First Nations News & Views: Denise Juneau at the DNC, 1886, Pe’ Sla update, party platforms


Welcome to the 22nd edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a feature of Denise Juneau, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, a look at the year 1886 in American Indian history, an update on the what’s happening with the Pe’ Sla land sale and a dozen linkable 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.

DNC Speaker Denise Juneau Leads Montana’s Public Schools with an Emphasis on Indian Education for All

By Meteor Blades

For six minutes between the speeches last week at the Democratic National Convention of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a far less known Democrat stood at the podium in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was Denise Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan). One of 161 American Indian delegates at the convention, Juneau is also State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana, the first Native woman ever elected to statewide office in the United States. She won that four-year post in 2008 and is running this year against Sandy Welch, a Republican who says she will bring a business approach to the job. Here is Juneau’s campaign website.

She was raised on the Blackfeet reservation, took a bachelor’s degree in English at Montana State University, a master’s at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a law degree at the University of Montana. For a while she taught English on the Fort Berthold Reservation in central-west North Dakota, home of the Three Affiliated Tribes, (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara). She served as a Montana Supreme Court judicial clerk, worked briefly for a national law firm and became Director of Indian Education at Montana’s Office of Public Instruction before she was elected as superintendent four years ago.

The post makes her a voting member of the Montana State Land Board, which has considerable influence on economic development. Her opponent has received the endorsement of the Montana Chamber of Commerce based on support for opening up more state-owned Montana land to “resource development,” something Juneau has opposed. She also opposes packing more kids into classrooms, something Welch proposes to sneak under the door by decentralizing state decisions in such matters.

You can watch Juneau’s speech to the convention in the video below (or read the transcript I’ve included at the end of this piece).

Juneau’s shout-out to her mom in Charlotte was more than just the obligatory public hug. Carol Juneau is a Montana state senator and before that, from 1998-2007, served as a state representative. In her first term of office, in 1999, she got language of intent incorporated into the state’s policy of Indian Education For All. That policy had been written as part of an article into the new Montana Constitution in 1972 and then pretty much forgotten.

It says, “The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural heritage.”

Turning those words into something concrete took the prodigious efforts of Carol Juneau to shepherd House Bill 528-the Indian Education for All Act-through the legislature. And it took several more years of lawsuits to get it funded, according to Montana Assistant Attorney General Andrew Huff (Cree-Rocky Boy Reservation). As part of a 2004 decision in the Columbia Falls Public Schools v. State, a district court ruling later upheld by the Montana Supreme Court found that Montana had shown “no commitment in its educational goals to preservation of American Indian cultural identity.” Consequently, additional funding was provided to public schools to meet this and other commitments.

In an interview with Indian Country Today, Denise Juneau discussed the law’s implementation:

Carol Juneau, state senator from Montana, of Hidatsa and Mandan heritage and an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Can you explain Carol Juneau, your mother’s, connection and involvement in IEFA?

[A]s a state representative she was the one in 1999 who got the intent behind the constitutional language put in the statute, and that’s where a lot of the [Columbia Falls] lawsuit came from. There were three things the constitutional language meant: all personnel have an understanding of American Indians; every Montanan be encouraged to learn about American Indians; and where there are areas that need IEFA implementation, we constantly strive to improve it. She was the one who was able to move that forward, work it through a Republican governor and a lot of Republicans in the legislature, and really bring it to the forefront and get it passed.

What do you tell teachers to convince them of the importance of IEFA?

I used to be the director of Indian Education so I worked with a lot of teachers personally. We always had a philosophy we used since the beginning. There would be no blame, shame, or guilt in any of our training. People can’t help if they don’t know about American Indians when they weren’t taught it in school, or just know how the media portrays Indians. It’s not their fault, and we don’t want to walk in a room and wave fingers at them. We really want to take the philosophy that when we move forward, we do it in a very positive way. We need to take teachers and adult learners from where they are and build from their current knowledge and strengths. We look beyond “blame, shame, and guilt,” and say, “These are the facts, this is the way our country and Indian history is,” then lay it out and have discussions.

As FNN&V reported in May, surviving delegates to the convention that rewrote Montana’s constitution joined with other Montanans late this spring to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its passage.

One of the speakers was Assistant Attorney General Huff:

Because he didn’t look obviously like an Indian or what other people thought an Indian should look like, many people thought Huff was Italian or Mexican or marveled at his apparent easy ability to tan.

“So by the time I had hit high school in Missoula, I’d heard just about it all with regard to Indians-all the Indian slurs, the stereotypes, the racial epithets,” he said. “I’d heard that Indians were drunk, lazy, that we were a defeated people, that we should just blend in, that we should accept our fate and assimilate and that reservations should be done away with.”

Many people in his life-his supportive family, many teachers and his friends-had fought against these stereotypes, Huff said. Many people wanted to help Indian children, but lacked the knowledge to counter the stereotypes, he said.

It took 40 years, but Montana at last is fulfilling the promise of that provision, Huff said.

Montana has a K-12 Indian Education for All curriculum, developed in consultation with Indians and their tribes, he said. Teachers are getting trained on how to teach it and learn about Indians and Indian tribes. And Montana children of all backgrounds are learning about Indians and their history.

IEFA is making a difference not just in informing all students about Indians but providing an education that gives Indian students from Montana’s 12 tribes dignity in the classroom. That, educators hope, will improve the ghastly Indian dropout rate. Although about 11 percent of public school students in grades 7 to 12 in Montana are Indian, in the past five years Indians comprised 48.6 percent of dropouts in grades 7 to 8, and 23.8 percent of all high school dropouts. Only 59.3 percent of Indian students graduated. The bigger the school, the worse the dropout rate.

IEFA has already improved the morale of Indian students, according to a number of educators:  

Thanks to the curriculum funded by IEFA, those Indian students now feel less alienated. School counselor Marcia Beaumont [Blackfeet] spent 22 years working in rural reservation schools before moving to a Billings middle school 10 years ago. She says about IEFA’s impact: “For kids who have a real solid identity with their tribe, they’re happy about it because they’re like, ‘Finally I’m sitting in a class and a teacher acknowledges I exist, and I’m unique and that I’m Native American and not like every other kid in the class.’ ”

Says Juneau: “Knowing that every tribe’s cultural practices and histories are different, what could be common things tribes want people to know about them? [We] were able to create an ‘essential understandings’ [document] that still forms the basis of everything we do.”

Mike Jetty (Spirit Lake Dakota Nation) is the Indian education specialist for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. He says the hope is that the implementation of IEFA will promote better understanding. “We can’t let these goofy divisions keep us apart. Students from across the state will understand what tribal sovereignty is, and the government-to-government relationship with tribes. I think the future leaders of Montana are going to have a better understanding of Indian-white relations, and we can move forward together.”


Here is the transcript of Juneau’s convention speech:

Wow! It is such an honor to be here tonight all the way from Big Sky Country. I am proud to be here as a Montanan, as an educator, as a Democrat, and as a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. And I’m proud to be the first Native American woman in history to win a statewide election.

My parents told me that education was the path to success-and they showed me, taking me to Head Start while they were pursuing their own college degrees. My mom is here tonight as a Montana delegate. Thank you, Mom.

Essential to my success were the teachers who invested their time and talent in me so I could go from high school on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to Montana State University, Harvard Graduate School, and law school at the University of Montana. Teachers do the noble work of educating our children. And we can’t thank them enough for the hard work they put in every day to ensure a bright future for all of us. Thank you, educators.

As a teacher, I was an advocate for my students and their success. Now, as Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana, I have the honor to be the top advocate for the education of all of our state’s children.

As Democrats, we believe that every child-regardless of background or ability-is entitled to an excellent education. Our determination to strengthen our schools to provide a 21st century education for every child compels us to work to re-elect President Barack Obama. Our commitment to create jobs for the American people and to grow our economy from the middle out drives our determination to re-elect the president.

President Obama knows that education is the best investment an individual can make in themselves, that a family can make in its children, and that a nation can make in its people. That’s why he has made historic investments in higher education, making college more affordable-from community colleges to Pell Grant scholarships and student loans.

President Obama knows that the value of education is not just in the equations our students memorize or the books they read. For some students, school is the only place where they get a hot meal and a warm hug. Teachers are sometimes the only ones who tell our children they can go from an Indian reservation to the Ivy League, from the home of a struggling single mom to the White House.

Our schools are where we pass down our stories and our history. And in my family, that American history goes back centuries-back to the first residents: Native Americans.

President Obama understands that the Native American story includes both painful chapters and hopeful ones. He knows that the Native American story is part of America’s story and that we deserve to be part of the American dream. That is why he welcomed the tribal nations to the White House and joined them at the table. He signed the Cobell Settlement to correct a long-standing injustice that the late Elouise Cobell-a warrior woman-spent 15 long years fighting for. He’s made investments to prevent violence against women in Native communities and to increase opportunities for our youth and veterans. And when he brought health care to all Americans, he helped build hospitals, train nurses, and ensure healthy moms and healthy babies in tribal communities.

It was a proud day in Montana when President Obama visited the Crow Nation and became an adopted Crow tribal member. In fact, I think there are a few of his Crow relatives here tonight. He was given a Crow name that day-it translates to “one who helps people throughout the land.” That is more than an adopted name; that is at the core of who he is. It is his mission. And that’s why, this November, we will re-elect President Barack Obama!

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1886

By Meteor Blades

On Sept. 4, 1886, Geronimo and His Band Surrendered

Chiricahua Apache prisoners at a rest stop beside the Southern Pacific Railway,

near Nueces River, Tex., Sept. 10, 1886. Among those on their way

to exile in Florida are Natchez (center front) and, to the right,

Geronimo and his son in matching shirts.

After 30 years fighting to maintain a traditional Apache way of life, Goyahkla gave himself up to Brigadier General Nelson Miles in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, on Sept. 4, 1886. Known to the non-Indian world as Geronimo, the twice-captive Chiricahua Apache leader was the last Indian war chief to formally surrender to the United States. Though undefeated, he and his small battered band had grown weary after years of outwitting their pursuers. He agreed in negotiations with someone he respected, Lt. Charles Gatewood, to give up, first to Captain H.W. Lawton and then to the ambitious Miles.

Within a few days, the general had shipped Geronimo, the 35 men young enough to be warriors in his band and the Chiricahua scouts who had helped track him off to prisons in Florida, Alabama and, finally to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Geronimo died there in 1909 from complications of pneumonia contracted in a hospital after being thrown from his horse. He was 80.

The History Channel website contains a brief, riddled-with-factual-errors account of his surrender and subsequent life. Included is the ludicrous statement that he never learned how to shoot a gun, something his contemporaries certainly did not agree with. When he surrendered, after all, he was carrying a Winchester rifle now displayed at the military academy at West Point. Here is a photo of it. He also was carrying a nickel-plated Colt revolver in a fabulous holster and belt rig covered with silver conchos, now on display at the Fort Sill museum.

Although technically still a prisoner, Goyahkla became a minor celebrity and spent much time traveling around the country in his latter days. He signed autographs and told stories to tourists at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and was an invited guest at the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. He once pleaded, “Let me die in my own country, an old man who has been punished enough and is free,” but he was never allowed to return to Arizona. His obituary in The New York Times can be found here, filled with errors, fabrications, slurs, idiocies, and many stereotypes that we still have with us.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Details of Pe’ Sla Land Deal Still Under Wraps as Negotiations with Owners Continue

By Meteor Blades

Mahpiya holds the poster designed by Shepard Fairey to support the purchase of Pe’ Sla in the Black Hills at a rally held in Rapid City on Sept. 5, 2012.

Some 250 supporters of Sioux efforts to buy a 2000-acre piece of land in the heart of the Black Hills rallied Wednesday, Sept. 5, in Rapid City, South Dakota, to celebrate their second victory. The first was to stop a public auction of the land they call sacred, the second was reaching a preliminary agreement with the land owners and coming up with enough money for a down payment. What happens next is uncertain.

The specifics of the final price have not been released publicly by either the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which has been carrying on the negotiations, or the owners, Leonard and Margaret Reynolds. The tribe put up $1.3 million for the land they call Pe’ Sla, and the Last Real Indians had raised more than $300,000 when the preliminary deal was made. As of the time this diary was written, they had raised $389,000. Besides the private donations and the Rosebud Sioux’s pledge, other tribes of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, have said they will contribute, but none has made the amount publicly known. If $6 million, the lowest estimate of what the auction was estimated to have brought, is what is agreed upon, more than $4.3 million is still needed.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) of Last Real Indians explained recently why buying this land matters:

To the Oceti Sakowin [the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation], Pe’ Sla is The Heart of Everything. Not only does this sacred site play a key role in our creation story, it is said to be the place where The Morning Star plunged to earth, and saved the People from seven creatures who had killed seven women. The Lakota hero then placed those women in the night sky as “The Seven Sisters,” called “The Pleiades” by western astronomers.

The core of the Pe’ Sla acreage was homesteaded in 1876 by Leonard Reynolds’s great-grandfather when the land was the property, under the provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, of the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. In the wake of the battle of the Little Big Horn, Congress broke the treaty, taking the Black Hills and other lands. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the land had been taken illegally and ordered $17.5 million in compensation plus more than a century of interest for a total of $106 million. But the tribes unanimously rejected the money, fearing that accepting it would mean they would forever lose the Black Hills. Compound interest over three decades has turned that money, held in trust, into an accumulation of more than $1.5 billion.

On display at the Rapid City rally was a 20-foot by 80-foot banner by artist Shepard Fairey depicting an young Oglala dancer and the words, “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale,” and photographs by Aaron Huey, whose images from the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota were included in a cover story in National Geographic magazine.

One speaker at the Rapid City rally, Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux)-the founder of Last Real Indians who initiated the fund-raising project after the auction was announced-expressed cautious optimism: “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has placed earnest money down towards the purchase of Pe’ Sla, but it is not a victory yet-the fight isn’t over. But, this is a huge success, because it buys us time.”

Robin Lebeau, tribal councilwoman from the Cheyenne River Reservation, urged continuing unity in the effort to ensure that Pe’ Sla does not fall into the hands of developers: “Something historic has happened. We have united as the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people when some said that we wouldn’t come together […] I’m asking you [fellow tribal members] to call your presidents, your chairmen, your spiritual leaders, your treaty groups. We have to keep working to come together for Pe’ Sla.”

NAN Line Separater

• Native American DNC Delegates Say Obama Speech “Electric”: At least 161 American Indian delegates attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. They far outnumbered all previous delegate turnouts at the party’s conventions. Five of Montana’s 31 delegates, for example, were Indian: state Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy (Crow), Latonna Old Elk (Crow), Catherine “Buffy” Stewart (Crow), state Sen. Carol Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan) and her daughter, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau (Hidatsa-Mandan), the first American Indian woman ever elected to statewide office in the United States. Also included were two tribal chairmen, Mark Macarro, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Nina Fowler (Navajo) told National Native News radio: “Goodness, this is so energizing […] and the thickness of the excitement in this place is amazing. It’s like just a big party. […]  Indian Country is really in a lot of ways federal laws and just are really tangled up. And [Obama has] got to untangle them in order for him to help Indian Country. But he has been able to accomplish a lot.”

-Meteor Blades

• Indian at Dem Convention Says Elizabeth Warren Should Take DNA Test : Ever since the right-wing Boston Herald dug into Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claims that she has Cherokee and possibly Delaware (Lenape) ancestry, some Indians have sought an audience with her to ask that she either verify the claims or repudiate them and apologize. She has chosen not to meet with them and she did the same at the Democratic Convention last week. Some Indian delegates at the convention told The New York Times that she could easily set the whole controversy to rest. Karen Geronimo (Mescalero Apache), whose husband Harlyn Geronimo is a great-grandson of the famous 19th Century warrior, said, “”Someone needs to make her take a DNA test.” Said Lexie LaMere (Winnebago), a Nebraska delegate: “If you’re going to be Native, don’t just be Native on paper. What’s troubling is that she’s shown nothing in her history of being involved in Native American issues.”

-Meteor Blades

Party Platforms on Native Peoples: Here is what the Democrats have to say:

Tribal Sovereignty: American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. President Obama and Democrats in Congress, working with tribes, have taken unprecedented steps to resolve long-standing conflicts, finally coming to a resolution on litigation-some dating back nearly 100 years-related to management of Indian trust resources, administration of loan programs, and water rights.

The President worked with Democrats to pass the HEARTH Act to promote greater tribal self-determination and create jobs in Indian Country. The Affordable Care Act permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve care for Native Americans. Democrats enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act, support expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include greater protection for women on tribal lands, and oppose versions of the Violence Against Women Act that do not include these critical provisions. We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.

Here is what Republicans have to say:

Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians

Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments and American Indians and Alaska Natives. These obligations have not been sufficiently honored. The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades; we must reverse that trend. Ineffective federal programs deprive American Indians of the services they need, and long-term failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself.

American Indians have established elected tribal governments to carry out the public policies of the tribe, administer services to its tribal member constituents, and manage relations with federal, State, and local governments. We respect the tribal governments as the voice of their communities and encourage federal, State, and local governments to heed those voices in developing programs and partnerships to improve the quality of life for American Indians and their neighbors in their communities.

Republicans believe that economic self-sufficiency is the ultimate answer to the challenges confronting Indian country. We believe that tribal governments and their communities, not Washington bureaucracies, are best situated to craft solutions that will end systemic problems that create poverty and disenfranchisement. Just as the federal government should not burden States with regulations, it should not stifle the development of resources within the reservations, which need federal assistance to advance their commerce nationally through roads and technology. Federal and State regulations that thwart job creation must be withdrawn or redrawn so that tribal governments acting on behalf of American Indians are not disadvantaged. It is especially egregious that the Democratic Party has persistently undermined tribal sovereignty in order to provide advantage to union bosses in the tribal workplace.

Republicans recognize that each tribe has the right of consultation before any new regulatory policy is implemented on tribal land. To the extent possible, such consultation should take place in Indian country with the tribal government and its members. Before promulgating and imposing any new laws or regulations affecting trust land or members, the federal government should encourage Indian tribes to develop their own policies to achieve program objectives, and should defer to tribes to develop their own standards, or standards in conjunction with State governments.

Republicans reject a one-size-fits-all approach to federal-tribal-State partnerships and will work to expand local autonomy where tribal governments seek it. Better partnerships will help us to expand economic opportunity, deliver top-flight education to future generations, modernize and improve the Indian Health Service to make it more responsive to local needs, and build essential infrastructure in Indian country in cooperation with tribal neighbors. Our approach is to empower American Indians, through tribal self-determination and self-governance policies, to develop their greatest assets, human resources and the rich natural resources on their lands, without undue federal interference.

Like all Americans, American Indians want safe communities for their families; but inadequate resources and neglect have, over time, allowed criminal activities to plague Indian country. To protect everyone-and especially the most vulnerable: children, women, and elders-the legal system in tribal communities must provide stability and protect property rights. Everyone’s due process and civil rights must be safeguarded.

We support efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by American Indians, including Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and to preserve their culture and languages that we consider to be national treasures. Lastly, we recognize that American Indians have responded to the call for military service in percentage numbers far greater than have other groups of Americans. We honor that commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice of all American Indians serving in the military today and in years past and will ensure that all veterans and their families receive the care and respect they have earned through their loyal service to America.

Oglala Lakota Alternative Rock Duo “Scatter Their Own” Performs at Pe’ Sla Rally

Juliana BrownEyes and Scotti Cliff of Scatter Their Own on Sept. 5th ~Photo Courtesy of Chase Iron Eyes

Juliana BrownEyes and Scotti Cliff (both Oglala Lakota) from Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota believe that music is about and for the people. Lyrically, they pay tribute to the concepts and philosophy of their Lakota culture while fusing Rock, R&B, Blues, and Alternative, into what they would like to call Alter-Native Rock. Their influrences are family; Black Elk, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Hobert Pourier, C.L. Johnson, Gandhi, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Red Bow. A taste of their music can be enjoyed here.


• Author Alexie Will Vote for Obama Though He’s Not Thrilled: Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene), the acclaimed author, poet and screenwriter, isn’t very impressed with what President Obama has done for Indians.  At the website 90 Days, 90 Reasons (to vote for Obama), Alexie writes, Because the liberal Messiah does not exist: “I tried to think of one great thing Obama has done for Indians. And I couldn’t think of one damn thing.” Alexie, nevertheless, will vote for him, he says: “To love him, I only need to believe in 51% of what he does. And, hey, I’d guess I believe in 63% of what he does.” Alexie might consider doing a little research on what Obama has done for Indians. He could start with Aji’s essay here, for example.

-Meteor Blades

Cherokee GOP Candidate for Congress Hates Stimulus, Gets $370,000 from It: Republican Markwayne Mullins (Cherokee Nation) is seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat in Oklahoma that is now occupied by Democrat Dan Boren, who is leaving Congress this year to work for the Choctaws. Mullins says he “totally disagrees” with the stimulus act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Mullins’s campaign has made a big deal out of reining in government spending. But his plumbing business received $370,000 provided by the stimulus. That came about because he is a enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, which gives preferential bidding rights to tribal members. The projects he won bids on were funded by the stimulus. Mullins claims he had “no clue” about the source of the money.

If Mullins wins, he will be the second tribally enrolled Indian currently in Congress from Oklahoma. Tom Cole, an enrolled Chickasaw, represents the 4th District. He is also a Republican. The Cherokee Nation has contributed $2,500 to Mullins’s Democratic opponent, Rob Wallace.

-Meteor Blades

• ACLU Wants FBI Records Targeting Indians Over Bear Hunt Opposition: American Indians are part of a coalition that opposes bear hunting in Nevada. As FNN&V reported in March, one of them, Raquel Arthur (Pyramid Lake Paiute), objected when, at a public hearing, the chairman of the Washoe County wildlife advisory board, Rex Flowers, told a group of eight Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone that he didn’t want to “hear of bows and arrows” because the board was committed to the bear hunt. He later apologized for the remark, saying that he didn’t mean to disparage Indians.

Arthur, chairwoman of the northern Nevada chapter of the American Indian Movement, is one of three Nevada AIM members who were targeted by the FBI because of their opposition to the hunt, which is organized by the coalition No Bear Hunt. The others are Lisa Bonta (Reno-Sparks Indian Colony) and Daniel Thayer (Northern Paiute). FBI Agent George Chillito, who is on the Task Force on Counter-Terrorism in Reno, is said to have been investigating the three at the request of Nevada Department of Wildlife game wardens who said they and the “audience felt threatened” by the presence of Indians at the board meeting.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request Aug. 22 to learn what the FBI has been reporting regarding the three Indians and anyone else the bureau may have included in its investigation related to the opposition to the hunt. Nevada will allow up to 20 black bears to be killed between Sept. 15 and the end of 2012. The objective of the FOIA request is to support the freedom of speech rights of the foes of the hunt, an ACLU attorney involved in the case told the Associated Press.

-Meteor Blades

Wolakota – Friendship with the Lakota Nation Exhibit in Italy:


The Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, Italy is currently running an exhibit titled: Wolakota 2012: Ancient Culture in the New World. Wolakota translates from Lakota to friendship with the Lakota Nation. On display will be Indian artifacts, weapons, clothing, wapaha (feather head-dresses), a tipi and a Remington gun found in 1860 in the area of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn). Live music and sage smudging will finish the cultural exhibit. One of the organizers, the cultural association Wambli Gleska was organized in 1995 by Dr. Alessandro Martire to promote recognition of the human rights of the Lakota Sioux in Italy. Dr. Martire will be giving a special presentation based on his book, Nuovo Mondo (New World), Genocide, Ecocide and Ethnocide of the Discovery of the New World: The Horrors, Errors and Furies. The exhibit runs from September 9-25.

