- The Militarization of Indian Country by Winona LaDuke with Sean Cruz
Winona LaDuke (with Sean Cruz) recently added a new book, The Militarization of Indian Country, to the arsenal of words written to bring change to how Native communities are linked to military operations. The authors offer four chapters, which exhibit the militarization of Indian Country. LaDuke explains that she is not antimilitary but is anti-militarization for what it has brought to innocent people and the land: "I despise militarization because those who are most likely to be impacted or killed by the military are civilian non-combatants. Since the Second World War, more than four fifths of the people killed in war have been civilians. Globally there are some 16 million refugees from war" (xv). LaDuke makes it clear that she respects veterans and that they should be treated honorably. The purpose of the book is to bring to light the pervasiveness and detriment of militarization in Native communities and lands.
The military and Native people have a long history. Since the inception of the United States, Native people have participated in the military in every war in astounding numbers and percentages of representation compared to non-Natives. LaDuke reviews this history and notes the [End Page 266] trends of Natives going into the military due to forces of economic hardship, domination, and racism. At the same time, Native communities take great pride in caring for veterans by means of restoring the entire well-being of soldiers once they return to their homes. Traditionally and even into the modern era, tribes have had warrior societies for the protection of land, people, and tradition. The military has become a unit where Natives become soldiers equal in racial status to others. However, it has become apparent that this acceptance is only temporary and does not exist once a soldier exits the institution. All in all, Natives who participate in the military during war return with much trauma or in death. The cost to Native communities is high. Nonetheless, numerous communities will continue to take care of their veterans.
LaDuke then discusses the economic domination that is directly tied to military activities around the world. She notes that there are over seven hundred US military bases and that the operation of these bases requires massive amounts of wealth for the purpose of maintaining hegemony worldwide. The budget of the US military dwarfs the budget of China, the UK, France, and Russia. Furthermore, the United States is the largest distributor and producer of weapons. All of the money spent on militarization is directly linked to poverty. She also points to the moral questions raised in the area of Native military contractors such as Blackwater, which is now xe, the largest private security firm in the world. Blackwater is a subcontractor for Chenega Native Corporation.
A third component of LaDuke's book focuses on the military and the land: "The U.S. military is the largest polluter in the world. If one begins to consider the whole of the impact of the U.S. military on the planet, historically and in the present, it is, in fact, damning" (31). The pollution of the planet affects all human beings regardless of nationality or locale. LaDuke reminds readers that since the 1940s, thousands of nuclear weapons tests have been enacted in the Pacific, obliterating atolls and spreading radioactive contamination. The use of napalm and Agent Orange poisoned and defoliated great areas of Vietnam in the war. Additionally, since that war, there has been incredible usage of depleted uranium and chemical weaponry. Thus, the US military is overwhelmingly responsible to a great extent for the suffering of the earth and its peoples. Native lands in North America have been the subject of many military projects, resulting in such suffering: Goshute territory and chemical warfare; Los Alamos National Laboratory on Pueblo land; Alaska as [End Page 267] an occupied territory; nuclear testing and nuclear waste among Western Shoshone; the bombing and militarization of Hawaii; and the establishment of forts across many reservations. Winona LaDuke...