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June 4, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

American Indian History/Education

  |   Video
  • Arizona State University Professor Donald Fixico will be teaching a new class in the fall that includes American Indian views and values with tools to succeed at the university. Fixico will talk about that and his new book, “Call for Change: The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos & Reality.” His book argues that the current discipline of American Indian history is insensitive to Native people’s view of history.
  • Donald Fixico - Professor, ASU
Category: Education   |   Keywords: ASU, university, American Indian, history, Native,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: History can be viewed in different ways by different people. That certainly is the case With the American Indian history. In a new book "call for Change: The medicine way of American Indian history, Ethos, and Reality," ASU professor Donald Fixico argues that the current discipline of native American history is insensitive to and inconsistent with how American Indians view their past experiences. Here with us now to talk about his new book and a new class he will teach this fall is Donald Fixico. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
Donald Fixico: Nice to be here.
Ted Simons: Time to rethink American Indian history. What are we talk being here?
Donald Fixico: The operative word -- from the outside, about Indian people. Here is the chance to get inside the communities of native people and inside of their minds and explain how they're cultural different, decisions different, values different, they come up with different world views. But that is also saying that there is Comanche logic -- let's look at history that way.
Ted Simons: Current discipline insensitive to Indian views of history. Tell us about that.
Donald Fixico: The books written by -- the -- saying here are the facts. Here is what happened. And then that is what happened. And that really kind of disregards how that native people think and their point of view and how they see history.
Ted Simons: Do you think that some of these historians basically misunderstand American Indians.
Donald Fixico: Very much so. I can read a history book about American Indians. In the first few pages you can determine that. You can at the same time read the same few pages of a different book and you can tell that scholar spent a lot of time with that native group.
Ted Simons: Give us an example of a misunderstanding that you have seen out there.
Donald Fixico: Misunderstanding? Much of the history written probably before the late 1960s. Historians have written books about native people -- the book about the American west, he said in reading the introduction, he says read the introduction facing east. When you face east, you can see the miners coming towards you, the railroads, soldiers, settlers and everything like that.
Ted Simons: Basically it is Indian views and values mixed with what actually happened.
Donald Fixico: Yes.
Ted Simons: When you teach a class, when you wrote the book, who are you writing this for? Who are you teaching to?
Donald Fixico: I'm writing it for everyone because we need to kind of learn to think different ways. And we need to -- if we take on the most difficult questions and problems, well, how do you approach things differently? Because if we don't, we will limit our thinking and not be able to tackle the difficult questions.
Ted Simons: In the book you write about -- I want to get to the medicine way in a second. But first something natural democracy. How do you define natural democracy in the context of this book and in the context of what you are talking about?
Donald Fixico: Natural democracy, a term I used in 1982 when I was talking about the Iroquois and how they dealt with democracy and decision making. I remember giving that lecture way back then. Natural democracy the way I apply it, mutual respect for everything and not just human beings, but respect for rivers, mountains, flora, fauna, that they're in all of this because all of our relations, to look at history and to look at society in general and to only look at it in terms of human relations is only looking at a piece of the pie. And so we need to look at the entire society of life.
Ted Simons: So, looking at -- saying that everything should be mutually respected. You then move on to the medicine way of looking at history. Talk to us about that.
Donald Fixico: Okay. The medicine way is something that I grew up with and native people are close to their traditions. I think even indigenous people in different parts of the world would agree. If you are close to you are -- what you see is almost everything has a potential energy. Everything, water, rock, a wind storm, all of that has potential energy but we refer to that as the medicine way or the medicine power. Medicine power equals energy and how that is released. If you don't respect the water, then the water will come in terms of the flood. Or a raging river or something like that. In the medicine way, it is a way of paying the respect for everything that has potential power. And that's what we do. We respect that.
Ted Simons: How would you then work natural democracy in the medicine way?
Donald Fixico: Well, if we -- if everything has power, then we respect everything that is within the totality. And the totality has to be respected or else both cause their own doom like global warming. If we had respected the northern parts of this -- respected the northern parts of the planet and handled the natural resources in a better way, we would not be in this forth coming kind of doom that is going to happen with global warming.
Ted Simons: Medicine way, the way you approach everything, how does that work its way into the history of American Indians?
Donald Fixico: Medicine way has always been there. It is the medicine way that Comanche people, Seminoles in Florida, myself growing up in Oklahoma. It is introducing this to the larger mainstream and the rest of the world. I found that in doing that, I had to construct theoretically a cultural bridge. Cultural bridge -- if they can understand what the medicine way is they can cross this bridge and -- the way of native thinking, cross that bridge back.