-navajo h/t racheltracks

“Moving Camp” Helps Dozens of Native College Students Get Settled: Transitions can be tough for American Indian students away from home for the first time. That’s true of all young people, of course, but it’s especially the case for tribal people used to the tight-knit support of extended families. And then there is the culture shock of life off the reservation. So the Payne Family Native American Center at the University of Montana has set up a special orientation to make things just a little easier. Among them this year was Carmaleta Bird In Ground, a Crow elder. A grandmother who started college but never finished, she signed up for classes in writing and Native American studies. At the orientation, she offered a traditional Crow prayer to start things off on the right foot.

-Meteor Blades

Crazy Horse Was a Sober Warrior: Russ McSpadden and photographer offered a textual and photographic account of Deep Green Resistance’s protest in White Clay, Nebraska, just across the South Dakota line next to the Pine Ridge Reservation. McSpadden wrote, “31 Points on the Alcohol Wars at Pine Ridge.”

Among them:

1. Autumn Two Bulls is the mother of Wakiyan, or Loud Brave Thunder, a young Oglala Lakota protester who was Maced by police on August 26 during a march against alcohol sales along the border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. “My son believes in sobriety. One thing he told me was that Crazy Horse, his hero, was a sober warrior. Crazy horse didn’t believe in alcohol and he knew what was coming because he was a spiritual man and he stood up and fought against what was coming.”  Wakiyan is ten years old. Days after the protest his vision was still blurry from the Mace. […]

3. There are four liquor stores and only fourteen residents in the unincorporated town of White Clay. It exists purely to unload alcohol, and lots of it. On average, the retailers sell 12,500 cans of beer every day, mostly to the reservations 40,000 residents. White Clay is 250 feet from Pine Ridge where alcohol is forbidden. […]

27. The area around White Clay has a history rooted in illegal liquor sales. In 1882, at the behest of Oglala elders and the U.S. Indian agent in the territory, U.S. President Chester Arthur ordered that a buffer zone be put in place in Nebraska, south of the reservation, between illegal whisky peddlers and the Lakota. Known as the White Clay Extension, the fifty square mile area was later incorporated into the reservation then offered up into public domain, precipitating a land grab by whites. Liquor licenses followed shortly after-its original purpose turned upside-down.

-Meteor Blades

Old Hurons Logo Will Be Used Inside EMU’s Band Uniforms:

Our phone calls to the Eastern Michigan University president’s office weren’t returned, so we couldn’t learn specifically why EMU President Susan Martin chose to “honor” alumni by embroidering the old Huron logo inside the university’s new band uniforms this year. The logo was dropped after 62 years in 1991 because the Michigan Department of Civil Rights had called on schools to stop using mascots, nicknames and logos based on race and ethnicity. The university chose the nickname Eagles as a replacement. Alumni include tens of thousands who attended when EMU called its sports teams the Hurons and a few old enough to remember when the nickname was Normalites. That logo is also embroidered inside the 275 new band uniforms, which are replacing the uniforms in use for the past 16 years. The logos will not be visible when the uniforms are buttoned up. The Eagles logo is embroidered on the back of the uniforms.

Twenty-one years ago when the Huron logo was dropped, thousands of universities, colleges and secondary schools across the country still used Indian nicknames ranging from names of tribes to epithets such as “Redskins.” Now only a few hundred do and they are rapidly dwindling. As usual in such matters, even among Indians, there is a difference of opinion about the resurrection of the Huron logo.

“I don’t like native people being used as mascots in any situation,” said American Indian Services Director Fay Givens [Choctaw], who was a vocal supporter of changing the Huron mascot in 1991.

Billy Friend, the chief of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, a federally recognized band that was once in Michigan and known as Hurons, said the tribe embraces EMU’s move.

“Our stance has always been we didn’t see it as anything but an honor to the Hurons and Wyandottes,” said Friend. “We never saw it as demeaning.”

-Meteor Blades

• Tech. Sergeant Sick of Air Force’s Indian Logos: After 17 years in the Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Larry Miller (Eastern Cherokee) was appalled when he was transferred to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and noticed the logos depicting Indians, he says. Among the ones that upset him most was the 93rd Bomb Squadron’s unit patch, which depicts the severed head of an American Indian, a poster showing an Indian skull wearing a headdress with the words “Immortal Soul,” and the word “Indian” used as a call sign over the radio. Miller filed an equal opportunity complaint. But the Air Force concluded that the depictions and call sign were not racist and labeled the complaint “totally unsubstantiated.” As so often is the case, the response stated that the use of Indian images was not disrespectful but meant to honor Indians. Miller plans to stay on the case until the Air Force gets rid of all mascots, logos and other depictions of Indians, especially, he says, the ones that include a headdress. “Once somebody says, ‘totally unsubstantiated,’ that’s basically what we’ve dealt with for hundreds of years,” he said. “Now it’s basically the few against the many.”

-Meteor Blades

• Video Examines Indian Life in South Minneapolis, Past and Present : Through the eyes of elders, this video by Knockout Productions briefly examines the history of the Minneapolis American Indian community and how it was formed after relocation, one of the many efforts since the founding of the United States to break up tribal communities. Among those speaking is Gertrude Buckanaga (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). In 1999, with her son, Ron, Buckanaga founded the Four Directions Charter School. The school is dedicated to providing culturally based education as a foundation for life-long learning among American Indian students. The intent is to “lessen the negative impact of poverty on the academic success” of students. The participants in the video discuss the importance of valuing culture and working cooperatively toward a vision of community that is not dictated to by outside people.

-Meteor Blades


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.

Sioux Seek to Rescue Sacred Black Hills Site from AuctionFirst Nations New & Views: Saving Pe’ Sla


Welcome to the 20th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Our 19th edition is here. In this edition you will find “Sioux Seek to Rescue Sacred Black Hills Site from Auction,” a look at the year 1680 in American Indian history, five short features, and nine news 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.

Sioux Seek to Rescue Sacred Black Hills Site from Auction

By Meteor Blades

A 1942-acre slice of land sacred to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota (Sioux) people goes on the auction block next Friday. It’s Pe’ Sla, known to some as “Old Baldy” and “peace at the bare spot” to others. It is one of five sacred sites that make up Lakota pilgrimage and ceremony, and it is closely linked to the constellations, an earthly reflection of the cosmos. It is the only one of the five sacred sites held in private hands-the rest being under federal or state control-and remains relatively pristine, acreage having been used only for grazing cattle over the past 130 years. But developments are closing in on other nearby private land.

Pe’ Sla is also called Wowakcawala Okislata, which means “purity of peace and harmony,” according to Leonard Little Finger (Oglala-Miniconjou). One tribeswoman has compared it to the Holy Sepulchre, to Mecca, to the Western (Wailing) Wall. Like other sites sacred to the Lakota, Pe’ Sla is in the Black Hills, the Páha Sápa. In Lakota, they are wahmunka oganunka inchante, “the heart of.” Pe’ Sla is at the center of Páha Sápa, the “center of the heart of” everything that is.

Nobody knows for certain what the buyers will do with each of the 300-acre parcels carved out of the land of 7,000-foot-high Pe’ Sla, but development of some sort is dead certain when investors purchase a property estimated by the auction house to draw up to $10 million in bids. The state of South Dakota has said it will build a road through the heart of the center of the heart.

It was only a few weeks ago that it was discovered that the property would be offered for sale. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Oyate Lakota) is frantically working to raise funds so that it can make its own bid. To achieve this, it has put out a call to all the Oceti Sakowin, the people of the seven council fires of the Great Sioux Nation.

So far, $86,000 of the $1 million goal has been raised at a site dedicated to the Pe’ Sla purchase here. Rosebud has pledged another $50,000, and other Sioux tribes are pondering how much they will contribute to the cause.

Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux) presents the case:

Video will not embed at Soapblox:…

The core of the property, the Reynolds Prairie, was homesteaded in 1876, the same year that George A. Custer saw his final action a few hundred miles west in Medicine Tail Coulee. That homestead was illegal since the land had been granted to the Lakota by the Treaty of 1868. But after word “leaked out” that gold had been found by Custer’s expedition in 1874 into the Black Hills, the flood of settlers and fortune-seekers became unstoppable. Among them were the ancestors of Leonard and Margaret Reynolds who own the land now and are putting it up for sale. Iron Eyes commended the couple for what good stewards they have been for that land and for granting Indians access. But the auction could mean the end of both.

In 1877, as part of the ferocious response to the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Congress unilaterally took the Black Hills. In a 1980 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they definitely had been taken illegally against the provisions of the 1868 treaty. “Stolen” wasn’t a word the justices used, but it would have been accurate. The court awarded $100 million to the tribes as compensation.

But, year after year for three decades, they have refused to accept the money, now grown in a trust fund to more than $1 billion through compound interest. Those dollars could go a long way toward improving the lives of the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, some of whom are among the most impoverished people in America. But they continue to say “the Black Hills are not for sale.” Ironically, Pe’ Sla, a piece that clearly is for sale, could be purchased for one percent of what’s in the Black Hills settlement trust.

Raising the money needed to make a reasonable bid on Friday for Pe’ Sla is, to put it mildly, an uphill struggle. Hopkins pointed out that today’s stereotypes of Indians making money in great gobs from casinos only applies to a few tribes. Most of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota live in poverty. Raising millions of dollars to hang onto a piece of holy prairie turf is no easy matter for them. Nor is asking non-Indians to help them out. Yet, so important is the site to them, that they are doing so.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa), who, together with Iron Eyes and a dozen others, writes at the Last Real Indians website, has laid out some of the spiritual meaning and temporal history of Pe’ Sla:

Not only does this sacred site play a key role in our creation story, it is said to be the place where The Morning Star plunged to earth, and saved the People from seven creatures who had killed seven women. The Lakota hero then placed those women in the night sky as “The Seven Sisters,” called “The Pleiades” by Western astronomers.

Pe’ Sla, also called “Old Baldy,” is vital to Oceti Sakowin star knowledge and provides evidence of our historical ties to the Black Hills as well. The Black Hills are a terrestrial mirror of the heavens above. Pe’ Sla, an open, rather bare expanse of land compared to its surroundings, corresponds to the Crab Nebula, a gaseous cloud remnant of a supernova explosion that happened in 1054 AD. It is no longer visible with the naked eye-but my people remember it.

If you wish to help, please note that all donations to the tribe are tax-deductible and will only be used toward the purchase of Pe’ Sla. You can contribute here.

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1680

By Meteor Blades

On August 21, 1680, Spanish colonialists fled their outpost in Ogha Po’oge, the Tewa Indian name for the town of Santa Fé in what was then the occupied territory of New Mexico, a northern province of New Spain. The town had been under siege for six days in the uprising we now call the Pueblo Revolt, or Popé’s Rebellion, so-called from the Spanish name for Ohkay Owingeh, the San Juan Pueblo leader who initiated the resistance that had begun 10 days earlier. Over the few weeks of the revolt, Popé and some 2,000 warriors of most of the northern pueblos as well as the Zuni and Hopi killed some 400 Spaniards and drove off 2,000 others from land they had first conquered eight decades previously.

Popé had promised that, with the Spanish gone, the old Pueblo gods would return and a decade-long drought would end.

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo

Those gods hadn’t departed on their own. The Spanish, operating under their usual motivations of “gold, glory and God,” gained political and economic control over the estimated 40,000 Pueblo people in the area by establishing theocracies in the most of the 46 Pueblo towns. Resistance was brutal. Early on, Juan de Oñate, the New World-born conqueror ordered into New Mexico by the Spanish king, demanded supplies from the Acoma pueblo that they refused to provide. When he insisted, they resisted, killing 12 Spanish soldiers. De Oñate responded with an overwhelming show of force. Ultimately, 800 Indians were killed and 500 enslaved. He also ordered 24 to have one foot cut off.

The priests, integral to every Spanish expedition, were always gentle in their conversion efforts until  Indians resisted the purported benefits of Roman Catholicism. Religious freedom not being part of their lexicon, suppression of the Native religion grew more ferocious as the years passed. The Spanish destroyed kivas, the subterranean ceremonial pits of the Pueblo, and banned the use of kachinas, their sacred ritual objects. Ceremonies were forbidden, medicine men incarcerated and murdered. Opposition was met with imprisonment, torture and more amputated limbs.

The Spanish also imposed the encomienda and repartimiento systems. These amounted to a form of forced labor only superficially different from slavery in that Indians were not owned outright. Individual Spaniards were given power over a specified number of Indians whom they made to work for little or no pay on farms or in mines or workshops. Punishment for disobedience often included death.

For three generations this continued. A mixed-blood mestizo population steadily expanded. The Indian population fell to around 15,000 as the Spanish population rose to about 2,500.

In the 1670s, one of the Southwest’s periodic droughts struck. The forced-labor system meant that Indians could not attend to their own food-tending needs at time when that was more necessary than usual. Famine ensued in some areas. This was exacerbated by Apache raids which the imperial Spanish protection racket was not much protection.

Scholars differ about the proximate causes of the revolt. Some argue that it was mostly religious and cultural oppression. And, indeed, giving some credence to this view is that 21 Franciscan priests were singled out to be killed. Others say, however, that the drought, forced-labor system and Apache raids were the chief motivations behind  the rebellion.

One writer, a 20th Century U.S.-born priest named Angélico Chávez, claimed the world-view of the Pueblo combined with miscegenation and their partial acculturation by the Spanish was such that Popé himself was incapable of leading a revolt, prophet or no. Instead, Chávez claimed, the rebellion was the product of Domingo Naranjo, a “mulatto” able to move between the Pueblo and Spanish easily. Chávez wrote that Naranjo manipulated the Pueblo into believing he was Pohé-yemo, a leading figure in their religion who supposedly wanted them to revolt.

But another writer, Andrew L. Knaut, wrote in an essay, “Acculturation and Miscegenation: The Changing Face of the Spanish Presence in New Mexico,” that intermarriage and acculturation not only did not create harmonious relations but actually had helped spur the revolt. His view is that the Pueblos had more reasons to rebel than not.

Whatever the case, they did revolt and the Spanish did flee.

A dozen years later they were back under the leadership of Diego de Vargas. Sixty Spanish soldiers, 100 Zia converts and the inevitable priests marched into New Mexico again and quickly made their way to Santa Fé. Without a single shot fired from musket or cannon, de Vargas persuaded the Pueblo people barricaded there to surrender upon a promise of amnesty. He then retook formal possession for Spain. In 1693, however, many Indians were having second thoughts after a year of being ordered around, told what to believe and treated harshly under renewed Spanish dominance. Whan de Vargas returned with more soldiers, settlers and still more priests, a two-day battle raged. It ended in executions for 70 Pueblo men and a decade of slavery for the surviving rebels.

For a few years there was sporadic resistance that led to the Second Pueblo Revolt in 1696. De Vargas handled it with his usual merciless self. By the turn of the century, the Pueblo were fully subdued, partly because so many had fled to live with the Navajo and Apache.

While the two revolts themselves were crushed, the Pueblo people managed to gain for themselves a measure of religious freedom, their traditional beliefs being accommodated even as efforts to convert them to Roman Catholicism continued. They also obtained the land grants upon which they still live.


Major Sources:

• New Mexico Office of the State Historian-Juan de Oñate

• Sando, Joe. Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History. Santa Fe, N.Mex.: Clear Light Publishers, 1992.

• Weber, David J. What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Readings. Selected and Introduced by David J. Weber. Historians at Work Series. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1999.

• The Spanish Re-Conquest of New Mexico and the Pueblo Revolt of 1696.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Elders Hold Native Community Together in Chicago

By Meteor Blades

Susan Power, Standing Rock Sioux, in her early days in Chicago. An elder with clout these days.
Susan Kelly Power in Chicago

in the late 1940s.

At 87, Susan Kelly Power (Standing Rock Sioux) is the oldest American Indian in the Chicago area. Her surname says a lot about her. She exudes power built on a life-time of activism and service. Power and respect and admiration.

She left the reservation that straddles North and South Dakota 70 years ago in the midst of World War II. It was a tough go at first. But her work for Indians began almost immediately. She is the last surviving founder of the National Congress of American Indians. The pan-Indian organization that began in 1944 and is now the largest representative non-governmental Indian organization in the country. Today she and a few other elders in Chicago strive to remind urban Indians of their heritage, involve themselves as activists in the greater community to break down stereotypes while making Indians more visible, and occasionally engage in a political battle.

“We want people to know that we still exist. We haven’t left this earth yet,” said Power, a historian and co-founder of the American Indian Center, a social services and cultural facility in Uptown that was once the anchor of the local Native American community. “But we don’t want people to look at us with pity in their eyes or romanticize us. Most of the material out there is nonsensical. It’s up to us to tell our story.”

Over time the center has seen fewer Indians seek its services and has opened its doors to other minorities and low-income people in general. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the center completely out of the city’s budget this year, and it has had to struggle to find other funding.

Susan Kelly Power, Standing Rock Sioux, activist, advocate, heroine of her peopleSusan Kelly Power in 2011. As a little girl, Power’s family lived close to what was understood to be the grave of the Hunkpapa Lakota chief Sitting Bull. When a car of whites would be seen coming up the road in those 1930s days, her mother would send her and her sister to sit by the grave to keep anything from being stolen. Since then, she says she has followed in her mother’s footsteps as a driven advocate for the rights and well-being of Indians.

“My mother was the first Native woman in the country to be in a leadership position,” Power said. “Once my mother was asked why she didn’t have one of the new homes being built on the reservation. She said, ‘When all my people have nice homes, then I’ll consider it.'”

When Power came to Chicago nearly seven decades ago, there were only about 200 Native Americans in the city, she said.

“We had no cars or telephones, but we managed to find each other and stick together,” she said. “If one got a job, we immediately did very well in it so that others could be hired too.”

That cooperative, all-for-one attitude has not always found a home among Indians, on or off the reservations, but it is the one that epitomizes what most activists today and historically.

NAN Line Separater

Remains of “Wild West” Performer Going Home After 112 Years

By Meteor Blades

Albert Afraid of Hawk, Oglala (1880-1900) Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Albert Afraid of Hawk

Amateur historian Robert Young has helped a family on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation of South Dakota bring home an ancestor who died 112 years ago in Connecticut and was buried in an unmarked grave. Young’s genealogical researched revealed that 20-year-old Albert Afraid of Hawk had traveled from New Haven as part of the famed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for a one-night show in Danbury. He died two days later from botulism after eating bad canned corn.

Before he retired, Young was an employee of the Wooster Cemetery where Afraid of Hawk was buried. In his research, Young discovered a July 6, 1900, article in the New Haven Register that reported on Afraid of Hawk’s death. Others also ate the bad corn and were treated at a local hospital in Danbury, but he was the only one who died. His grave was dug in a section of the cemetery set aside for indigents. Even though the grave has no marker, like thousands in the cemetery, it wasn’t that hard for Young to find because meticulous records were kept.

Young contacted Pine Ridge officials to help him track down descendants in Afraid of Hawk’s family. They turned out to be on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Later, he traveled there to meet with them. Four of them, including a nephew and grandniece, went to Connecticut last week and took part in a disinterment ceremony that ended Friday. Nicholas F. Bellantoni, the state archaeologist supervised the exhumation. Traditional Lakota rituals were performed as part of the disinterment.

“We are all so deeply grateful,” said Wendell Deer With Horns, 56, a distant cousin who lives in Watertown, Conn.

“You can feel Albert’s spirit right here,” he added, handing out rocks from Mr. Afraid of Hawk’s grave. “This is his eternal energy.” […]

John Afraid of Hawk, a grandnephew, blew an eagle-bone whistle, and [grandniece Marlis] Afraid of Hawk looked up. “There was a hawk,” she said. “That symbolizes to me that he has completed the journey, that he is free.”

The family members will return his remains to South Dakota for burial at Pine Ridge.

NAN Line Separater

Cherokee Officials Ponder Raising Buffalo

By Meteor Blades

Gerald Parsons of Stratford, Oklahoma, left bottom, checks out one of his herd of 80 buffalo.
Gerald Parsons at bottom left.

The Cherokee Nation wouldn’t be the first tribe to choose to raise buffalo for commercial purposes. The Intertribal Buffalo Council, a 21-year-old pan-Indian consortium of 56 tribes in 19 states, has a collective herd of 15,000, as reported in FNN&V earlier this year. Nationwide, there are about half a million buffalo in commercial herds. Estimates are that in 1800, there were 60 million of the animals, known also as bison, in North America.

Officials of the Cherokee Nation, the second largest Indian tribe in the United States (after the Navajo Nation), recently visited the buffalo ranch of Gerald Parsons in Stratford, Oklahoma, to learn if raising buffalo might make a good tribal enterprise. A veterinarian, Parsons has been raising buffalo since he bought his first animal in 1993 and now has about 100 head, with about 38 calves born each year.

Taking up buffalo ranching is not something done lightly. These aren’t cattle and there is much to learn. Fencing must be sturdier than that used to keep cattle penned. Buffalo can also be very aggressive. Parsons told Cherokee representatives that he feels good about raising an animal that survived the Ice Age extinctions and the (barely) the slaughters of the 1860s-1870s that were part of an attempt to tame the Plains tribes.

Parsons told them “The meat industry has just gone wild. You can’t raise enough of them. Right now we are so deficient in bison that the [meat] prices just keep going up.” Buffalo meat is leaner and healthier than beef. Parson said ranchers can graze three buffalo on the same land that would provide for two beef cows. “So it doesn’t take the space and grass like beef, yet they are going to produce you more income.”

The Cherokee, like all tribes, are eligible for a gift of 80 buffalo from the Yellowstone herd. Adult buffalo normally run about $3,500 per animal. In 1902, that Yellowstone herd of fewer than 50 animals was the only remnant of wild buffalo in the lower 48 states that had survived since prehistoric times. The herd now includes 4,200 genetically pure animals. Both the Montana reservations of Fort Peck (Assiniboine and Sioux) and Fort Belknap (Assiniboine and Gros Ventre) have small buffalo herds that include animals from the Yellowstone herd.

The Cherokee are still in the exploratory stages and have a lot of considering to do before taking on the project. It is not something done lightly, according to the tribe’s natural resources director, Pat Gwin. Although commercially the animals can be lucrative, sold for meat, hide and other parts, the tribe would probably have to expand the herd to 250 or more animals before the enterprise became commercially viable, Gwin said.

NAN Line Separater

Obama Signs the HEARTH Act of 2012 to Promote Tribal Self-Determination

By navajo

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 205, the HEARTH Act of 2012, in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Bryan Newland, Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of the Interior; Governor Randall Vicente, Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico; David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior; Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians; Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Cheryl Causley, Chairperson of the National American Indian Housing Council; Governor Gregory Mendoza, Gila River Indian Community of Arizona; and Del Laverdure, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama signs H.R. 205, the HEARTH Act of 2012, in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Bryan Newland, Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of the Interior; Governor Randall Vicente, Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico; David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior; Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians; Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Cheryl Causley, Chairperson of the National American Indian Housing Council; Governor Gregory Mendoza, Gila River Indian Community of Arizona; and Del Laverdure, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signed the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act of 2012 on July 30. The HEARTH Act allows federally recognized tribes to lease restricted lands for business, agricultural, public, religious, educational, recreational or residential purposes without approval from the Secretary of the Interior. The measure received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Senator John Barrasso (D-WY), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee said: “Today, a bill to remove bureaucratic red tape and clear the way for Indian tribes to pursue homeownership and economic development opportunities on tribal trust lands became law. With record high unemployment rates, it’s crucial that we do everything we can to expand economic opportunities and job creation on tribal lands.  This law will provide Indian tribes with tools to lease and develop their land faster and help increase the quality of life in Indian country.”

