Welcome to the sixth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find an article on the fight over repatriation of ancient burial remains between the Kumeyaay Indians and the University of California at San Diego, a look at the year 1828 in American Indian history, five news briefs and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.
Presidents Day Resonates Differently Among American Indians ~ The Last Speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni Helps Launch Talking Dictionaries ~ Federal 2013 Budget Holds Steady for Indian Affairs ~ Energy Department OKs $6.5 Million for Tribal Clean Energy Projects
Beginning in the 1920s, 29 ancient burials have been uncovered on land currently owned by the University of California at San Diego in an area the Kumeyaay Indians call Skeleton Hill. It was commonplace for universities and museums to make remains of this nature part of their collections, either for exhibit or study until the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted in 1990. That law sets forth standards for repatriation of bones and other remains.
But most of the remains found in the last 80 years at the UCSD property have not been returned to the Kumeyaay, including the approximately 9,500 year old double burials found in 1976. And despite university scientists’ claim that these ancient bones have been kept solely for study purposes, they have been shared with numerous institutions. When they were returned from the Smithsonian, they had not been packaged in a curatorial manner, and showed signs of being treated carelessly and disrespectfully.
The Kumeyaay, who have occupied the lush area for thousands of years, were forced into the back country by the Spanish in 1769. But not without resistance. They were the only so-called “Mission Indians” to rise violently in large numbers against the invaders. After the United States pried California out of Mexican hands, it confined the Kumeyaay to small reservations in the 1850s. The Kumeyaay lost control of the land where their ancestors were buried, including the La Jolla property.
in La Jolla Farms
The Kumeyaay have gained one victory over UCSD. They permanently blocked the university’s plans to replace its 63-year-old adobe University House with a much larger modern structure. Construction was opposed because it would have required massive excavations further disturbing the ancient burial grounds. These are now legally protected as a sanctified cemetery through the work of the State Native American Heritage Commission. The La Jolla Historical Society got the property placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural, archaeological and tribal values. In place of its original plans, UCSD has approved a refurbishing of University House, which was long used by university chancellors as a venue for public gatherings.
But the dispute over repatriating the excavated skeletons remains unresolved.
The Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee (KCRC) was formed in 1997, with one member from each of the 12 federally recognized Kumeyaay bands in California. Its purpose is to repatriate human remains, artifacts and objects of cultural patrimony to the Kumeyaay tribe. Following the NAGPRA guidelines, KCRC has made repeated requests for repatriation of the remains found at UCSD. The law is clear:
This act safeguards Indian gravesites from disruption and creates a process by which Indian exhumations can be identified and returned to the tribes. The procedure couples Indian testimony and archaeological evidence to establish a tribe’s “cultural affiliation” to the remains. Cultural affiliation is established, according to the NAGPRA website, “when the preponderance of the evidence-based on geographical, kinship, biological, archeological, linguistic, folklore, oral tradition, historical evidence, or other information or expert opinion-reasonably leads to such a conclusion.” Once cultural affiliation between a group and a collection of bones or artifacts is set, the tribe has a right to those resources, whenever they were dug up and no matter how old they are.
During their efforts to resolve the situation, the KCRC has produced numerous maps and oral history connecting them over thousands of years to this land. The Kumeyaay believe they have proved that the double burials show a strong cultural connection to them. University scientists disagreed. The Kumeyaay reversed their traditional stance of not examining skeletal remains by requesting that a noninvasive investigation of the burials be carried out by a bioarchaeologist at San Diego State University and a Kumeyaay graduate student.
UCSD handled the original request by forming an internal NAGPRA review committee, which was biased by not appointing a single American Indian to serve alongside members that include people from the original dig team, as well as a spouse of a person on that team.
The committee’s majority report concluded that the remains are too old to be culturally connected to the Kumeyaay. There was, however, a dissenting opinion from Ross Frank, a UCSD professor and chair of the ethnic studies department. He said there was evidence supports cultural affiliation.
