from the Ahnishinahbæótjibway (We, the People)
Dear Professor Chomsky,
I am enclosing a photocopy of an English 121 paper on the assigned topic of “Discipline.” I discussed this contents of this paper at length with Ms. Kingsley before she submitted the paper, and am concerned not only about the violation of Ms. Kingsley’s first-amendment rights (i.e., limiting her freedom of expression through the use of such “discipline” as poor grades resulting solely from philosophical orientation), but also about the serious limitations on academic and intellectual freedom which the professor’s response indicates.
The professor criticizes Ms. Kingsley for statements which he describes as “propaganda,” “diatribe,” etc. These statements are considerably more accurate, and substantially more well-founded, than any description of American Indian people which I have ever read an any White-written “academic” work; or even in the United States Declaration of Independence, which describes Indian people (without foundation) as “merciless savages …” It seems that whenever Indian people write the facts about White society (Ms. Kingsley and I both feel that her paper is a factual description rather than a criticism), Whites become extremely defensive, and take a “holier than thou” position. Is the condition of U.S. intellectual thought and “freedom of inquiry” such that unfounded allegations about American Indian people become “factual” simply by repetition from Kindergarten through post-graduate level, while Indian students’ observations about White society, direct and contextually relevant quotations from the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, etc., become “diatribes.”
This problem is of particular concern because the paper was written for a Freshman English class at Bemidji State University. Bemidji is about thirty-five miles to the South of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, and B.S. U. provides the only opportunity that may of our people have for higher education. Racism abounds both in Bemidji and at B.S.U. There are a large number of Red Lake Indian students who have been forced out of B.S.U. because their legitimate observations about White society have conflicted with the “ordained truth” of the dominant society. Most Indian people have not been “regimented” in their thinking, and see through the propaganda which is often passed off as “fact” by academic institutions.
We would very much appreciate any comment or support that you could give Ms. Kingsley, as the enclose paper (and her professor’s reaction to it) will almost undoubtedly cause her trouble due to the racist atmosphere at B.S.U.
Also, as a linguist perhaps you can help me with a word I have been looking for. When Adolph Hitler emulated the United States Government’s genocide of American Indian people in his treatment of Jewish, Slavic, and Gypsy people, he used words which quite clearly described his intended actions. The United States government, however, describes its ongoing actions of genocide, ethnocide, and oppression of Indian people as “giving us freedom,” “democracy,” and “liberty and justice for all.” I have been wondering what the American English word for this would be.
Thank you very much.
Enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibway Indians #317
Red Lake Indian Reservation