Marion Witte

February 5, 2017

Has Andrew Jackson Come Back to Finish the Job?

Filed under: Society — Marion Witte @ 1:31 am

President Trump, in his first days in office, has been drawing comparisons of himself to Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, a populist who campaigned against elites and was known as temperamental and rash. Trump’s chief adviser, Stephen Bannon, ordered a portrait of Jackson, with his distinctive shock of white hair, to be hung in the Oval Office.  The White House has confirmed that Bannon was the co-author of Trump’s “very Jacksonian” inaugural address.

I originally posted the following information on my blog, in 2013, as a historical perspective regarding President Andrew Jackson and his official treatment of the Native American population by the United States government.  I was attempting to bring attention to what happened to the indigenous community in my native state, North Dakota.

As a cautionary warning from almost four years ago – when someone tells you who they are – or who the admire – believe them!

Originally Posted June 22, 2013

I was born and raised on the prairies of North Dakota, so let me give you a little history lesson about my state.  The information I am relaying in this blog was not taught to me in the elementary school, high school or university that I attended.  I discovered it myself after doing research on my own as an adult. The reader is free to do the same.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, signed the Indian Removal Act in May of 1830, in an effort to displace Native Americans from their land to make way for white settlers.  On December 6, 1830, he outlined his removal policy in his Second Annual Message to Congress.

Activities pursuant to this Act continued for the next 40 years, and escalated during 1873-1883.  The United States government, in coordination with commercial hide-hunting companies, promoted the slaughter of the American buffalo, including those in the Dakota Territory, my homeland. The bison was a primary source of sustenance for the Great Plains Indian tribes, as well many other tribes across the United States.

The decimation of the buffalo was part of a deliberate, and successful, effort to starve the Indians into submission. Many high-ranking U.S. officials were explicit about their intentions. In 1873, Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano declared “The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains.”  Two years later, General Philip Sheridan told a joint session of Congress that buffalo hunters had done more to settle what he called “the vexed Indian question” than the entire U.S. army was able to accomplish.  Sheridan urged the politicians to continue to support the hunters.  “For the sake of lasting peace,” he said, “let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated.”

By 1884, the bison population in the United States was basically extinct.  Although the exact extent of the carnage cannot be determined, it has been estimated that the population of 30 to 50 million buffalo was reduced to less than 1,000. This is one of the worst, and perhaps the most under-reported, animal slaughters by humans ever undertaken on our planet.

And, as planned, the systemic annihilation of the Native Americans was well on its way to victory.

Well done, President Jackson.  Mission accomplished!


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November 3, 2014

Marion Witte Appointed as Ventura County Special Advocate

Filed under: Society — Marion Witte @ 5:41 pm


On November 3, 2014, Marion Witte of Ventura, California was inducted as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the County of Ventura by Judge Bruce A. Young.  CASA is a unique non profit organization which recruits, screens and trains community volunteers to become the voices of children who find themselves in court through no fault of their own.

Ventura County CASA has existed since 1985, when a group of concerned judges, attorneys and community members felt that objective, caring support for these children was necessary during court proceedings and during out of home placement. The CASA advocate, as an officer of the court, is the eyes and ears of the court, reporting the child’s progress and needs to the judge and the attorneys.


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August 15, 2013

The New Gang Culture – This is Not “West Side Story”

Filed under: Society — Marion Witte @ 1:44 pm

Say No to GangsOddly, I have been exposed to what seems like more than my fair share of gang violence.

I recently sat through eight days of the jury selection process pertaining to the trial of a known member of the largest Hispanic gang in Oxnard, California.  He allegedly robbed and killed a local businessman in cold blood as he exited a bank in Oxnard.  The victim was carrying a satchel of cash that he was transporting to his check-cashing facility.  I was glad I was not chosen for the panel, although I am sure I would have been dismissed had I been called up for questioning and relayed the following information.

When I lived in the Coachella Valley in California, two of my closest friends were robbed at gun point by members of a Hispanic gang in Indio, California.  My friends were brothers, and they were exiting their check-cashing facility, located in their meat and produce store, with $100,000 in cash that they were transporting to another of their stores.  The thieves were lying in wait in the parking lot.  After turning over the satchel to the robbers, one of my friends was shot repeatedly in the chest, and his younger brother was shot in the back as he attempted to flee.  The gang community closed ranks around its members, and provided alibis for the shooters.  Ironically, both of my friends were also Hispanic.

Five years after the horrific trauma my friends endured, I was mugged and robbed  by four gang members in Palm Desert, California, in the parking lot of a Michael’s store.  One of the robbers was lying in wait under my car, and he attacked me as I approached my vehicle.  The police said I was lucky I did not resist, as they knew which gang was responsible for the crime, and they informed me that the members were armed and violent. None of the perpetrators in either of these events were ever apprehended or prosecuted.

