Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

Widow of Wub-e-ke-niew removed
Widow of Wub-e-ke-niew removed from Red Lake probate hearing
Whitefeather issues reservation removal order

Wub-e-ke-niew had a sharply honed sense of irony and a keen wit, and there were aspects of the hearing on "Court File No. 98-002, in re: Estate on "Francis George Blake' Deceased'' which would have provided Wub-e-ke-niew with plenty of material for a long series of columns of political satire about the "Red Lake Nation Tribal Court, Red Lake Indian Jurisdiction." There was a more serious side to the May 22 "hearing" and the May 26 "continuance," too - aspects of which are rooted in the very nature of the United States' "Indian" establishment and the Euroamerican legal-political system as applied to "Red Lake Indian Reservation. Hidden underneath the day-to-day turmoil of "Indian politics" and a shamefully long chronicle of United States violations of civil, human and natural rights on the Rez, and at the very foundation of the present "Indian system, is the Europeans' and Euroamericans' legacy of the genocide which they committed against the Ahnishinahbæótjibway and other Aboriginal Indigenous peoples throughout the world. Somehow, perhaps the probate hearing over which the Red Lake Indian Courts claimed jurisdiction - and all of the beyond-the-law back room deals which accompanied it - might have been something which Wub-e-ke-niew found very funny.

The official notice stated that a probate hearing of "Francis George Blake's" estate would be held at 2:00 p.m. on May 22, 1998, at the "Red Lake Nation Tribal Courthouse." The Notice included the advisory that, "any objections that you may have to this petition must be filed with the Court and hear by the Court at said last mentioned time and place or else the same are forever barred." The Notice was mailed to two of Wub-e-ke-niew's sons, made its way fourth-hand through the grapevine to Wub-e-ke-niew's wife, Clara NiiSka, and it may have been posted somewhere.

The Petitioner for Probate is listed in court of documents as Valerie Lynn Blake, who describes herself on the Petition as the daughter of "Francis George Blake, Jr." She sought the "Indian" jurisdiction of the "Red Lake Court of Indian Offenses, Probate Division" by declaring and affirming, under penalties for perjury and deliberate falsification, that the "deceased is an Indian" on the basis of a State of Minnesota death certificate. The "informant" who claimed that "Francis George Blake, Jr., alias WUB-E-KE-NIEW" was an "American Indian" for the purposes of that death certificate was Valerie L. Blake, who also provided the information that the decedent resided in a post office box in Bemidji, as well as within the "City Limits" of "Red Lake, Minnesota." The abstractions of official bureaucratic forms can create interesting distortions of reality, and according to documents provided to the Native American Press/Ojibwe News, the accuracy of more than half of the non-medical information on the death certificate, including the categorization of Wub-e-ke-niew as an "American Indian," is still under consideration by the State of Minnesota.

The Court documents also include an undated "Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood" from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Tribal Operations Division. This document is signed by Donna Whitefeather, and certifies that "Francis G. Blake, Jr. (DOB: 6/6/28)" is an [illegible fraction] "degree of Red Lake Chippewa Indian and is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians." In 1990, Wub-e-ke-niew sent his "Indian Identity Card" to Thurgood Marshall, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which according to Wub-e-ke-niew's reading of the U.S. Constitution was the Court of first jurisdiction. He then notified the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's office that he had done so, and wrote, "I want my name removed from the basic membership, identification and enrolment lists of your `Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.' I will no longer be identified by your racist term of `Indian.'" He advised the Secretary of the Interior that he was Ahnishinahbæótjibway, that his Ahnishinahbæótjibway land "has never belonged to `Indians,' as the United States Government continues to falsely claim." Wub-e-ke-niew's sent photostatic copies of his letter to the Secretary of the Interior all over the world, and it was published by the Ojibwe News in early 1991. The Native American Press/Ojibwe News has copies of documents including a letter from the Acting Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which addresses the issue of colonizing and genocidal entities controlling the identity of those whom they wish to destroy: "... to get the language issue correct is important, not so much because of `political correctness,' but because it is important to permit people to define themselves. During the Nazi period, the Nazis, not the Jews, defined who was a Jew. ... David Stannard, historian and author of American Holocaust, ... has indicated that language is part of a Eurocentric contempt for the indigenous peoples of North and South America, as well as Africa, which has contributed to the creation of political mythologies and distortions of the truth, and as a consequence, also the creation of government policies which embody these distortions."