According to White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs Jodi Gillette (Standing Rock Sioux):

The HEARTH Act builds on the Administration’s strong record of accomplishments for Native Americans and Native Alaskans and complements existing initiatives to strengthen tribal economies. Just recently, on July 12th, Treasury announced that it is opening up $1.8 billion of Tribal Economic Development (TED) bonds for reallocation to tribal governments. The TED bond program was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and provides tribes with the authority to issue tax-exempt debt for a wider range of activities to spur job creation and promote economic growth in Indian Country. By providing tribes with the ability to issue tax-exempt debt in a manner similar to that available to state and local governments, tribes can lower their borrowing costs and more easily engage in new economic development projects.

With the Cobell and Keepseagle Settlements, the Tribal Law and Order Act, water rights settlements, fee-to-trust reform, TED bonds, and now the HEARTH Act, this Administration’s accomplishments for Indian Country tell a very compelling story about how far we have gone to make meaningful progress on advancing tribal self-determination, promoting economic growth, and  revitalizing our trust responsibility. Water and land are the primary trust assets we manage for Indian tribes, and the Obama Administration has made monumental strides by recognizing tribes as partners, ending the repetition of past mistakes, and working together to identify and develop concrete solutions that will improve the quality of life in tribal communities.

President Obama has shown stronger support for tribal self-determination than any President since Richard Nixon, and signing the HEARTH Act of 2012 was just another step in moving Indian Country forward.

-h/t to Land of Enchantment

NAN Line Separater

Multimedia E-book ‘Little Crow’ Focus on Dakota War

By Meteor Blades

Cemetery in Minnesota where some of the dead from the  Dakota War of 1862 are buried.
Cemetery in Minnesota where some of the dead from the Dakota War of 1862 are buried.

One hundred fifty years ago, as we have reported here and here, the brief but bloody Dakota War in Minnesota cost the lives of 600 whites and an unknown number of Dakota (Sioux). But the devastation to the various Dakota and Lakota people as a result of a U.S. policy of ethnic cleansing across the Plains, the Southwest and Northwest took a far greater toll over the next three decades, culminating in the massacre at Wounded Knee in December 1890.

The Dakota War began in that typical way almost all the Indian Wars from 1630 to 1890 did: a fight over land and broken promises of compensation for that land. It ended with the largest mass hanging in U.S. history, 38 Dakota men executed on the orders of Abraham Lincoln after 10 days of proceedings in a kangaroo military court.

That war and its aftermath is the subject of Curt Brown’s six-part e-book, In the Footsteps of Little Crow, the Dakota warrior who tried to avoid bloodshed until no other solution seemed possible. You can find a detailed summary of each part here and articles, like this one here from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The e-book includes photos and video, including descendants of Little Crow reading from the text. Here’s an excerpt from Part 3, “When men become hungry, they help themselves”:

After the Dakota stormed the Upper Sioux Agency warehouse for food, Little Crow argued that the other warehouse at the Lower Sioux Agency should also be opened.

But citing protocol, Galbraith [Lincoln’s new Indian Agent] refused to do that until the gold money arrived. He didn’t want to have to organize the pay-table lineup and check the rolls twice.

Little Crow protested: “We have waited a long time. The money is ours but we cannot get it. We have no food but here these stores are filled with food.”

Jerome Big Eagle

(Mdewakanton Dakota)

He asked Galbraith to arrange for credit with the traders until the annuity payments arrived “or else we may take our own way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry, they help themselves.”

Listening to Little Crow speak through a translator, Galbraith asked the shopkeepers what he should do. They shrugged and turned to store owner Andrew Myrick. Disgusted by the whole mess, Myrick walked away until Galbraith demanded a response.

“So far as I’m concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung,” Myrick said.

Those words were, for the Dakota, the last straw. Myrick was later found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement on the anniversary of the start of the war:

I call for tomorrow, the 150th anniversary of August 17, 1862, to be “a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota.” I ask everyone to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.

You can listen to an interview by Cathy Wurzer of Minnesota Public Radio with Stanley Crooks, chairman of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Communityhere as he discusses the impact of the war today and the future of his people.

-h/t Nancy A. Heitzeg at Critical Mass

NAN Line Separater


Carter Camp and his descendants

Here is Carter with his sister’s new grand daughter

Happy birthday to cacamp aka Carter Camp (Ponca) who turned 71 yesterday, August 18th. Carter, a long time political activist was one of the original AIM organizers who led the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan to DC in 1972. He also helped organize the takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973 and held it for 71 days. Carter was in charge of Military Actions. Under his leadership with several others they brought much needed national and international attention to American Indian issues. You can read more about Carter Camp here and also read his writings about Wounded Knee.


Interior Dept. Opens Hearings on Protecting Sacred Sites: The Obama administration has begun an outreach program to American Indians seeking their ideas on doing a better job of protecting sacred sites. Interior wants to come up with a standard policy. Among the possibilities are mandatory consultation, new rules specific to certain sites or changes in legislation. The current situation has created numerous problems over the years. For example:

Representatives of the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation complained Monday about renewable energy projects on federal land being fast-tracked by the administration without adequate review of potential effects on sacred sites. […]

“These projects, they’re going on with complete disregard to Indians. It’s like we don’t have any say,” Bathke said, explaining that siting of the projects is more about spirituality than land planning for many tribes.

-Meteor Blades

Minnesota Tribe Pays $1 Million a Year to its 460 Members: The reason the Shakopee Mdewakanton (Dakota) people are no longer living in beat-up trailers and living in poverty is the tribe’s casino and resort empire. As a result of divorce papers, secret pay-outs to members became known recently: $84,000 a month to each adult enrolled in the tribe. Unemployment on the reservation is the highest in the nation. Not because of lack of jobs, but because the income from the casinos means there is no need to work. Some tribal elders are worried that the money will corrupt tribespeople or make them lazy.

Most still live in modest homes on the reservation, albeit with luxury cars parked outside, but they often have second homes elsewhere, spend a lot of time traveling, send their children to private schools and take up expensive pastimes. Much the same as affluent people everywhere.

The tribe not only provides hundreds of jobs to local non-Indians, it also contributes large amounts to other tribes and to various charities, educational and medical institutes. In fact, the Shakopee have donated $243 million since 1996, a better record proportional to their income than many Fortune 500 companies that bring in billions in profits each year.

Not all Indian casinos are making big profits. And while Shakopee may not yet feel the heat, other reservation casinos have seen their business drop off sharply as the recession took its toll and legalized gambling run by non-Indians has received ever-wider approval. Some Indian casinos in remote areas barely break even and that margin will worsen as legal gambling spreads. For the tribes that have improved their economic circumstances, it’s a case of nice-while-it-lasted.

-Meteor Blades

Blackfeet Conflicted Over Oil Drilling: The Blackfeet tribe of Montana is split over the leasing of a million of its reservation’s 1.5 million acres to oil companies. While everyone recognizes the benefits and potential benefits of the drilling-one rig generated 49 jobs for tribal members-there is also deep concern.

The oil is trapped in tight shale formations, which requires hydraulic fracking, a process that many environmentalists reject as potentially hazardous to underground water supplies. “These are our mountains,” said Cheryl Little Dog, a recently elected member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the reservation’s governing body. “I look at what we have, and I think, why ruin it over an oil rig?”

But the money, other Blackfeet say, is badly needed. So far, the tribe of 16,500 members has collected about $30 million from its lease agreements with oil companies. Some tribespeople argue that federal rules for getting reservation drilling permits signed are too cumbersome and should be loosened or done away with altogether. This cuts both ways. Indians have long had big problems with a federal bureaucracy that, depending on the era and the issue, controls, neglects, assists, protects or cheats them. But there is also a strong traditionalist current that often meshes with worries about environmental damage. Says tribeswoman Pauline Matt of the drilling, “It threatens everything we are as Blackfeet.”

-Meteor Blades

Another Navajo Code Talker Walks On, Before National Day of Celebration

Reuben Curley, Sr., “Mr. Aloha”

Navajo Code Talker, Reuben Curley, Sr., died at age 96 on Saturday, August 4, 2012, at his home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Curley was born on July 10, 1916, at Bird Springs, Arizona, to John and Nellie (Dixon) Nezzie. His Navajo paternal clan is Hashk’aanhadzohi’ (Yucca Fruit is Spread Out) and his maternal clan is Ashiihi (Salt). Curley had 40 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 and served throughout World War II with the 2nd Marine Division, He was a qualified sharpshooter and fought in the battles of Tinian, Saipan, Guadalcanal and Okinawa. He later participated in the occupation of Japan. He was awarded a Purple Heart, plus various other medals.

He was one of a few selected to serve on a secret mission that used a code developed by speakers of Navajo and military cryptographers to transmit radio communications to Allied forces. A code within a code. The undecipherable cipher frustrated Japanese linguists who never cracked it. The Code Talkers are credited with saving thousands of lives during the war. They were always guarded by one or two other Marines so they would not be mistaken for a Japanese soldier. The Code Talkers are given considerable credit for the victory over Japan on Iwo Jima. Their mission remained a military secret and they returned home as silent heroes. Even though their story was finally told when the mission was declassified in 1968, Congressional Gold Medals were not awarded until 2001, 60 years after the war began. You can read more about Code Talker history here.

National Navajo Code Talkers Day (proclaimed in 1982) was celebrated August 14 at a celebration in Veteran’s Park in Window Rock, Arizona. Almost 20 Code Talkers attended. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley spoke:

Ahe’hee’ for your service. Because of your service, my generation and those that followed have taken pride in who they are as Diné. […] Our Navajo Code Talkers have inspired an entire generation. For decades boarding schools tried to silence our native tongue. But when we learned our Diné language defeated the Japanese, we rejoiced in happiness because we now had heroes who were our own. Our language is sacred and used by heroes. […] Our language was given to us by the Holy People, and is supposed to be treated as sacred. Our words are expressions of our culture. We have passed our language down from generation to generation and it has sustained our way of life as Diné. […]



Shoshone-Bannock Elected President of USDA Native Farming Advisory Group: Mark Wadsworth (Shoshone-Bannock) was voted into the presidency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Council for Native American Farming and Ranching. The council was established by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as part of the Keepseagle settlement. Its role is to recommend ways to improve access by American Indian tribes to USDA programs and services, including financial credit. The Keepseagle settlement was agreed to as a means of dealing with the USDA’s long-standing discrimination against Indian farmers and ranchers.

-Meteor Blades

Oglala Tribal Government Reopens Case of Pine Ridge Deaths: In the late winter of 1973, traditional Oglala Lakota people and members of the American Indian Movement (including Kossacks Carter Camp (cacamp), Madonna Thunder Hawk and me) occupied the village of Wounded Knee over grievances regarding the corruption of the tribal government and the failure of the federal government to fulfill its treaties.

It was the beginning of a siege, a tense, bullet-filled, 71-day stand-off with federal authorities. Once again, a piece of the Great Sioux Nation became ground zero in the bloody struggle between the government and the tribes. Two Indians were killed during the siege and an FBI agent died subsequently of wounds he had received.

Oglala boys at Pine Ridge
Oglala boys at Pine Ridge Reservation (Photo courtesy Aaron Huey)

But after the siege ended, the violence did not end. Local residents and AIM member Milo Yellowhair said: “There had been a tremendous amount of carnage on the reservation [and] it was almost a daily occurrence, when people were disappearing or died or were found dead. We always called it a ‘reign of terror.'”

Bad blood between the FBI and AIM has continued to this day, a product of the CoIntelPro operation that targeted African American, Indian and Latino activists with divisive actions, via agents provocateurs and disinformation, other heavy-handed tactics used by the bureau and its contract agents, and the slaying of two FBI agents on the reservation in 1975.

With the leading participants at Wounded Knee now in their 70s, the Oglala Tribal Council has called upon U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to look into 45 murders that occurred in the aftermath of the siege. Johnson may or may not turn out to be a good choice. He seems to have a pollyanna view of the FBI, according to reporting by National Public Radio. Both the FBI and AIM deny they had anything to do with the murders.

AIM members like 72-year-old Madonna Thunder Hawk welcome the U.S attorney’s review of these old cases, but doubts justice will be served.

“I mean come on, the U.S. government investigating itself, again … I’m skeptical,” Thunder Hawk says. “I’m glad it’s happening [and] I’m going to sit here and watch.”

She isn’t alone in her skepticism.

-Meteor Blades

Choice of Paul Ryan Doesn’t Resonate with Indians: Mitt Romney has selected a vice presidential candidate who is no friend of American Indians. Among other things, he has voted against the Cobell settlement, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the ground-breaking Tribal Law and Order Act. Most of his other votes have included Indian matters as part of broader legislation, so it is difficult to determine how he might have voted if these had been standalone laws. He did, however, vote for the GOP version of the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act that specifically excluded changes making it easer for Indian women to seek protection from non-Indian abusers living on reservations. Currently, tribal courts have no jurisdiction in cases of domestic violence involving a non-Indian attacking an Indian and regular courts rarely see such cases because prosecutors aren’t interested.

-Meteor Blades

Cherokees Limit Top Posts to Citizens of the Tribe: In a move Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Tribal Attorney General Todd Hembree called unconstitutional, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council has voted 9-8 to limit five top executive posts to enrolled members of the Cherokee Nation. Under tribal rules, the only people who can be enrolled are those who can trace their ancestry to the Dawes Rolls, a federal registry of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and (Oklahoma-based) Seminole people. Even someone who is 1/64th Cherokee by blood can be a member if s/he has an ancestor on the rolls, which are notorious for having done things like categorizing one sibling as Indian and another as not although they were offspring of the same parents.

-Meteor Blades


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.

First Nations News & Views: NN12 American Indian Caucus, the Nez Perce in 1873


Welcome to the 17th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a recap of our American Indian Caucus at Netroots Nation, a look at the year 1873 in American Indian history and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on link below to read our earlier editions.

All Previous Editions

NN12 American Indian Caucus

By Meteor Blades

The American Indian Caucus of Netroots Nation, spurred into existence in 2006 by navajo, had its best attendance ever this year in Providence, R.I. Competition from simultaneously occurring panels makes it tough. (We even wanted to see a couple of those panels.) Fifty-five people attended ours. But talk of the caucus went a lot further than our little room because we attracted a right-wing troll whose only interest was in making points against Elizabeth Warren. She has made a much-discussed claim to Cherokee heritage that is being used against her in her Senate campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. (You can read diaries about the troll here and here.)

The highlight of our caucus was the presentation of our guest, 72-year-old story-teller Paulla Dove-Jennings, a Niantic-Naragansett Indian whose ancestors have lived in what is now Rhode Island for several thousand years. The 2400-member tribe, which was once reduced to a three-acre plot of land where the Episcopal Indian Church had stood since 1744, regained federal recognition in 1983 and now holds 1800 acres of additional land. You can read FNN&V‘s condensed but more detailed history here.

In addition to our story-teller’s wonderful weaving of tribal history, family life, politics and Niantic-Naragansett tales, navajo and I also briefly discussed the progress of FNN&V and quickly summarized what would have been a full hour’s discussion of Indian voting rights and voter suppression if our proposal for such a panel had not been rejected by the Netroots Nation screening committee. Because I know most readers would prefer to watch Jennings’ presentation in the video below than read my abbreviated version of what that panel would have covered, I’m saving that for next week’s FNN&V.

For those who are video impaired, there is a transcript of Jennings’ talk at the end of this edition of FNN&V. Thanks to oke and rfall for videotaping the session and transcribing it.

Here’s an introduction to Jennings in her own words followed by the video:

Members of the Turtle clan are the keepers of tribal History, family history, and

traditional legends. I am a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Working as curator of museum Native collections, Tribal Council member, oral  

historian, story-teller, and published author have all enhanced my confidence

and knowledge of true story-telling. A story-teller never uses another tribe’s story without permission.

I grew up with my parents, grandparents, and other family elders telling tribal history, family history, and legends in the 1940s, 1950s, and ’60s.  I have passed some of my stories on to nieces and nephews as well as my own grandchildren.

Several years ago I invited my mother, Eleanor Spears Dove, to Brown University

to a story-telling event. Seven well-known Rhode Island storytellers of various

ethnic groups presented their stories. All of the presenters used props such as

instruments, music, scarves, sticks, etc. They were wonderful. I told the story of

how the bear lost his tail. My props were the tone of my voice, the shift of my

body, movements of my hands, eye contact, and the lift of my head, leaning

toward the audience and pulling back. I try to build the scene, the weather, the

wind, the sky, the earth, the water, the forest, and the animals.

When the event was over, my mother surprised me by saying she actually saw the bear!  

I have told stories from Maine to Alaska, to the young and the old, in cultural

institutions, colleges, universities, schools, powwows, organizations, and private

and social events. I thank the Creator for this gift.

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1873

By Meteor Blades

wallowa nez perce interpretive center logo

On June 16, 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order barring white settlers from claiming title to northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Valley. This was the traditional turf of one band of the Nez Perce (Nimi’ipuu) tribe. The executive order was needed because Nez Perce bands who didn’t live in the valley had signed a treaty in 1863 surrendering it along with other lands. The U.S. government kept to the executive order until Grant left the presidency. Within two months of Rutherford B. Hayes’s inauguration, however, the non-treaty Nez Perce had been ordered out of the Wallowa Valley and a five-month war and trek had begun, with 2,000 troops of the U.S. Army in pursuit.

The Nez Perce were the largest tribe on the Columbia River Plateau when Lewis and Clark encountered them in 1805. The two Americans weren’t the first white people the Nez Perce had seen. They got their name – “pierced nose,” even though they didn’t pierce their noses-from French fur traders. A half-century later, vastly reduced in numbers by war with white men and European diseases, they stood in the way of America’s inexorable Manifest Destiny.

In 1855, some Nez Perce bands agreed to a treaty with most of their traditional hunting grounds, including the Wallowa, set aside for them “permanently” in exchange for giving up some land and right of way. All the bands agreed, including the Wallowa band led by Tuekakas, known to the whites as Joseph after his Christian baptism in 1839, and later, Old Joseph. However, in 1861, gold was discovered on Nez Perce land in Idaho and 10,000 white settlers poured in. Conflict naturally arose. The government called for another treaty. This reduced the original land promised in 1855 by 90 percent.

Tuekakas opposed the deal because his band’s beloved Wallowa Valley would have to be surrendered. Because he and the leaders of four other bands opposed the deal, the divisions were henceforth labeled treaty and nontreaty Nez Perce. Tuekakas staked out the valley with poles and declared “Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man.” He died in 1871, and his son, Hinmuuttu-yalatlat (Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain), also known as Young Joseph, became leader of the Wallowa band. His father is reported to have said before his death:

My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.

For four years, they stayed put, as President Grant had said they could. But relations with whites were tense. Settlers continued to move into the Wallowa and this led to inevitable clashes and a few killings on both sides.

In May 1877, the one-armed Gen. Oliver O. Howard arrived. Without ceremony, discussion or advance notice, told Chief Joseph that his band would be moved immediately. The first thought of many non-treaty Indians was to fight, but Joseph knew this was a losing proposition. The band pulled up stakes, literally, from the Wallowa and crossed the Snake River, joining the other non-treaty bands and a small group of Palouse Indians. They wer headed for the reservation, heartsick. Before they could move to the reservation, however, a small group of young warriors joined the band to say they had killed some whites and taken their horses. The 800 or so people in the allied bands soon learned the Army was coming after them.

Nez Perce photographed after their capture in 1877
Nez Perce photographed after their capture in 1877

Thus began one of the most famous conflicts of the Indian Wars. It captured the attention of the nation and Europe as newspapers told of the pursuit of the Nez Perce by Gen. Howard. The Crow refused asylum to the Nez Perce. So the decision was made to flee to Canada, where, they had learned, Sitting Bull had taken the Hunkpapa band of Lakota to evade the Army seeking revenge for Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The Wallowa Nez Perce and their allies went on a nearly 1200-mile, three-month-long zig-zag trek, out-maneuvering the Army, white volunteers and Indian scouts, which included some of the non-treaty Nez Perce. Small clashes were won and lost throughout the summer. But attrition was catching up with the band. Its cohort of battle-ready warriors dwindled week after week. Ultimately, after a five-day battle in the freezing cold, with the remnants of the band starving and more than 150 warriors dead, Chief Joseph surrendered just 40 miles from Canada on Oct. 5, 1877.

There, he was said to give a stirring speech ending with “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” Scholars now believe it was a later invention of a lieutenant colonel and poet under Howard’s command.

The Nez Perce repeatedly promised they could return to the Wallowa. But it never happened. Chief Joseph died in 1904 at the Colville Reservation, living with the other 11 bands assigned there. And, despite there being numerous bridges, dams, streets, a mountain pass, a highway, a town, a creek and a canyon named after their leader, the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce still live at Colville.

In the Wallowa Valley that the band never agreed to surrender, there is today the 160-acre Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center. The mission is to tell the story of the band’s trek and “to assist in assembling the Wallowa Band Nez Perce culture and history in order to provide interpretation, knowledge and understanding to those who visit the grounds.” Still there, near Lake Wallowa, lies the grave of Old Joseph. His valley is no longer surrounded by poles but, unlike his living kin, he remains forever in the land of his fathers.



The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story by Elliott West (2009).

Treaty of 1863.

Nez Perce Joseph: An Account of His Ancestors, His Lands, His Confederates, His Enemies, His Murders, His War, His Pursuit and Capture by O. O. Howard (1881).

NAN Line Separater

Complaints Gain Invisible Indians a Spot on Obama Campaign Website: The Obama-Biden campaign website had outreach pages for African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays and women. Notably missing until Friday, however, was a page for American Indians despite the fact the election is less than five months away. Thanks to complaints, Native Americans for Obama was posted June 15 with a logo and the tag-line “A place for Native Americans to organize and speak out in support of President Obama and his accomplishments.”

But Indians from several tribes who met last week in Chicago with members of the campaign team say they are concerned that not as much seems to be being done with Indians as was done in 2008. And they expressed disappointment that the Obama campaign apparently plans to depend on the efforts of state Democratic Party apparatuses to handle voter outreach to the tribes. In the past, Indians have been ignored-or treated with hostility-by state parties.  

-Meteor Blades

Jihan Gearon photo
Jihan Gearon

Navajo Tribal Council Delegates to Vote on Water Pact: Navajo Nation Chief Ben Shelly and Attorney General Harrison Tsosie support a water settlement under which the Navajo and Hopi people would waive claims to water from the Little Colorado River system. In exchange, the federal government would pay to develop groundwater projects for the tribes.

Approval by the Navajo, the Hopi and 30 other entities are required before the pact can be finalized. The 24 Navajo delegates to the Tribal Council will vote sometime this month, possibly as soon as this week. The settlement, introduced in February, is the swan song of Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and backed by Sen. John McCain. Foes encompass numerous grassroots Navajo groups cooperating as the Dine Water Rights Committee, Dine being what the Navajo people call themselves in their own tongue. Members include the Forgotten People Corporation, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, Hada’asidi, Next Indigenous Generation and the Council Advocating an Indigenous Manifesto. Jihan Gearon, executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition said:

“It’s obvious that the grassroots people of the Navajo Nation reject the settlement agreement. We have collected hundreds of petition signatures from concerned citizens opposed to the settlement as well as hundreds of letters against the settlement. Furthermore, there was overwhelming opposition at each of the eight educational forums organized by the grassroots organizations, not to mention the overwhelming opposition voiced against the settlement at each of the seven town hall meetings sponsored by the president’s office under direction from the council.”

Sarana Riggs of Next Indigenous Generation said: “Our vision for the future includes a just transition away from the coal-based economy, a diverse and sustainable economy based on traditional values, and true self-sufficiency for the Navajo Nation. We will sign these things away if we agree to the settlement.”