Ted Simons: When you talk again about the ethos and the reality of Native Americans, again, I want to get back to the context of history. How does that change the way that I would look or someone else would look at the history of any aspect of American Indian history, how would that change or make me see this differently or literally change the reality of that history?
Donald Fixico: It would change a lot. If we can look back into the history -- it is almost like looking at a different book all together. Looking at a different way of life. A good example is maybe World War II or even World War I. If you go to World War I or II and look at the way the German people fought about that, rather than the western approach -- you don't get the German perspective. In this situation, you get the American Indian perspective and how each of the individual nations dealt with history. And it is like how did that happen? Why did that happen? How come did I miss that? And so this new perspective, that is what I'm trying to suggest in this book.
Ted Simons: And you talk about Iroquois logic and other tribal logic and how they can be different. How do you incorporate that into a general understanding of American Indian history. I can imagine between tribes there are great differences.
Donald Fixico: There are 566 federally recognized tribes today. There has to be at least 566 different points of view, if you add in the gender factor, men and women, that is twice that amount. This is to get on the other side of the equation, and once you are on the side of the equation, facing east, looking at the frontier, it opens up. As it opens up, then you see these different relationships. Take one group, any tribe, like in a circle, relationships with the white world, with the Cherokees, but also with the animals, plants, metaphysical and it becomes more than just a two dimensional approach it becomes more spherical.
Ted Simons: How do you find common ground? Are those the circles involved there as well?
Donald Fixico: Really only looking at the -- a native group or -- with the American mainstream. And so that is binary. If you take that same theoretical model of two relationships and turn that around, then you see the creeks with the -- with the Seminoles and any tribe can be in the middle, but we can't forget the relationship with the plant world, metaphysical world, French and Spanish.
Ted Simons: When folks look at history they want to know what happened and why it happened. Some want to make sure that it doesn't happen again. But for the most part, a curiosity as to what may have happened before they may have been around. How does this particular approach alter what happened, why it happened?
Donald Fixico: Well, I hope, and this is my goal from the book, is to really make people think really hard about history and in particular, American Indian history and indigenous history all around different parts of the world. Indigenous point of view, New Zealand, Australia, or in the Siberia of Russia, there is a different story, a different interpretation. History is a matter of interpretations. With the western approach, we tend to negate, nullify, forget the other kinds of history by not writing about how those people think. We use a large paint brush and paint a way of history and that is how it happens.
Ted Simons: You will be teaching a new class this fall at ASU.
Donald Fixico: Yes, using the basic structure of it. This new class, American Indian studies, 191, a substitute for Arizona State University's 101. It will be using two different biographies. These individuals, tribal chairperson and president, the first Navajo female surgeon, graduate of Stanford medical school and also Charles Alexander Eastman, Dr. Eastman, became a physician in 1890. So, how did these individuals thinking in the medicine way, how do they survive going to medical school when they came from a different set of ideas and backgrounds and values?
Ted Simons: Well, it's interesting stuff. I mean, it is an interesting read and it certainly is a different way of looking at things. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate your time.
Donald Fixico: It was a pleasure.

Focus on Sustainability: Solar Power Plant

  |   Video
  • The Interior Department announced approval for three new solar power plants, one in Arizona and two in Nevada. Dennis Godfrey of the Arizona office of The Bureau of Land Management will talk about the Arizona solar power plant, to be located near Quartzite. The Quartzite Solar Energy Project will be capable of generating 100 megawatts of electricity.
  • Dennis Godfrey - Arizona office of The Bureau of Land Management
Category: Sustainability   |   Keywords: arizona, electricity, solar power, nevada, land, plant,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The quartzite solar energy project was one of three major renewable energy plans announced yesterday by the U.S. interior department. Here to tell us more about the quartzite project is Dennis Godfrey. He's from the Arizona office of the bureau of land management. Good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
Dennis Godfrey: My pleasure.
Ted Simons: Three projects, two in Nevada, one in Arizona. Near quartzite --
Dennis Godfrey: About 10 miles north of quartzite along the road that heads north. You will be able to see the project from the road in a few years.
Ted Simons: What is out there now?
Dennis Godfrey: Very little. Desert land. There is differences in what is little and what isn't. Difference of opinion on that. Basically flat, desert land.
Ted Simons: How much power are we talking about regarding the plant?
Dennis Godfrey: This is a 100 megawatt project.
Ted Simons: Translates to how many homes?
Dennis Godfrey: Roughly 30,000.
Ted Simons: Who builds the plants -- who will build the plant once it is getting going here?