The "Indian Identity Card" which Wub-e-ke-niew returned to the U.S. Supreme Court identified Wub-e-ke-niew as Francis Blake, Jr., with no middle name. Wub-e-ke-niew wrote about his name in a PRESS/ON column published a few months before his death, stating, "My name is Wub-e-ke-niew. That other name was given to my father in the Mission School by racist Christians, to destroy my people's real identity. My father was the first generation with the name `Blake,' and using that derogatory `Indian' name is an insult, a human rights violation, disgusting and obscene." Since the English-language "Indian" names given to him by the Euroamericans and their agents were not really his name, Wub-e-ke-niew was generally known by two different "Indian" names: "Francis Blake, Jr." in the official documents of the BIA bureaucracy and the derived documents of the "Indian Tribal Council" established under the 1934 I.R.A.: and "Francis George Blake" in the official State and Federal documents like his drivers' license, military records, etc. Because one of Wub-e-ke-niew's sons is a "junior," there are also a few documents which refer to Wub-e-ke-niew as "Francis G. Blake, Sr." Until the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians' posthumous "enrolment" of Wub-e-ke-niew as "Francis George Blake, Jr.," based on the erroneous information provided on the death certificate, there was no such person as "Francis G. Blake, Jr. (DOB: 6/6/28)." Wub-e-ke-niew was born before the Red Lake "Base Rolls" were compiled under the directives of the 1934 I.R.A., and he was listed by the BIA on their "census rolls" as a matter of bureaucratic procedure - and, as soon as Wub-e-ke-niew became aware of the implications of the "tribal enrollments" derived from the old BIA census rolls, he told the Secretary of the Interior, under whose administration those census rolls were compiled, that he wanted his name removed.

The probate hearing was held after parties with vested interests created "official documents" which they used to support their claims of "jurisdiction" over Wub-e-ke-niew, who was named on the Probate Notice as "Francis George Blake." Pursuant to the Notice of probate hearing, which indicated that the hearing date had been set for May 22, 1998, at 2:00 p.m., Valerie Blake, Clara NiiSka, and parties who had offered to witness the events, where present at the "Red Lake Nation Tribal Court House." The public view of the courtroom proceedings was of a "hurry-up-and-wait" colonial process. Clara NiiSka filed a "Notice of Special Appearance" with the Clerk of Courts slightly before 2:00 p.m., and shortly thereafter also filed a box of attachments, which included a copy of We Have The Right To Exist, A Translation of Aboriginal Indigenous Thought. The first book ever published from an Ahnishinahbæótjibway perspective, a videotape of a television broadcast featuring Wub-e-ke-niew taking about We Have The Right To Exist... as well as short clips of Clara with some of the research supporting the book, and several thousand pages of other documentation. The twenty-page Notice was filed "In objection to any assumption and/or exercise of jurisdiction by the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al., over Wub-e-ke-niew, and/or over his estate, and/or any property in which he may have held an interest. I further object to any attempt by the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al., to make any legally binding determination related to Wub-e-ke-niew's name, identity, marital status, heirs, geographical nomenclature, etc. My objections are on jurisdictional, factual, legal, historical, ethical and epistemological grounds. ..." These basis for these objections was detailed, with citation of attached evidence.

The summary pages of the Notice include the observation that, "If there were people who disagreed with what Wub-e-ke-niew was saying, they had plenty of time to talk to him about it while he was alive. I do not believe that it is honorable, to wait until a man can no longer speak for himself, to try to discredit him or insult him, and stealing from the dead? I cannot imagine how anyone could live with their conscience after doing something like that." The Notice also includes the observation that, "I doubt that, within the legal structure which is imposed on them by the Code of Federal Regulations and Federal funding guidelines, the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al., can openly recognize the legitimacy of the very real connections between Ahnishinahbæótjibway like my recently deceased husband, and the land which has in reality been the land of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway for countless generations. I can and do ask and request, however, that the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al., seriously consider the issues that I have raised here, and ask and request that the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al. make the only stand for real justice which may be possible under the present political situation - withdraw any exercise of their [claimed] jurisdiction over Wub-e-ke-niew's estate, over his property, and over his Ahnishinahbæótjibway land of his Bear Dodem. Wub-e-ke-niew may have been outspoken, but he was also meticulously honest - and true to himself - and he deserves to be respected. There is a potent legal precedent for doing what is morally right rather than following the letter of the law, and that is the Nuremberg Principles, which are attached..."