In addition, according to Science magazine, members of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists as well as Margaret Schoeninger-a UCSD anthropology professor who heads the review committee and is also married to Jeffrey Bada, an original member of the dig team-sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior making the claim that the bones are too important to be reburied.
In April 2009 at the annual meeting of the AAPA, Schoeninger made a presentation on the bones’ scientific importance.
Thus, a small group of scientists at UCSD are challenging the repatriation efforts of the UCSD chancellor and president who seek to return the bones.
Recently, NAGPRA was amended to allow all remains classed as culturally unidentifiable to be returned to any uncontested tribe who claims them. In December 2011, UCSD filed to return the remains under this new condition with Jan. 4, 2012, as the deadline for other tribes to make a claim. None stepped forward.
This is the second time UCSD has offered to return the remains as not culturally identifiable. The first time in 2009, UCSD removed the request when they learned the tribe was offended by an offer to return the remains with the designation of their not being culturally identifiable.
It is unclear if the Kumeyaay will receive the remains this time under this new condition.
Another development that should help the Kumeyaay in this matter is the finding of Arion T. Mayes (Cherokee), an associate professor of Biological Anthropology at San Diego State University, which shows that the remains have a shovel-tooth dental trait common among American Indians.
The UCSD opinion of this common dental trait has not been reported.
Courtney Coyle, a La Jolla attorney for the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians, one of the 12 bands, knows the history of this area well having been an advocate for American Indian rights for decades, and she is watching for the outcome with great interest. She says there are at least three questions to be answered.
Will the Kumeyaay accept UCSD’s new filing as being “culturally unidentifiable” remains that they feel they have shown to be “culturally affiliated”?
Will the UCSD scientists try to sue the administration to stop the repatriation, even though they have already had 45 years to study the remains and do not have standing under the new NAGPRA revision?
Will UCSD bow to the requests of a small handful of scientists or follow what its faculty senate and the local tribes want them to do?
On Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), Elias Boudinot published the first edition of the Cherokee Phoenix in English and Cherokee, using the famous 86-character syllabary invented by Sequoyah. In Cherokee, the name is Tsalagi Tsulehisanvhi. After changing its name a year later to the Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate, the paper survived in its original form until 1834 when the Cherokee government ran out of money to keep it going.
Over the years, several short-lived attempts were made to revive it. In 1975, when the Cherokee government came back into being, the paper was resurrected under the name The Cherokee Advocate. In 2000, the name was again changed to Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate. And, finally, in 2007, completing a 179-year circle, the tribal government changed it again to Cherokee Phoenix, adding an on-line version: Cherokee Advocate.org.
Children of an elite Cherokee family, Boudinot (born Gallegina Watie), and his brother, Stand Watie, were educated at the Foreign Mission School in Connecticut. The missionaries’ idea was to “civilize” young Indians who were seen as worthy. Boudinot-who took his English name from the president of the Second Continental Congress after meeting him-readily took to this. So much so that he and his brother both married white Connecticut women, creating quite the stir in both New England and, when they returned with their wives, in New Echota, where they raised their children as Cherokees.
The newspaper provided a forum for Boudinot, his partner and friend Samuel Worcester, and Cherokees of like mind. They encouraged tribal members to adopt white ways, including owning black slaves, while explaining the Cherokee way of life to whites sympathetic to the tribe’s continuing struggle for autonomy. The tribal council viewed the paper more as a way to get its point of view across to other Cherokees.
Problems soon arose because pressure for Indian removal to the west of the Mississippi River was reaching a fever pitch. The Phoenix became Boudinot’s platform to oppose removal. Among other things, he editorialized against the violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws by Georgia officials eager to get every Cherokee out of the state and take over tribal and individually owned land, which had the added allure of gold deposits.
