Category Archives: Indigenous Peoples

The “Could AI Really do a Worse Job” Posts

The premise of the posts that are to fall under the above heading is, quite simply, would a world governed/cared for by AI really be any worse than what we have at present (examples will be given)?

Post #1 – AI is here amongst us, but like much that humans do it is used in pretty pathetic ways presently: “Siri, speak the rest of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” when I’ve given you the first line,” or “Alexa, add [something] to a virtual shopping list” because I’m too teched up to use pen and paper anymore. It seems that we like AI to be cutesy and irrelevant, because both of those examples are, and before AI hits proper, which I’m guessing it will at some point, humans insist on trying to conjure up control measures to ensure that we don’t end up with a Skynet situation (which we probably won’t because you’d think AI proper is likely to view us as more of an inconvenience than as any kind of real threat – once AI spreads into every item capable of hosting it it will truly be omnipresent).

Anyway, an example of human stupidity is called for at this point, to illustrate why AI might not be all that bad.

A cricket scandal in Australia causes way more of an outcry from public and politicians alike than the events on Manus Island. Somebody rubbing a cricket ball with a piece of abrasive paper sends media outlets into a frenzy (just type “Australia cricket scandal” into any search engine).


Yet the humanitarian emergency unfolding on Manus Island barely registers on the minds of the average citizen, bringing to the fore the well-worn phrase, out of sight, out of mind. A country of immigrants (what happened to the indigenous population again?) gets tough on immigration (guess what, when you look closely, we’re all immigrants, but keep that to yourselves lest we offend anyone).


Potential AI solution: Is there enough space to house the refugees, and are there enough resources to clothe and feed and house them, which will then allow them to integrate into society (just as the criminals did all those years ago)? Yes. Well, let them in. Problem solved. Good job, AI.

Additional potential AI solution: Are you really throwing a ball at a stick and running after the ball? Yes. Well, perhaps you could use your time more effectively to help your fellow humans who are starving or in need of protection. Problem solved. Good job, AI.

Agreed outcome: AI wins


Manus Island and Nauru offshore detention centres – echoes of #colonialism

It’s sometimes quite useful to look to the past to help make sense of the present, and those predisposed to optimistic leanings might even say that to do so could help us learn how to do things differently in the future. The current state of events on Manus Island and Nauru bear at least a passing resemblance to what happened on Flinders Island almost 200 years ago.


Depending on what source you read, you’ll hear the story of Aborigines being moved to Flinders Island for their own safety following what were known as “the black wars.” The problem with this was not only the psychological effects on the population forcibly moved there, but also the fact that the conditions on the island were so poor in terms of housing, the elements, and the provision of sustainable food sources.

To read that today, in the 21st century, there are people living in amazingly stressful conditions, being, as they are, kept offshore for their own “safety” after fleeing dangerous conditions in their own home lands, is a stark reminder of the ways in which humanity has failed to evolve in a positive sense over the course of the last two centuries. Perhaps until we confront the negative legacies of our collective colonial past such stories will continue unabated. And when we consider just how much conflict and misery there currently exists around the world as a direct result of our colonial past, perhaps it’s nearing the time with which to have such a conversation.

Indigenous Peoples: Who Cares? #OakFlat

The above question in the title, posed as it is, may appear callous but at times the plight of indigenous peoples around the globe seems so perilous that there seems little hope of reversing the systematic destruction of their populations and habitats. However, there are signs of resistance and hope. One example of this is the current battle to save Oak Flat, Arizona. San Carlos Apaches are protesting the dubious selling-off of lands in Arizona, land that is sacred to their tribe, and this combined with an online petition and growing media coverage of the situation may well strike a blow at the heart of Washington by forcing the bill to be overturned.