Clara NiiSka and one of the witnesses waited through about two hours for the probate proceedings to begin, and occasionally saw the Petitioner moving through the hall, or in various offices of the Tribal Courts building. Another witness heard the Petitioner slandering Clara NiiSka in the back room, stating that she was "delusional" and trying to discredit in advance, anything that she might say. That witness also heard the Petitioner ask that a warrant for Clara's arrest be issued, on the purported grounds that she had "stolen a fifty dollar microphone" which the Petitioner claimed was her property. Although this was a back room conversation, it may have had a bearing on the demeanor of the Court, and attached to the "Notice of Special Appearance, Continuation" which Clara filed with the court in conjunction with the continuance of the hearing to May 26, 1998, was her statement. "The only microphone which to my knowledge, fits the description is one which was, approximately two weeks before Wub-e-ke-niew's death, sitting on top of the filing cabinets in Wub-e-ke-niew's and my house. ... I left it where it was ... Other witnesses have indicated that, under the management of the Petitioner and the one to whom she has apparently assigned responsibility for the day-to-day watching of the house, feeding of the dogs, etc., a significant quantity of property has been re-arranged and/or discarded, including a `pick up truck full' of property which may well have included some of my personal property, and Wub-e-ke-niew's and my joint property, as well as perhaps some of Wub-e-ke-niew's personal property in which I may have an interest. I have made no complaint to the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. at., regarding the probable destruction and/or discarding of said property, nor am I doing so now, because none of Wub-e-ke-niew's personal property, Wub-e-ke-niew's and my joint property, my personal property, nor the property to the Bear Dodem of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway, is under the jurisdiction of the Red Lake Indian Courts, et. al. I mention the discarding of property because there is a reasonable possibility that the party to whom the Petitioner appears to have assigned responsibility for said property, may have discarded said microphone, perhaps in the belief that it was mine."

Apparently, the Red Lake Law Enforcement decided not to arrest Clara NiiSka on Friday, May 22, 1998, because of the jurisdictional issues which might have been raised. The Red Lake Court convened the probate hearing, somewhat informally, at about four o'clock in the afternoon. Judge Wanda Lyons told those in the courtroom that she was continuing the case until Tuesday, May 26, 1998, and, subsequent to inquiry, said that she thought it would beat around 9:00 in the morning. Judge Lyons also stated that she had helped the Petitioner prepare some of the court documents, and so she was removing herself from the case to avoid potential conflict of interest. She stated that she would assign Judge Bruce Graves to the case.

On May 22, 1998, Clara NiiSka and a witness arrived at the Red Lake Courts shortly before nine in the morning, and Clara filed a "Notice of Special Appearance, Continuation." The continuation notice included a twenty-two page summary, and attached documents relating to the broader issues of jurisdiction, as per the request which Judge Wanda Lyons had made after continuing the case on Friday. Then, Clara and the witness waited for nearly two and a half hours. After forty-five minutes, the witness wrote. "The judge (Bruce Graves) entered the courtroom at 9:45 to go through the box of evidence. (Note: apparently Valerie has been here for some time - we haven't seen her yet.)"

At about 10:20, the Petitioner appeared, Judge Graves opened the hearing, and a Red Lake police officer served Clara with an order for her removal from "Red Lake Indian Reservation," which stated that, "The Red Lake Indian Reservation belongs to the members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians for all purposes, and that no other Indians or persons have rights thereon ..." The word, "belong" in Bureauspeak and the related Cants of the "Indian" establishment is, like many of the other words of what Wub-e-ke-niew referred to as "Crocked English," a "unique" word in its own special BIA way. Among the documents which Clara had brought with her but not yet filed with the Indian Court was a photocopy of PL 85-794, which deletes the clause, enacted two years previously, requiring the "consent of the tribal council" to forest-management decisions made under the administration of the Secretary of the Interior. She had previously attached a copy of a Beltrami County plat book listing the "owner" of some Red Lake "reservation" land as the United States Government.