In a open letter, Anna Rondon (Navajo) wrote:

I also serve on the Navajo Nation Green Economy Commission. I question why our leaders cater to the very federal government that has time and time again under-funded us, to design internal fighting among ourselves. Our leaders turn the other way when real Dine’ ideas lead the way for a healthier and sustainable economy. But, our leaders are selling us out. I cannot believe the Navajo Nation is setting precedence that is not only unruly for us as a People, but for our other tribal nations that will also feel the negative impacts of this legislation.

-Meteor Blades

North Dakota Voters Say Goodbye to ‘Fighting Sioux’ Nickname: After six years of acrimony, countervailing actions by politicians, university officials and the NCAA, plus national media attention, the University of North Dakota will no longer use the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo for its sports teams. The name had deeply divided citizens across the state, but two-thirds of them voted down the nickname in a primary election June that had three other measures on the ballot.

The NCAA ruled in 2005 that all university and colleges should drop Indian-themed mascots, logos and nicknames ranging from “Redskins” to “Braves” to just plain “Indians.” Exceptions were allowed for schools that obtained tribal permission. Although some foes of eliminating Indian mascots and nicknames have claimed these are not degrading but respectful, images and attitudes expressed around these have historically been filled with ridiculous caricatures and racist stereotypes. One of those stereotypes is that so many of the logos and mascots choose Plains Indians as their image no matter what the local Indian culture was and is. Hundreds of universities, colleges and secondary schools have dropped the nicknames over the past 40 years as opposition has steadily grown. Oregon formally banned mascots and nicknames this year after some schools held out against the state school board’s request several years ago that they do so voluntarily. Last month, Sanford became the last small school in Maine to drop the “Redskins” nickname from its high school sports teams.

While a dwindling number of schools retain the nicknames, two national franchises-the Cleveland Indians baseball team with their despicable Chief Wahoo, and the Washington Redskins- continue to thumb their noses at people who object to their racist depictions.

While many Indians say they have no objections to such nicknames, the National Indian Education Association passed a resolution in 2009 calling for getting rid of all the Indian-themed mascots, logos and nicknames. And the National Congress of American Indians has been campaigning for an end to mascots and nicknames since 1968.

Previous coverage of this issue in FNN&V can be found here and here and here.

-Meteor Blades

Ed WindDancer
Ed WindDancer

Real Indians Protest Fakes: Sal “White Horse” Serbin (Oglala-Lakota) grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation of South Dakota. But he lives in Florida now and in 2010 established a group called the Fraudulent Native American Task Force. Its numbers are small. But Serbin is trying to make its impact greater by protesting fake Indians every chance he gets. That often puts him into conflict not only with wannabes and other frauds but with other Indians, too. Among the many frauds he has challenged are “healers” and performers and participants in phony sun dance ceremonies or moon worshipping and other whatnot, often charging fees for services they claim to be Indian in origin.

“The stealing and exploitation of the Native American culture,” Sal said, “has become an epidemic.”

At one event recently, the Chasco Fiesta Parade, Serbin and five other Indians of various tribal heritage held signs when the faux-Indian Krewe of Chasco danced past in “Mohawk” haircuts, feathers and beads, dressed as “Pocahontas” and other stereotypes. Serbin’s sign read: “Having Fun Playing Indian? Grow Up!!”

He has links with other groups, including the Florida chapter of the American Indian Movement, the militant organization whose most famous confrontation occurred at Wounded Knee in 1973 on the reservation where Serbin was born nine years earlier. The 77-year-old leader of Florida AIM, Ruby Beaulieu, who has protested the Chasco parade’s inclusion of fake Indians for many years, told Leonora LaPeter Anton at the Tampa Bay Times that her complaints had gotten rid of outrages like “Find the treasure in the Indian burial mound” and “Pin the tail on the Indian.” But the parade remains.

At the Venice Community Center, the night before the parade, Serbin had another encounter:

There, a man named Ed WindDancer, a flute player and a carpenter, had put together a cast of Indian performers for a show called “Flight of the Red-Tailed Hawk.” The cost to attend: $15. CDs of his music were on sale. The parking lot was filling up fast.

WindDancer said he was Cherokee, but Sal called the Cherokees. Sal said they had never heard of him. When WindDancer said he was Nanticoke, Sal said he called the group’s chief in Delaware and learned WindDancer was not on their tribal rolls either. He knew that WindDancer had changed his last name from Pielert and that part of WindDancer’s family had come from Germany four generations ago. He knew that WindDancer had received probation and a $5,000 fine for bartering eagle, hawk and great horned owl feathers with a wildlife officer, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

In another central Florida town recently, Serbin and some Indian allies confronted the New Age-style fake-Indian ritual midway. The participants, all sporting “Indian” names responded:

“In a past life, we were you,” said Raven That Speaks With the Cloud People. “We were Indians.”

“Let’s just love each other,” said Tiger Lily. […]

“If you want to continue with this group, if you could just add ‘style’ or ‘hobbyists’ to the end of your advertisements,” [Serbin] implored nicely. “This could be a wonderful thing if done properly.”

Small battles, occasionally small victories. But he doesn’t give up.

-Meteor Blades

American Indian Schools Get Solar, Wind Money from Arizona: After the expansion of a Tucson Electric Power company’s 400-megawatt, coal-fired power plant in 2009, the Arizona Renewable Energy Investment Fund was given $5 million to support projects to reduce pollution and benefit Native American communities in Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. Several projects have now been selected to receive a share of those funds: $236,000 for a solar and wind power project at Little Singer, Dilkon Community, Leupp, Shonto Preparatory and NATIVE schools; $65,000 for a solar and wind power project at Moenkopi Day and Hopi Day schools; and $253,000 to provide wind power to an assisted-living facility for the Hopi Office of Elderly Services.

-Meteor Blades

Montana’s 40-year-old Indian Education Act Praised: Surviving delegates and other Montanans gathered in the state’s House chambers Friday to commemorate the passage of Montana’s constitution in 1972. They focused intently on the document’s Education and Public Lands Article that changed how Montana relates to its American Indian populations. It says: “The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural heritage.”

It wasn’t until 1999 that this article was actually implemented. That took the prodigious efforts of Rep. Carol Juneau (Hidatsa and Mandan) to shepherd through the legislature. And it took several more years of lawsuits to get it funded, according to Montana Assistant Attorney General Andrew Huff (Cree-Rocky Boy Reservation). Juneau’s daughter Denise (Hidatsa and Mandan) is now the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

Because he didn’t look obviously like an Indian or what other people thought an Indian should look like, many people thought Huff was Italian or Mexican or marveled at his apparent easy ability to tan.

“So by the time I had hit high school in Missoula, I’d heard just about it all with regard to Indians – all the Indian slurs, the stereotypes, the racial epithets,” he said. “I’d heard that Indians were drunk, lazy, that we were a defeated people, that we should just blend in, that we should accept our fate and assimilate and that reservations should be done away with.”

Many people in his life – his supportive family, many teachers and his friends – had fought against these stereotypes, Huff said. Many people wanted to help Indian children, but lacked the knowledge to counter the stereotypes, he said.

It took 40 years, but Montana at last is fulfilling the promise of that provision, Huff said.

Montana has a K-12 Indian Education for All curriculum, developed in consultation with Indians and their tribes, he said. Teachers are getting trained on how to teach it and learn about Indians and Indian tribes. And Montana children of all backgrounds are learning about Indians and their history.

-Meteor Blades

Indians Not Happy with IRS Meddling: The president of the executive board of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, John Yellowbird Steele (Oglala-Lakota) told members of a Senate committee Thursday that the Internal Revenue Service is stepping over the line of tribal sovereignty and violating treaties in its attempts to tax treaty-guaranteed government assistance for things such as housing, school clothes and burial aid that tribes provide their members.

“We fix houses, and they want us to put a value on how much that lumber cost to patch a hole in a roof or a floor, put shingling on, they want us to put a value on that and give the person a 1099” tax form to possibly be taxed on the help, Steele said. “The next year, where are those people going to find the money to pay the IRS?”

The agency has over the years cut back on what social benefits for tribal members can be exempted from taxes. It has been meeting with various tribes to clarify rules on what is taxable under the General Welfare Doctrine. But, Steele said, in th midst of those meetings, tribes are getting notices that they are being audited. He called this an IRS fishing expedition.

-Meteor Blades

Indians Honor Owner of Cleaned-up Chickamauga Mound in Chattanooga: A Chattanooga burial mound dating back to perhaps 900 BCE was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984. But it was overgrown with poison ivy, wisteria and 30 trees, practically invisible and, some in the American Indian community said, disrespected until the new owner of the industrial property where it sits decided to clean it up and give access to Native people. That owner, Kenny Wilhoit, was honored in a small ceremony today in conjunction with the National Days of Prayer to Protect Native Sacred Places. He was given a wooden bowl made from one of the trees removed from the mound.

Tom Kunesh (Standing Rock Sioux) of the Advisory Council on Tennessee Indian Affairs said that prior to 2010: “We would stand outside the fence, pray, offer tobacco and look forward to the day when we would be allowed access to it.” Wilhoit says that access will continue for as long as he owns the property.

-Meteor Blades

National Congress of American Indians, 1944. (Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives
National Congress of American Indians, 1944. (Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives

National Congress of American Indians Meeting for First Time in Nebraska: It was 1944 when the 60 male and seven female delegates of the first-ever get-together of the National Congress of American Indians met in Denver. Today, the congress began its mid-year conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. There will be more than 800 representatives from scores of the 565 federally recognized tribes at the Cornhusker Hotel. The four-day event, which will cover a broad range of issues, including climate change and violence against Native women, will end the first day’s events with a pow-wow. NCAI President Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw) will deliver an address Monday about “Uniting Tribes to Advance Our Shared Goals.”

In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star last week, Keel discussed the economics of the tribes, including his own. In the 1980s, the 40,000-member Chickasaw tribe’s economic goal was $5 million. “If you look today, there’s probably a billion dollars flowing through our businesses.” These include a chocolate factory and a metal-fabrication factory. “Those create jobs,” he said, “and the jobs then relate to raising the quality of life of Indian people across the country.” One example is the 4,800-member Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, which went from zero revenue in 1995 and now has revenue of $226 million. But for many tribes, especially those in more remote areas, the economic conditions remain grim.

Keel noted that one major NCAI goal this year is getting out the Indian vote: “In 2008, there were probably one million Native American people who were not registered to vote.” Although he didn’t mention it, suppressing the Indian vote of those who are registered has been a key factor in keeping the numbers who vote at a low level relative to other ethnic groups.

-Meteor Blades

‘American Indian’ Charter School Blasted: Despite a report ripping the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, California, the school board there approved renewal of the school’s charter in April. Among the complaints about the school run by American Indian Models are that it has conflicts of interest, limited parent involvement and high teacher turnover. On a scale of 1-5 on 43 measures, the school received only as high as a “3” on one. But because its academic index was 990 out of 1000, a phenomenally high score that no other school in the Oakland system achieved, it retained its charter. Now some believe the index rating was inflated by cherry-picking transferring students, a violation of the law. Admissions are supposed to be “blind,” but parents have been asked to submit their students’ scores in their applications.

The school got its name from the fact that it was originally designed to serve the American Indian community in Oakland. In the 2010-2011 school-year, there were ZERO students who identified as Indian.  

That’s a sticking point for some local American Indians, said one prominent member of the Bay Area American-Indian community, who asked to be anonymous for fear of making waves. “If anything, I just wish they would change their name – it’s misleading, and potentially damaging to our community.”

-Meteor Blades

Oglala College Students Work Against Youth Suicide: Suicide among young people is epidemic on many American Indian reservations. To raise awareness, generate hope and help reduce this terrible circumstance, some Oglala Lakota College business students, have begun a campaign using traditional advertising and social media. Students in the Introduction to Business class have passed out 200 disposable cameras to elementary and middle school students at the Loneman, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud schools. The assignment: Take the camera home and shoot photos to show what hope looks like.

-Meteor Blades

Photo Exhibits Focuses on the 1973-1976 ‘Reign of Terror in South Dakota’:  From the time of the Wounded Knee siege in 1973, the FBI, government bureaucrats and corrupt tribal officials were at loggerheads with traditional Indians and the American Indian Movement. From now until the end of June, AIM-WEST, a non-profit community based inter-tribal organization in San Francisco, is hosting a photo and art exhibit about the “Reign of Terror in South Dakota” of that era. More than 60 AIM members were murdered in a three-year period. Included in the exhibit will be paintings by political prisoner Leonard Peltier, photos of AIM’s past activities, including the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz and the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, as well as Bay Area indigenous activism. The exhibit is at the Arte International Gallery, 963 Pacific St. More information is available at AIM-West.

-Meteor Blades

A Tobacco Offering

I brought some tobacco with me today. A little here for the past, a little here for the present, a little here for the future. History and all the powers that be said that my people have been here ten, maybe fifteen thousand years, but my grandmother told me we’ve been here 30,000 years. When I started on this journey of talking about my people and learning about my people I went to anthropologists and mythologists, and I interned at a museum. And they said, “How do you know what you’re saying is true, what’s your primary source?” “My Grandmother.” They said, “Where was it written?” Well, my grandmother writes beautiful letters but she never wrote down our history. I’ve converted a lot of educated PhD authorities and one day they’re going to catch up and realize my people have been here 30,000 years.

I was going to sit down and talk but I like to see faces so I’m going to stand up so I can see faces.

My name is Paula Dove-Jennings, I have a brother who is a year older than me but on the day that I was born my father stood at the end of the street and said, “Today I am a man because I have a daughter, because women are the givers of life.” And I tease my two younger sisters from all the time, saying they weren’t necessary one sister is 9 years, the younger one is 18 years younger than me. I asked my father one night my after my first sister came along. “You had me, why her?” He said, “Well, you keep saying you wanted somebody else to play with.” We lived out in the country, without electricity without running bath, that kind of stuff.  It was great, it was wonderful. When my baby sister came along my father said, “I thought it was a tumor.” But I love them both. Women, not only being born make a man a man, just as a son makes a woman a woman, have always played an

important part in our nation.

Now if you look on this sheet here and other places you’re going to see the word “Narragansett” correct spelling, or pronunciation, is Nah-ah-gansett because we didn’t have the letter ‘r’. If you’re from Rhode Island or talk to other Rhode Islanders you’ll often find they leave the ‘r ‘out. We like to say,  “they’re trying to talk Narragansett.”

My people have always been here, this land where this building is right now is part swampland, low-lying lands. If you go to Providence Place mall where the parking area is there’s a sacred burial ground. And we were given about 350,000.00 dollars to allow them to bury our people on that land. My voice was not loud enough, the elders voice was not loud enough, the young people were not loud enough. So it’s up to those of us today to speak up and be loud about it. Be courteous but be loud. People think it’s amazing that women finally are running for President. We had women who led our people. Some more well known than others.

We also read in the paper now that women can fight in different battles in the United States Army, Marines, Navy. We had women warriors, we did all this and it’s taken 400 years  of everything to come around full circle so people realize that when the creator made us, man and woman, it was to walk side by side.

Squaw Man

Now, that didn’t always happen some people like my father’s mother married an Englishman. My grandfather is about 6’4″, 250 lbs; he went to college and became an engineer. But then he married my little 5’2″ grandmother she was Niantic and in Rhode Island my grandfather was known as squaw man. He could only get a job as policeman  or fireman, that’s what he did. He and my grandmother had eight children. His family disowned him, didn’t want anything to do with him because he married this woman. My grandmother and grandmother lived in Westerly, Rhode Island which is in the southern part of the state, in an old Italian neighborhood. My grandmother would stand at the fence, a white picket fence, she’d be on one side of the picket fence, Mrs. Filosetti would be on the other side. Mrs. Filosetti was speaking in Italian, Calibrese, and my grandmother was speaking in Narragansett and they would understand each other. And my grandmother would send over baked fish and they would send over the most delicious sausage, and sauce, and they’d exchange.

Once a year, around Thanksgiving time, a news reporter from the Westerly Sun would come to interview my grandmother. My Grandmother had a front porch which we called a piazza, and we’d be on her front porch. In those days I didn’t talk much. Grandmother would be out there, she’d have her apron on, the reporter would come to interview her. He’d ask what she was going to do for Thanksgiving, what she was going to cook. And my grandmother would say, “Well, we’re going to have roast turkey.” A truck would come by and it would have all these cages on it and my grandmother would reach up for the fattest one, she’d check them all out, pick out one that was 25 or 30 lbs. and take it out in the backyard, chop the head off, did what she had to do. She’d talk about the vegetables and so forth and the family members that would come in from wherever. But one year they sent a new reporter out and this reporter said,  “Mrs. Dove, do you people go hunting for your turkey?” My grandmother’s sitting there and I’m holding onto her apron. I looked up at her and her eyes were getting blacker and blacker. She told him no, she had bought it from Mr. so-and-so.” “Well, did your people live in tee-pees?” “No, we had long houses, we had wig-wams.” I could feel my grandmothers body tense up and her eyes kept getting darker and darker. He went on in this way for quite awhile. Finally he said, “Well isn’t it true that the women are not as good, well they’re inferior to the men.” Grandmother said, “No, that’s not true.” Then he said, “Well, I heard that Indian women always walk behind their men.” By this time my Grandmother rolled those eyes up at him and said, “That’s true.” “Well see you are inferior then.” My grandmother stood up, all 5’2″ of her, holding onto her apron and she said, “We stand behind our men to tell them where to go.” Still true, still true.

Now my grandmother said to my grandfather, “You have to vote, you have to get involved. It’s not only your right, it’s your responsibility.” You have to make sure when your children come of age that they vote. Don’t just vote for the President, or the national, or just for the Governor, remember who you’re voting for in these small towns.

Now 1924, when the reorganization act was going, on a woman known as Princess Red Wing, a Wampanog-Narragansett, she designed the Tribal Seal. It’s the peace pipe, the North Star and the sun. And she worked hard. So, we weren’t Federally recognized, but we were recognized.

Now our people fought in all the wars, up to and including the Civil War and after the Civil War was over and we’re back on our reservation in Charlestown , Westerley, all through the Southern coast, that was all our land but it slowly being stolen. It was taken away and we moved back in further and further. One of our elders called our people together and a man came down from the state house up here and said, “you fought in the civil war, you did well. We’re going to make you citizens of the state of Rhode Island.” He went on and on about the benefits of being a citizen of the state of Rhode Island. He didn’t mention voting. Just as the black men were given the right to be citizens he said at that time. We sent him away. We do not want the citizenship. We are happy to be Narragansett. Why would we give up what we have? Yes, you claim the black man is now a citizen, but we will never see a black man running this country. And I wept when Obama won, I didn’t vote for him, I voted for a woman. And then I prayed that he would be safe and not killed, or his children be harmed. Because I worry about this. Well time went on, 1924 we’re now official citizens of the state of Rhode Island. But it wasn’t until 1951 or ’52 that Rhode Island made the law that allowed us to vote.

Now I lived in Charlestown and there were a lot of Native families there around us and the beginning of November a car would drive out the dirt roads, no electric, and drive to my cousin’s house, to my cousin’s father’s house, to our house, and they would come out and say, “you vote for us, don’t vote for anybody else.” Then leave a pint of whiskey. My father’s cousin and my father put all the whiskey up and my father would call them together and one of the elders, he was a young man then, would say, “you go and vote, and you vote for the person you think is going to be the most responsible for all our needs, not just a certain individual.’ Then at Christmas time they’d all bring their pints and my father would take fresh whole cream and make the best eggnog you ever had and he shared it all.

My father tried to run for local town office in Charlestown, he could never get in. Sometimes he wasn’t even allowed to get on the ballot. Then we moved to Exeter, Rhode Island. And when we moved there first, my father went to the PTA meetings, to the local town meetings, and in a few years he was the town moderator. He periodically came up to the state house. He would meet with the local politicians. He would call them up, he would draft a letter to whoever the local representative was. So when they heard the name ‘Ferris Dove’ they’d say, “ah, he’s got some influence with the tribe.”

His Native Name was Roaring Bull

His whole purpose was to help us get some of our land back. He was on the tribal council, and he also ended up after a couple of terms as town moderator they used to tell him he didn’t have to use the mallet, his native name was Roaring Bull, that he could just raise his voice. He became a tax assessor for several years.

My father met my mother just before he got a scholarship from the DAR to go to Bacone Indian college in Oklahoma. The DAR said they were going to pay his way there. If he did well, it was a two-year college, they’d send him onto graduate school. When he left he had 2 outfits, 4 pairs of undies, 4 pairs of socks and 2 dollars. Took the Greyhound. He loved school, loved education. Now before he went they offered two or three other Native men. He had been out of school 3 or 4 years but his younger brother said, “no, I’m going in the Navy.” This was in the thirties. My father went out there. My family is fortunate, we must be a bunch of pack rats because we still have the letters he sent. His greatest pain was they would go from Oklahoma to Texas and they walked to a store where they were going to get something to eat and a sign said, “No dogs or Indians.” And my father wrote to my grandmother and said, “I want to come home, I want to come home, I can’t live with this.” And my grandmother said, “Your own Grandfathers and Grandmothers barely speak to you and you’re going to worry about this sign? Stay. Get your education.” My grandfather stayed. He went to school with Dick West. And he loved school. And when he came back, whenever he had a chance, he took courses at the University of Rhode Island. He died when he was sixty-eight, in 1983, and he was still taking courses. When he became town moderator he took some political courses. And when he was the tax assessor he took some financial courses.

My parents owned a restaurant, twenty years. It was my mother’s idea. My mother worked in a factory called Kenyon Mill. She said, “I’m not coming back after summer vacation.” We had this house with a building next door and my mother’s father was a chef, her grandfather also owned a restaurant here in Providence. I think there’s a Wendy’s or McDonald’s there now where it was located. My parents did catering work as well as my father working making submarines, and my mother working in this factory. And being a female daughter you get drafted whether you want to or not, working those days off from your regular job, you had to waitress or cook, or do something. And every week two or three people that would say, “are you a real Indian?” I’d wonder to myself, “what’s an unreal Indian?” Oh, they mean what happens at Halloween, the stereotypes. They’d ask what tribe are you. “Narragansett.” “Never heard of them.” “But you’re here in Rhode Island. How can it be you’ve never heard of them?” Then I thought back when I was in school, I was in grammar school. In our classes at Thanksgiving time it was the Indians that met the Pilgrims. We weren’t heard again.No other Native nations were mentioned until in the spring when they talked about the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. That was it. The rest of the time we didn’t exist. And not talk about the names of the towns, the cities, words that they’d use, “hammock”. [unintelligible 20:51] They’d go to the beach, names like Pawtucket. All this, this is ours.

And they’d talk about how wonderful Roger Williams was, how much he helped us. He fought for us to be able to use our own religious beliefs. But they don’t talk about how after the battle at Great Swamp how he voted to send our ancestors, our people, to Barbados and to the islands of the Caribbean as slaves. And I grew older and had children and grandchildren and who comes from the islands to my nieces school as exchange, Narragansett, Niantic, Wampanoag, and Peuquot descendants from the slaves. And my niece and the schoolchildren, half of them went down there. We were shocked at how much we looked alike and at how many things their ancestors had passed on and had stayed the same. You always wonder who writes history. Red Wing always says the winner writes history. I look at history books, and you all can look at history books and you can see the biases,  and it’s passed on to the children and it’s passed on to the children’s children. It’s time that we speak the truth.

