Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Exclusive Q & A With Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad, National Director, Indigenous Nations Alliance, Millions More Movement
For years many of us have heard talk of the shared history, common interests and need for political and economic alliance between Black and Native Americans. For some this idea of unity is little more than romanticism; for others, an intellectual exercise; and for an untold number it is a way of life and firm commitment. In this latter group, count Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad, a unique leader whose whole life represents and has revolved around bringing the "Black" Man and Woman and the "Red" Man and Woman together, in name and in deed.
Last year, Sister Yo' Nas Da (pronounced yo-naj-a-ha) was appointed to the position of National Director Of The Indigenous Nations Alliance For The Millions More Movement (MMM). She has been instrumental in asserting and ensuring the participation of the Native people in the MMM, and fostering mutual respect among its members.
Beginning last November, BlackElectorate.com Publisher Cedric Muhammad interviewed Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad to discuss her background; the state of relations between Black and Native Americans; her relationship to the Nation Of Islam; and just what the talk of unity between the "Black", "Red" and "Brown" in a political and cultural context means.
Cedric Muhmmad: Dear Sister, Peace. I wanted to thank you so very much for this opportunity to interview you. I think your background, talents, interests and standing make you a unique young leader on the scene today. You represent so much that it is actually very difficult to determine where to start with questions. So, I will start from the surface and most recent and work from there.
We last saw you at the Millions More Movement (MMM) event October 14th, 15th, and 16th, bringing the "Red" and the "Black" together, having arranged the participation of representatives of the indigenous people and nations in the event in October. How did that come about, what is your assessment of the MMM, and what does your role as National Director of The Indigenous Nations relationship to The Millions Movement entail?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: I was born in Washington DC in 1978, during the American Indian Movement protest called ďThe Longest WalkĒ. I was the only girl born during this movement. My mother was full blood Oglala Lakota and my father is full blood African American. At the time my mother was the Public Relations Director for Don King Enterprise so she was introduced to the Nation of Islam through Muhammad Ali. She met the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan. He told me a story that when he first saw me as a newborn, I had on moccasins that my grandmother made and he wept because he saw the unity of the Black and the Red. For 27 years I have experienced life and engulfed myself with a vast amount of knowledge and experience and I believe today I have found no wait, God has threw me on this path. The Minister have seen my destiny when I just came out of the womb. So my role as the National Director for the Indigenous Nations Alliance-Millions More Movement is to fulfill the mission of bridging the families of the Black, the Red, the Brown, the Yellow and even our Whites that are against the oppressors, and power junkies.
Cedric Muhammad: Many of us are familiar with your Beloved Mother, Sister Wauneta Lonewolf of the Oglala-Lakota (Sioux.) Please accept our condolences on her departure from us. Her spirit and work are still with us. Please tell us all that you desire about your mother, your relationship, and interestingly, her unique work and influence with the Nation Of Islam.
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Thank you. It will be 2 years Dec. 21st. I miss her soo much! Especially now than ever because I know my mother will be over me making sure I am doing a good job. She will be helping me building relationships with the Indigenous Nation. But everything happens for a reason. And yes her spirit is with us all. Myself and my brother cannot walk in her shoes but just put up a wall on the foundation she built and hopefully our children can put up the roof. (smile) My mother helped Minister Louis Farrakhan on the beginnings of the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam. She introduced him to our Native spirituality and people. Also, I was taught that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad said we should always have a home for the First Americans, our Indigenous family. So in Phoenix, AZ my mother and Maria Muhammad decorated the Big House and the Indian House in designs that compliment both races. She had organized the Big Siege of Big Mountain. I wonít go into detail but the FBI was wanting to take the land from the Hopiís I believe from them and the Nation and the Natives came together to protest against that. As a result of the government didnít wanting the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan re-building the Nation of Islam in the early eighties they had to find the closet person to him, to see if she would reveal anything. Well there was nothing to reveal and they gave my mother 4-6 years in prison. When she was released she turned her experience of being an ex-con and began working to help the suffering of our people. She helped hundreds of children get out of gangs, mothers that were on drugs and alcohol, men that were physically abusing their wives because of drugs and alcohol. She was a natural healer, a medicine woman, a freedom fighter, and not only was she me and Julioís mother she was a mother to a lot of people. She strongly believed that it takes a village to raise a child, so she was constantly putting together the village to at least raise one person. If you was fortunate enough to have shook her hand, talked with her, or even know her you will see that if everyone had a bit of Wauneta in them we can be soo much far advance as people. She was such a big advocate on unity. I went to her tombstone in South Dakota last month and on it states;Ē Grandfather smiles pleasingly on the work that I was sent here to do. My circle is complete; I am at Peace, no regrets or anger just love for all of you. I will see all of you on the other blessed sideĒ
