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Trump’s Allies in The Senate Urge Him To Re-open The Government

Congress says all affected federal workers will get back pay as soon as the shutdown is over, but that brings little assurance to those who have immediate expenses

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USA, Government
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, walks to a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

One of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in the U.S. Senate is urging him to at least temporarily reopen the shuttered federal government and negotiate with Democrats on a border wall.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told Fox News Sunday he would still support a presidential emergency declaration after giving talks another chance.

“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal. If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off,” Graham said.

Graham echoed Trump by blaming the three-week long government shutdown on Democrats – specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who joked she would give Trump $1 for the border wall.

USA, Government
Vice President Mike Pence, center, looks on as House Minority Leader, now Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and President Donald Trump argue during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 11, 2018, in Washington. VOA

“How do you negotiate with the speaker of the house when she tells you even if you open up the government, we are not going to give you but $1 for the wall? So until that changes, there’s not much left except the national emergency approach,” Graham said on Fox.

Declaring a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexican border would allow Trump to spend the $5 billion he wants for a wall without congressional approval – a move Democrats would be expected to immediately challenge in court.

Democrats see waste of money

Most Democrats say they agree on the need for border security, but say there is no national security crisis and believe a wall would be an impractical waste of money.

“I do think if we reopen the government, if the president ends this shutdown crisis, we have folks who can negotiate a responsible, modern investment in technology that will actually make us safer,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said on Fox.

USA, Government
Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, gestures while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2018. VOA

Coons blames the impasse on border wall funding that led to the shutdown on Trump. He said the president had accepted a border security package that included money for a wall, then changed his mind.

“The only crisis here is one that’s been created by the president’s abrupt change in position at the end of last year in the last days of a Republican-controlled Congress,” Coons said. He added that Trump should test the Democrats’ willingness to compromise by the concessions he is willing to make clear to everyone.

Trump insists building a wall along the border will bring down the nation’s crime rate. He says illegal drugs are pouring into the United States from Mexico, even though security experts say most come through legal ports of entry.

He said he is in the White House waiting for Democrats to come and make a deal.

‘Having fun’

Trump chided 30 congressional Democrats for heading to a Hispanic Caucus retreat in Puerto Rico to watch a charity performance of the smash Broadway show “Hamilton.”

Trump mocked them for “having fun” while he remains in snowy Washington.

USA, Government
A woman takes a picture as floodlights from the U.S. side light up a border fence, topped with razor wire, Jan. 10, 2019, along the beach in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

But the lawmakers reportedly bought their own tickets to the show. They will also meet Puerto Rican officials on the recovery from Hurricane Maria – the powerful storm that devastated the island in 2017. They have also brought donated medical supplies.

Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees will begin their 24th day Monday either furloughed or working without pay.

Newspapers and TV newscasts across the country are filled with stories of government workers lying awake at night wondering how they are going to pay their bills.

Also Read: Broken Border’ More Dangerous Than ‘Shutdown’ : Donald Trump

Congress says all affected federal workers will get back pay as soon as the shutdown is over, but that brings little assurance to those who have immediate expenses and little or no savings in case of an emergency.

While Trump has said he “can relate” to their loss of income, he says a broken border is more damaging than a government shutdown. (VOA)

Next Story

“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

Also Read: Practice What You Preach: Celebrities Should Stand By Their Public Image In Private Domain

It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)