A Real Indian

At one time I was executive director of the commission for Indian Affairs for the state of Rhode Island. I had a window office and a secretary and the secretary’s name was Lois San Antonio. A very pretty Italian woman. She was always peeking around the corner. After a month or so I said, “Lois, what’s the problem?” She said, “I can’t believe I’m working for a real Indian.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I said, “Lois, what’s an unreal one?” She said, “I didn’t think any lived in Rhode Island. I told her they may live on the same street you live on, you have this image in your mind. Don’t let that fool you. Don’t let that take away. Then I brought her down here to meet my parents, and my children and grandchildren and different siblings. After about two years she said, “I want to apologize for my stupidity, but it’s not my fault, it’s the school’s.”

And part of the schools is that you go and vote for your committees. You make sure that people are looking out for everybody. You have to remember that, it’s important. You have to be able to think beyond what’s right before you and see the rest.

I have a book that I found in a second hand bookstore and it has the native names that we use in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Place names, towns, rivers. How many of you know that half of our 50 states are named for the local indigenous people. People don’t think about that. It’s fact, not fiction. People don’t say enough about Native people. There’s a Vice-President that was half Native. They don’t talk about the Native that went out into outer space. I don’t even want to go into outer space, I’ll be honest with you. The Creator made us here, we stay here. But my grandmother in another interview, different reporter, different paper, was asked about going to the moon because that was the big thing when President

Kennedy was here. And so she said, “Well, I have no desire to go, I wouldn’t allow my children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren to go, but maybe everybody else will go!” And the reporter, and I was there, he was shocked, he was stunned, “What do you mean?” “If everyone goes we can reclaim the land, they won’t chop down anymore trees, or put down pipelines here or there, they won’t defile the water, they’ll let things grow naturally.”

People don’t realize, when people came across that big water over here we had everything we needed. We had our food, clothing, shelter, our educational games. No it wasn’t in a classroom with desks lined up in a row and rote memorizing. See, in the wintertime and the elders would tell stories and help you learn how to identify things, things that were necessary. Think about the things we didn’t have before those ships got lost and landed here. We didn’t have rats, the common housefly. We had good mosquitoes and other kinds of flies. We didn’t have jails. We didn’t have homes for the elderly, we took care of our own. We didn’t have guns. guns are for food, not today. it’s to kill to slaughter someone so they can’t live again.

The British were astounded at the wars we would have. Whether I’ll get your bag and take it home. I got whatever’s in your back pocket and take it home, I won, I got it. I might even say that’s a pretty young woman and I think I’ll take her home to work in my garden. She might work there for a year or so, she might decide she wants to stay or she might want to go on. And these were all good things. So we had what we needed.

One of the first things that happened when this part of the country was invaded was the British chopped down the trees. Because in Europe and in England the biggest trees belonged to the Lords. High and mighty so they chopped down the biggest trees here to take back. Not for the poor people, not for the homeless. You got put in places, if you couldn’t pay your debt you got thrown in jail. They took everything and they keep taking from Mother Earth, that’s why you need to vote. And they put nothing back that’s good in there. They keep putting stuff that’s not good up in the air so people can’t breath and have diseases and different things happen to them.

You have to vote, you have to remember. You got to start at the local level and keep going and going. And speak up. A lot of times in the newspaper or telephone books will say who your local representative is. Call them up even if you get a voicemail. Go on the computer, I’m not a computer person. But, go on it and let them know how you feel . So they’ll hear more than those that they want to hear. They’ll hear truth and they’ll think about the people, and that’s important. Gotta stand strong, stand together and you gotta speak up because it doesn’t do a bit of good if you sit there and just say, “I don’t really agree with that.” You have to stand up. Go to your town meeting. I know, some of them are boring and some of them you say oh my god where did these people come from. But, if you don’t speak up it’s going to keep going the way it has been going.

If you don’t recognize the racism in this country, you never will. I was born and raised in Rhode Island. I had one child born in Connecticut, my oldest one. On her birth certificate it says “American Indian.’ My second child was born in Mississippi. My husband got out of the Air Force he was a tall cool drink of water and I said that was for me. He was black, Indian, and white. He looked like a white. We go to Mississippi, I have my first son and the doctor’s and nurses are all running in there, “he looks like a white baby. He’s not white.” They put N on his birth certificate. I told them I’m American Indian, they still put down, N. This son I lost. He was ten years old when he died in an accident, and this was before we were going for Federal recognition. My youngest son was born here in Rhode Island, South County Hospital. Picked out a name, his name was Adam, the first man. I filled out his name, filled out race, and so forth. They called me into this little office when I was getting ready to come home. “You have American Indian on here, what tribe are you?” “Narragansett” She crossed it out. I called the doctor. He said he’d fill it. He did and I didn’t see it, didn’t worry about it, it was Dr. Barber. To go for Federal recognition you have to have birth certificates. The Health Department over here told my son they had him as white, Caucasian. I go to the Health Director. He looked at me and said, “Well, Mrs. Jennings, you know what they say.” I said, “Sir?” “Momma’s baby, father’s maybe.” I took my first Nitro pill less than a month after that. It angered me so, frustrated me so. I wrote a letter to the present Governor and told him about it. He called my father and apologized to my father, but I never forgot it. There’s not one time I go into that health center that I don’t remember the abuse of that man. It was small but it was painful. It was after that my father told me of his eight sisters and brothers, five were listed as white, three were listed as Indian and they all had the same mother and father.

To The Moon

Don’t let anybody mistreat who you are. Respect it and love it. I have nieces and nephews that are half Chinese and half German, they love both sides of their culture. When they go to the Powwow or August Social they look as Narragansett as anybody else. At German beer festivals they’re more German than anybody else. it all depends on who and what you are. But they all know that Grandfather said voting is not only a responsibility, it’s a right. Do it. Don’t complain. Do it. I expect each and every one of you to tell your young ones to do the same, otherwise I’m going to send you to the moon.


I brought out my tribal ID card which does have a picture on it and a tribal seal. I wish on the back there was a little list of history that said when we got recognition, when we were de-tribalized, some more things about us. But after 911 I happened to be on the Tribal Council at that time and happened to be traveling across the country and remember in Nevada. I went to get on the plane and I showed this card and they took it. Next time, 3 weeks later, I had to go to Washington State. When I got there I pulled the card out, they refused to take it. They patted me down, went through all my things. Finally I get in line to go in and they pull me aside again. Well, I was so frustrated and so angry I said, “You’re here in my country, why am I going to bomb it?” And they looked at me like who’s this wild woman. There was a younger native woman with me and she said, “calm down, calm down.” It is very frustrating when people don’t recognize who and what and where we’re at.

I wanted to go over this just a little because I wanted to make a few notes. If you look at this paper Verrazano said we were the tallest looking Indians he’d ever seen. We love to tease the people. We were taller than the English. We were always in the subservient area when you see these European drawings. I told you we’d been here 30,000 years. Many people were affected by plagues and disease. Do you realize, and this is documented, over 70% of the medicines used is medicine that derived from the Native people in North and South America? It’s ours, we did it. I can remember when Pampers came out, they thought that was a big thing. Well, we took the inside of the milkweed and made Pampers. We had it all.

Remember Wampanoag and Narragansett only has an ‘s’ on it when it’s possessing something. It’s just that way. We talked about Roger Williams, he bought land. Well we didn’t have the concept of buying land. You could use the land till you didn’t need it any longer and then you moved on.

The war with the Pequots, the Mohegans, well the war with the Pequots was the same nation but they split. They came from upstate New York and my people got angry because they kept fishing in our ponds and they wanted to make war. We didn’t like that. King Philip decided to make war, it’s on page 2. He didn’t decide to make war he tried to preserve some land, culture and religious beliefs of our people. So, he didn’t make war he was doing something to protect us.

When the battle of the Great Swamp my people took in Wampanoag, elders, young people, down in South County. The English came in and from CT and MS and slaughtered, burned. People that weren’t sent into slavery were put on a ship and told they were going to Block Island when the boat got half way there they threw them overboard and it’s not in the history book. But my grandmother told me because her grandmother told her. I have never been able to go to Block Island. Can’t bear the thought that I would be floating over an ancestor. I’m the only member of my family that’s never been to Europe or Asia. My grandmother told me don’t go across the big water, your name is Sunflower, stay here. I’ve been up and down North and South America but not across the big water.

Then it says in 1782 it says only 500 Narrangansett were left to sign. They LOCATED 500, now others they didn’t want to locate. At that time, and right up until 1924 the Native people from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, were meeting right here in Providence. Meeting at various churches and venues trying to reclaim our land. This wasn’t something that happened in the ’60s and ’70’s after AIM. We’d been trying all that time.

None of our nations are perfect, the United States certainly isn’t perfect, but I can’t think of another place I’d rather live. I’ve lived in California, NY sate, miss, I’ve lived in CT. As far away as I get my heart keeps coming back to the cold winters, the lovely springs, the beautiful fall, the seafood.

This is it, this is it. And if you love wherever you’re from, and if you love who your family has been and who they will be you will do the things that need to be done to help this world survive. I don’t know you all but I can tell you I love you all because you’re fellow humans.

Thank You.


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.


First Nations News & Views: Invisible Indians at Netroots Nation, Navajo artist Tony Abeyta, 1895

Welcome to the 15th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a condensed history of the Narragansetts, the tribe whose ancient lands Netroots Nation participants will be holding their conference on in early June, a look at the year 1895 in American Indian history, two news briefs and some linked news bullets. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Invisible Indians at Netroots Nation

By Meteor Blades

Fanciful view of Roger Williams meeting the Narragansett in 1636.
Fanciful view of Roger Williams meeting the Narragansett in 1636.

When participants at the Netroots Nation annual conference head out for dinner in Providence, R.I., less than three weeks from now, one of the menu items they’ll see everywhere will be quahog chowder and, for the really adventurous, exotic dishes like jalapeño-stuffed quahogs. These delicious clams can be found elsewhere, from Prince Edward Island to the Yucatán peninsula. But they got their name from the people who lived in Rhode Island ages before the colony was a gleam in Roger Williams’s eye – the Narragansetts.

Though there are some 2400 tribally enrolled Narragansetts living in Rhode Island today, many of them feel they are, like Native people elsewhere in the United States, invisible. Small wonder. Just 20 miles south of Providence, in Exeter, is a museum devoted to the culture of the Narragansetts and Wampanoags, who also live in Rhode Island, just as they did before the first Europeans stepped onshore. Seventy percent of the museum’s visitors are surprised to learn that neither tribe is extinct. Despite hundreds of years of prodigious work to extinguish them – to take their land, their culture, their language – they live on. But I’ll get to all that momentarily.

Quahog comes from the

Narragansett word poquauhock

Still visible throughout Rhode Island today are linguistic hints of the Narragansetts’ presence. In their Algonquin language, the name for quahog was poquauhock. Similar words can be found in the tongues of other Indians in the region, like those Wampanoags, the Narragansetts’ neighbors who kept the Mayflower Pilgrims from starving during their first grim winter 50 miles to the east.

All around Rhode Island, Narragansett words name towns, bodies of water, islands and streets. The word “Narragansett” itself, which is an apparent English corruption of Nanhigganeuck, means “small point of land.” There’s Pawtuxet (“Little Falls”) Village, which will commemorate its 375th birthday next year, one of the oldest villages in New England. The Hotel Manisses on Block Island takes its name from what the Narragansetts called that island, the “little god place.” A ride to the north edge of the city will take you to Wanskuck (“the steep place”) Park.

Succotash comes from the

Narragansett word msíckquatash

If you want to add some vegetables to your quahog selection (or if you are vegan), you might try succotash, (msíckquatash: “boiled corn kernels”) or squash (askutasquash: “a green thing eaten raw”). Thanks in part to Roger Williams’s study, A Key Into the Language of America, a handful of Narragansett words didn’t just remain in New England. There are, for instance, papoose (papoos: “child”) and moose (moos: the well-known member of the deer family). Plus a word far removed today from its original meaning, powwow (powwaw: “spiritual leader.”) Here you can see Narragansetts dancing at their August 2011 Powwow.

Today, the descendants of the Narragansetts live throughout Rhode Island. Their tiny reservation is at Charlestown, just 1800 acres (2.8 square miles) surrounding the three acres that was once all the tribe had left. Some 60 tribal members reside there now. That in itself is practically a miracle given the more than three centuries settlers and militias and government bureaucrats spent trying to obliterate the tribe. In addition to the 2400 enrolled members, there are perhaps another 2000 or so people in Rhode Island and the rest of the United States who can trace their line to a Narragansett ancestor.

The inevitably flattened nuance that is a consequence of compressing the tribe’s long past into a few paragraphs no doubt would make historians cringe. But even a few words can help bring the invisible into the light. Readers interested in something more thorough can find it here, here, in The Narragansetts and in Robert Geake’s A History of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island: Keepers of the Bay, just out last year in paperback. Except for Simmons’s book, which I’ve only just begun reading, I’ve adapted the next dozen paragraphs freely from these and the linked sources in the text.

First Encounters


By the time, the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano cruised the coast around Narragansett Bay in 1524, there had been people in the area for thousands of years. Just how many thousands has long been disputed. Contact for the next few decades was so infrequent that even “sporadic” doesn’t cover it. But in 1617, that contact had similar consequences to what had happened when Hernando de Soto meandered through the South and Hernán Cortes pillaged his way through Mexico: plague. The bacterial infection leptospirosis is now believed to have been the culprit. Whatever it was, huge percentages of the tribes in Massachusetts were wiped out in just three years. Tisquantum, the Pawtuxet Indian we know as “Squanto,” became the last of his tribe because he wasn’t around for the plague to kill him.

The Narragansetts were fortunate. They were barely affected by the plague. Already strong before the illness struck down their rivals, by the time the Mayflower landed its passengers at Plymouth in 1620, they were the most powerful tribe in southern New England, comprising perhaps 10,000 people. They were enemies of the Wampanoag, the “Thanksgiving” Indians, and the Pequot, with whom they fought  regularly. The English, who they called ciauquaquock (“people of the knife”), would not trade with them directly.

In 1636, Roger Williams, who openly said colonists had no right to take Indian land was forced out of Massachusetts. He bought land from the Narragansett and ushered in a period of trust between him and the Narragansett that lasted until his death near half a century later.

That trust was early on reinforced when the Narragansett briefly joined the Puritans in a three-year war against the Pequot. In the last year of that war, 1637, the English slaughtered hundreds of Pequot women, children and the elderly by burning them alive inside their palisade fort at Mystic River and selling the survivors into Caribbean slavery. In disgust, the Narragansett went home. Although they gained some benefit from the war, their Mohegan rivals under the sachem Uncas, who had also allied with the English, got the most.

The Narragansett sought to maintain their superiority in southern New England, but events ran out of their control. Over the years of shifting alliances and steady English immigration, many skirmishes occurred, there were a couple of real battles, and the Narragansett wound up paying annual tribute to the English. But they remained good friends with Williams. He was still considered a radical outsider by the Puritans, who excluded Rhode Island from the New England Confederation in 1643. Isolated, their traditional turf threatened by a tribe the English protected, the Narragansett grew weaker every passing year.

Narragansett seal

In 1675, Metacomet, the Wampanoag sachem known to the English as “King Philip,” became fed up with continuing English expansionism onto Indian land, the aggressive conversion of Indians to Christianity and other injustices. He began negotiating with allies and traditional rivals, all these tribes now vastly reduced by waves of epidemics over the decades. By the time Metacomet decided on war with the English, the Narragansetts numbered perhaps 5000.

The sachem began his attacks and the English countered. Surrounded on all sides by people they did not trust, the Narragansett remained neutral for the first six months of what we call King Philip’s War. But they took Wampanoag refugees into a fort they had constructed for themselves and waited things out. The English in pursuit of Metacomet left them alone. But he managed to elude them and make his way back to the fort, soon departng with most of the Wampanoag refugees. The English saw this as a violation of neutrality and sent 1,000 colonial troops and 150 Mohegan scouts to lay siege. In the fighting, the Narragansetts lost 600 warriors and 20 sachems.

The principal Narragansett sachem, Canonchet, continued to fight in alliance with Metacomet. But returning on a mission to obtain seed corn he was captured by Mohegans and handed over to the English who promptly sent him to a firing squad.

King Philip’s War was at first a close thing. Some scholars say the allied Indians had a narrow possibility of driving the English out altogether. But after nine months, the insurgent tribes, outnumbered from the beginning, were running short of food, gunpowder and warriors. Metacomet was hunted down, shot in the heart, hanged and then decapitated. His head was sold for 30 shillings.

The Narragansett Fight to Keep Their Identity

Bella Machado-Noka, reigning champion of the Eastern Blanket Dance
Bella Machado-Noka, reigning champion

of the Eastern Blanket Dance

And the Narragansett? After Canonchet was executed, the 3000 survivors had been mercilessly hunted down. Warriors were almost always killed. Women and children were sold into slavery in the Caribbean. Some managed to join other tribes, particularly the Eastern Niantic around Charlestown, who had remained neutral. By 1782, only 500 Narragansett were left to sign a peace treaty with the English. Some emigrated to Wisconsin in the late 1780s, but the main body remained in Rhode Island.

In 1830 the state sought to portray the them as unworthy of being called Indians. “Forty years ago this was a nation of indians now it is a medly [sic] of mongrels in which the African blood predominates,” read a report from a committee of the legislature. The real motivation behind this claim could be found in the recommendation that a white overseer be appointed and the land be sold for “publick uses” as soon as the tribe was deemed extinct.

The legislature tried again in 1852. A report stated: “While there are no Indians of whole blood remaining, and nearly all have very little of the Indian blood, they still retain all the privileges which belonged to the Tribe in ancient times.” And those, it said, should be extinguished. The Narragansetts successfully resisted.

In 1866, they resisted again. This time, that resistance against the effort to break up their tribe and make them citizens was couched in language that explicitly attacked racial prejudice:

“We are not negroes, we are the heirs of Ninagrit, and of the great chiefs and warriors of the Narragansetts. Because, when your ancestors stole the negro from Africa and brought him amongst us and made a slave of him, we extended him the hand of friendship, and permitted his blood to be mingled with ours, are we to be called negroes? And to be told that we may be made negro citizens? We claim that while one drop of Indian blood remains in our veins, we are entitled to the rights and privileges guaranteed by your ancestors to ours by solemn treaty, which without a breach of faith you cannot violate.”

The Narragansett had responded that they were a multiracial nation, culturally Indian, thereby turning the emerging “one-drop” rule on its head. Once more, their resistance succeeded.

But in 1880, just as the federal government would seek to do with all the tribes, Rhode Island detribalized the Narragansetts. This was illegal under federal law, but Washington did not intervene. At the time, there were 324 people the state considered part of the “mongrel” tribe. The government broke up the reservation, sold the remaining 15,000 acres at auction using most of the money to cover incurred debts, and leaving only the three acres around the Indian church founded in 1744. The state ended all treatment of the tribe as a political entity.

Despite detribalization, however, the Narragansetts took great pains over the next half century to continue meetings and ceremonies, maintaining the customs as best it could under trying circumstances. In 1900, it incorporated. After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Narragansetts began the long process of regaining tribal status.

Modern Times

It was not until 1975, however, that the tribe filed a federal lawsuit seeking restoration of 3200 of the acres taken nearly a century before, five square miles. Three years later, it signed an agreement with Rhode Island, the muncipality of Charlestown and white property owners for 1800 acres to be turned over to the tribal corporation and held in trust for the descendants of the 1880 Narragansett Rolls.

Narragansett Indian Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, right, tries to hold back a Rhode Island State Police officer from entering the Narragansett 
Indian Smoke Shop in Charlestown, RI
Narragansett Sachem Matthew Thomas, right,

tries to hold back a Rhode Island State Police officer

from entering the Narragansett Indian Smoke Shop

in Charlestown, R.I., in 2003. The tribe claimed it had

the sovereign right not to collect taxes there.

But there was a catch. Except for hunting and fishing, all the laws and rules of Rhode Island would apply because the tribe did not yet have federal recognition. It got that in 1983 and officially became the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. But, while recognition provides the tribe with some financial and other benefits from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the 1978 pact with the state, city and local residents stands in the way of anything approaching real sovereignty. The Narragansetts can’t build a casino or sell cigarettes without paying taxes on them as other tribes can do. If a tribal court were established, it wouldn’t even have jurisdiction over violation of traffic laws on the reservation.

The lack of sovereignty was punctuated in 2009, when U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Narragansetts and other tribes in the case of Carcieri v. Salazar. The tribe had purchased 31 acres that it wished to have brought into federal trust lands governed by the Department of Interior. The department agreed to do so. Rhode Island appealed administratively and then in the courts, losing until the case reached the Supreme Court. The state argued that the vague wording of the Indian Reorganization Act did not allow the federal government to transfer land into federal trust for tribes that were not recognized before 1934. The Court agreed in a decision affecting not just the Narragansetts but 30 other tribes. Since then, bills have been drafted for a legislative “fix,” but none has yet emerged from committee. President Obama has made a statement hinting that the Department of Interior should be able to transfer land to tribes recognized after 1934, but the executive branch cannot take unilateral action. Meanwhile, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance and the RI Statewide Coalition continue to oppose anything that would give the Narragansett more control over their own affairs.

Thus, politically, the Naragansetts remain in a kind of tribal limbo, without the full rights of other tribes, but better off than the many unrecognized tribes with no rights at all.

Culturally, it’s a different matter. The Narragansett know who they are. All that resistance in the face of great odds has bound them together in pride over the generations. While their blood mingled, their spirit and unforgotten traditions has kept them united.

Photo f Lorén Spears, curator of Tomaquag Museum
Lorén Spears, curator of Tomaquag Museum

One of the keepers of the flame today is Lorén Spears (Narragansett), the executive director of that museum in Exeter I mentioned. It’s the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, tomaquag being the Narragansett word for “he who cuts,” the beaver, an animal that once thrived throughout Rhode Island in great abundance.

The museum’s exhibits focus on the Narragansetts’ past, both distant and recent, but its mission is educate everyone, including Waumpeshau (white people), about Native history, culture, art and philosophy:

[Visitors can explore] Narragansett history through The Pursuit of Happiness: An Indigenous View, which reflects on the denial of our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The exhibit focuses on Education, Spirituality, Political and Economic Sovereignty, Love and Family, and the importance of traditional language.

Cover of Ellison Brown book

Visitors can also learn about Narragansett notables like marathon runner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, known as Deerfoot among his own people. He won the Boston Marathon twice, once in 1936 and in 1939. He was the first ever in the Boston event to break the 2:30 mark (2:28:51). He was also at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Citing the marathon historian Tom Derderian, Gary David Wilson writes of Brown:

He was regarded by most as a freak – undisciplined and uncontrollable, a child of nature, an awesome natural talent – and if he won or lost it was because of his unalterable nature. Thus, as an Indian with physical gifts, he would never get personal credit for what he accomplished. It was expected he could run – he was an Indian, after all – so he got no credit for character, courage or work ethic. If he succeeded it was because he did what his handlers prepared him to do, like a thoroughbred racehorse. When he failed, it was his own fault, because he was “just an Indian.”

As Wilson says, few even in the running community know of him today, though there is now a book on his life.

The museum is only part of Spears’s work. Her teaching background with at-risk kids spurred her to establish the Nuweetoun School adjacent to the museum to teach kindergarten through 8th grade children in a supportive environment that adds Native culture and history to all areas of study. For her work, she was chosen as one of 11 Extraordinary Woman honorees for 2010 in Rhode Island. Writes Leslie Rovetti:

The building that houses the school used to be her grandparent’s business, the Dove Crest Restaurant, which served raccoon pot pie, cornmeal pudding, cod cakes, succotash, venison and native clam bakes, in addition to more common foods like steaks and “the most amazing double-stuffed potatoes,” Spears said. When the building that was the restaurant’s gift shop became the museum, she said her grandmother was on the founding board.