After the Supreme Court ruled in 1832 in favor of Cherokee sovereignty, but President Andrew Jackson and the Georgians kept pressing for removal anyway, Boudinot reluctantly joined those in the tribal leadership seeking the best removal treaty they could get from Washington. However, other tribal leaders, including Chief John Ross, continued to reject removal and opposed the “Treaty Indians” as sell-outs. Boudinot was forced to resign the editorship. This was taken by Elijah Hicks, Ross’s brother-in-law. When the money ran out in 1834, Ross sought to move the press across the state line into Tennessee, but the Georgia Guard, which had been brutally harassing the Cherokee for years, destroyed the press and burned the Phoenix‘s offices. They were helped by Boudinot’s brother Stand Watie, who had joined the “Treaty Indians.”
The split over removal continued for years. In 1839, by which time all Cherokee had either voluntarily or at gunpoint arrived in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Boudinot was murdered. Some said but never proved this was done at the instigation of Ross. During the Civil War, Stand Watie, who had become a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, got revenge for that murder by burning Ross’s house.
Here is an excerpt from the Phoenix dated March 17, 1830:
The Indian Committees in both houses of Congress have reported, recommending as we anticipated, the removal of the Indians to the west of the Mississippi. The question is therefore now open for discussion, and soon we shall hear what is to become of us. The crisis is at hand. Will justice prevail? Will honor and plighted faith be regarded, and the poor Indians be shielded from oppression? These are momentous questions which must in a very short time receive a practical answer. If justice prevails, the Indians will assuredly be protected. But if treaties are disregarded and declared of no validity, as many high in office have already done, then indeed shall we be delivered over to our enemies-it matters not whether we hide ourselves in the western prairies-our enemies will have no difficulty in finding us there. If therefore we are to be sacrificed, let the bloody tragedy be accomplished here on our own native soil around the graves of our fathers & in the view of the people of these United States. The good people of this boasting republic may stand and gaze on the oppressive acts of Georgia, consenting or not, as they please, to our destruction. It will not require their aid to destroy us-they need only stand still-Georgia can accomplish her design easily–But there will be a reckoning hereafter.
It is said, however, that the general Government and the state of Georgia, do not contemplate using force. We have never intimated that open force will be resorted to–this would be too barefaced. But measures are in operation whose effects upon us are the same as those of compulsion. The object is our removal, and if it is ever accomplished, it must be done contrary to our wishes and inclinations, by means which honor and justice must forever reprobate. It makes no difference whether we are ousted at the point of the bayonet, or by indirect and oppressive measures–it is the same thing with us, and we wish the public to know it. People of the U. S. our appeal is to you—will you, with a relentless hand, extinguish all our rising expectations? […]
John Ross and Phyllis Edwards. (Click here for articles on their work.)
Throughout Indian Country, the annual commemoration of two of the nation’s most honored presidents generates more than a few sighs and eye-rolls. What? The revered “Father of His Country” and “The Great Emancipator” have naysayers (outside the neo-Confederate revisionists who view Abraham Lincoln as a dictator)? Yes.
If you ask American Indians who they think the worst president was, the most common response is likely to be Andrew Jackson. The guy who peers out at us after every visit to an ATM was the president who enforced Indian removal to what is now Oklahoma, fought three wars against Indians and ordered another and whose impact can still be felt in the ethnically cleansed South and most western of the states east of the Mississippi.
After that, it becomes tougher. So what of the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?
During the Revolutionary War, Washington instructed his subordinates to attack Iroquois stating, “lay waste all the settlements around … that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed” and do not “listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” Four years later, he compared Indians with wolves: “Both being beast of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.” During the destruction of 28 of the 30 Seneca towns, his troops skinned dead Indians’ bodies “from the hips downward to make boot tops or leggings.” Survivors called Washington “Town Destroyer.” (From David E. Stannard’s American Holocaust).
