Manataka American Indian Council






Change Is Coming...


For many years, MAIC successfully worked with the National Park Service in conducting spiritual gatherings at Gulpha Gorge.  From 1927 to 1945, Chief Benito Gray Horse led ceremonies in the Gorge and after his death, his wife, Napanee Gray Horse led ceremonies in Gulpha Gorge until 1989.  From 1989 to 2004, Lee Standing Bear Moore and other Elders of Manataka conducted American Indian ceremonies at the Gorge without incident.  In cooperation with the NPS, members of Manataka regularly picked up trash along creek beds and on the mountain, animals and birds were cared for, and visitors to the park were treated to campfire stories and singing.


All that abruptly changed.  In 2004, Josie Fernandez was given a political appointment to the position of Superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park.  Immediately, Fernandez began a reign of terror against Manataka and other Indian-looking groups.  She made it impossible to obtain a religious permit to conduct ceremonies.  For several years MAIC attempted to obtain a permit for a gathering in Gulpha Gorge to conduct ceremony at the foot of the sacred mountain.  These permits, however, were withheld due to religious prejudice and bureaucratic demagoguery. 


Groping for a reason to deny MAIC a permit, Josie Fernandez, threw a photo of a circle of stones on the table in front of two Manataka elders, as she yelled "this is proof that MAIC destroyed park property..." Later in the meeting she stated that MAIC would be given the same rights as she would give to other "heathens and pagans."  Fernandez demanded a huge financial bond after she designated Manataka's sacred ceremonial tipi lodge a "commercial" entertainment devise. 


The right of religious freedom guaranteed by the US constitution is clearly being violated.  MAIC reserves its option to file federal and state law suits against Fernandez for this and other constitutional rights violations, but the Elders of Manataka walk in peace and refrain from legal fist shaking that tends to sensationalize issues.  A lawsuit may fail to change the hearts of antagonistic people, even though it could adversely change their pocketbook.  The decision on this issue awaits the Elders. 


Still, it is apparent that Josie Fernandez has some fear of MAIC.  In 2007, the Hot Springs National Park Service published a book that claims Manataka was never considered a sacred site by indigenous peoples.   Poorly argued, starting with the premise of 'what is not', the book was authored by a government park service employee who acknowledges that he was allowed to write the book while on the job.   This book was researched, written and published using taxpayer dollars.


Also in 2007, Fernandez played a major role in writing a hate website called 'Manataka Exposed' created a rouge organization called the American Indian Heritage Center (AIHC).  The website was developed by a former National Park Service employee.  AIHC has no 'center', no address, no telephone number, no members, and no activities, except to promote hate with false allegations. 


Fernandez then paid tax dollars to have an elaborate display of Hot Springs history in the enclosed observation level at Hot Springs Mountain Tower.  The display lavishly depicts recent history, but thousands of years of American Indian history is barely mentioned, except for one large panel that shows a picture of the holy Mother of the Mountain, Rainbow Woman, and the words “Myth” and “Manataka” in large letters.  The sign contains a number of slurs and lies about Hot Springs history.  This sign is sacrilegious and an abomination of bigotry at its worst!  And, the display also violates Manataka’s legal trademark!


At the same time Superintendent Fernandez was suing the Hot Springs Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission in federal court for trademark infringement, she was stealing the MAIC name and logo.   And, she did it to degrade the sanctity of the ancient stories of Manataka.  Fernandez lost her federal law suit against the City.


In 2007 and 2008, park rangers continued to harass and threaten MAIC members but much less frequently because the Elders moved gatherings and small events to other locations around the city and performed ceremonies on top of the mountain only at night and other special times to avoid confrontations.  Over time, MAIC members and their ceremonies became invisible to Superintendent Fernandez. 


As taxpayers, we all paid for the bigoted actions of Fernandez.  Born and raised in communist Cuba under Fidel Castro, she learned ways to use government power to destroy indigenous people.  Now she wants to erase all memories of the sacred places across this country.  Fernandez and her bureaucrat minions say Indians never used the sacred waters.  They say there is no history of the Nations gathering here.


But the Grandfathers of many nations still tell of this sacred ground that holds meaning for all First Nations people; a place where pilgrimages were made from as far away as Central America, to join in the great circle of peace, pray, perform ceremonies and await the secrets of life given by the Creator of All Things. 


These stories are honored and preserved by the Manataka American Indian Council (MAIC).   Each year MAIC offers several educational gatherings, free to the public.  But MAIC has not been allowed to obtain the permit necessary to perform the sacred ceremonies that the Grandfathers once performed.  Since 2008, Manataka Elders have refused to apply for a permit.  According to Lee Standing Bear Moore, the Keeper of Manataka, "We will never ask permission to pray from a  bureaucrat."   Manataka is a church and the Manataka American Indian Council is a church and we do not ask anyone when, where or how to pray."


In October 2012, MAIC was a major sponsor of the MOMENT event where a thousand people gathered on TOP of the Hot Springs Mountain and declared it "Sacred Ground".


MAIC's name did not appear on the NPS permit.  Fernandez was fully aware that Manataka was a major sponsor, but  helpless to stop the event after many attempts -- some unethical, if not illegal.    


MAIC persists in the ways of the ancestors and in keeping with the high principals and ethics of indigenous people.  


For many years, members and guests of Manataka endured strong-arm harassment, insults and illegal searches by Fernandez's park rangers.  Our religious ceremonies were interrupted by loud, billy-club wielding rangers.  Leaders of MAIC have been threatened with arrest while praying inside the sacred circle.  Many of our guests and grandmothers were intimidated and frightened away from the gatherings.  


Unlike the past, the 2012 MOMENT gathering was peaceful and there were no reported incidents by guests or the NPS.  Something good happened.


Many good things are happening now.




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