Because of flooding, the school is on hiatus. But Spears is busy with a new grant-funded project, building a curriculum the tribe would like to be used throughout all schools in Rhode Island. The curriculum would be used together with the film, Places, Memories, Stories & Dreams: The Gifts of Inspiration. Spears says she  remembers “being in a history class during my elementary days and actually reading that I supposedly didn’t exist, that my family didn’t exist, that my people didn’t exist.”

The film features traditional Narragansett stories and an oral history presented by tribal elder Paulla Dove-Jennings (aka SunFlower), a renowned Indian storyteller. Once the project is complete, the film’s six segments narrated by Dove-Jennings will be organized within the 43-page curriculum. That will be available for downloading from the museum’s website, free to teachers who want to use it for lessons.

If the curriculum comes to be widely used in Rhode Island schools, it might go a long way toward ending the Narragansetts’ invisibility in the very place they lived for so many milleniums. That would be a very good thing.

Indeed, no reason exists why such a curriculum couldn’t be developed for every school district where Native people once lived and many still do, even if nobody notices until there’s trouble. But widespread adoption of such curriculums tailor-made to local circumstances means discomfort for many people when Indians and all we represent in this country – culturally, politically, historically – emerge from invisibility. Strong opposition could be expected. What are they afraid of after all these years?  

Invisible Indians Banner for NAN

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1895

By Meteor Blades

On May 23, 1895, the smallest and last federally approved land rush in Oklahoma Territory got under way as “surplus lands” of the Kickapoo were thrown open for settlers to homestead. That rip-off had begun in 1889.

The Kickapoo had fled their homeland in southwestern Wisconsin after the Blackhawk War in 1832. By a circuitous route over many years, they had wound up in Indian Territory. The territory had been the turf of Caddo, Osage, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Wichita and Comanche. But in the 1830s, it became the new home of the “Five Civilized Tribes” who were removed at gunpoint from their east of the Mississippi homelands. Over the next several decades, 20 more tribes were shipped to what became Oklahoma.

In 1889, there were in the western part of the territory areas originally meant to be filled with other removed tribes, two million acres of so-called “Unassigned Lands.” As part the Indian Appropriation Act of that year, those lands were set aside for white settlement. Out of that came the first Oklahoma land rush.

A Kickapoo family photo taken
 in 1898 by Rinehart
A Kickapoo family photo taken in 1898 by Rinehart

Also in 1889, the Cherokee Commission or Jerome Commission was established. It was a tribunal, comprising two generals and a civilian. But the chief negotiator was David Jerome. His mission was to legally acquire Indian-owned lands. In practice, this meant intimidating the tribes into dissolving their reservations and accepting allotment under the Dawes Act of commonly owned land to individual Indians in 80- to 320-acre plots. What was left over after allotment, the so-called “surplus,” was sold to the government at the government’s price. This surplus was then opened up to  homesteaders, 15 million acres in all, in a series of land rushes.

The corruption involved – with sheriffs, their deputies, minor federal officials and others getting a head start on the best land, the so-called “Sooners – is a story for another time. For the Indians, that part is irrelevant. It was all over for them when they were agreed or were forced to sign away their rights. By June 1890, agreements had been “obtained” from the hold-outs, the Iowas, Sacs and Foxes, Pottawatomies, and Absentee Shawnees. Only the stubborn Kickapoo remained.

After a commission visit with the Kickapoos, Jerome wrote to his superiors on July 1:

The Kickapoos are altogether the most ignorant and degraded Indians that we have met, but are possessed of an animal cunning, and obstinacy in a rare degree. We were prepared, by what we had heard before our coming for an exhibition of these qualities. […]

The Commission, each member in turn, made speeches to them, explained our business with them, told them of the impending changes in their mode of living, earning a living &c, and submitted to them a proposition in writing, which is hereto attached and made a part hereof, and placed a copy of it in the hands of the Chief, and asked them to go with their Interpreter and consider it. […]

When the paper, containing the proposition, was placed in the hands of the Chief, the Kickapoos seemed to become somewhat uneasy-a little Indian jargon was exchanged-when he, the Chief, handed back the paper and refused to keep it. They then took their leave, and promised to return in the afternoon. At the time appointed they came back, and promptly told us, that they would not make any contract, because it would offend the Great Spirit.

Jerome went on to say that if the president were to set a deadline for allotting land, this would speed the process with recalcitrant tribes.

A year later, the commission met with the Kickapoos again, this time letting them know that the allotment process was going to happen whether they wished it or not. So, they should sell and get the best deal they could. Hence it was considered better to let the white crowds overrun the reservation than to sell it. Ock-qua-noc-a-sey was the chief speaker of the Kickapoo. He had a lot to say about the land being given by the Great Spirit who would be angry if the Kickapoos sold it. The allotment deal was something that came “someone under the earth,” he said, adding that the Kickapoos would be better off to let the whites overrun it than sell it. “Whenever the white people take all the land from the Indians,” he said, “we believe the land will be destroyed. […] We have a small reservation here and you have the biggest part of the United States; and you should be satisfied and we are doing well.”

Dissident Indians from the tribes that had already been forced to sign came to warn the Kickapoos not to “touch the pen.” And Ock-qua-noc-a-sey and others who had been speaking did not. On June 18, they got up from the negotiations and went home.

Later, all but three of the adult male Kickapoos showed up for another meeting. Four had already signed the allotment agreement. Others seemed ready to sign. But then Chief Wape-mee-shay-waw showed up, and after some talk, all but the signers came to the chief’s side. The commission had failed.

But, in August, at the instigation of John T. Hill – who, wrote Berlin B. Chapman in 1939, was probably as much Kickapoo as David Jerome – Ock-qua-noc-a-sey and Kish-o-corn-me signed the allotment deal and used dubious power-of-attorney to sign for 51 other Kickapoos, the adult male population of the tribe in September 1891. So seven men, one of doubtful heritage made a deal for the whole tribe. Washington considered the document binding. The majority of Kickapoos did not, and they continued to resist right up until the allotments were handed out three years later.

Of 206,080 acres on the reservation, 22,640 acres were allotted to 283 Kickapoos, 80 acres each by March 27, 1895. The remaining 183,440 acres purchased by the federal government were opened to settlers in a land run. The Kickapoo lands were added to Lincoln, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie Counties.

Today, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, federally recognized since 1936, has 2,720 enrolled members, some 1800 of whom live in the state. About 400 Kickapoo, including children, speak the tribe’s Algonquian language. Two other federally recognized Kickapoo tribes totaling a few hundred enrolled members live in Kansas and Texas.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Navajo Artist Tony Abeyta is a “Living Treasure”

By navajo

Tony Abeyta

-Photo by Jennifer Esperanza

Every year, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe holds the Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival. Tony Abeyta (Navajo) is being honored as this year’s “living treasure.”  

At age 46, Abeyta finds it a little strange to be considered a living treasure. He was selected for “his style, his time spent mentoring other young Native American artists and his refusal to fall back on formulas when it comes to creating art. Abeyta is among the artists who are pushing the envelope when it comes to redefining American Indian art.”

Abeyta grew up in Gallup, N.M., but left at age 16 to attend the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe. He has studied art across the nation as well as in France and Italy. He now has studios in Santa Fe and in Chicago. In addition to oil paintings, Abeyta also works on large-scale drawings, large sculptures and designing jewelry.

Thumbnails of Tony Abeyta’s art

Narciso Abeyta

His father, Narciso Abeyta, was also an artist. Born in 1918, he began his art career at the early age of 11 by drawing his first creations on canyon walls on the land of the Navajo Nation. By 32 he was published in Art in America. During World War II, he was one of the famed Code Talkers. He walked on in 1998.

The festival opens May 26. More than 200 native artists from some 40 tribes and pueblos have been invited to the two-day festival. A wide range of art forms –  pottery, carvings, jewelry and more – will be on display, much of it for sale. There will also be an “Emerging Artist” section to showcase new talent.

Thumbnails of Narciso Abeyta’s art

NAN Line Separater

Day and Time for American Indian Caucus at Netroots Nation is Announced

By navajo

NN12 American Indian Caucus

Meteor Blades and navajo are pleased to announce the date and time for the American Indian Caucus, which has been held every year since 2006 at Yearly Kos/Netroots Nation. Please join us! In light of the Elizabeth Warren controversy, we will be discussing and answering questions about what it is to be Indian, voter suppression on and near Native reservations and what can be done about it, and our experience in building First Nations News & Views.

navajo (aka Neeta Lind) will be giving a presentation again this year during the Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere panel.

Friday, June 8, at 4:30 PM to 5:45 PM
This panel will address the needs, successes and obstacles to having greater participation from people of color in the blogosphere. Using the models of  Native American Netroots and Black Kos as a beginning point for the discussion, we’ll cover topics such as color blindness vs. representation and how to get historically underrepresented groups and their views heard. We’ll discuss how to organize outreach between the larger blogosphere and blogs that are specific to communities of color and how to form stronger connections to ongoing organizing efforts and activism in communities of color. We’ll also focus on how organizations can promote diversity within new grassroots organizations.

Another panel that was created to house the numerous proposals for voter suppression panels:

Protecting Voting Rights in Communities of Color in 2012

Thursday, June 7, at 4:30 PM to 5:45 PM

Black and brown voters turned out in record numbers in 2008. However, the introduction of voter ID initiatives in many states creates a new barrier for many Americans, particularly in traditionally disenfranchised communities of color. Voters in these communities-as well as students, seniors, the working poor and those with disabilities-will be most impacted. What coalitions and campaigns are underway to ensure these voters have equal access to the polls? How can we ensure that their voting rights are safeguarded and their voices counted? Panelists will provide case studies of campaign strategies and community solutions and tackle tough questions concerning voter ID laws.

NAN Line Separater

BIA Disputes GOP Claim About Violence Against Women: In their truncated reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act, House Republicans have relied on a House Judiciary Committee report which claims non-Indian offenders commit a “very small percentage” of domestic violence crimes on reservations. Citing this as a reason not to include better protection for Indian women on reservations as part of the VAWA renewal, Republicans last week rejected a proposed revision of the VAWA to allow tribal jurisdiction in cases of violence against women by non-Indian men on reservations. Since domestic violence on reservations is poorly handled by non-reservation jurisdictions, the women are pretty much left to fend for themselves. Michael S. Black (Oglala), acting director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said of the “small percentage” claim, “This is not true.” Black wrote: “…the BIA recognizes that over half of all Indian married women have non-Indian husbands and that Indian women experience some of the highest domestic-violence victimization rates in the country. There can be no doubt that there is a very real problem of non-Indian on Indian domestic violence in Indian Country today. Nonetheless, and regardless of any arguments over the verifiability of statistics in any studies or reports, we should not lose sight of the simple fact that there is no acceptable rate of domestic violence by non-Indian men on Indian women. To argue otherwise is an assault on our national conscience.”

-Meteor Blades

Tribes Contribute More Than $1 Million to Obama: American Indian tribes have generally been quite pleased with how Barack Obama has treated Native matters since arriving in Washington. Consequently, they have collectively contributed more than $1 million to his re-election campaign compared with $264,000 in 2008. They’ve given Mitt Romney just $3,000. In addition to establishing a Senior Advisor on Native Affairs, pushing to get the Tribal Law and Order Act passed, settling the long-standing Elouise Cobell lawsuit to the tune of $3.4 billion, and settling another $1.1 billion multi-tribal conflict with the federal government over royalties due the tribes, Obama is seen as having achieved a lot for the tribes and, most important, done a lot of listening. He “has done more for Indian country than any president I can remember,” said Chief James Allan, chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho, which donated $35,800 this year to Obama and his joint fundraising committee.

-Meteor Blades

Important Navajo Taboo, Don’t Look at the Sun Today:

Bahe Whitethorne
Painting by Bahe Whitethorne

An annular solar eclipse will be in full view over the Navajo Nation today (Sunday) because it lies directly in the eclipse path. In addition to the common warning not to look directly at the sun’s eclipse, Navajos have more rules to follow. Bahe Whitethorne Sr. (Navajo) wrote and illustrated in one of his many children’s books called Sunpainters: Eclipse of the Navajo Sun about the taboos to observe while the sun is being eaten.

“The Navajo word for eclipse is ‘eating the sun.’ In the Navajo tradition it is believed that the ‘sun dies’ during a solar eclipse and that it is an intimate event between the Earth, Sun and Moon.

“People are told to stay inside and keep still during the dark period. There’s no eating, drinking, sleeping, weaving or any other activity. Traditionalists believe that not following this practice could lead to health problems and misfortune to the family.”

Once the Na’ach’aabii – the Little People – have repainted the sun and all the colors of the earth, you can resume your activities.


Tribe Works to Resurrect Game of Cherokee Marbles:

Two women in Cherokee marbles game
Nan Davis and her daughter Andrea Cochran compete in an elimination round of Cherokee Marbles in 2011. (Photo by Will Chavez)

The Cherokee Nation seeks to bring back various cultural traditions of the tribe. Among other things, it’s just graduated its first class at an immersion school to teach children their native tongue so they become fluent at a young age. It’s also bringing back Cherokee marbles (di-ga-da-yo-s-di in the Cherokee language), a game that may date to 800 CE or earlier. The traditional stone marbles are much larger than modern marbles, and some carvers have turned them into an art form. But they’re expensive and they can crack, so today’s players men and women typically use billiard balls. The playing field is a five-hole course in an L shape covering about 100 feet. It’s like croquet (without the mallets) and bocce ball and golf (without the clubs) all rolled into one. The Cherokee Nation holds annual tournaments in September for the Cherokee National Holiday, but more and more people are playing the game casually at family get-togethers.

-Meteor Blades

Indian Students Touch Their Culture in Wyoming Museum: Twice a year, students from the 128-year-old St. Labre Indian School next to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Ashland, Montana, travel to Cody, Wyoming, to get a first-hand look at Native items housed at the Plains Indian Museum. In addition to their teachers, three Cheyenne elders accompany the students to Cody to pray for them and protect them on their journey. Many of the items the students see and touch have never been on public display. Levi Bixby (Northern Cheyenne) said he recognized the tribal colors on a horse ornament because he had learned beadwork from his grandmother. “I’ve learned, over the years, the difference between Cheyenne, Crow and Lakota, and I’ve kinda picked up on other things like Cree; they use flowers, and I do find it interesting, and I do love it because it’s part of my heritage.” He wants to learn as much as he can about his tribal history and culture, so he can pass along his heritage to his kids and grandkids, “…so we don’t fade away.”

-Meteor Blades

Oregon Bans Indian Mascots at Schools:

Banks High School (Oregon)
Banks High School (Oregon) “Brave”

Six years after it adopted a non-binding resolution urging an end to the use of Indian nicknames and mascots at the state’s high schools, the Oregon Board of Education voted Thursday to ban their use. The eight schools that still use Indian mascots and names have until 2017 to get rid of them. Seven other schools calling themselves “Warriors” can keep the names but must change mascots and graphics if they depict Indians. Se-ah-dom Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock/ Nez Perce/ Yakama), vice president of the Oregon Indian Education Association, told the board before the 5-1 vote that the nicknaming practice “is racist. It is harmful. It is shaming. It is dehumanizing.” The nicknames and graphics must be removed from uniforms, sports fields, websites, trophy cases and school stationery. Schools that do not comply will face funding reductions. The Philomath School Board will vote on a resolution Monday objecting to the ban. Its high school mascot is “Warriors” and its middle school uses “Braves,” both with depictions of American Indians.

-Meteor Blades

Ethnic Studies Ban in Arizona Not Keeping Indians Out Native Classes: Arizona’s public and charter schools now prohibit ethnic studies. But students in the state can still enroll in classes that include Indian content because both federal and state statutes require it. The state specifically bars classes that are said to promote the overthrow of the U.S. government or create resentment toward a race or class of people, those meant to create ethnic solidarity or designed for specific ethnic groups. Debora Norris (Navajo), director of the Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education, says that since the law passed 17 months ago, she has received calls, letters and e-mails from Indian parents worried about how the it will affect their children. The influx of questions was so great that her office issued a statement pointing out the statute’s exemption for Native students as long as the classes are open to all students and do not incite a rebellion against the federal government or hatred toward races or classes. She pointed out that another state law requires school boards to “incorporate instruction on Native American history into appropriate existing curricula.” But she concedes that she doesn’t know how many schools are in compliance. Of the more than one million students enrolled in Arizona, about 65,000 are Indian, mostly Navajo. About 100 of the 2200 schools in the state are all-Indian.

-Meteor Blades

School Board Nixes Lakota Honor Song at Graduation:

Photo of Lakota drum by Ardis McCrae/Native Sun News
(Photo by Ardis McCrae/Native Sun News)

The non-Native school board of Chamberlain, S.D., has rejected a request for the honor song to be performed at high school graduation this year on the grounds that it is religious in nature. Chamberlain sits between two “Sioux” reservations, Crow Creek (Lakota/Dakota) and Lower Brulé (Kul Wicasa Oyate), separated only by the Missouri River. Total population of the two reservations is about 3500. Jim Cadwell (Santee Sioux), who grew up at Crow Creek, made the request. He told the weekly Lakota newspaper, Native Sun News, “There has never been such a ceremony before, and I didn’t just ask for the Native kids, I asked the school board to have an honor song for all of the seniors.” The rejection based on the song’s being religious in nature doesn’t wash, Cadwell said, because Chamberlain High School’s annual baccalaureate is a pre-graduation religious service. Cadwell decried the “double standard.” “I told them they can’t have it both ways.” Nineteen of the 50 seniors set to graduate this year are Indian, bused in from the two reservations.

-Meteor Blades

University of Denver Funds Student Powwow to Improve Inclusiveness Image: The University of Denver and Lambda Chi Alpha are making efforts to ameliorate the damage caused by the “Cowboys and Indians”-themed party two Greek houses threw last February. Members of the Native Student Alliance were offended by the party that encouraged participants to wear “Indian” costumes and makeup. The NSA declared this to be yet one more offense to add to DU’s lengthy pattern of racial insensitivity toward its American Indian community. As we reported, a pro forma apology was made by Lambda Chi Alpha and Delta Delta Delta to the NSA in March. A hundred NSA and local Indian community members gathered, but only the two Greek house representatives showed up to deliver the apology.

The DU administration recently allocated $6,500 to the NSA for its 2nd annual powwow. It was designated as a DU Presidential Debate signature event under the name New Beginnings Spring Powwow.

The Lambda Chi Alpha hosted an information booth during the powwow to show its support of the NSA as well as the greater American Indian community. Members passed out flyers giving background information and a history of the powwow.

This large donation raised the powwow to competition status, which, it was hoped, would encourage larger turnout and more contestants. Vendors were given free booth space.


American Indian Population Increases: The Census Bureau has estimated there are 6.3 million people designating themselves as American Indian in the United States as of 2011. That’s up 2.1 percent from 2010. The problem with the count is that it is self-designation. The total is far more than the number of Americans who are enrolled or otherwise associated with a recognized or unrecognized tribe. The report stated California had the highest number of American Indians with about 1,050,000. Alaska had the highest ratio of Natives, at 19.6 percent. At 93.6 percent, Shannon County, S.D., home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, had the highest percentage of Indians of any county. And Los Angeles County, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, had the highest number of Indians, with around 231,000.

-Meteor Blades

‘Twilight’ Star Chaske Spencer Pushes American Indian Vote: Spencer (Fort Peck-Lakota/Nez Perce/Cherokee/Creek), known for his work to improve Indian lives, has with Native Vote in a new video. Native Vote is a non-partisan initiative of the National Congress of American Indians.

Video will not embed here.


-Meteor Blades

Oglala Sioux Tribe Veterans Cemetery Approved: A $6 million tribal veterans cemetery on the Pine Ridge Reservation will allow Oglalas to hold traditional ceremonies for military veterans beginning in the spring or summer of 2013. The burial grounds will allow for Lakota ceremonial rites that aren’t permitted at other veterans cemeteries. Talli Naumann of Native Sun News reports that Lakota traditions such as horseback escorts of the deceased and the ritual of taking food to the interment site to feed the dead will be kept in mind by the architects in their design. In addition, the cemetery will include provisions for burial scaffolds that allow traditional blessings to be offered before interment and a shelter designed as a medicine wheel. In keeping with custom, the cemetery’s entrances and all its buildings will be located on the east side.

-Meteor Blades

Native Language Advocate Dies at 88: Tim Parsons, the first director of Humboldt State University’s Community Development Center, which became the Indian Community Development Center at the California university, has died. Over several decades he tirelessly sought to keep American Indian languages alive in the Pacific Northwest. Among other things, Parsons helped develop a phonetic alphabet for the Hupa, Karuk, Tolowa and Yurok languages that had previously been passed down solely through the spoken word. He also developed textbooks and curriculums to facilitate formal teaching of the languages.

-Meteor Blades


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.


Native American Netroots, First Nations News, American Indian, Civil Rights, First Nations, First Nations News & Views, Invisible Indians,  Native American, Racism, Indians 101,  

First Nations News & Views: Elizabeth Warren, UN Special Rapporteur, Indian energy, Apache skaters

Welcome to the 13th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Our last edition is here. In this edition you will find an exploration the Elizabeth Warren imbroglio, a look at the years 1877, 1916 & 1969 in American Indian history, three news briefs and some linkable bulleted news 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.

Elizabeth Warren & Indianness

Rendering by Dennis Joseph Weber

The outpouring of right-wing outrage over the revelation that Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren had checked the “Native American” box in directories of the Association of American Law Schools has followed a familiar trajectory. No surprise since it’s election campaign season. Given the right’s modern efforts to destroy or at least undermine tribal sovereignty and extinguish Indianness altogether, the racist hypocrisy exhibited in the accusations that Warren was lying and, in the words of Japanese internment praiser Michelle Malkin, playing “oppression Olympics” sent more than one Indian on a hunt for a barf bag.

On the other hand, Warren’s stated reasons for having made professional note of her Native heritage are hard to swallow. Other than that Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother listed on a 19th Century marriage certificate, her connection to Indians is tenuous. There is a cousin deeply involved in Cherokee affairs and Native causes in general. Warren, however, isn’t enrolled in any of the Cherokee bands, she doesn’t speak the language, she doesn’t go to ceremonies or otherwise practice the culture, she never made an attempt to discover who that three-greats grandmother really was, she doesn’t hang around other Indians, she apparently has never attended a conference on Native law to network with Indians as she has said was trying to do when she checked that box, and she has made no effort that anyone has unearthed to speak to Indians about their legal and political concerns or for them in public forums. The reality for her seems to be that a mantle photo of her grandfather showed him with “high cheekbones.” Well, I have those, too. But it is hard to call someone with that background an Indian, Cherokee or otherwise.

What Warren did is widely known as “box checking.” Assigning oneself Native heritage on job applications and elsewhere even if that heritage is no more than family legend. For some, and this is especially true in Oklahoma, making note of an American Indian in the family tree is perfectly innocent and accurate even if there is no real evidence and no current connection. Some individuals lie outright and go further. The tribe-shopping Ward Churchill made claims to be Creek and Cherokee – claims he made to my face in the late 1970s – but could provide no evidence of Indian ancestors in any tribes back the six generations that investigators could trace documents.

He and others falsely claiming such ancestry, by checking boxes or more elaborate means, may do so for personal benefit. That is, of course, what Warren’s detractors say. Others may make the claim out of real pride, in remembrance of a grandparent or more distant ancestor whom they know for sure was Indian or have been told was so in family lore.

[Box-checking] was precisely what the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color was getting at when they passed a “Resolution on Academic Ethnic Fraud” last July. The resolution, signed by the presidents of the Hispanic, Asian, Native American and National bar associations, states, among other things, that “fraudulent self-identification as Native American on applications for higher education … is particularly pervasive among undergraduate and law school applicants.”

It goes on to say the phenomenon is “so pervasive, it is commonly understood and referred to within the Native American Community as ‘box-checking.'”