Dennis Godfrey: Solar reserve, out of Santa Monica, California, applied to the bureau of land management for the use of the land and they are the owner of the technology and will be building the project.
Ted Simons: And so, the Santa Monica -- it is their baby then, in other words. Who will they be selling the electricity to?
Dennis Godfrey: That is up to them. That is something that the bureau of land management does not get involved with. We make the land available and they will work out the deal and to my knowledge, they do not have a buyer at this time.
Ted Simons: So, does that mean ground doesn't break until they get the buyer?
Dennis Godfrey: Most likely. Expensive propositions and they would probably need certainty that they are going to be able to sell the power.
Ted Simons: You are not in that particular business, per se. Is there any indication how long that may take, what kind of delay we would see here?
Dennis Godfrey: Another project on bureau of land management land near Buckeye. Approved for a year and a half and they still do not have a power purchase agreement. It varies. I really can't say.
Ted Simons: As far as the technology is concerned, can you tell us about that, power cell -- power tile --
Dennis Godfrey: Yes, this is an interesting technology that solar reserve has. They build an array or a large array of mirrors, heliostats they call them that track the sun during the day. They will focus the sun's energy or heat on a spot on a tower at the top of the tower, about 650 feet tall. This is a -- it will be a large tower. You will be able to see this from the road. You will see the glow as the mirrors are focused on it. And that -- that power, that is actually heat used to heat molten salt and turn it into a liquid. That liquid is stored and used to generate steam which turns a standard steam turbine to generate electricity.
Ted Simons: My goodness. This technology is already in use around the world.
Dennis Godfrey: It has been used. I wouldn't say it has extensive use. There is a tower in Spain that is working. There is a demonstration and research project in the 90's in California that solar reserve has learned a lot from. And solar reserve has other projects under construction. One in Nevada right now that they hope to complete this year.
Ted Simons: How much water is needed for something like this?
Dennis Godfrey: Under a conventional -- using a conventional steam turbine, you would expect that it would use quite a bit of water. But solar reserve and the bureau of land management concluded early on that the best use of this resource would be to be -- to use a dry tool technology. Meaning they use very, very little water.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Dennis Godfrey: Compared -- they will use about 200 acre feet a year. If they were to use a combination of hybrid and dry, that would be about three times more than that at 600. If they were to do wet cooling, which is the most efficient and the least expensive, it would be up to about 1,500 acre feet a year. So, this is a fraction of the amount of water that would be needed and we feel that is the responsible way to respond to the needs of the desert.
Ted Simons: How are these particular lands -- we will talk about the ones in Nevada. Outside of quartzite, how is that land chosen? What input was involved?
Dennis Simons: The company went looking for a site, and they measured and did scientific research and considered what the natural resource conflicts might be, and said this looks like a good spot and made application for it. They're the ones that applied. And made a decision that this is where we want to put this project.
Ted Simons: As far as public input for that particular piece of land, how much goes into something like that?
Dennis Godfrey: The bureau of land management, any time that federal lands involved, looking for all of the public input we can get. We held scoping meetings where we encourage the public to respond to tell us what is out there that we need to be looking at. We feel like we've had a very successful scoping and research project for the public.
Ted Simons: Environmental review. What kind of --
Dennis Godfrey: It is a long term process. Federal government is involved. We want environmental impact statement. This has been in the process for pretty close to three years now where we have been studying what is there. What are the concerns for the -- for the cultural conflicts, what are the resource conflicts. What are they -- what are the wildlife conflicts? And we have concluded that we are in pretty good position on this project.
Ted Simons: Indeed, it sounds as though this particular project was on the fast track and may still be on the fast track for approval. Is that accurate?
Dennis Godfrey: Has now been approved, yes. It has been -- in the past year.
Ted Simons: Why was it on the fast track?
Dennis Godfrey: Because it had progressed to the point where it was ready to move forward. We needed to -- the previous work had been done. We were satisfied with. The secretary of the interior said let's finish the work on this.
Ted Simons: And you have -- it sounds like some 15 odd more sites being looked at by the BLM overall? Does that sound accurate?
Dennis Godfrey: That is about right. We have several in Arizona as well. A few in Arizona that are progressing and moving along.
Ted Simons: Basically I know the utility scale project in the right way and right places --
Dennis Godfrey: Absolutely right. Absolutely right.
Ted Simons: Alright. Hopefully we will get this thing up and operational here relatively soon, as soon as they can find electricity to sell to. Good to have you here.
Dennis Godfrey: Thank you very much. Enjoyed it.