Native Lands Something remarkable is happening in Indian country: Tribes whose lands were once taken from them are setting an example for how to restore the environment.
By Charles Bowden Photograph by Jack Dykinga
The Santa Clara Pueblo is among a growing number of tribes across the United States-of 564 recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)-making moves to bring back land crushed over generations of human use. Native American reservations cover 55 million acres of land (compared with 84 million acres controlled by the National Park Service), though most of these acres are not managed as wilderness or wildlife preserves. But something remarkable is emerging in Indian country. Those whose lands were once taken from them, those once dominated, often brutally, by the U.S. government, are setting an example for how to steward the environment.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety has received a $42 million grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to build an 89,612-square-foot justice facility. The Pine Ridge Justice Center will feature five court rooms, an 88-bed jail for adults and juveniles and offices for the attorney general, tribal law enforcement and its administration, which will bring the tribe’s judicial system under one roof, according to Roxanne Two Bulls, OST grants and contracts manager.
With the hope of seeing the California condor’s nine-foot wing span again gracing North Coast skies, biologists with the Yurok tribe are busy studying the majestic bird’s pedestrian cousin — the turkey vulture. Biologists spent much of last week on the hills around Kneeland trapping and testing the vultures, working just a stone’s throw from where the last confirmed sightings of the region’s wild condors occurred about a century earlier. Armed with a grant received last year, the Yurok tribe is hoping to lay the framework for the condors’ reintroduction to the area, which would be of huge cultural significance to the tribe. “The condor feather features prominently in our jump dance,” said Tiana Williams, a wildlife technician with the tribe, adding that the dance tradition, which has been passed down through generations, is very formulaic and specific. “To have a complete dance done in a correct way it is imperative to have condor feathers. We haven’t had them in a very long time.”
SMITHERS, British Columbia – The inaugural session of the Aboriginal Community Mental Health Worker program at Northwest Community College’s Smithers Campus saw a happy ending for students from Moricetown and Smithers who graduated June 25.
The six-month ACMHW program is a unique combination of First Nations health studies and community mental health courses, along with health access English upgrading and LPAT 100 Student Success classes.
The First Nations Health Studies portion of the program provides students with an overview of aboriginal culture and history and focuses on the societal, political, spiritual and cultural issues that impact the student’s role as a mental health worker and caregiver within a First Nations context.
I never cease to be astounded and humbled by the amazing generosity of the Native Americans. – el
SUQUAMISH, Wash. – Port Madison Enterprises employees are celebrating a record donation to the American Cancer Society. Workers for the Suquamish-owned company generated more than $25,000 in donations for the North Kitsap Relay for Life this year, marking the largest employee contribution ever given at Port Madison Enterprises.
“The generosity and ingenuity our employees consistently demonstrate are a testament to each individual as well as PME. Our staff are very talented at building on ideas to keep the fundraising fresh, fun and lucrative for the Cancer Society,” said Port Madison Enterprises Human Resource Director Barbara Griffin.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part special series examining the disappearance and murders of hundreds of First Nations girls and women in Canada. Part one highlights sex trafficking of children and the failure of police and the Canadian government to fully investigate these crimes.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Cherri was 11 years old the first time she was bought and sold.
Alone on the streets of Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, abruptly abandoned by her new “boyfriend,” she was accosted by an older man who said he’d bought her, and insisted she now belonged to him.
Members from the Tohono O’odham Community Action Youth Cooking Class tantalized the taste buds of the judges in a national cooking competition with Native ingredients from their community, winning them the prestigious contest in Detroit, Mich. in May.
The TOCA Youth Community Cooking Class members, Ross Miguel, Yvette Ventura, and Zade Arnold were the only Native American team to make it to the finals. They triumphed with a tepary bean quesadilla, baby spinach and pear salad with carrot vinaigrette, and a yogurt peanut butter fruit dip. They introduced new and exciting flavors to the competition that are also culturally appropriate and that have sustained their community for generations.
“Tepary beans are the most significant traditional food of the Tohono O’odham people,” the team explained to the Healthy Schools Campaign. They also locally sourced their carrots and spinach from the Student Learning Farm at Tohono O’odham Community College in Sells, Ariz.
WASHINGTON – A congressional representative has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House calling on the United States “to promote respect for and full application of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples consistent with United States law.”
Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, American Samoa’s congressional member and chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, introduced H.R. 1551 on July 22. “The Declaration is a landmark instrument outlining the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples in 70 countries. A non-binding text comparable to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education,” Faleomavaega said.
But the resolution falls far short of the goal set by tribal leaders, citizens and organizations across the country to have the Obama administration fully and unconditionally adopt the international accord, which is currently under review by the State Department.
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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is urging the state to formally license Cherokee language teachers, enabling Cherokee courses taught in public schools off the reservation to count toward a student’s foreign language requirement.
Earlier this month, tribal and school officials met with representatives from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to finalize the steps in the process.
The move is part of tribe’s push to revitalize the language and preserve the Eastern Band’s cultural identity.