Cedric Muhammad: Those of us who know you, know that you lovingly refer to Minister Farrakhan as "Grandpa" and "Grandfather". It is very touching to me and represents so much more than the typical familial relationship implied in those terms. I also know that the term has great significance in some Native American beliefs. Could you please elaborate on any of this?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Well, when my mother was sent to prison, myself and Julio was sent to Chicago to live with his daughter Maria and her husband Alif. Even though we are not blood, our spirit is connected. We was raised as family, his grandchildren are considered my cousins. In the Bible it states when your Mother or Father forsake you, God will take you up. So, thatís what happened. God took me and my brother. Without all of that happening me and Julio will not be able to be here telling this story at this magnitude. We couldíve been easily caught by the system and living a totally different life. I love the Farrakhan family for bringing us in and adopting us as family. Especially Min. Louis Farrakhan, Mother Khadijah and Aunt Maria and Uncle Alif. They really saved our lives.
Cedric Muhammad: You are uniquely situated between both worlds, so to speak. Perhaps you are the Best of Both Worlds (laughter). How do many of our Native Brothers and Sisters view the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan? Many people are unaware of the aspect of the mision of the Nation Of Islam as it relates to the original people in the Western Hemisphere, and even many Muslim followers of both the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and/or Minister Louis Farrakhan are unaware of the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and His Minister in the Western/South Western part of this country (and other areas) with the Indian tribes.
So, for the benefit of many, I would like to know a few details of the history and how some of the tribes and their leaders view the Nation Of Islam, from your personal experience and interaction.
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Yes sir, I believe I have lived in two worlds, growing up incorporating Native spirituality with Islam was a challenge but when you really know and understand the Islam teachings it is very easy to do. Just like in our Black community we have people that love the Minister and some that donít. Well naysayers are in every race. I believe itís ignorance. I have met some Native elders that love him for standing up for truth. They just want the help and aid from our Black brothers and sisters. Itís really no where near a religion thing, itís a peace, love and harmony thing. Native Americans have been Willie Lynched as well. Their pain and suffering is our pain and suffering. They can relate to pain and suffering. So with that in mind once the teachings are introduced to the Native Americans they can 100% relate. I am planning a conference tour right now for the first time ever that will travel throughout Indian Country. It will be called ďBridging the Families-Starting A MovementĒ. Our Indigenous families are extinct. The oppressors have planned it that way when they put the tribes on reservations. They didnít want us connecting with the Native Americans during slavery because we knew the land and we could have saved millions and millions of slaves instead of thousands. Today, with both nations coming together we can save each other. I have heard stories from elders that said they remembered Hon. Elijah Muhammad visiting the Hopiís, Navajos, and other tribes in the Southwest area. He would go without letting no one know because at that time it was more of a serious no-no.
Cedric Muhammad: For years, Sister, we have had an "Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays" theme day at BlackElectorate.com. We have called it that for very specifc reasons, and at the early beginning, and a few times since then, we will receive e-mails from individuals who don't understand why they, as Black or African people, should have to see so much coverage or Native Americans, for instance, at a 'Black' website. We have our response but I wanted to know from you what you thought of such thinking.
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Once we get out of the state of Willie Lynch ignorance we can grow. 87% of African Americans have Native American blood in their lineage. We need to stop fronting like we are soo pro-Black, pro-this,pro-that God the great Creator didnít make everything pro-water; no, he made a big body of water called the ocean, and line of water the river, Do you get where I am going with this? We are all connected in some way shape or form. We have to stop the ignorance, know the history. Without the Native Americans our ancestors would not be living if it wasnít for the Native Americans. We have to start looking outside of the black box.
