100 years ago
Social activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett marches in Washington, D.C., with 5,000 suffragettes in a protest supporting women’s voting rights.
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Lawrence Guyot, a civil rights leader who survived jailhouse beatings in the Deep South in the 1960s and went on to encourage generations to get involved, has died. He was 73.
Guyot had a history of heart problems and suffered from diabetes, and died at home in Mount Rainier, Md., his daughter Julie Guyot-Diangone said late Saturday. She said he died sometime Thursday night; other media reported he passed away Friday.
A Mississippi native, Guyot (pronounced GHEE-ott) worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as director of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which brought thousands of young people to the state to register blacks to vote despite a history of violence and intimidation by authorities. He also chaired the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to have blacks included among the state’s delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The bid was rejected, but another civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, addressed the convention during a nationally televised appearance.
Guyot was severely beaten several times, including at the notorious Mississippi State Penitentiary known as Parchman Farm. He continued to speak on voting rights until his death, including encouraging people to cast ballots for President Barack Obama.
“He was a civil rights field worker right up to the end,” Guyot-Diangone said.
Guyot participated in the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project to make sure a new generation could learn about the civil rights movement.
“There is nothing like having risked your life with people over something immensely important to you,” he told The Clarion-Ledger in 2004. “As Churchill said, there’s nothing more exhilarating than to have been shot at — and missed.”
His daughter said she recently saw him on a bus encouraging people to register to vote and asking about their political views. She said he was an early backer of gay marriage, noting that when he married a white woman, interracial marriage was illegal in some states. He met his wife Monica while they both worked for racial equality.
“He followed justice,” his daughter said. “He followed what was consistent with his values, not what was fashionable. He just pushed people along with him.”
Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, called Guyot “a towering figure, a real warrior for freedom and justice.”
“He loved to mentor young people. That’s how I met him,” she said.
When she attended Ole Miss, students reached out to civil rights activists and Guyot responded.
“He was very opinionated,” she said. “But always — he always backed up his opinions with detailed facts. He always pushed you to think more deeply and to be more strategic. It could be long days of debate about the way forward. But once the path was set, there was nobody more committed to the path.”
Glisson said Guyot’s efforts helped lay the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state in the country, and that’s a direct tribute to his work,” she said
Guyot was born in Pass Christian, Miss., on July 17, 1939. He became active in civil rights while attending Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and graduated in 1963. Guyot received a law degree in 1971 from Rutgers University, and then moved to Washington, where he worked to elect fellow Mississippian and civil rights activist Marion Barry as mayor in 1978.
“When he came to Washington, he continued his revolutionary zeal,” Barry told The Washington Post on Friday. “He was always busy working for the people.”
Guyot worked for the District of Columbia government in various capacities and as a neighborhood advisory commissioner.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told The Post in 2007 that she first met Guyot within days of his beating at a jail in Winona, Miss. “Because of Larry Guyot, I understood what it meant to live with terror and to walk straight into it,” she told the newspaper. On Friday, she called Guyot “an unsung hero” of the civil rights movement.
“Very few Mississippians were willing to risk their lives at that time,” she said. “But Guyot did.”
In recent months, his daughter said he was concerned about what he said were Republican efforts to limit access to the polls. As his health was failing, he voted early because he wanted to make sure his vote was counted, he told the AFRO newspaper.
Jun 7 2010, 12:21 PM ET | Comment
The story turns on theft and incompetence by the Interior and Treasury Departments, with culprits including Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the same Minerals Management Service now at the center of the BP oil spill fiasco. Over the past 100 years, government record systems lost track of more than 40 million acres and who owns them. The records simply vanished. Meanwhile, documents were lost in fires and floods, buried in salt mines or found in an Albuquerque storage facility covered by rat feces and a deadly Hantavirus. Government officials exploited computer systems with no audit trails to turn Indian proceeds into slush funds but maintain plausible deniability.
The lack of accountability is confirmed in the government’s own reports and testimony dating to the early 20th century. Conclusions of “fraud,” “corruption,” “institutional incompetence,” “deficiencies in accounting,” “the accounts lack credibility,” “multifaceted monster,” “organizational nightmare,” “dismal history of inaction,” “criminal negligence,” and “sorry history of department mismanagement,” are found regularly between 1915 and the present. Congress ordered an accounting in 1994 but interior secretaries in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations were held in civil contempt for not forking over records. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Texas Republican nominated by President Reagan who oversaw the case for a decade, called the whole matter “government irresponsibility in its purest form.”