Clara NiiSka examined the "Order of Removal," and observed that the order was being served in a way which would remove her from a court proceeding in which she had a legitimate interest.

When Press/ON called Judge Bruce foreknowledge of the Order of Removal.

On the morning of May 26, it was not totally clear whether the Court intended to give a fair and reasonable hearing to the underlying issues, or whether the probate hearing had been accepted by the Red Lake Courts merely to give a rubber-stamp of legitimacy to the taking of all of Wub-e-ke-niew's (and Clara's) property and other assets - an agenda expressed by the Petitioner's mother shortly after Wub-e-ke-niew's death in a statement she made to Clara, "we intend to leave you with nothing but memories." In either event, being in attendance at one's husband's probate hearing does not seem unreasonable, particularly in an instance where there is more than a million dollars worth of property at stake, and where other parties have evinced hostile intents.

Judge Bruce Graves requested that the police officer provide him with a copy of the order of removal, and opened the hearing, directing his questioning toward the Petitioner. Clara requested permission to tape-record the proceedings, which was granted. The Judge asked the Petitioner about "Francis Blake's" name, age at death, and birthday, and inquired about the whereabouts of the three of the Petitioner's brothers who were listed on the Petition for Probate. The Petitioner responded with the geographical location two of them, and that he was "at his house" for the third, then the Petitioner requested that Clara be removed from the courtroom, based on her statement that she was not "related by blood," and that the Petitioner did not want to hear anything which Clara might have to say. The Judge asked the Petitioner about the issues, and the Petitioner responded by listing the capital credits accrued from Wub-e-ke-niew and Clara's household accounts, which had been listed in Wub-e-ke-niew's name at the electric and telephone co-ops. The Petitioner then vehemently protested Clara's presence in the courtroom.

Judge Graves ordered a five-minute recess, during which time the police officer returned to the courtroom with the paperwork for the "Order of Removal" which had been previously served on Clara NiiSka. The Order was entered into the Court records by Judge Graves, and upon being informed that the order was effective immediately, Clara shrugged her shoulders and walked out of the building and into the parking lot, escorted by the police officer. The police officer asked Clara if she had property on the reservation, and Clara responded that she did, and that she had a list with her, but that there were unresolved jurisdictional problems entangling that property.

The Judge then asked the name and business of the witness, who had remained in the courtroom. She responded with her name and that she was a friend of Wub-e-ke-niew and Clara NiiSka. Judge Graves stated that it was a "closed hearing," and requested that the witness leave, which she did at 10:30 a.m. The witness and Clara got into the witness' vehicle, and drove south on Highway 89. The police officer followed them, until they crossed the Reservation line.

What kind of political system bars property-owners from attending court proceedings in which the disposal of their property is being adjudicated? What kind of political system serves draconian writs of removal, in the midst of a court proceeding, on a widow attending her husband's probate hearing - a probate hearing in which even the legitimacy of her marriage of nearly fourteen years is being challenged by the overtly hostile daughter of her husband's ex-wife? What kind of political system sanctions the eviction of widows from their own homes, and then seals vengeful taking of property with order of removal, not only from the premises but from the entire geographical area? The signature on the Order of Removal reads, "Bobby Whitefeather."

Clara NiiSka is not the only widow who has been summarily and without due process evicted from her long-time home at Red Lake, and NAP/ON has reported other peoples' stories. For a number of years, there has also been a kind of hostility toward "outsiders" which isolates the people at Red Lake, and could even be seen as a Machiavellian strategy of "divide and conquer" promoted by those in power. But, Clara NiiSka was Wub-e-ke-niew's working partner and research collaborator as well as his wife, and, in the month immediately after her husband's death, made the decision that standing up for his honor as well as her own, was important. "He stood up and defended me," she explains to the Native American Press/Ojibwe News.

