men gets the best job done for Native peoples. Some of these tribal people and workers are being used for investigative purposes as ''Abramoff's Indian victims'' and may totally escape retribution for their part in his excesses and their own. They likely will escape indictments, but have been and will be mentioned in other court documents and as footnotes in at least one tell-all book.

Indian rainmakers also must share the Abramoff et al award for being part of his private food chain and for making deals (or being on the verge of making deals) with tribal monies for his services. Most of these deals were cut over drinks and dinners at his Washington restaurant (which I never saw the inside of, I am happy to report)."

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Mantle of Shame Awards for 2005 (Indian Country Today 12/22)

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