Cedric Muhammad: Some people believe that there is some romanticism in the relationship between Blacks and Natives in this Hemisphere. That there is and was more tension between Blacks and Indian tribes during slavery than we want to admit. Today that subject continues. Here is an article (below) that crystalizes some of the arguments made by some that Blacks and Black Indians have been victims of discrimination at the hands of certain tribes and the U.S. government in regards to their sovereign status or membership in native nations. What do you think?
"Blacks Of Native American Ancestry Fight For Recognition"
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Well, like every race have nay sayers, and people have been Willie Lynched without even knowing it. If they are not going to give Black Indians any rights now. Well this article is a pure example of how frightened the enemy is of building the Black and the Red. The masters donít wanna lose their slaves to the Indians.
Cedric Muhammad: Sister, where do the members of the "Brown" or Latino community fit into the relationship between the "Black" and the "Red"?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: In Native spirituality we have no choice but to include our Latino community. In November I did a 3-part series in the Final Call newspaper on the Real Thanksgiving as well as Christopher Columbus who was Spanish. But if you know the real history. Columbus coming or bumping into North America was a religious and power thing not a race thing. The Queen and King of Spain were Christians now mind you Spain was predominately Muslim and Christian. But because of the union of the King and Queen they wanted the world to be Christian. They said by any means necessary if you have to slaughter Muslims while they are in prayer position chop they head off. They were on a vengeance to make people Christians. So geographically Columbus thought you can go west to get to India it will be quicker because he thought the world was flat. So on his attempt to go to India which was majority Muslim he came to North America and called the people he saw Indians. Now I have heard stories that Native Americans should hate the Spanish. If we know our history. We would know that it was a power thing. But Mexican labor work today is modern day slavery. But Mexicans are Native Americans all of North America is Native American so why not get our Brown brothers and sisters involved? We are all related.
Cedric Muhammad: I understand that next year, you are going to be intensifying work among the youth on reservations. What challenges are those young people dealing with these days?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: When you turn on the T.V. all we see is the portrayal of Native Americans living in tipiís,riding horses, wearing traditional clothing. This is set that way because if we know the truth of what we look like today we will be saddened and disgusted. It is the 3rd world here in the United States. On my motherís reservation Pine Ridge, South Dakota 90% of the people there are unemployed. No Casinos are not helping the people the youth. No the government are not distributing the money to the people. Healthcare is poor. It is really sad. Like I said earlier out of sight- out of mind. But today the youth are being recruited from the Russian and Italian Mafia to set up drug shops,etc. And they are killing the kids off for less than a couple of grand. Meth is really at its all time high on the reservation. I heard about this boy I know that for him to get high he drinks Lysol cleaner. They set it up for the youth to feel there is no hope, they are stuck in the middle of no where no one cares about them. The elders are striving to teach the youth the language our ways but the kids are warriors but with a lot of insecurities. So I am very passionate to want to have a conference with mentors, entertainers, political leaders and medicine people to give hope to the youth. Because if we do not do this now, the Native Americans will truly be physically extinct and we wouldnít even know it because the government planned it that way to be out of sight, out of mind. But as long as Iím living that thinking will not happen the world need to see what the settlers did to the First Americans.
Cedric Muhammad: At our website we have covered COINTELPRO extensively, and in most cases when you mention that subject, many people think of how the government attacked Black nationalist and White progressive organizations. Less people know of how the FBI and government targeted the American Indian Movement (AIM), of which your mother was a member. What are some of the details of the effort to destablize and destroy the AIM? And what did and does the American Indian Movement stand for?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: My mother was a member of the American Indian Movement. It was established by Dennis Banks, Russell Means, Vernon Belcourt as well as others. It was should I say the American Indian version of the Black Panther Party. As a matter of fact all of the protest a lot of the Black Panthers attended and fought together. Since slavery, the Black and the Red was joining forces again. But like always the government didnít want the union of the Black and the Red. Please research the real story of Leonard Peltier, his story is not much different of Tookie Williams or even any Black Panther member. But one day the righteous will prevail.