When I moved to California’s Coachella Valley in 1985, gangs had little presence in that community. Today, three of the eight cities in the valley have gang injunctions imposed within their city limits – Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Indio.  These are similar to the gang injunction granted to the city of Oxnard, California in 2004, and to several other cities in the State of California.

Unless you have had some direct or indirect experiences with gang violence, many people believe it is an “internal problem” that affects only certain areas or certain communities. To the contrary, gang violence affects all of us.

This information was compiled by the National Gang Intelligence Center of the FBI:

1. Approximately 1.4 million gang members were criminally active in the United States as of April 2011.  The number of identified gangs in the U.S. is over 33,000.

2. The numbers compiled in 2011 represents a 40% increase from two years prior (2009) when the gang population was estimated at 1.0 million members

3. Gangs are responsible for an average of 48% of the violent crimes in the United States, and up to 90% of such crimes in several large cities.

4. Gangs are increasingly engaging in human trafficking, prostitution, counterfeiting, identity theft and mortgage fraud, in addition to their core activities of drug trafficking, robbery and violent assaults.

5. The best estimates of the ethnic breakdown of these gangs is approximately 49% Hispanic/Latino, 34% African American, 10% Caucasian, 6% Asian and 1% other ethnicities.

This rise of the gang population in this country is nothing less than an epidemic.  The illegal activities of these gangs are not confined solely to the neighborhoods in which they live, since they engage in violence and crimes far beyond the walls of their communities.

Evil prevails when good men and women do nothing, and nothing changes unless we accept that there is a problem.  An honest, open and frank national dialogue is long overdue about what we can do to address the threat that gangs pose to the societal, emotional and spiritual health of our country.

Pierce Morgan of CNN has become the self-appointed voice for the gun-control debate in this country.  Perhaps he would consider taking on the topic of the effects of the gang activity in this country.  The sheer magnitude of the destruction inflicted upon our society by gang activities makes the issue of gun control seems like child’s play.

Sadly, gangs are an issue we must contend with in our changing world – and lest we get confused about what gangs are involved with and what they look like, the current gang culture bears no resemblance to that portrayed in West Side Story!

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April 4, 2013

Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader – From 1895?

Filed under: Society — Marion Witte @ 12:32 am


I remember my father telling me, with some embarrassment, that he had completed only eight years of elementary school. In the Midwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was actually the exception for students to go on to high school after completing elementary school, as teenagers needed to be available to work full time on the family farm. Completing elementary school was therefore the culmination of the formal education for many students. Recently, I ran across some fascinating information, and it totally changed my perception of what it meant to have an eighth grade education over one hundred years ago.

This is the eighth grade final examination from 1895 in Salina, Kansas. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

April 13, 1895

J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.

Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

Health (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.

There are “myth-busters” who believe the exam questions were much too difficult for an eighth grader, and that it must have been written for older students. In spite of this, the existence of the examination has been proven, and the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library of Salina stands behind the records in its files.

Whatever the exact details are of this matter, I offer this posting as something for us all to ponder, as we think about what students were expected to comprehend about their world so long ago, and what we expect of them today.

In the interest of full disclosure – I would have failed this exam miserably!


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January 2, 2012

Take a Stance – Take a Chance

Filed under: Society — Marion Witte @ 10:19 pm

In the mid-1990s I had the honor to meet Billy Mills, the second Native American to ever win an Olympic Gold medal and the subject of the 1984 film Running Brave. This United States Marine told of us his struggle to achieve his goals, and the types of prejudice he encountered along the way. His story affected me so much that I choose to honor him in a way that others thought was a radical decision. Actually, it did not seem at all outrageous to me  it made perfect sense.

Billy Mills

Billy Mills

One of the projects Billy Mills was involved in was the removal of offensive Native American mascots from the athletic departments of universities in the United States. His plea deeply touched me. The mascot of the university where I graduated was a caricature of a member of an Indian tribe, including a politically insensitive tag-line. Many Native Americans found this offensive, and they had waged battles against the school to have the mascot retired. They always lost.

When I returned to my office after Billy’s presentation, I wrote to the President of the school I graduated from and asked to have my name taken off of any school records. I advised him that I would reinstate my name after the mascot was changed.

I saw Billy again that week, and I told him what I had done. I still cherish the autographed copy of “Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding that he gave me that day, and I will never forget the tears that welled up in his eyes as he signed his book.

I got a nice letter back from my university, stating that they were sorry I felt the way I did, but that the name was steeped in tradition and it was going to be retained. I am under no false illusions that my actions had any impact on my school’s position. On the other hand, it was important for me to take a stance about an issue of which I felt strongly.

I would hope that each of us would do that at least once in our life.

To Makata Taka Hela – one of my heroes!

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