Wub-e-ke-niew's name, his identity as Ahnishinahbæótjibway of the Bear Dodem, and his deeply connected relationship to the land where, as he said, "every handful of Grandmother Earth is the bones of my ancestors," were extremely important to him. As Ahnishinahbæótjibway of the Bear Dodem, and his deeply connected relationship to the land where, as he said, "every handful of Grandmother Earth is the bones of my ancestors," were extremely important to him. As Wub-e-ke-niew explained in interviews taped a few months before his death, he was born into his Grandfather, Bah-wah-we-nind's Ahnishinahbæótjibway context, and he spent his formative years with his grandfather. "They tried to make me into an `Indian' in the Mission School," Wub-e-ke-niew said. "The nuns used to tell us, `you are the Vanishing American,' and you will go," and at the same time they violently took away Wub-e-ke-niew's native language. "For years, I didn't have any language - they beat my native language out of me, and I didn't speak more than a few words of English." Wub-e-ke-niew explained that the name, "Francis Blake," and the "identity of Indian never felt right to me," but that it took him many years of studying the English language to figure out exactly what was wrong.

Wub-e-ke-niew spent many years trying to fit his own Aboriginal Indigenous way of being, into the definitions of "Indian," which he said was an "identity created by the White man, in order to steal our land and hide the genocide." Wub-e-ke-niew put a great deal of energy and thought into trying to be an "Indian," and was one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, as well as working with Red Lake Indian community groups along with Clara and a professional grant writer from the Twin Cities who donated thousands of hours of his time: to start community-owned economic development on Red Lake Indian Reservation. "You can never get the Indians together in solidarity about anything," he said of his efforts.

In the mid-1980's, Wub-e-ke-niew started compiling a short family history for his children. He knew the names of his ancestors, but he did not know their birth dates, and when he went to the BIA to ask them for this information, the BIA told him, "those records burned up in fire - and anyway they're confidential." Wub-e-ke-niew asked Clara if she would go to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to get copies of those and other records. When he read those Government documents, "it all started to make sense," as Wub-e-ke-niew said later. The Government records dovetailed with his own oral history, and Wub-e-ke-niew began to realize the implications of his Peoples' oral history, and to find documentation for what, as he said, "I always knew but couldn't prove." There was a season during the years that he and Clara worked on compiling a genealogy of Red Lake, when Wub-e-ke-niew mourned, with an inconsolable grief, the genocide committed against his Ahnishinahbæótjibway people, and came face-to-face with the reality that he was one of only a handful of survivors of a near-total holocaust. Finally, he said, "we have to make this a better world for all people," and wrote as the last sentences in We Have The Right To Exist...., "If there is to be hope for anybody in the future, we have to work together to recreate a network of harmonious societies which provide for all people. ... The Western Europeans and other civilized peoples are standing where two very different paths are before them. Their decision is no longer up to them, because the consequences affect everybody. We must all find a way to work harmoniously together, to create a balanced world for the generations yet to come." This is, as accurately as it can be written in the English language, a part of what it meant to be Ahnishinahbæótjibway for Wub-e-ke-niew.

Wub-e-ke-niew and Clara lived in a rare place in the world: one where the land had never been ceded, where the ecosystem still bore traces of the interconnected harmonious permaculture of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway, where an Aboriginal Indigenous man could still hold the bones of his own ancestors in every handful of Grandmother Earth.

The "Indian" political-legal system is apparently seeking to discredit Wub-e-ke-niew by re-defining him as an "Indian" after his death and when he can no longer speak for himself. It is being used to discredit his wife and give a semblance of "legitimacy" to depriving her of the material aspects of the work that she and Wub-e-ke-niew did together. It is, as Wub-e-ke-niew wrote, "specifically designed to destroy Aboriginal Indigenous ... culture, traditions and people, using the facade of U.S. subject Indian people to unjustifiably presume jurisdiction." He continues, in Chapter XIII, INDIAN TRIBAL COURTS of We Have The Right To Exist..., "the legal structure set up by the United States [uses] the quasi Sovereignty attributed to the I.R.A. councils as a front behind which the U.S. Government uses Indian trusties to assert P.O.W. control over those defined as Indians, and illegally harass Aboriginal Indigenous people."