Lincoln had been a railroad lawyer before he became president, and he felt that the eventual success of the “Iron Horse” in the West would depend upon resolving the Indian “situation.” That was code for removing, exterminating and corralling Indians onto reservations. In Minnesota, where the Sioux had long clamored for the 1.4 million acres they had been promised in exchange for giving up 23 million acres, tensions bubbled over in 1862 and white settlers came under attack. Lincoln’s advisors and the president himself thought this was perhaps an uprising engineered by the South, speculation that was soon known to be false. So bad was the “situation” that Lincoln contemplated sending up to 10,000 Rebel POWs under Union command so that his generals could “Attend to the Indians.” When it was over some 500 whites and more than a 1000 Sioux were dead. Lincoln ordered the public hanging of 39 Santee Sioux (one was reprieved). This took place on Dec. 26, 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. See The Other Civil War: Lincoln and the Indians by David A. Nichols.
Further West, in 1863-64, Lincoln ordered attacks on the Navajo by Brig. Gen. James H. Carlton and his subordinate, Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson. They invaded and burned crops, raped, murdered and otherwise reigned terror on the Navajo and Mescalero Apache. Carleton had added incentive for his action, believing there was gold in the area. In his “General Order Number 15,” he told Carson to tell the Navajo: “This war will be pursued against you if it takes years until you cease to exist or move.” Subsequently, the Navajo were force-marched 300 miles to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. More than 200 Navajos died on this march, the eventual toll of the evacuation and ensuring captivity ending in death for some 2,000.
Teddy Roosevelt gets a thumbs down. He would have been an “Indian fighter” on the frontier had he moved West earlier, but his attitude was clear. America’s extermination of the Indians “was ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable,” he once said. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth”
Dwight Eisenhower gets a “Fail” for his support of laws that eventually led to the termination of more than 100 Indian tribes.
So if these were bad presidents, who among Indians is most admired? At Indian Country Today Media Network, Rob Capriccioso presents a list that includes a few names that may surprise some people:
Richard M. Nixon: Guided by his Indian affairs advisor Louis R. Bruce (Mohawk), Nixon endorsed a plan for “Self-determination … without the threat of eventual termination.” Several laws emerged from that over-reaching policy, including the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act that gave the tribes more control of their own economies.
Barack Obama: The “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land” (his adopted Crow name) has pushed the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act and the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement. He’s institutionalized an annual White House Tribal Nations summit and hired several Indians to posts throughout his administration.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: As part of the New Deal, there was an Indian New Deal that included the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. That effectively repealed several laws, including the infamous Dawes Act of 1887, and restored ownership of unallocated lands to the tribes. Congress eventually overrode some of the original intent of the law by weakening tribal governance and allowing the Bureau of Indians Affairs to continue its “supervision.
Bill Clinton: He hired many Indians to work in his administration. He issued an executive order requiring tribal consultation that strengthened Indian sovereignty via government-to-government relationship between Washington and the tribes. He apologized to Native Hawaiians for the coup that overthrew their government.
George H.W. Bush: He signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act into law in 1990 and proclaimed 1992 the “Year of the American Indian.”
Jimmy Carter: He signed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act into law in 1979, saying, “It is a fundamental right of every American, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, to worship as he or she pleases.”
(Photo courtesy of Ecotrust)
Alfred “Bud” Lane is the last fluent speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni. The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, a federally recognized confederation of 27 bands, originally living ranging from northern California to southern Washington. In 1855, they were confined on a small reservation on the central Oregon coast. The Siletz, like most other American Indian cultures, suffers from the impact of the government’s assimilation orders that forced the tribe’s youth in the late 1800s and early 1900s into boarding schools and forbade them from speaking their native language. Those generations endured the resulting ethnic shame and chose not to teach their language to their offspring in order for them to survive in the dominant culture and avoid at least some aspects of discrimination. The generations that followed them spoke only English. A rare few carried on their native tongues.
The Athabaskan-based Siletz Dee-Ni is one of many American Indian languages that faces extinction, a moribund language, according to linguists. Siletz Dee-Ni has been designated one of 20 endangered language hotspots in the world by Greg Anderson and David Harrison at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and rated in the most severe category. “Language Hotspots are areas that are urgently in need of action and should be the areas of highest priority in planning future research projects and channeling funding streams.”
recording Siletz Dee-Ni for the Talking Dictionary Project
(Photo courtesy of the Living Tongues Institute
for Endangered Languages)
An interactive world map of these hotspots is featured at National Geographic‘s Disappearing Languages and Enduring Voices page.
