News from Native American Netroots

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Welcome to News from Native American Netroots, a Sunday evening series focused on indigenous tribes primarily in the United States and Canada but inclusive of international peoples also.

A special thanks to our team for contributing the links that have been compiled here. Please provide your news links in the comments below.

Vanishing Words, Vanishing World: ‘When we lose a culture, the whole world loses’

PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION — Skin has gathered at the corners of her eyes into soft brown wrinkles, and the tattoos on her forearms have faded into an inky blue.

Bernice Spotted Eagle rests on a couch in her three-bedroom house, her feet protected from cold linoleum floors by red slippers. The house is warmed by space heaters, one of which almost burned the house down.

But it is this house, she says as she gestures with small hands, that used to be so packed with relatives and friends, sleeping bags littering the floor every night.

Judge says no to mistrial in reservation slaying

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – Tempers flared in a 34-year-old South Dakota murder case Friday when the government’s key witness described the defendant as an enforcer for a leader of a militant American Indian group that clashed with tribal and federal agents in the 1970s.

Arlo Looking Cloud took the stand for the second day in the federal trial of Richard Marshall, who is charged with aiding and abetting the 1975 slaying of Annie Mae Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Aquash, a member of Mi’kmaq Tribe of Nova Scotia, participated in the American Indian Movement’s 1973 armed occupation of the Pine Ridge village of Wounded Knee, a two-month siege that included ferocious gun battles with federal officers.

EPA Awards Nearly $80 Million to Cleanup and Revitalize Our Communities: Neighborhoods to gain health, environmental and economic benefits

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has selected $78.9 million in brownfields grants to communities in 40 states, four tribes, and one U.S. Territory. This funding will be used for the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields properties, including abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, closed smelters, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

The brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. As of March 2010, EPA’s brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $14 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding, and 61,277 jobs in cleanup, construction, and redevelopment. These investments and jobs target local, under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods – places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed. Cleaning up our communities is one of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities, which leads not only to health and environmental benefits but also economic development and prosperity.

Navajo Nation Council Calls on Obama to Protect Sacred Places

On April 22nd Earth Day, the Navajo Nation Council passed a resolution calling on Obama to protect sacred places. The document also calls on the US to immediately sign onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Navajo Nation Council additionally urges the US President to meet with the tribe to discuss the protection of the holy San Francisco Peaks & other sacred places before May 8th 2009.

Bolivia: Being Present to Honor the Earth

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — At the close of the World Climate Conference, the Hall of Shame award goes to the mainstream US media, which usually pretends to be covering world events. In the case of the World Climate Conference, the mainstream US media was not only noticeably absent, but the armchair journalists pumped out spin articles to discredit Bolivian President Evo Morales. Take note of who wrote the ‘chicken’ articles and other negative articles, and follow their writing. Whether it is CIA-inspired, or just journalists attempting to make themselves look clever, the intent is to distract from the real purpose of the climate conference.

The real purpose is to rescue this planet from destruction by corporations and personal indulgence. President Evo Morales had the vision to bring people from all over the world here, people ready to rely on the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples to guarantee the protection of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

The ninth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will be held April 19-30 at the UN headquarters in New York. This year’s special theme is development with culture and identity. Cultural Survival is organizing two side events:

Thursday, April  22   1:15-2:45 PM

Persuading the US, New Zealand and Canada to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

1 UN Plaza

Conference Room DC2,  12th floor

New York, New York

Participants will consider how to persuade the US, New Zealand, and Canada to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this year.

Friday, April 23 1:15-2:45 PM  

Mapping Community-Based Protected Areas: a model for sustainable development and cultural and environmental protection

UNICEF Conference Room

1 UN Plaza

New York, New York

This event examines how taking a community-based approach to setting up protected areas can promote sustainable development. Such an approach integrates indigenous knowledge with solid science. By respecting traditional livelihoods, tenure, culture, and access to resources it also conserves ecosystems and biodiversity.

Cosponsors: CORALINA and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

EPA awards Cheyenne River Sioux $200,000 to clean up school property in White Horse

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe a $200,000 brownfields grant to clean up and revitalize the Old White Horse Day School property on BIA Route 4 (White Horse Road).