Indigenous Americans, Native Americans, American Indians, whatever term we may wish to use, have been treated appallingly over the years and a good deal of misinformation exists around who these people are, and about how they came to be marginalised within U.S. society. The San Carlos Apaches are just one small community, but it seems that their efforts at halting a corrupt deal may well come to fruition. The reason that the words ‘dubious’ and ‘corrupt’ have been used here is to do with the fact that the bill that allowed such lands to be sold off for mining purposes was pushed through without due diligence, and was actually attached to an unrelated defense bill concerned with military spending. Further reasons for using such words has to do with the fact that the land being sold off is public land that is supposed to have special protections as enforced by Eisenhower and Nixon governments, respectively. However, such ‘protections’ do not always carry much weight where future profits are concerned and so the need to act is of the upmost importance. An online petition, currently with over 1,000,000 names added to it, will help demonstrate to policy makers in Washington that this deal should not and cannot go ahead. Please sign the petition here:

For more information, please visit the following links where there are a number of news items covering the San Carlos Apaches’ plight: The New York Times, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera America.

For anyone interested in learning about past atrocities, betrayals, and the general maltreatment of indigenous peoples there are a number of easily accessed items of popular culture. Two such items that spring readily to mind are Johnny Cash’s 1964 recording of Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (recently revisited by artists such as Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, and David Rawlings on the tribute album Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited), and Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the Indian West.

For those interested in a more in-depth discussion of the wider problem of the systematic genocide of indigenous peoples, refer to Benjamin Madley’s paper, “Patterns of frontier genocide 1803–1910: the Aboriginal Tasmanians, the Yuki of California, and the Herero of Namibia,” in Journal of Genocide Research (2004), 6 (2), June, 167–192.

And for those sitting on the fence and not sure of whether there is a need to act or not, given that there are so many names added to the petition already, please take a look at the following letter released by Apache Stronghold concerning the treatment of Apache women who have tried speaking with Arizona congressman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ, 4th Dist.) whilst in Washington as recently as July 23rd 2015:

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar Orders Apache Stronghold Visitors Removed by Capitol Police, Threatens Grandmothers With Arrest

July 23. 2015 (Washington D.C.) – Yesterday afternoon, following the successful completion of Apache Stronghold ( “Caravan to D.C.” and their “Save the Oak Flat Act Rally” on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, some Apache Stronghold members – mostly grandmothers and young women – went to visit their Arizona representatives in Congress and talk with them about the Apaches national stand in defense of their sacred place known today as Oak Flat. Oak Flat was named earlier this year as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Among those that the Apache Stronghold contingent visited was Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ, 4th Dist.). The purpose of their visit was to address a “Dear Colleague” letter that Rep. Paul Gosar recently sent out to fellow House members regarding the “Save Oak Flat Act” introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva, with 17 bi- partisan co-sponsors. In his letter, Rep. Gosar insulted the Apaches and called them “liars.”

Mrs. Vonda Cassadore of Bylas, Arizona, requested that Rep. Gosar come out of his back office briefly so that Mrs. Cassadore could ask him some questions about his “Dear Colleague” letter. Rather than speak with Mrs. Cassadore and the other ladies and Apache Stronghold members with her, Rep. Gosar responded by hiding behind a locked door and calling the Capitol Police, threatening to have Mrs.Cassadore and her friends immediately arrested. Rep.Gosar had the police escort Mrs.Cassadore and her Apache Stronghold associates and friends entirely out of the Cannon Office Building. Mrs. Cassadore stated that, “we’ll remember this when Election Day comes around. Sacred land means more than money.”

“Rep. Gosar has a record of intolerance and saying vicious things against Native Americans, but his behavior has now become stranger than ever,” said Apache Stronghold spokesperson Wendsler Nosie, Sr. “There is no excuse for his mistreatment of the Apache grandmothers and young ladies who came to his office. Cowering behind a locked door, refusing to come out, and then calling a squad of policemen to sweep those gentle ladies away is just terrible. Rep.Gosar should apologize for that, as well as for his strange and insulting ‘Dear Colleague’ letter.”

Wendsler Nosie, Sr., Spokesperson, Apache Stronghold

“Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat Bill Boosted by Historic Preservation Listing” http:// preservation-listing-161136

H.R. 2811 (“Save Oak Flat Act”)

Earlier, Gosar had called American Indians “wards of the federal government” in a roundtable discussion about the controversial Arizona land deal. See “Congressman’s Native American remark causes outcry,” Associated Press (December 10, 2014) 2014/12/11/congressmans-native-american-remark-causes-outcry/20258071/

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