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Michael Two Horses, 1953-2003

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Obituary for Michael Two Horses (1950-2003)

Michael Two Horses, Sicangu Lakhota/Crow Creek Dakhota, passed away recently at his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was fifty years old. His death was unexpected and peaceful.

Mr. Two Horses was Visiting Instructor in the American Indian Studies Program and the Humanities Program, within the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He was also a member of the Virginia Tech Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity. He was a doctoral student in the University of Arizona American Indian Studies Programs. His emphasis was on societies and cultures, law and public policy, and American Indian history.

Mr. Two Horses was born in San Diego to Alberta Mariana Bertino and David Two Horses Jordan, and adopted at six months of age by Edward and Sadie Lou Tieri. He served in Viet Nam with Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, stationed first at Tay Ninh, then at Long Tranh, and was Petty Officer 2nd.

He is survived by his father, Edward Tieri of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his brother, Albert Tieri of Palm Springs, California, and a large community of friends and colleagues.

Mr. Two Horses will be remembered for his exhaustively brilliant research and writing and his passionately honest dedication to human rights, particularly with respect to American Indian treaty rights, spiritual rights, and cultural rights. During the Makah whaling controversy, he formed CERTAIN, the Coalition to End Race-based Targeting of American Indian Nations. He went repeatedly to Neah Bay while anti-whaling forces were threatening school children, harassing the Makah people, and threatening the lives of the whalers. With CERTAIN, Mr. Two Horses engaged the opponents of the Makah's treaty rights in dialogue, countering their arguments in the media, taking photographs and witnessing to protect the Makah from further physical attack, and acting in conjunction with the Washington Human Rights Commission and the US Coast Guard to protect the lives and rights of the Makah people.

Mr. Two Horses was equally engaged in expanding the scholastic dialogue. He persistently pointed out elements of racism in the dominant cultural perspective on American Indians, in the face of pedagogical tendencies to trivialize these concerns. He declined to acquiesce to that marginalization in the discourse.

He investigated the growing rift between mainstream environmentalists and tribal nations across the US and Canada, and the way that much environmental writing fails to consider the role of indigenous peoples in shaping the so-called "wilderness." "They did not want to acknowledge," he wrote, "in much the same way as colonial writers did, that the human hand has always shaped this continent, and that in creating false constructs of 'pristine wilderness' and of cities as 'fallen' areas, such writing tends to avoid completely the contested lands where members of marginalized races or classes live, and fails to deal with the concept of 'national sacrifice areas' in human terms, inasmuch as the Indians, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, and poor Whites living in those areas are sacrificed as well. These are zones where uranium mines and coal mines and their pollution of groundwater, or toxic waste dumps are located, without exception in proximity to marginalized peoples)."

He was ruthless toward "plastic shamans," people white or native who hawk Indian spirituality. "They abstract bits of our culture," he said, "and then they sell them as the genuine article, something along the lines of taking parts of the Catholic liturgy and extracting the 'cool parts' and then performing those parts for money. This is the deepest essence of what they do, and it is comprised of both 'snake oil sales' and of a deep disrespect for Native cultures."

A memorial service for Mr. Two Horses will be held on January 19, 2004 at 5:30 p.m. in the War Memorial Chapel at Virginia Tech. The Corps of Cadets will play taps.

Ben Dixon, Virginia Tech Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, has announced that the University's January 19th Diversity Summit will be dedicated to Mr. Two Horses. The Diversity Summit is a major university gathering intended to promote a climate of diversity on campus. A scholarship in Mr. Two Horses' name for American Indian Studies will be initiated, said Interdisciplinary Studies Department Chair Dr. Elizabeth Fine. Contributions can be made to the Virginia Tech Foundation for the Michael Two Horses Scholarship in American Indian Studies.

In lieu of flowers, it is requested that well-wishers make contributions to the social activism causes of their choice, in the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, the philosophy which Mr. Two Horses practiced.

This obituary was originally disseminated via the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) listserv. The NAME Web site is at www.nameorg.org. The article originally appeared at: http://triballaw.wabanaki.net/archives/000030.html.

Article submitted to NAME listserv by Gina Boltz, Director
Native Village

2004 ESL MiniConference Online