“Strengthening our nation’s Tribal communities is one of EPA’s top priorities,” said Carol Rushin, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator in Denver. “This grant will help the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe transform a contaminated property into a community asset that provides new economic opportunities and jobs.”

From 1952 to 1995, the Bureau of Indian Affairs maintained and ran the school. The site is contaminated with metals, PCBs, and inorganic contaminants. Following cleanup, the Tribe is interested in constructing a new community building at the site, along with space to house a fire truck.

Bloody Oil

George Poitras, member of Mikisew Cree indigenous First Nation talks about the issues of pollution and cancers suffered by many of the First Nations people as a result of the Oil companies action extractive industries.

“My people are dying, and we believe British companies are responsible. My community, Fort Chipewyan in Alberta, Canada, is situated at the heart of the vast toxic moonscape that is the tar sands development. We live in a beautiful area, but unfortunately, we find ourselves upstream from the largest fossil fuel development on earth. UK oil companies like BP, and banks like RBS, are extracting the dirtiest form of oil from our traditional lands, and we fear it is killing us.” – George

BP has been prompted to disclose much information that has not been publicly available before. Tar sands has become a hot topic among the investment community and BP has been subject to a far higher level of investor scrutiny on the issue than ever before.

Chocolate’s Indigenous history makes for sweet, spicy tale

WASHINGTON – Chocolate is a flavor as old and varied as the Americas, says Richard Hetzler, executive chef at the acclaimed Mitsitam Cafe at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Mayans transplanted the cacao tree from the rainforest to their villages and fermented, dried and roasted its seeds to concoct a decidedly unsweet drink involving chilies and lots of froth.

The Aztec were drinking the bitter brew when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 1520s. Although the Spaniards didn’t like the beverage, they hauled the cacao seeds back to Europe. A century later, when someone thought to add sugar-a luxury the ancient Mayans didn’t have-this indigenous American flavor became a lasting worldwide sensation.

Native ties to making chocolate continue into the 21st century via Bedré Fine Chocolates, a company the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma bought in 2000. Bedré, sold in Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s department stores, is particularly proud to provide the guitar-shaped chocolates to three of the Seminole Nation’s Hard Rock© hotels. Guests find the delicious products of the only Native American-owned chocolate company in the United States on their pillows.

Archaeological Program opportunity for EBCI Teachers, Students

A unique program will allow EBCI high school students and teachers a chance to learn about the world of archaeological field work.

Students from Robbinsville High School work in 2008 excavating an historic Cherokee winter house in the Smokemont area during a High School Archaelogy Field School. (Photos courtesy of Melissa Crisp/GSMA)

A Teacher Workshop, designed for teachers from Cherokee High School or teachers from other schools who are EBCI tribal members, is slated for June 14-16 with a deadline to apply of May 21.  The program is sponsored by Parks as Classrooms in conjunction with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO).  

Mount Rushmore National Memorial Superintendent to Oversee Indian Relations For National Park Service

Under Gerard Baker, the National Park Service hopes to make up for lost time, an awful lot of lost time. In less than two weeks Mr. Baker will become the agency’s very first assistant director for American Indian Relations, and he sees a lot of opportunities to improve relations between Native Americans and the agency that, in many cases, took control of their homelands.

“I think that now we take the opportunity to start creating dialogs, we start taking the opportunity to really start coming together as a nation to heal in many ways. And I guess I’m very thankful for that opportunity to be involved in that,” Mr. Baker said Monday evening from his office at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where he’s been the superintendent for the past six years. “I know there are a lot of things that we can do as a National Park Service under the direction of the director, and there’s a lot of things that we can do as American Indians. To come forth in education, to come forth in positions, to come forth in establishing once again that contact with the homeland that is now within Park Service boundaries in some cases.

“So there’s a lot of opportunity here to, again, I guess the best word that I could use is to start that healing process.”

California Native American Economic Development Conference

Native Nation Events is proud to announce the First Annual California Native American Economic Development Conference at the US Grant Hotel in San Diego, California this April 27th, 2010. This premiere event will cover an extensive range of topics affecting Tribal Nations, including current legal issues and diversification options, with a focus on financial strategies for continued success. This conference will connect Tribal Leaders from around the state with key professionals in the industry to generate ideas and formulate solutions.