It’s clear that Warren didn’t lie. She does have a Cherokee ancestor. And, if that long-dead woman was a full-blood, that makes Warren 1/32nd Cherokee, the same as the current Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation, which has some 317,000 enrolled members. But Baker has never been disconnected from his heritage, which includes well-known Cherokees. His great-great-grandmother was orphaned when her parents died on the “Trail of Tears,” the infamous death-march of the Cherokees from their homes in the Southeast to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma where both he and Warren were born.

Rendering by Dennis Joseph Weber

His ancestors are on the Dawes Rolls, on which Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Oklahoma Seminole and some Florida Seminoles were enumerated. So far, nobody has found a Warren ancestor on the Dawes Roll. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one there. And it doesn’t mean More than a quarter-million people applied to be included. Fewer than a 100,000 actually made it. People were chosen to be listed by whites who inspected their appearance. In some cases a brother was included and another was not. One unstated goal of the rolls was to exterminate Indian identity after the period of actual slaughter had ended. Thus, many who legitmately claimed Indian blood were denied a listing. Warren’s ancestor could easily have been one of those. If one is found, she could apply for membership in Cherokee Nation. Any amount of “blood quantum” is acceptable to those on the Dawes Rolls. Without that connection, however, she is not legally an Indian.

What’s unclear is whether Warren checked the “Native American” box solely out of pride or because it might perhaps give her a one- or two-percent edge over some other job candidate without that heritage. She says she didn’t. She says, in fact:

“I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am,” she said. “Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it and so I stopped checking it off.”

This sounds like after-the-fact excuse-making to me. But there is no evidence contradicting her. And Warren has a record for being a straight-shooter. So one either takes her at her word on this or not, assigning it small or great significance depending on one’s point of view about the rest of her career.

What Warren also didn’t do, however, was step up in 1996 when it became clear that Harvard, under pressure from students and others about the lack of diversity on its law faculty, was touting her Native heritage in order to be able to claim another minority professor. What Harvard did was despicable. What Warren didn’t do enabled Harvard to get away with it. She was wrong, very wrong, to let that pass. It was an error in judgment, the kind of thing many, many people make in their lives. Was it also a moral lapse? Perhaps.

But the fact of the matter is Warren is a pre-eminently qualified person to be a Harvard professor of law. And she has demonstrated repeatedly and courageously against elected politicians and political appointees that she stands up for the average American, the ones on the precarious edge of economic existence today, against the austerity-mongers and New Deal-dismantlers and tax-cuts-for-the wealthy/program-cuts-for-everybody-else crowd that have grasped the nation by the short hairs and refuses to let go. Her opponent is a lite version of that crowd. Which is why – my finger-wagging over her box-checking and clumsy campaign response to its revelation aside – I was glad to see her enter the Senate race, have contributed money to her and will continue to do so, and would vote for her enthusiastically if I lived in Massachusetts.

The focus on Warren has done something that always has some value: made us invisible Indians visible. Of course, that has elicited gobs of the usual racism, like this putrid column by Howie Carr in the Boston Herald, whose only redeeming feature is that it didn’t actually make a joke about “injuns” or “Redskins.” But the Warren affair also provides the opportunity to explain to non-Indians what Indianness is about.

What it is not about is appearance. Not about skin tone. Not about high cheekbones. Not about looking like somebody in an Edward Curtis photograph. As I wrote previously in a comment in Joan McCarter’s excellent diary about what Warren should do campaign-wise regarding this flare-up, I am a white-looking tribally enrolled Seminole, with about 3/8s Indian blood. At reunions when the older generation of my extended family was alive, people went from lighter than me to as dark as Michelle Obama. All of us Seminole, all of us related by blood. Many tribal chiefs today, are light-skinned with a mix of Indian and European or Indian, European and African blood. In fact, most tribally enrolled Indians today, on and off the reservations, are mixed bloods. They can look very non-Indian but be thoroughly Indian culturally.

Most of us, on or off the reservation, are cultural hybrids. We may or may not have an Indian-sounding name. When we do, it is typically a translation, like Deborah White Plume (Oglala-Lakota). We, or our ancestors may have adopted a non-Indian religion. Or, there too, we may practice a hybrid, or stick exclusively to a clearly defined Native religion. Or we may, like a significant portion of other Americans, practice no religion at all. My partner in this series, navajo, as she has written, was raised a Mormon. I was raised a Catholic and subsequently a Lutheran. We both abandoned those religions decades ago.

Rendering by Dennis Joseph Weber

Most of us Indians speak English and no longer speak the language of our ancestors beyond a few words or expressions. Among the Navajo and the Cherokee and Lakota, however, fluent speakers are numerous, and efforts have been made to educate the younger generation in the Native tongues, a counterweight to decades of boarding schools that did everything they could to crush those languages. To age 9, I spoke the Seminole Creek dialect just to be able to communicate with my grandmother, my surrogate mother for those first years, because she would not speak English even though she understood it perfectly from her boarding school days. Over the years, I have lost almost all of it, which is the case with most Seminoles in Florida and Oklahoma today. navajo never was taught her language, although she has made attempts to learn in the past 10 years.

About half of people identifying themselves as American Indian today were born on or near reservations, but many of us who were not have a strong connection to reservation life. But others were not and do not. Yet they maintain a strong Indian identity. A modern identity. One shaped by our unique personal stories, by our tribal history and the entangling interactions of both these with others of our own tribe and the tribes of people whose histories are far different, and with the dominant culture and other sub-cultures of the American populace.

Whether we live on or off the reservation, in an urban or rural setting, whether we speak the language or not, whether we’re tribally enrolled or for various reasons not, we have one thing in common, we are connected to other Indians and we are appalled at how dreadful the existence of so many of our brothers and sisters remain 120 years after the last massacre of our people. We seek a better life for us all, on our collective and individual terms, blending or separating, but never forgetting how we can to be who we are 20 generations after Columbus arrived.

Haida Whale Divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1877, 1916 & 1969

By Meteor Blades

On May 5, 1877, nearly a year after Lakota and Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho warriors stunned the United States by wiping out five of the seven companies Lt. Col. George A. Custer’s regiment at the Battle of the Greasy Grass, the man who saw a vision of it beforehand – “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky” – Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, Sitting (Buffalo) Bull (Lakota-Hunkpapa) – led his beleaguered people across the border into Canada.

Knowing full well that their victory against the 7th Cavalry would bring down the Army’s wrath, the various bands making up the great encampment in Medicine Tail Coulee had scattered within 48 hours, hoping to make the job of revenge more difficult. In the next months, the Army clashed mercilessly with these bands and forced thousands of Indians back onto reservations at gunpoint. It was the beginning of the end of the Indian wars, and these POWs were treated in ways that would make the drafters of the Geneva Conventions shudder.

Photo of Sitting Bull and his mother, wives and daughter
Sitting Bull, his mother, his daughter and granddaughter,

seated, and two of his wives (date unknown)

Sitting Bull’s band of Hunkpapas had managed to evade the troopers, however, with only minor clashes. They hunted the dwindling buffalo herds all summer. In late autumn, Gen. Nelson A. Miles met with him and demanded that he surrender. Sitting Bull knew the odds and he wanted no more fighting. But he was to his dying day a proud man and, as victor, he thought he should be dictating terms.

That caused Miles, who had defeated the Kiowa and Southern Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne two years earlier, to step up his actions. Sitting Bull decided to strike out for what the Indians called the “grandmother’s land,” named for Queen Victoria.

They remained there for four years. At first, all went well. The Canadian government was not on a campaign to wipe out the buffalo as a means to destroy Indian culture and game was plentiful. But his warriors got tired and started needling other tribes in the area. That brought the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into the picture. They pressured Sitting Bull to go home and take his young troublemakers with him. With the nomadic buffalo falling prey to hunters and habitat shrinkage from ever more white settlers in the States, the effect of their extermination soon became felt farther and farther north, and times became tougher. Many of the band gave in to emissaries who said reservation life in the U.S. was better than what was becoming a hand-to-mouth existence in Canada.

By 1881, Sitting Bull’s band was made up mostly of the old and sick, and he reluctantly surrendered in July, with just 187 others. After a few transfers, he the rest were incarcerated at Fort Randall in southeastern South Dakota for the next two years. They were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency (the Lakota reservation that now straddles North and South Dakota) in mid-1883.


On May 5, 1916, U.S. Army Indian Scouts, all of them Apaches, were part of what some claim is the “last cavalry charge” against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa at Ojos Azules ranch in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. They were an element of the 11th Cavalry, which had entered Mexico as part of Gen. John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition.

Indian Scouts Andrew Paxton, Charley Shipp and Joe Quintero

with Dr. McCloud, on horseback, at Fort Apache in 1918.

Some 39 Apaches, mostly Tontos, were part of the expedition, but they arrived too late to search for Villa. In fact, the attacks on Villa had been officially ended because the Mexican government had protested the presence of U.S. troops on Mexican soil. Nonetheless, Villista bands remained at large, and there was clean-up to be done. Apaches, in general, despised Mexicans, and they were eager to kill any, no matter who they were aligned with during the constantly changing allegiances of the Mexican revolution. Six of the Apache Scouts, armed with pistols rather than sabers, led the charge. None was killed, but 44 Villistas were.

In Mark Van de Logt’s 2010 book, War Party in Blue: Pawnee Scouts in the U.S. Army, Pawnee Scout leader Luther H. North is quoted as saying, “Neither the Wild Tribes, nor the Government Indian Scouts ever adopted any of the white soldier’s tactics. They thought their own much better.” Apache scouts were no different.

The Indian Scouts were not officially deactivated until the last member retired in 1947. Their memory lives in the cross-arrows insignia still worn on the uniforms of U.S. Army Special Forces with the motto: de oppresso liber, which in bad Latin has been taken to mean, “to free from oppression,” but more accurately means, “from the captured man is one made free,” rather ironic given the origin of the insignia.

Col. H.B. Wharfield, a lieutenant at the time of the Punitive Expedition, later wrote:

During my service in 1918 at Fort Apache the scouts wore cavalry issue clothing shoes and leggin[g]s, but some retained the wide car[tridge] belt of their own construction and design. An emblem U.S.S. for United State Scouts was fastened on the front of the issue campaign hat. The regulation emblem was crossed arrows on a disc with the initials U.S.S.; but I never saw such a design on the scouts’ uniform nor in the Quartermaster supply room.


On May 5, 1969, Navarre Scott Momaday (Kiowa-Cherokee) became the first American Indian to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his House Made of Dawn. That same year, “he was initiated into the Gourd Dance Society, the ancient fraternal organization of the Kiowas.” He went on to have a highly distinguished career as a writer and professor, having obtained his doctorate in 1965.

Photo of Navarre Scott Momaday
Navarre Scott Momaday

Included in his works: The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969), Kiowa tales illustrated by his father Al Momaday; Angle of Geese and Other Poems (1974); and a second volume of poems, The Gourd Dancer (1976); and a memoir, The Names (1976); The Ancient Child (1989); In the Presence of the Sun (1991); Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story (1993); and The Native Americans: Indian Country (1993); and a play, The Indolent Boys (2003).

His 1971 essay “The American Land Ethic” drew public attention to the tradition of respect for nature practiced by the native peoples and its significance to modern American society in an era of environmental degradation. It was partly written while he was lecturing in Moscow in 1974. At the same time, he took up drawing and painting seriously for the first time in his life. Since then his work has been exhibited throughout the United States. His newer books are frequently illustrated with his own paintings and etchings.

He has taught at Berkeley, Stanford and the University of Arizona. President George W. Bush awarded Momaday the National Medal of Arts in 2007 “for his writings and his work that celebrate and preserve Native American art and oral tradition.”

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Restoration of Some Indian Lands

By Meteor Blades

Photo of UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya
James Anaya

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently spent 10 days working his way across the country to examine the situation of Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. He held meetings with federal and state government officials, as well as with indigenous nations and their representatives. The first meeting was April 23 at the Navajo Washington Office in D.C. He also met that day in a closed-door session with elected tribal officials at the Embassy of Tribal Nations in Washington. It was a whirlwind afterward in six states, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, Washington and South Dakota.

Before he departed on Friday, Anaya said that restoring some lands, such as the Black Hills, to Indian control could help build reconciliation between Indians and non-Indians.

“The sense of loss, alienation and indignity is pervasive throughout Indian country,” Anaya said in a statement released Friday.

“It is evident that there have still not been adequate measures of reconciliation to overcome the persistent legacies of the history of oppression, and that there is still much healing that needs to be done.”

He pointed to the loss of tribal lands as a particularly sore point, naming the Black Hills of South Dakota and the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona as places where indigenous peoples feel they have “too little control.”

“Securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples’ socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity,” Anaya said.

You can learn more about his mission and what he did on his first visits at his web site here.

What follows is testimony given by several Indians at various meetings with Anaya.

Debra White Plume’s (Oglala Lakota) testimony:

Debra White Plume
Debra White Plume

There are uranium, oil, and gas corporations here now, and more want to come. We did not invite them. America welcomes Canadian-owned Cameco uranium corporation, TransCanada oil pipeline corporation, and PowerTech uranium corporation to come and obtain permits to mine uranium and slurry oil in our Territory against our wishes, this extraction and pipeline threatens our [Ogallala] Aquifer, which gives 2 million people drinking water and irrigates the world’s bread basket. We have not given our free, prior and informed consent as required by the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, we know not everyone is satisfied with the Declaration, but it is a minimum standards document.

Mr. Anaya, I ask you to keep this message clear, do not pretty up my testimony. I am saying that America is committing ethnocide against our way of life, eco-cide against our Mother Earth, and genocide in our Lakota Homelands. Our Human Rights are being violated and our Inherent Right to live as Lakota People and Nation is being violated as well. Without access to our lands and waters we cannot live our collective Inherent Rights to be who we are.

We must have our lands. Share this message with the world. The United States Supreme Court agreed our Territory was stolen by the United States and was the ripest, rankest case of land theft in the United States of America’s history and thus awarded us millions of dollars. Tell the world we refused the money. We want our lands and our waters. We want our Treaties upheld. We must have our lands.

In Tucson, Damon Watahomigie (Havasupai) testified: “As the first born warriors of the Grand Canyon we refuse to become the next millennium’s world terrorists by allowing mega nuclear industrial complex mining industries to mine in the Grand Canyon.”

As did Leonard Benally (Navajo):

Leonard Benally

Ben Shelly [president] of the Navajo Nation is working with Senator Kyl and McCain to pass legislation for the Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement that gives away our water rights to Peabody Coal Company and Navajo Generating Station. We believe the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing [of] Navajo rights but is waiving hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived.

Our liberty is being sacrificed for an economic bonanza based on fraud and corruption. Our justice has been prostituted by hand-outs, hopelessness, and conformity elevated to the status of the national security doctrines. We are the historical lot of the dispossessed. Democracy has been whitewashed with imported detergent that allows reclaimed sewer water to get dumped on our sacred San Francisco Peaks.

Peabody’s collusion with the U.S. government has resulted in a dark infamy of genocide and crimes against my people and the environment – relocation, the Bennett Freeze, uranium mining, all in the pursuit of energy resource development fueled by corporate and governmental greed and collusion.

Glenna Begay with

Fern Benally translating

From Glenna Begay (Navajo):

“Residents in the mining area have been jailed or threatened with jail for trying to protect their burial and sacred sites. Other residents have watched the unearthing of graves.”

From Hathalie [Medicine Man] Norris Nez (Navajo):

“In Big Mountain, Black Mesa, on Hopi Partition Land (HPL) there were many sacred sites where offerings were given.The Holy People, the Star People recognize us by these sites that are sacred where we Diné, five fingered humans give offerings. They acknowledge that we are doing our duty to give our offerings to the Holy People. These places are for the wellness of the people, not only the Diné. Our prayers are said for all mankind.”

NAN Line Separater

“Ramp It Up” Exhibit Opens at the San Diego Museum of Man

By navajo

4-Wheel Warpony skateboarders, 2008

From left to right, White Mountain Apache skaters Armonyo Hume, Jess Michael Smith, Aloysius Henry, Ronnie Altaha and Lee Nash. The skate team was founded by award-winning filmmaker Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), who got his start making skateboarding videos in Arizona.

-Photo Courtesy Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo)

Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America
Bryant Chapo (Navajo),

Minneapolis, Minn., 2007

Discovered by a local skateboard shop

in his hometown of Fort Hall, Idaho,

Bryant Chapo’s win at a 2006 Utah

skateboarding competition brought

him to national attention and his

first major sponsor. Chapo trains

and skates full-time and makes it

a point to participate in as many

Native skateboarding competitions

as he can. Here he performs a

varial heel flip.

-Photo Courtesy Brandon Flyg

Owing its origin to the surfboard of Native Hawaiians, the modern skateboard, or deck, grew in popularity on the mainland beginning in the 1960s. Since that time, skateboarding has become one of the most popular sports on Indian reservations and has inspired and influenced Native American and Native Hawaiian communities. Today, skateboarding is a five-billion-dollar industry that includes shoes, apparel, camps, music tours, reality TV, and worldwide competitions.

The lessons learned in a skatepark speak to the inner strength of each skater and are a metaphor for the Native experience: When you fall, get up and try again. Push yourself higher and faster. Never give up. Skateboarding has grown to become a true phenomenon, integrating physical exertion with design, graphic art, videography, and music. The result is a unique and dynamic culture all its own.

Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America reveals the rich world of skateboarding and celebrates the vibrancy, creativity, and history of Native American skateboarding culture. Showing for the first time outside of the Smithsonian, this new traveling exhibition features rare images, video of Native American skaters, and over twenty skate decks created by Native artists.

Highlights include a never-before-seen 1969 image taken by skateboarding icon Craig R. Stecyk III of a skate deck depicting traditional Native imagery, as well as 1973 home-movie footage of Zephyr surf team members Ricky and Jimmy Tavarez (Gabrielino-Tongva tribe). The exhibition features the work of visual artists Bunky Echo-Hawk (Yakama / Pawnee), Joe Yazzie (Navajo), Traci Rabbit (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache / Navajo) and highlights young Native skaters such as Bryant Chapo (Navajo) and Augustin and Armondo Lerma (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians).

Exhibit opened April 28, 2012 and runs through September 9, 2012.

Lee Nash (White Mountain Apache) of the 4-Wheel Warpony skate crew, 2008

4-Wheel Warpony skater Lee Nash tucks a skate deck into his belt.

-Photo Courtesy Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo)

NAN Line Separater

Navajo Band and Jemez Pueblo Plan Major Solar Installations

By Meteor Blades

To’Hajiilee, N.M., home of a non-contiguous part of the Navajo Nation formerly known as the Cañoncito Indian Reservation, may soon be home to the largest commercial solar photovoltaic farm in the United States. if so, it will be 50 percent larger than the one Apple plans for its data center in North Carolina. Environmental reviews have been completed and found no significant negative impacts. All that remains before construction begins is getting contracts signed for power purchases

The 30-megawatt Shandiin operation on 250 acres of the 77,000-acre reservation will provide electricity for more than 6,000 homes. Shandiin means “sunbeams” in Diné, the language of the Navajo. With a population of only some 1700, the To’Hajiilee band will have plenty of extra electricity to sell power to the Public Service Company of New Mexico, which serves Albuquerque just 22 miles away. A major transmission line in close proximity to the site greatly reduces the cost of the project, but it is still estimated at $124 million. The band is thinking of selling electricity to municipalities, the federal government and directly to the PSCo.

Meanwhile, the 3000-member Jemez Pueblo 25 miles further north is now in its third year of planning a $22-million commercial solar installation of its own. It’s a 4-megawatt project that will provide electricity to 1400 homes, on and off pueblo lands. That could ultimately bring in $1 million in revenue annually. Jemez Pueblo is also on the verge of drilling its first test well to see if geothermal power is practical for use on its lands.

Each solar project recently received for pre-construction purposes about $300,000 in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program, sharing with other tribes their portion of a $6.5-million appropriation for 19 projects. Financing for construction of the solar farm will come from grants, private investors, tribal and pueblo resources, and loan guarantees. No completion dates have been set. But once power purchase agreements are arranged, construction could take as few as nine months. That means the Shandiin project could be generating electricity by May 2013.

“I think if we’re able to find a power buyer fairly quickly, we certainly ought to be breaking ground this fall. That’s our goal,” said Rob Burpo, president of First American Financial Advisors, Inc., one of the consulting groups working with To’Hajiilee.[…]

Her boots covered in fine yellow dust, Delores Apache, (To’Hajiilee band of Navajo) president of To’Hajiilee Economic Development Inc., walks across the spot where the solar panels will be situated.

Delores Apache

For her, the project is about more than gaining a foothold in a new industry. She ticks off a list of what revenue from the plant would mean for her community: a daycare center, programs for senior citizens and veterans, better roads, more efficient wells for drawing water, language preservation programs and scholarships for youngsters.

“It’s going to mean a whole lot,” Apache said. “We have no means of economic development. No dollars. We don’t have anything at all.”

To’Hajiilee isn’t the only place Navajos hope to put up solar. The Navajo Nation, whose overall reservation spreads across 27,400 square miles, the size of Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey combined, is using its share of the recent DOE grant to explore the possibility of building solar farms totaling 4,000 megawatts on its lands in northwest New Mexico. That would double the existing level of commercial solar photovoltaic electricity operations in the entire United States and generate enough power for 800,000 homes.

In a Washington and Lee Law Review article last year, attorney Ryan Dreveskracht wrote:

“Solar projects can be a rallying point, allowing tribes to come together collectively to pursue their own objectives in their own way, promoting cultural awareness, and creating a self-image that has been missing in many communities for years.”

But there are profound concerns among leaders and other members of tribes that have been screwed for centuries by outsiders who told Indians what their best interests were and then proved self-interest was the real motive by ripping off the tribes. So when the talk is about outside investors putting up money for energy projects, the bullshit antennae start vibrating like crazy. For this reason, “Tribes need to … establish clear business plans, and create knowledgeable workforces of their own,” Dreveskracht wrote.

The Department of Interior hopes to open more public land for wind and solar projects, but these often run into opposition, sometimes from environmentalists worried about damage to endangered fauna and flora, sometimes from residents for NIMBY reasons. These objections can generate lawsuits that take years to wind their way to settlements or court judgments. Tribal lands, however, are governed under different rules and an increasing focus on Indian sovereignty has meant tribes have more latitude to make their own decisions in the matter of energy and other projects.

A new Department of Interior rule will fast-track leasing agreements on Indian trust lands, giving more power to the tribes and curtailing oversight by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But it is seen as a double-edged dagger. While it is designed to slice through red tape that has stalled tribal decision-making, it can also lead to corruption and yet more rip-offs.

While Indian lands hold the potential to supply four times as much electricity as needed by the entire nation, most of that land is in the West and Far West, putting it out of reach of Eastern markets, at least until low-leakage Ultra-High Voltage transmission lines are in place, which could be a long time. And so far, politics and other foot-dragging have kept solar projects from happening. Now, however, with prices for solar cells continuing to make steep drops and the financial and other support of the Obama administration, projects like those at To’Hajiilee and the Jemez Pueblo aren’t the only ones likely to come on line in the next decade.

And solar isn’t the only renewable source making headway. The Kumeyaay of Campo in southern California have installed 25 wind turbines that on a good day generate 50 megawatts of electricity, far more than the small tribe needs for its own use. It plans to install an additional series of turbines capable of generating another 160 megawatts or electricity. The total would be enough to provide power for 50,000 homes.