I sat in Lamberth’s courtroom in 1999 when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt both lost his cool and conceded that the government couldn’t provide accurate cash balances of most accounts and that “the fiduciary obligation of the United States is not being fulfilled.” But the dispute would not end, as the Clinton and Bush administrations fought unceasing adverse rulings in a case inspiring 3,600 separate court filings and 80 published decisions. No single case, including the antitrust action against Microsoft, has been as heavily litigated and defended by the government, say lawyers.
The government’s chief nemesis has been Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, the accountant-turned-banker who in 1987 started Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank on a reservation. With a very small team of attorneys led by a Washington banking specialist, Dennis Gingold, her suit has inspired 3,600 court filings and 80 published decisions. Not even the antirust action against Microsoft was as heavily litigated by the government.
The historic resistance melded with an unsympathetic appeals court often overruling the dispute’s two trial judges. It ordered removal of Lamberth, now the district court’s chief judge, due to harsh language toward the government. Last year, it threw out a ruling by District Judge James Robertson, Lamberth’s successor, that the Indians were owed $476 million, a pittance compared to the reduced, $48 billion they were seeking by then. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both urged settlement during the 2008 campaign.
A resolute Judge Robertson then hauled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and plaintiffs into his chambers last year. He made clear to one and all that, in light of the latest appeals court ruling, both sides had the choice between spending maybe another 10 years in court or trying to finally settle. The initial atmosphere was not necessarily conducive to harmony. Career government employees in the Interior, Justice and Treasury departments felt burned after years of being belittled by both the plaintiffs and Judge Lamberth. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs had minimal trust in the government. But political appointees in the Obama administration, including Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder, took their cue from President Obama’s own support of a settlement. Dozens of meetings ensued, with the many prickly issues including how far back in time one would go to try to determine who should benefit.
Ultimately, Judge Robertson prodded what, given all the legal setbacks, is an impressive $3.4 billion deal announced in December. Ironically, before the recent congressional recess, the House approved the deal and Robertson announced his retirement, meaning District Judge Thomas Hogan becomes the third, and hopefully final, arbiter in the case. He would oversee a so-called “fairness hearing” in which objections can be raised.
There is inherent complexity in wrapping up. If the Senate approves, there will be a media campaign throughout Indian Country, including direct mail, newspaper and broadcast public service advertisements. Garden City Group of Melville, New York, which handled the major class action against Enron, will be claims administrator. It will get computer lists from the Interior Department, with the account information of perhaps 500,000 Indians and then doublecheck names and addresses. How good are the records? Nobody is really sure.
The $3.4 billion will be placed in a still-to-be-selected bank and $1.4 billion will go to individuals, mostly in the form of checks ranging from $500 to $1,500. A small group, such as members of the Osage tribe who benefit from huge Oklahoma oil revenues, will get far more, based on a formula incorporating their 10 highest years of income between 1985 and 2009. As important, $2 billion will be used to buy trust land from Indian owners at fair market prices, with the government finally returning the land to tribes. Nobody can be forced to sell. As for the winning lawyers, their take is capped at $100 million, actually low by class-action standards, though Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, an orthopedic surgeon, has groused about the fees.
The fairness hearing will be interesting since many Indians have a hard time believing they’re not still being shafted. “This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling,” writes a member of the Upper Midwest’s Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe on a message board. He’s not alone. Like a family victimized by homicide, Indians may never experience enough healing to truly recover. But, finally, as hard as it is for them to believe, there really may be some justice.
This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling. This lawsuit maybe settled but the mismanagement and corruption continues. The centuries old broken government trust is still broken. The IIM accounts are still not reconciled. Some IIM accountholders will get paid and some will not. OST has violated the Indian Preference policy and hire non-Indians in Indian positions. The Cobell and numerous investigations on DOI/BIA/OST by OIG, GAO and the courts that proved numerous times they are either unwilling or unable to fix their broken trust. They went unpunished and will continue to operate into the future as if nothing happened. As if Indian Affairs has not been ‘commissioned’ to death, this settlement adds another one.
If all Individual Indian lands are bought off and transferred over to tribal trust property, the same historical broken trust is there not to protect it or improve it. The same slumlord mentality, scalawag management and Judge Roy Bean justice prevails all because we are Native Americans.
The U.S. did send a message to Indians in Cobell. They will extend Indian claims in courts indefinitely until the claimants die, exhaust funding and cave into perennial stonewalling.