Thousands of New Mexico Navajo Residents Will Soon Get Running Water

(April 12, 2010 Counselor, NM) USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner was in Counselor, New Mexico today to help dedicate the new water system that will provide water to thousands of residents of the Navajo Nation living in northwest New Mexico.

During the celebration, Brunner told the crowd, “This project represents the federal government’s commitment to meeting our obligations to ensure the health and welfare of the people of the Navajo Nation.” Brunner added, “Providing clean drinking water to these communities offers them the opportunity for a better quality of life and paves the path towards the sustainability of New Mexico’s rural communities.”

The new water line will serve 10,000 members of the Navajo Nation.  Currently, four thousand of these residents drive up to 100 miles round trip to haul water for their home use and to provide water for their livestock.

Bolivia’s indigenous women continue struggle for land

Sandra Fernandez is a Quechua Indian from Cochabamba, Bolivia. Her grandparents raised corn and flowers, but like many other families here, the family grew and the land didn’t suffice to support them all. Fernandez is 40, a single mother of four; she has left her children behind and come to Bolivia’s jungle frontier in search of land.

Land is a hot commodity in impoverished agrarian Bolivia, where much of the country’s 60 percent indigenous population lives by farming small parcels.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country’s first Indian leader, was re-elected to a second term in December 2009. Morales makes land redistribution and titling a cornerstone of his presidency. The majority of the country’s land has long been owned by a powerful non-indigenous fraction of the population, whose holdings are concentrated in the country’s fertile eastern lowlands. Morales’ government is now giving government-owned and unused land to poor and landless people, like Fernandez, in an attempt to combat this monopolization of Bolivian soil.

Black Mesa mine mess

A controversial clean water permit for a coal mine complex sited at a Navajo and Hopi sacred mountain is once again up for review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Peabody Western Coal Company seeks a renewal of its water quality permit for the Black Mesa/ Kayenta Mine Complex, despite the mine’s impact on water quality and local public health over several decades because of discharges of toxic heavy metals and pollutants into the water supply. EPA invites the public to submit comments through April 30th on the previously-withdrawn National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit pursuant to the Clean Water Act, which requires that all industrial dischargers of wastewater obtain and maintain a permit.

EPA granted the contested polllution permit in August 2009 and then withdrew it in early December 2009, after an appeal from a coalition of environmental and indigenous groups cited the mine’s numerous and egregious violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental statutes. Appellants asserted that in granting the permit, EPA failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of leaking waste ponds, properly account for the discharge of heavy metals and pollutants into the water sources for nearby communities as well as the concomitant acidification of water and soil, or provide local residents with meaningful opportunities for public participation.

Videographer: A Portrait of Nathan Young IV

“I absolutely love my job and feel like I’m one of the luckiest people in the world,” states Pawnee filmmaker, Nathan Young IV, during a recent interview. “But honestly, and I know this may sound cheesy, I’ve always wanted to serve my culture and it seems that this is the best way for me to try and do that.”

Young, a member of the Pawnee nation, began his filmmaking career while teaching at Fort Gibson Public Schools in Oklahoma. While emphasizing cultural studies and bilingual education in Native American languages, Young encountered Joe Erb, who taught him the techniques needed to create stop-motion claymation movies.

“I had the opportunity to work on The Messenger to learn animation and I was lucky that Fort Gibson was so supportive in giving me the resources and freedom to learn,” recalls Young. Young, whose passion for Native American languages led him to pursue the study of Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw during his studies at University of Oklahoma, viewed claymation films as an opportunity to educate and to inspire.

Indigenous leaders flee Colombia seeking protection

Three indigenous leaders from Colombia fled to Venezuela in early February fearing for their lives after more death threats from paramilitaries and harassment from the Colombian Army, according to supporters in Venezuela and other Colombian and international agencies.

The Wayuu activists are seeking protection for their people who live across northern Colombia and Venezuela. Wayuu communities have been under attack for several years in Colombia, according to Amnesty International.

Karmen Ramirez Boscan, Leonor Viloria and Linnei Ospina of the Force of Wayuu Women Organization (OFMW) are among the most recent group of indigenous activists to apply to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for protection from “armed actors” in their region, specifically from the Colombian Army, paramilitaries and others. The IACHR is an autonomous entity, affiliated with the Organization of American States


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