The legal, ethical and other issues raised by the Federal "Indian" establishment at Red Lake, and their attempts to re-define Wub-e-ke-niew as an "Indian" after his death, and to thereby claim "jurisdiction," are historically deep-rooted. The sources of the "White-plus psychology" which Wub-e-ke-niew saw in the words and actions of some of the "leading Indians," come from the Classical Greeks in the formative era of Western Civilization, and perverted ideas like those of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who saw nothing wrong with warring on, dispossessing and enslaving those who were "uncivilized" and even, Aristotle wrote, "natural slaves." The kind of thinking that the U.S. is imposing on the Ahnishinahbæótjibway on unceded Ahnishinahbæótjibway land, using the "Red Lake Indian" system which was created and is maintained under Federal law, includes Medieval Papal decrees which define European religious and political leaders as operating under the direct authority of God - and define Aboriginal Indigenous people as "half-men (homunculi), in whom you will barely find the vestiges of humanity ..." The United States Government draws on these Roman Catholic theological statements as the legal basis for Supreme Court decisions which deny recognition of Aboriginal Indigenous peoples' rights to their own land, and create a permanent half-human legal condition of "domestic dependent nations."

The legal, ethical and other issues raised by the Euroamericans' "Indian" system, and their attempts, to do to Wub-e-ke-niew after his death, what they dared not say to him while he was still alive, also include very serious questions about exactly how the United States came to claim "jurisdiction" over unceded Ahnishinahbæótjibway land. What kind of thinking is it, that privileges an official European-Euroamerican land description like that in Treaty of Ghent, made between the United States and England in 1818. This document of international "law" describes one of the boundaries used in court to justify United States "eminent domain" as, "... a Line drawn from the most North Western Point of the Lake of the Woods, along the forty Ninth Parallel of North Latitude, or, if the said Point not be in the Forty Ninth Parallel of North Latitude, then that a Line drawn from the said Pont due North or South as the Case may be..." How can a land "description" like this, have legal precedence over the deep, intimate connections to Grandmother Earth over countless generations, which Wub-e-ke-niew and his people had?

The United States is attempting to assert jurisdiction over Wub-e-ke-niew through the "Indian" legal system which they maintain, which they impose on their "Indians" with a confusing mish-mash of ambiguous and deliberately misleading terms like "Indian Sovereignty," and which has sometimes been the vehicle for flagrant abuses of power by those "Indians" entrenched - and paid - by White vested interests. The issues which the actions of those paid to hench for the United States Government raise, also include genocide. Tens of thousands of pages of documents and extensive computer databases were seized by the Petitioner a week after Wub-e-ke-niew's death, and she may seek to sanction that seizure through her "use" of the Red Lake "Indian" court system even though neither the documents nor the databases are explicitly included on the "property list" she supplied to the Probate court. These papers and computer data, compiled by Wub-e-ke-niew and Clara over the course of more than a decade, include meticulous documentation of the genocide of the Ahnishinahbæótjibway at Red Lake. Using an "Order of Removal" to take a widow out of her own husband's probate hearing, and to try to create legally binding documents based on perjury, slander and back room deals, has absolutely nothing to do with Ahnishinahbæótjibway values of respect and harmony. Most White people wouldn't want to claim these kinds of actions as representative of their values, either - although the "Red Lake Indian" agencies and persons who are engaging in and acceding to, these and other actions are operating within a "legal" structure created by the United States of America, and are being paid in U.S. Dollars either directly out of the U.S. Treasury, or with "casino money" from casinos sanctioned by the United States.

In a column published last summer by the Native American Press/Ojibwe News, Wub-e-ke-niew wrote, "I am among the very last of my people, and I will not vanish in silence - you will not stealing with your "perfect crime" of stealing this continent." Wub-e-ke-niew's widow invited Wub-e-ke-niew's spirit as a witness to the proceedings of the Red Lake Indian Courts. Maybe he wants this can of worms opened.

Wub-e-ke-niew in garden
Wub-e-ke-niew with Bear, October 5, 1995

Clara with dogs
Clara with Foxy and Bear, October 5, 1995.

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