The historical damage done to Native people, their land and money goes unchecked and without consequence. Not one employee faced criminal charges, was removed or fired for deliberately wasting billions in taxpayer’s dollars in cover up schemes. The U.S. won’t even apologize for inflicting termination and terrorism on the people they are legally bound to protect. At least, Canada and Australia apologized to the Natives of their countries.
After the starting Judge and court appointed investigators proved that DOI/BIA/OST wasted billions of dollars trying to fix the broken trust they too were removed from the case. The U.S. were found in contempt of court for lying to a federal judge, filing false reform reports, destroying records and for 13 years of federal failure. Honest American federal employees who reported such fraud, waste and abuse termed “whistleblowers” were also squeezed out of service and replaced with puppets.
“On June 20, 1867, Congress established the Indian Peace Commission to negotiate peace with Plains Indian tribes who were warring with the United States. The official report of the Commission to the President of the United States, dated January 7, 1868, describe detailed histories of the causes of the Indian Wars including: numerous social and legal injustices to Indians, repeated violations of numerous Treaties, acts of corruption by many of the local agents, and culpability of Congress itself for failing to fulfill certain legal obligations. The report asserts that the Indian Wars were completely preventable had the United States government and its representatives acted with legal and moral honesty in dealing with the Indians.”
In short, this 1867 Commission also “recommended that the intercourse laws with Indian Tribes be thoroughly revised.” This sounds like trust reform to me.
Second, “But it is insisted that the present Indian service is corrupt, and this change should be made to get rid of the dishonest. That there are many bad men connected with the service cannot be denied. The records are abundant to show that gents have pocketed the funds appropriated by the government and driven the Indians to starvation.” And still today, the U.S. Courts, it’s investigators, GAO and OIG all exposed corrupt employees in Indian Affairs.
Third, “That Congress pass an act fixing a day (not later than the 1st of February, 1869) when the offices of all superintendents, agents, and special agents shall be vacated. Such persons as have proved themselves competent and faithful may be reappointed. Those who have proved unfit will find themselves removed without an opportunity to divert attention from their own unworthiness by provisions of party zeal.” This 1867 Commission told the President how to get rid of corrupt employees and even today it has not been done. Why?
Fourth, “We, therefore, recommend that Indian affairs be committed to an independent bureau or department. Whether the head of the department should be made a member of the President’s cabinet is a matter for the discretion of Congress and yourself, and may be as well settled without any suggestions from us.” This 1867 Commission told the President that there should be a Department of Indian Affairs separate from the Department of Interior.
Two other recommendations by this 1867 Commission talked about State encroachment on tribal sovereignty and shady traders.”
In 1973, Senator James Abourezk introduced Senate Joint Resolution No. 133 to establish a Federal commission to review all aspects of policy, law, and administration relating to affairs of the United States with American Indian tribes and people. The Senate and the House of Representatives both adopted S.J. Res. 133 and on January 2, 1975, the Resolution was signed into law by the President, thus establishing the American Indian Policy Review Commission [Public Law 93-580]. There are other Commissions in 1928, 1934 and 1992.
But after 141 years and Commissions, this proposed settlement still does not protect our land, money, fleecing or our natural resources and culture but promotes tribal sovereignty erosion and U.S. failure to enforce treaty rights and their federal trust responsibilities according to their own U.S. Constitution and Congressional obligations.
The U.S. can send a man to the Moon and maybe Mars, travel to the bottom of the deepest Ocean, fight wars on opposite side of the world, clone animals but cannot fix the broken trust problem with Indian services.
If the U.S. initially worked with earnest and full trust with Native Nations using their own money plus the promised federal appropriations, there would not be a financial burden on either party, national dishonesty or worldwide disgrace of American ideals.
It has been settled for me to forget all that happened within DOI and accept the $1,500.00 minus reserves/taxes (unknown amount) and attorney fee’s (unknown amount) as if nothing happened.
Thomas M. Wabnum
Prairie Band Potawatomi
Former Tribal Councilperson
Viet Nam Veteran
Late Tuesday night, congressional negotiators unveiled a spending deal to keep most of the government funded through September 2015, but on Wednesday it became clear that the substantial policy concessions made by Democrats in a bid to attract enough Republican votes to keep the government open are likely to shrink the coalition supporting the last-minute bill.
The 1,600-page spending document could be forced through the House and Senate in less than one week, giving lawmakers little time to review its contents but enough time to be angered that certain controversial provisions were included, most notably major changes to two of the biggest laws approved by Congress since 2000, which had rewritten Wall Street rules and reformed the campaign finance system.
