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Planet Earth

Dept of Over Analysis

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorFebruary 8, 2009 7:45 PM

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Some American Indian leaders and academics seem to think that President Obama's inaugural address advocated the disbanding of American Indian tribes, or at least the elimination of ethnic identities . Here's the offending passage:

"We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of the Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

Most "jarring" to some Native American ears, is the phrase, that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve. This interpretation of Obama's intent from a Seneca law professor at Syracuse University should clear up any confusion:

"I don't think he was referring to Indian tribes, but I do think the words are disturbing. What the president was speaking to was the erasing of ethnic lines of distinction on a global level--lines of distinction which differentiate humanity--of which indigenous peoples are a part. So, in that sense, I'm concerned about the president's apparent desire to see the "tribal" lines that distinguish peoples from one another disappear."

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