As language defines a culture, measures are now being taken to keep native tongues alive to preserve our rich and precious identities. The Talking Dictionary project has produced eight audible banks of vocabulary worldwide, the Siltez Dee-Ni 12,000-word version is here. You can enter an English word and the Siltez Dee-Ni equivalent is produced, along with usage examples. “Bud” Lane’s voice is used in the recordings.
In 2005 language classes were set up in the Siletz Valley School classrooms for all tribal members. The goal is a reversal of the moribund language label by extending the language to new generations of Siletz Dee-Ni. This is one more element in the effort to recruit elders into our reservation schools to resuscitate our dying languages. See the Feb. 12 edition of FNN&V for an article titled “American Indian Elders Incorporated into Learning Curriculum at Schools.”
Another new development on the language front is a new app that hit the iTunes store Jan. 20. The app features translations of words for animals in four American Indian languages-Diné (Navajo), Lakota (Sioux), Mvskoke (Muscogee Creek) and Ponca.
The app has been criticized by some for being too elementary. But the developers at Native American Public Telecommunications have responded by saying it’s merely a beginning. They plan to add to the number of words featured and also open the coding to tribes so the app can be expanded to other languages.
The app is free and can be found by searching “Native Language App” in the iTunes store.
The Cherokee Phoenix reports that the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair will be held April 2-3. ‘The fair is an annual competition held for Native students from throughout the state. In 2011, more than 600 students spoke 32 Native American languages during the fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.’ Participants from preschool to high school demonstrate their skills through spoken language, songs, poster art, films, essays and presentations. The theme for poster art is “Language in My Heart.”
(Photo courtesy of The Aurora Sentinel)
In Colorado, state Sen. Suzanne Williams, (Comanche) (D-Aurora), is sponsoring Senate Bill 57 that would allow schools to hire teachers without licenses-tribal elders, for example-to instruct students in Native languages, including Comanche, Ute and Navajo. “The proposal is still at the beginning stages of the lawmaking process and was heard on the Senate floor on Feb. 22 after being passed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee. The bill hadn’t been heard on the Senate floor by FNN&V press time. There was no opposition testimony at the committee hearing.”
Some Colorado school districts have as many as 250 American Indian students, enough, it is believed, to help revitalize the different tribes’ cultures if they receive the right assistance through such hiring.
All these developments in revitalizing our languages is encouraging.
The Obama administration proposes to spend $2.5 billion in the next fiscal year to meet the government’s responsibilities to the 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. This is a drop of only $4.6 million over 2012. But there has been considerable shuffling of budget items.
Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk (Pawnee) said:
“The budget request maintains President Obama’s commitment to strengthening tribal nations by making targeted increases in Indian Affairs programs that support tribal self-determination in managing BIA-funded programs, increase public safety in tribal communities by strengthening police capabilities, improve the administration of tribal land, mineral, timber and other trust resources and advance Indian education. Indian Affairs is sensitive to the need for achieving greater results at a lower cost, and the proposed budget reflects the tough choices that will make us more cost efficient in carrying out our missions.”
A key concern is violent crime on some reservations, and the president has pledged to push various initiatives to deal with it. In that regard, the budget includes $353.9 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement with a targeted boost of $11 million to enable the BIA to improve its recruitment and hiring of law enforcement officers and detention center staff.
Included within that line item is $24.6 million for tribal courts to support the enhanced capabilities given to them in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 and an expansion of the two-year-old program to reduce crime on the four reservations with the highest violent crime rates. Overall, that program, which put more police officers and better equipment on the chosen reservations brought about a 35 percent combined reduction in violent crime. Two additional reservations will be added to the program.