Cedric Muhammad: You are also an accomplished Hip-Hop artist, and dancer. How does your artistic sensitivity serve your work and how do your beliefs inform your artistry?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Rap music is the news for the streets. Itís the news for the people that do not watch the news or read a book. Plus music is an universal language. So in saying that I am what they called coming out of Generation X, they had no clue what to call my generation. I loved HipHop! Hip Hop was me! It was the new rock Ėn- roll , the new rebel music! I always expressed my self dancing and writing. To really let everyone know how I feel or what I experienced I can rap with you on it behind music. Today, a lot of djís put the Hon. Min.Louis Farrakhan over the new beats of today. I have not been taking seriously as a rapper because first I am a female and 2nd people feel I should be doing speaking engagements. But the youth from the streets donít go to conferences let alone trying to get them into a church or mosque. They watch music videos,listen to the radio and mixtapes. That is my generation. And Iím rapping to my generation, just to empower them and let them know that Iíve been there and look God got you to.
Cedric Muhammad: Who are some of the premier Native artists that we should know about?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Taboo from Black Eyed Peas is Aztec. I met him when I was dancing on Teen Summit. Even though we didnít know each other we both was soo proud that we are Native and doing the same thing. Also I am great friends with Litefoot he was in Mortal Combat as well as Indian in the Cupboard. He also is a rap artist. As far as the Brown side and political and talks about the struggle of our people is Immortal Technique. One thing I respect about with Immortal is that he is from South America but he says we are not called the so-called Latinos we are all Indigenous people. I am in the works right now doing a collaboration with him for my upcoming album.
Cedric Muhammad: I had the wonderful experience of attending the National Native American Pow Wow in Washington, D.C. this summer. I intend to write about it soon. But I have to honestly say that I had mixed feelings. I learned a lot, made connections and enjoyed the dances and culture I observed. But I also felt that there was somewhat of a circus atmosphere with us looking at people and their culture purely for entertainment or, as if it was, well, a circus. I also noticed pride and discomfort among some of those Natives in participation, at the attention they received. What do you think of the motivation and nature of the numerous showcases that take place featuring the various tribes?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: I love attending a pow wow. Yes, we do get at awe of the outfits and dancing because itís new for us. But some pow wow dancers I know, know that itís to be expected and itís to show big cities that we still have our culture and heritage. Even though I am African American I was at awe when I went to the African American Festival in Harlem.
Cedric Muhammad: What is your view of the 'partnership' between sovreign tribes and state governments as it relates to casino gambling? I have heard many arguments, pro and con from Native Americans, and I have discussed this at length with those I know at the National Indian Gaming Association (http://www.indiangaming.org/).
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: Your exactly right there are pros and cons with casinos on reservations let alone government partnership. The pro is that there is money being generated in Indian Country and tourism. But the con is where is the money going? Are the people benefiting from the casino money? Also because of tourism is the Native Americans shown as show pieces in museums and the tourist not respecting the land and the people? All of these are in question, it all depends from land to land. Some tribes to give back to the people. Some tribes donít. Itís such a big topic and Bro. Cedric we can talk about this for days. Or I can just take you to one of the reservations where one of the biggest casinos are, and you can see for yourself. I must mention this one point. When the government put us on patches of land called reservations they gave us nothing. They polluted the water, killed all the animals. We had nothing to the extent of us going back to the White House and begging for them to give us something so we can survive. They gave us healthcare and welfare and housing. On these patches of land there are the worldís riches oil, gold, etc. They have attempted to take these patches of land from us. Some have succeeded and some have not. Those that have not are using other tactics to get the nations richest lands back.
Cedric Muhammad: Where do you fall on the issue of sports mascots based upon Indian culture and personalities. Is it mockery or honor? Do you see how some, like the Seminole Tribe of Florida (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=2125735) defend the usage and praise their relationship with Florida State University?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: No it is a mockery! The same way there is the Washington Redskins, how would we feel it we had the Kansas City Coons?
Cedric Muhammad: What should we expect from you in the future Sister?
Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad: I pray that Allah (God) guides me, and protects me from evil so I can be able to bridge our families together with one mind, one heart and one spirit. Whether itís through my words or my works. I just live each day to the fullest because tomorrow is not guranteed.
Anyone interested in contacting Yo' Nas Da LoneWolf McCall-Muhammad can do so, via e-mail, at: email@example.com and through her website, www.queenyonasda.com
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.