Legal footwork

The PS has a recap of what happened in Albany yesterday with the first hearing on the Onondaga Nation’s land rights action. The U.S. District Judge reserved decision, which was not unexpected. The big question is whether or not the federal government will join in the suit with the Onondagas against the State of New York, as they have for other Haudenosaunee groups seeking to uphold federal treaties.

I was not in Albany with the other supporters, but I did attend the vigil at Clinton Square on Wednesday night, which was a nice, low-key event. I thought it was interesting how, undirected, people naturally arranged themselves into a circle (not as a group bunched together in knots, like you typically see in photos of candlelight vigils). This reminded me of the social dance for the Onondagas and the Syracuse community that I attended last winter. The main participatory dance was the Circle Dance, where everyone forms a huge enclosing ring and performs the same moves.

In a non-Native context, that’s not socializing; something like a square dance would be preferred, which depends on tight and ever-shifting circles of association which are called by the fiddler. You dance to his tune, never seeing the big picture or breaking out of the prescribed whirl. You hope you end up with a “good” partner. If not, you can always dump that one and seek another (at least, within the limited context of this dance you don’t control). That’s the nature of the square dance.

Now the Onondagas have joined this unfamiliar legal square dance, where one hopes the tune is called by justice and not by other powerful interests. This dance is going to go on for quite some time.