Also in the proposed budget:
• $43.8 million in “nation-to-nation relationships” (up $12.3 million)
• $3.5 million in increased funding for land and water claim settlements
• $15.4 million for Rights Protection Implementation to support implementation of federal court orders resulting from decisions in off-reservation treaty rights litigation with additional funding for: the Tribal Management Development Program for management of on-reservation fish and game programs; participation of the BIA and tribes in landscape conservation cooperatives; the control of invasive species; various tribal forestry programs
• Trust Services (up $5.5 million) to support the BIA’s responsibilities of trust services, probate and land titles and records, and an additional $1.5 million to assist tribes in protecting trust resources.
• $796.1 million for Bureau of Indian Education schools (an increase of $653,000 above the 2012 level), which includes specific increases for tribal colleges and universities, for teaching workplace skills, and scholarships for adult education and post-secondary schools
• $36.3 million for BIA Land and Water Claim Settlements to fund pacts that help deliver clean drinking water to Indian communities and provide certainty to water users across the West.
Increases in the budget of some items are covered by decreases in others, particularly management, informational technology, building new schools and the Indian Student Equalization Program (reflecting a decline in student population and the Indian Guaranteed Loan Program.
Since 2002, the Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program has provided $36 million to 159 tribal energy projects. The DOE has now added $6.5 million for 19 more projects.
In a press release, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said:
“As President Obama highlighted in the State of the Union, the administration is committed to building an American economy that lasts and leverages our nation’s clean energy resources,” said Secretary Chu. “The awards announced will help tribes across the country advance a sustainable energy future for their local communities, spur economic development, and advance innovative clean energy technologies.”
Consistent with the administration’s approach of consulting with Indians rather than handing down ready-made solutions with little or no tribal input, in the past year the DOE has set up the Indian Country Energy Infrastructure Working Group and begun programs that provide technical assistance and give Indian youth a chance to learn skills in energy development, financing and construction.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the new money goes to feasibility studies instead of actual projects. They are:
• 13 projects funded at $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing generate utility-scale power from renewable sources or study the feasibility of installing renewable energy systems on buildings to reduce energy use by 30 percent.
• $1.7 million for pre-construction development of four renewable energy projects activities. Three of these would each provide a generating capacity of 250 megawatts. The fourth would reduce by 80 percent the need for diesel fuel used in heating, about or 9600 gallons annually.
• $1.3 million for two renewable energy projects that will convert waste and other biomass capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity from municipal solid waste and using cordwood for heating, thus saving between 2,500 and 3,200 gallons of propane
• Indian Reservations See More Violence But Fewer Federal Prosecutions: Violent crime rates on the 310 Indian reservations in the United States have violent crime rates of more than two and a half times the national average. But the Justice Department files charges in only about half of reservation murder investigations and turns down nearly two-thirds of sexual assault cases. American Indian women are 10 times more like to be murdered than other Americans.
-Meteor Blades with h/t Bill in MD
• Headline Writers Still Go for the Offensive: In a story about the Seneca Nation of New York’s objections to the state’s new gambling initiatives on the grounds that violate a 2002 compact with the tribe, the New York Post headline writer apparently fell back on movie Westerns for inspiration: Seneca Nation on warpath.
• Alaskan Natives Cast in Movie Now Playing in Major Theaters: Ahmaogak Sweeney, (Inupiat) age 10 and John Pingayak (Chup’ik) are featured as grandson and grandfather in Big Miracle, a true story about a dramatic rescue to save a family of majestic gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.
• Appeals Court Rules Against Wyoming’s Attempt to Dilute Indian Votes: The court upheld a lower court decision saying that Fremont County’s “hybrid” voting districts had been “devised solely for the purpose of segregating citizens into separate voting districts on the basis of race without sufficient justification.”
• Hearing Set in S.D. for Convicted Killer of Anna Mae Aquash: On March 19, the South Dakota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on John Graham’s appeal of his 2010 conviction for the 1975 murder of American Indian Movement activist Annie Mae Aquash. Grahan (Southern Tutchone) was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison last year.
Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither navajo nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.