The current government spending bill expires on Thursday, and failure to pass new legislation by then will trigger another shutdown a little more than a year after Republicans forced a 16-day government closure in October 2013. That GOP standoff over defunding the Democrats’ health care law cost the nation an estimated $24 billion.
Though the so-called cromnibus bill funds the majority of the government through an omnibus package for the rest of the fiscal year, it pays for the Department of Homeland Security only through February via a stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR. Conservatives hope to isolate the department, which is tasked with implementing President Barack Obama’s recent executive order exempting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and the bill will give Republicans a chance to freshly debate its funding in the new year, when they will control both the House and Senate.
Yahoo News’ list of the most interesting and significant policy changes in the year-end spending bill:
Eliminating a key Wall Street reform. The Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 approved sweeping changes to the nation’s financial systems, many of them tailored to prevent the kind of crisis that tanked the economy in 2008. One of the centerpieces of the bill was a measure designed to spin off banks’ riskiest activities into subsidiaries, isolating the main functions of banks from those risks and also ensuring that taxpayers would not be on the hook to pay for losses created by those risky trades in the event that they failed. The spending bill approved by Congress eliminates the so-called push-out provision from the Dodd-Frank law, meaning that the trading of derivatives — the risky swaps or bets made against the rise and fall of value in assets — can now once again happen in-house in Wall Street’s largest banks.
Democrats led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are outraged by this return to old ways, and she has said she will oppose the whole bill if the provision remains in it.
Dismantling what was left of campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court since 2010 has repeatedly struck down political donation restrictions approved by Congress in the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. With the spending bill approved by Congress this week, lawmakers at the last minute agreed to undo the most significant remaining changes from the law: the limits for individuals on how much they can give to political parties. Before the change, which was inserted in the last few pages of the mammoth spending bill, the most any one person could give to a party group like the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee was $32,400 per year. Now any individual will be able to give anywhere from $97,200 to $777,600, depending on the interpretation of the language included in the government-spending bill.
Meddling in D.C. politics. Because the District of Columbia is not a state, it relies on Congress annually to appropriate its budget. And so Washington, D.C., perennially bears the brunt of congressional compromises as Republicans target D.C. programs to highlight social issues they oppose and Democrats acquiesce in the knowledge that the District will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats no matter what Congress does. During the first shutdown threat of Obama’s tenure in 2011, the GOP pushed through a ban on funds for abortion services in D.C. and started a school voucher program.
This year, Democrats agreed to support Republican language targeting a D.C. ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana, which voters approved by nearly 70 percent in November. The wide-ranging appropriations bill bars funds from being used for the implementation, regulation and taxation of marijuana and also, adding insult to injury, mandates that no money provided by Congress can be used by D.C. officials to petition for representation in Congress. Instead of a regular congressperson, D.C. has a delegate, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, who does not have voting privileges in the House.
Cutting IRS and EPA funding. Republicans are touting cuts to the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The spending deal reduces IRS spending by $345 million in an olive branch to conservatives still miffed over a scandal involving the agency and its targeting of political groups that were using nonprofit loopholes to avoid paying certain taxes. The IRS funding levels in 2015 will now be lower than they were in the 2008 fiscal year.
Republicans have cut the EPA’s budget for the fifth consecutive year. In a press release the day after the deal was announced, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted cuts to the EPA as one of the “Ten Things You Should Know About the Omnibus Appropriations Bill” and the fact that the bill reduces EPA staffing “to the lowest level since 1989.”
Setting up a messy immigration funding fight. A key feature of the deal for Republicans is that it funds most of the government while specifically preventing Congress from filling the Homeland Security department’s coffers. That particular bargain will allow the House and Senate GOP majority in 2015 to fight over how to appropriate overall Homeland Security programs while withholding funds for the implementation of the president’s immigration executive order. As Yahoo News previously reported, it will be difficult for the GOP to defund implementation of the order because the DHS agency that oversees immigration status changes is self-funded through fees it levies on immigration applications. And yet by agreeing to this particular deal, Democrats are setting themselves up for a messy fight with Republicans about the immigration issue at a time when they will have much less leverage to get their way.
Rolling back truck safety regulations. A policy rider added to the bill to sweeten the deal for Republicans will roll back truck safety regulations issued by the Department of Transportation in 2011 to prevent traffic accidents resulting from trucker fatigue. The two basic requirements were that drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shifts and take a “restart” period of 34 hours of rest weekly. According to the Department of Transportation, the “net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.” Trucking companies have been lobbying against these changes and now appear to have secured a victory by getting their repeal included in the spending bill.