Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Indians, Politicos and Journos

On Monday the 20th, a group of American Indian nonprofits set up shop on a lawn in the Civic Center Plaza.

They were handing out literature and even giving out canvas tote bags from The Friendship House Healing Center.

The Friendship House just opened in April of this year at Valencia and 14th Streets, housing an 80-bed rehab center with an American Indian religious emphasis.

The nonprofit running the place has been around since 1963 and seems to be pretty well connected into the local political structure.

If you go to their website (click here), the pictures of the Grand Opening abounded with politicos like Willie Brown, Jr. and Gavin Newsom, not to mention the Surgeon General of the United States.

There were a few other groups helping with everything from dentistry... AIDS prevention.

The exhibit was set up in conjunction with the first ever San Francisco Native American Heritage Month, with a celebration slated for early in the evening in the City Hall rotunda.

Having worked in the graphics industry for years, I always get a little suspicious when the four-color printing on nonprofit brochures gets a little too fancy.

Still, they seemed to be doing good work.

"Well, you get to hang out on a beautiful day and watch the monster Christmas tree go up in the Plaza," I told a few of the women handing me literature.

"Actually, that's where we were supposed to be," one of the women said. "But we got moved over here to the side. As usual."

I can't even think about American Indians without feeling Tribal Shame for what my white ancestors did.

I also find it interesting that we have Jewish Holocaust museums galore in this country, even though it was essentially a European event, while the United States Holocaust of the Indians goes officially uncommemorated.

Across the street in City Hall, in Room 263 off of the main Board of Supervisors chamber, there was a follow-up hearing on the Grand Prix Bicycle Race.

This was supposedly to determine how the illegal permits were given to close down city streets last Labor Day Weekend for the Race even though the organizers hadn't paid any of their outstanding bills.

So not only were they getting a special deal because of all the money they were supposedly bringing into the city, according to bogus consultants' reports, but they weren't even bothering to pay their bills.

As h. brown told me, "They've made Peskin look like a complete ass."

The two newspapers in town were interesting, both of them trumpeting virtually the same press release/interview with Peter Rangone, who is Gavin Newsom's representative. The Chronicle article started with this:

San Francisco's best-known bike race may have hit a dead end.

The organizer of the annual San Francisco Grand Prix, a pro race that attracted some of the world's best cyclists, said in a written statement Sunday that it will cancel next year's race because of a raucous dispute with City Hall over who should pay for police and other city services required for the event.

"Sadly, it's a no-win situation, and we simply cannot go forward," said David Chauner, director of San Francisco Cycling LLC, which founded and runs the annual race.

The 108-mile race was regarded as one of the country's most challenging because of its length and the city's steep hills. It wound through the heart of the city and drew hundreds of thousands of spectators and more than 100 world-class athletes. Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, participated several times in the race before he retired.

City leaders have bickered for years over how much of the race's costs the city should absorb, if any.

Ay, there's the rub. Supervisor Daly calls it "corporate welfare" when a billionaire gets a special deal that nobody else is getting, and he's right.

However, the way it was framed, headlined, etc. in the two San Francisco dailies, you'd have thought Trotsky & Co. had taken over the Board of Supervisors and had spitefully destroyed this beautiful, money-bringing, glamorous, professional bike race because of small-minded leftist politics.

The increasingly odious PJ Corkery of the San Francisco Examiner also put in his two cents:

And this week, it was announced, the Uriah Heeps of City Hall having thrown a wrench of hostility into the spokes, that the Grand Prix bike race, which brings $12 million, lots of excitement and fun, as well as closed streets to the City one weekend a year, won’t be returning to San Francisco next year.

PJ then goes on to talk about the raw deal being given the recently fired Gerald Green, the deeply and essentially corrupt Planning Commission Director under the reign of Willie Brown, Jr. PJ is going mad, I think.

And so is Sean Elsbernd, the supervisor on the left. He's been giving off some serious Dan White vibes lately, which can be translated as the Born and Raised San Franciscan who is filled with amorphous anger over the city being taken over by them (gays, asians, whatever).

However, before all this criticism gets out of hand, let me reprint the bookmark given out by the American Indian group: "Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."


Anonymous said...

I think you raise a really good point re: the destruction of the Native Americans by the Europeans, and how little this has been noted by museums, especially in comparison to the Holocaust.

I wonder if any Native American group has raised the issue, or set out to remedy it by raising funds for their own institution or traveling exhibit.

Although we as Americans might be more noble if an institution like the Smithsonian was to take on the task, it could be argued that the official history-keeper of the nation is already too deeply implicated in the horrors of the past to help.

Even if it did "the right thing" with a huge exhibit on the subject (which could be quite a groundbreaker, now that I think it about it) mighten it go too far, in a kind of institutional over-compensation, and actually make matters worse?

Anonymous said...


Actually, I think the majority of the Native Americans were wiped out by the diseases that we brought with us. They had been isolated from the mix and had zero immunity. (I'm not mentioning those cursed blankets.)

Anyway, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for your almost daily blog that keeps me informed and amused!

Dylan Rain Tree said...

Hi, my name is Dylan and I am from the National Library of Medicine located in Bethesda, Maryland and we are currently developing a large exhibition on Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Health and we are interested in some of your (SF Mike) photos used for the November 23, 2005 "Indians, Politicos and Journos". Particularly the second and third picture of that blog post.

Can you tell me who took those photos and what is going on in it?

Thank you,
Dylan Rain Tree