NAN Line Separater

Colorado Legislature Opts for “Atrocity” Instead of “Genocide”: State Sen. Suzanne Williams (Comanche) thought that the resolution she introduced in the Colorado legislature would be met with the same strong support given to resolutions condemning Jewish, Armenian and Darfurian genocides. Hers, however, being about American Indian genocide, “hit a little too close to home.” That spurred a debate among legislators that went largely along party lines. Williams is a Democrat. Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts and others argued that there had been no Hitler-like extermination plan and Indians aren’t extinct, so “genocide” was inappropriate. But Williams argued that there was an extermination plan, one that stretched from the nation’s origin through the Trail of Tears, massacres like that in 1864 at Sand Creek in Colorado and confinement on barren reservations where thousands of Indians died from harsh conditions. She said the resolution described “a history of what happened in North America.” She couldn’t convince her colleagues. Amendment after amendment was offered to substitute another word for “genocide.” Eventually, it could be said a middle ground was chosen by nixing both “tragedy” and “genocide” in favor of “atrocity.” Even so, nine of the 33 senators present opposed the resolution.

-Meteor Blades

Honor the Treaties Campaign Hurt by Poster Giant’s Negligence: Aaron Huey of the Honor the Treaties campaign hired Poster Giant to paste up posters in the Seattle streets last year. The company reported more than four months ago that all posters had been put up and its stock depleted. Recently, numerous complaints from alternative street artists in Seattle revealed that Poster Giant did have inventory of Honor the Treaties posters because it had pasted over several existing murals, causing an uproar. Honor the Treaties and Aaron Huey’s reputation was damaged and is as much a victim as are all the street artists who lost their original artworks as a result of Poster Giant’s mismanaged services. Huey is considering what he can do to rectify the situation.

On a positive note for Honor the Treaties, the posters are getting righteous visibility around the nation being used by activists at the XL Pipeline protests.


Blind Lakota Man Scarred with “KKK” at Hospital: Sixty-eight-year-old Vernon Traversie (Cheyenne River Sioux), had heart surgery in Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota. He spent two weeks in recovery. He said that during this time a nurse named “Greg” refused to give him pain medication. After he was discharged, a co-worker told him he should have photographs taken of his stomach because someone had carved or burned the “K’s” on him, the acronym of the racist Ku Klux Klan. Tribal police took their own photos and sent copies to Rapid City police. They investigated but filed no charges. The FBI told him they were going to take a statement, but Traversie says he hasn’t heard from them in months. He plans to file a lawsuit. The chairman of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation has written a scathing letter regarding the incident.

-Meteor Blades

Obama Replaces Kimberly Teehee with Jodi Gillette in Native American Affairs Post

Jodi Gillette
Jodi Gillette

President Barack Obama has announced the appointment of Jodi Gillette (Standing Rock Sioux) as Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, replacing Kimberly Teehee, who held the job since it was created in 2009. Teehee, who was said to be interested in the post of Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs vacated in April by Larry Echo Hawk (Pawnee), has moved to private, Indian-focused lobbying firm, Mapetsi. As a member of the Domestic Policy Council, Gillette will advise the president on issues impacting Indian Country. “Jodi Gillette will be an important member of my Administration’s efforts to continue the historic progress we’ve made to strengthen and build on the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal nations,” said Obama.  “She has been a key member of my administration’s efforts for Indian Country, and will continue to ensure that Native American issues will always have a seat at the table.”

Gillette was previously the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs for Policy and Economic Development in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Earlier she served as Deputy Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Director of Public Engagement, where she was responsible for the communication and interaction between tribal nations and the White House. She played a key role in the White House Tribal Nations Conference in 2009 and 2010, where the president hosted tribal leaders from across the U.S. She has also served as executive director of the Native American Training Institute in Bismarck, N.D., a nonprofit offering technical assistance and training to tribal, state and local governments in the area of human service delivery systems. She also had served as an economic development planner for her tribe in Fort Yates, N.D. Gillette holds a BA in government and Native American Studies from Dartmouth and a Master’s in public Policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis.


Professors File Lawsuit to Stop Transfer of Bones: The Kumeyaay tribe of southern California has been seeking to have the bones of a human male and female found buried in 1976 on a cliff in their traditional territory returned to them under provisions of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The University of California, San Diego was prepared to do so, but a lawsuit has been filed to stop the transfer. Three anthropology professors claim that collagen taken from skeletons, dated to about 10,000 years ago, indicates that the individuals ate ocean fish and mammals different than traditional fare eaten by ancestors of the tribe. James McManis, a lawyer for the trio said: “These are not Native Americans. We’re [not] sure where they’re from. They had primarily a seafood diet, not the diet of any way of these tribes. They were a seafaring people. They could be traveling Irishmen who touched on the continent. The idea that we’re going to turn this incredible treasure over to some local tribe because they think it’s Grandma’s bones is crazy.” Of the skeletons, one of the professors, anthropologist Tom Bettinger, says “No other set of New World remains holds such a high degree of research potential.” (You can read our previous coverage of the issue here.)

-Meteor Blades

CSU-San Marcos Honors 24 Indian Graduates: The California State University campus celebrated the two dozen students, the most in the school’s 21-year history, who will complete undergraduate or masters degrees this year. The university has made a goal of increasing enrollment of American Indian students by reaching out to tribal schools, recruiting high school students from area tribes, and adding the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center in November.

-Meteor Blades

Navajo Student Improves Indian Sustainability Program with Her Dissertation: Fonda Walters (Navajo) and her five siblings are first-generation college graduates who now include two with a PhD after their names. She graduates in June after having worked on a dissertation focused on “First Innovations” a collaboration between the American Indian Policy Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., and the American Indian Studies program at Arizona State University that combines an intensive internship with classes focused on developing innovation and entrepreneurial skills for American Indian sustainability. It wasn’t easy. She had children ranging from age 8 to 17 when she started her doctorate in 2009. “I went to my family for guidance and help. We held traditional ceremonies to get me through while we were doing this,” she said. “This is my family’s degree … They stayed up all night for me.”

-Meteor Blades

Eight Lakota Students Warn Against Delays in Nickname Lawsuit: The students at the University of North Dakota have urged a federal court “move as expeditiously as possible to prevent further violations of (their) civil rights.” They oppose the university’s continued use of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo for its sports teams. The lawsuit is one of two. On May 2, a federal judge dismissed the second suit brought by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, which favors keeping the nickname. The lawsuits were brought as part of a longstanding battle over the use of Indian nicknames, mascots and logos on sports teams. The NCAA has forbidden their use unless relevant tribes give their approval.

-Meteor Blades

Death of Rare White Buffalo Under Investigation: The slaying and skinning of Little Medicine Cloud, the just-shy-of-its-first-birthday white buffalo whose birth generated widespread jubilation and celebration among Lakota and other Plains tribes, is being investigated by Texas Rangers and the Hunt County Sheriff’s Department. A reward of $5000 for information leading to convicting whoever is responsible has been posted. It is believed the killer cased the ranch and waited until the owner, Arby Little Soldier (Fort Berthold-Three Affiliated Tribes), was gone. He said a scholarship-raising pow-wow scheduled for the buffalo’s birthday celebration this coming week will take place anyway. Traditional Lakota believe the goddess of peace has appeared in the form of a white buffalo calf and that the white animals serve as a unifying force for all nations.

-Meteor Blades

New Mexico Indians Have Substantial Voting Clout: The question is whether they will use it. Alvin Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo), principal and executive vice president of Blue Stone Strategy Group, was a panelist at the recent WK Kellogg Foundation’s grantee conference for America Healing in New Orleans. Warren noted that American Indians can have significant voting clout in New Mexico, which is an important swing state in presidential elections. “In New Mexico, he said, we actually have had very similar experiences to the South when it comes to discriminative, active and intentional, systemic and institutional, with regard to native voting.” The American Indian population in New Mexico increased from 134,000 in 1990 to almost 220,000 in 2010, approximately 11 percent of the state’s population. With this percentage of the total population, American Indians can have tremendous impact and influence, according to Warren.

-Meteor Blades

Malkin’s Demeaning of Indians Catch Native Journalists’ Ire: Michelle Malkin has made a living attacking people of color, so it was no surprise that she would take on the controversy surrounding the Indian heritage of Elizabeth Warren with her usual sensitivity. Taking a far gentler approach than Malkin deserved, the Native American Journalists Association issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” that she had written a piece under the headline “Sacaja-whiner: Elizabeth Warren and the Oppression Olympics” and ridiculed the Senate candidate with denigrating puns and other put-downs: “Call her ‘Pinocchio-hontas,’ ‘Chief Full-of-Lies,’ ‘Running Joke’ or ‘Sacaja-whiner.'” NAJA stated: “While allegations surrounding [Warren’s] claims are unsettling, making fun of Native names that have history, respect, and honor is worse.” Meanwhile, Megyn Kelly on Fox News told Shepard Smith that she would like to interview Warren and knew exactly the way she would begin. She then raised her hand and said “How.” Afterward, she broke into laughter and said she had been drinking. At least she didn’t say, “Firewater very powerful.”

-Meteor Blades

Map Gives Possible Clues to Roanoke’s ‘Lost Colony’: The disappearance of the English colonists who first tried to settle on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina has been an unsolved mystery since 1590. The disappeared include Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America. Theories abound as to what happened to the 118 colonists between the time their governor sailed for England in 1587 to obtain new supplies and 1590 when he returned to find them all gone and their village and fortifications dismantled. Theories abounded for years: starvation; disease; lost at sea; wiped out by local Indian tribes; captured, enslaved and/or assimilated by local tribes. The Lost Colony DNA Project seeks to test these latter possibilities. Now, the British Museum’s use of 21st Century imaging methods to reexamine a 16th-century map has found hidden markings “that show an inland fort where the colonists could have resettled after abandoning the coast. […] The analysis suggests that the symbol marking the fort was deliberately hidden, perhaps to shield it from espionage in the spy-riddled English court. An even more tantalizing hint of dark arts tints the map: the possibility that invisible ink may have marked the site all along.”

-Meteor Blades

The Book of Mormon: The Whiter the Skin, the Closer to God: Tim Giago (Oglala Lakota), founder of the Native American Journalists Association and Indian Country Today, and widely considered to be an enemy of Indian militance, points out in a recent article racist quotes of past presidents of the Mormon Church regarding Native Americans. From Brigham Young: “There is a curse on these aborigines of our country who roam the plains and are so wild that you cannot tame them. They are of the House of Israel; they once had the Gospel delivered to them, they had oracles of truth; Jesus came and administered to them after his resurrection and they received and delighted in the Gospel until the fourth generation when they turned away and became so wicked that God cursed them with this dark and benighted and loathsome condition.” Giago’s conclusion was the same as ours in FNN&V two weeks ago. “And I will continue to ask myself why any sensible Native American would belong to a Church that will not fully accept them until they become white.”



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.

First Nations News & Views: 11 Native artists in Paris, stealing water, billion-dollar agreement

Welcome to the 11th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a review of the Oklahoma Painters exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris, a look at the year 1883 in American Indian history,  the first in a series on the attempt to steal Hopi and Navajo water resources, the $1 billion government settlement with 41 tribes, an eye-rolling take on an Indian “party theme” and a baker’s dozen of linkable news bullets. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

By navajo

Last November, an art exhibit titled Oklahoma Painters was presented at the prestigious Grand Palais in Paris as part of the sixth annual Art en Capital event. Eleven American Indian artists were featured. The exhibit is the first major one of its kind in Paris since the Kiowa Five were featured in the 1920s. It was curated by Russell Tallchief (Osage), director of Arts & Exhibitions at the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum in Oklahoma City.

Many visitors were intrigued by the modern display of art from American Indians, their expectations having been influenced by the romantic and stereotypical vision that Hollywood movies and the photos of Edward Curtis perpetuate throughout the world. Surprised, some commented about the variety of style among the artists as they had anticipated one uniform product from a unified culture. Instead they were exposed to contemporary pieces from the youth to the elders of various tribes, defining the uniqueness of individuals and their cultures.

The featured artists hail from 10 different tribes in Oklahoma:  

Hock E Aye Vi – Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne/Arapaho)

Edgar Heap of Birds
Edgar Heap of Birds with his painting Smile for Racism

Photo courtesy of Dominque Godreche

(Note the backward words: Cleveland and Mascots)

Born in 1954 in Wichita, Kan., Heap of Birds studied at Haskell Indian School in Lawrence. He took a B.F.A. from the University of Kansas, an M.F.A from Temple University and then studied at the Royal College of Art, in London. Since 1988, he has served on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma as professor of Native American Studies. “Heap of Birds has exhibited internationally in the diverse mediums of signage, monumental sculpture, painting, print, drawing and installation.”

Edgar Heap of Birds, telling many magpies
Telling Many Magpies,

Telling Black Wolf,

Telling Hachivi

[Hachivi, his Cheyenne name, “Little Chief”]

~The artist explains that the backward

word NATURAL means

that it’s not.

He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and other institutions such as the Australian Museum of Contemporary Art, Documenta in Kassel, Germany, the Bandung Institution of Technology in Indonesia, the Venice Biennale in Italy, and now the Grand Palais in France.

To my eye, his most impressive installation is theWheel sculpture at the Denver Art Museum, which is named for the symbolic medicine wheel. The project took 10 years to complete. Ten red porcelain-covered, steel-forked trees have been placed in a 50-foot circle and inscribed with references to “extermination, ancient pictography, astrological bodies and pillars of shared understanding like respect, encapsulating the interconnectivity of Indigenous science and philosophy. The positioning and writing of this installation mark millennia of Indigenous knowledge, systematically intervened to commemorate nuanced views of colonial policy and global Indigenous cooperation. The sculpture itself is aligned with astrological bodies.” On the summer solstice the sun rises between two of the forked panels.

Edgar Heap of Birds, Wheel
Wheel or Nah Kev Ho Eya Zim,

is Heap of Birds’s grandmother’s proverb of how Indians

never leave home in their minds, which translates as

“We are always returning back home again.”

In the on-line hEyOkA mAgAzInE, he gives a thought-provoking interview explaining the various messages and meanings of the installation.

He negotiated a 100-year contract to control the land under the installation which was part of the first land that the southern Cheyenne and Arapaho lost in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The genocide of these tribes began with the Massacre at Sand Creek in Kiowa County, Colo., in 1864. The southern Cheyenne and Arapaho were then moved out of Colorado to Kansas and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Heap of Birds’s tribes have reclaimed the land in Denver with this sculpture. By using his grandmother’s proverb on the wall next to the Wheel, they have taken back the sacred circle.

Tribal chiefs came for the dedication of the Wheel in June 2005. The tribes now use the site for ceremonies, and it is on the route of the annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run.

In addition, this 26-minute VIDEO of Heap of Bird’s fascinating speech at Otis College of Art and Design on what has influenced his art. It’s a must-view.

Highlights that struck me:

• A photo of a cradleboard decorated with protective symbols showed it was specifically designed so that, if the Army attacked, the baby could be scooped up and run away with.

• Cavalrymen cut out uteruses of Indian women and made them into hats, a symbol of ensuring no Indian babies could be born from the wounded.

• Inspired by the sketches drawn by incarcerated warriors imprisoned at Fort Marion, Fla., in the 1870s, Heap of Birds saw power in rendering one’s oppressors through protest art.

• His great-great-great-grandfather was one of the chiefs imprisoned at Fort Marion. His Cheyenne name is properly interpreted in English as Many Magpies, but the day that Captain Richard Henry Pratt couldn’t pronounce the Cheyenne version, the hasty label Heap of Birds was recorded, trapping his ancestors and his family today, imprisoning them linguistically because they couldn’t speak English and now had to accept the names the invader chose for them. Symbolically then, Heap of Birds’s work with text is a way of reclaiming the power of naming.

• There is, he says, a strange amnesia in America. We all know about the pyramids around the world but there are pyramids in the U.S. For example, Creek pyramids in Georgia are misunderstood because the tribe was forced to walk to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears. Everyone thinks these pyramids belong to a lost culture. But that culture is alive in Oklahoma.

His brilliant, direct style explains why he is sought after to speak around the world.

Edgar Heap of Birds, Road Signs
Three samples of Edgar Heap of Birds’s public art interventions

Joe Don Brave (Osage)

Joe Don Brave
Joe Don Brave with his piece for le Grand Palais exhibit

Joe Don Brave says he has worked his whole life for something of the caliber of the exhibit in Paris. Born in 1965, he was named Vincent Paul Brave after Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin by his father, Franklin Brave, a professional artist and graphic designer. One day his father nicknamed him Joe Don after Oklahoma football star Joe Don Looney. That nickname stuck.

As a child Brave learned to paint in his father’s studio. Brave studied art at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and has worked at the National Museum of American Indian and the Smithsonian Institute in New York City. He also owns his gallery in downtown Pawhuska, Okla.

Brave was raised in the traditions and customs of the Osage, and he’s still an active participant in the tribe’s annual traditional ceremonial dances.

Anita Fields (Osage)

Anita Fields, Three Dresses
Anita Fields at work in her studio and her “Three Dresses” collection

Anita Fields, born in 1951 and raised in Hominy, Okla., is one of a few American Indian potters who does not live in the Southwest where the many pueblos, Hopi and Navajo dominate that medium.

Fields is probably the first Indian potter to create conceptual installation pieces instead of functional or display pottery. To make her artistic statement she often uses abstract versions of traditional clothing and artifacts. Influenced by American Indian clothing and weaving, she translates these soft features into her hard clay works.

She says her work honors women: “The dresses convey my attitudes toward the strength of women and how native peoples show remarkable resourcefulness and adaptability toward their environment. The clothing Indian women created shows great pride, dignity, and hope in a culture facing insurmountable odds.”

Yatika Fields (Osage)

Yatika Fields
Yatika Fields painting in the courtyard of Indian Market Weekend in Santa Fe

Born in 1980 to Anita Fields, the artist featured just above, Yatika Fields grew up in Oklahoma but currently lives in Brooklyn. 

After living in Boston with bike messengers he developed a passion for cycling. He moved to New York without any cash and got a job in the dangerous occupation of city bike messengering. That’s riding a bike with a fixed gear and NO brakes. After realizing he was pretty fast he ventured into alleycats, illegal street racing where the only prize is honor.

Here is a terrific VIDEO of Fields painting a wall in the apartment Ryan Red Corn (Osage).

His work is currently exhibited at Chiaroscuro Contemporary in Santa Fe, Sam Noble Museum in Norman, Okla., and The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz. Last October he was in Barcelona for three weeks doing live painting events and then in Paris in November where he enjoyed traveling with his mother.

Brent Greenwood (Chickasaw/Ponca)

Brent Greenwood, There goes the neighborhood...
Brent Greenwood with his “There Goes the Neighborhood” piece

Brent Greenwood was born in 1971 in Midwest City, Okla.. He graduated with an AFA in 2-Dimensional Art from the Institute of American Indian Arts and a BFA from the Oklahoma City University.

Greenwood incorporates early tribal history into his contemporary acrylic designs, often with faceless figures but vibrant with color. Some of his artistic inspiration is derived from other artists’ work and energy. He is most proud of his family and the inspiration they provide. His wife Kennetha (Otoe/Missouria) is an artist as well. Greenwood encourages his children to paint alongside him. He enjoys singing Ponca songs at events and shares this spirit with his children and other youth in his community.

America Meredith (Cherokee)

American Meredith
America Meredith painting and her piece “Agalisiga Checks a Box”

America Meredith, also of Swedish descent, “blends traditional styles from Native America and Europe with pop imagery of her childhood. The Cherokee language and syllabary figure prominently in her work, as they are the strongest visual imagery unique to her tribe.”

Meredith “earned her MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and her BFA from the University of Oklahoma. She has shown throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe in the last 15 years and has won awards at the Heard and SWAIA’s Indian Market as well as at numerous competitive shows” and now featured in Paris.

Her on-line portfolio is an absolute treat, and my favorite page is Present Tense. Check out The Tewa Man in Black, illustrating the importance of corn to American Indians and Cameron Chino, an Indian full-blood who loves the Japanese culture.

A stunning international art exhibit inviting the tight-knit bike messenger community to use its spokecard is the Cherokee Spokespeople Project. “Spokecards are laminated cards that can be held in place by the spokes of a bicycle wheel, which bike messengers create as souvenirs for bike races and other messenger events.” 


The Cherokee language has a unique writing system developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s and still used today. All American Indian languages are struggling to survive. “According to Cherokee Nation tribal leadership, our current generation, the fourteenth generation since European contact with the Cherokees, is said to be the generation that decides whether the language grows or dies.” So to promote the Cherokee language, Meredith made spokecards available to the bike-messengering community and asked them to document the card on their bikes with a photograph featuring a famous location. Participants received a custom card from Meredith with their choice of any word in Cherokee to display on their bike. Sometimes, words were invented for the prize winners, creating new Cherokee words.

To survive, Cherokee cannot be stuck in the past or confined to one part of the country. Cherokee Spokespeople are introducing new people to their language and bringing it into an international, urban setting.

“This project continued from 2004 to 2011. [Meredith] distributed hundreds of spokecards by hand, at SFBMA meetings, at cycle courier races, and through the mail. The Cherokee Spokespeople Project has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada; IAIA Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Euphrat Museum in Cupertino, CA; the City Arts Center in Oklahoma City, OK; and was finally exhibited as a solo show at the Ho-Chee-Nee Chapel on the grounds of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, OK.”

Navarre Scott Momaday (Kiowa/Cherokee)

N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday in front of the Louvre, his book cover and one of the lithographs inside

N. Scott Momaday, born in 1934 in Lawton, Okla., is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Momaday’s novel House Made of Dawn is credited for launching Native American literature into the mainstream. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.

He received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas in 1992. He was awarded a 2007 National Medal of Arts and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010.

In Paris, Momday’s book The Man Made of Visions, a dozen unpublished poems and signed lithographs were featured. Thumbnails of the lithographs can be seen here.

Thomas Poolaw (Kiowa/Delaware)

Thomas Poolaw
“Eyes #2 and the artist, Thomas Poolaw

Born in 1959 and currently residing in Norman, Okla., Tom Poolaw works primarily with acrylics and digital images. He was heavily influenced by his grandfather, Horace Poolaw, a photographer.

He prefers to let his work unfold rather than knowing what it will look like at the finish. “Process is the focus of my work. I choose formats and situations that encourage spontaneity and experimentation. The journey must be exciting and inspired. I want to produce something nearer to poetry than documentation.

“My work usually deals with Native American subject matter expressed in a contemporary manner. It doesn’t always have to, but that’s who I am and where I come from. I hope the work reflects the status of today’s Native American individual, that is complex, modern and spiritual.”

Marla Skye (Onondaga)

Marla Skye
Marla Skye and her piece that was used for an invitation in Paris

Marla Skye works with several mediums, painting, silversmithing, beading and woodcarving. Her father, Larry Jones, was a skilled woodcarver and artist. He died just two months before her showing in Paris. He was thrilled that she was going to be featured there. Skye is a graduate of The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.

D.g. Smalling (Choctaw)

D.g. Smalling

D.g. Smalling was born and raised in Oklahoma City. He is known for his “single line” art in which he creates the initial outline never lifting his pen. He then fills in the spaces with color. This amazing and beautiful technique is captured in this VIDEO

He credits his Choctaw culture whose traditions and lifestyle embrace minimalism. His abstractions begin with the most basic element-the line-the foundation of all design.

The pieces he produced for the Paris exhibit are here.

Smalling hosts The Spy’s Eye on NDN-Country on, Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Central Time.

Dana Tiger (Creek/Seminole/Cherokee)

Dana Tiger
Dana Tiger and one of her Warrior Women paintings

Dana Tiger was born and raised in Muskogee, Okla. Her legendary father, Jerome Tiger died when she was five years old. She used his art as a way to get to know him and along with guidance from her uncle, Johnny Tiger, Jr. From them, she learned the richness of her culture and carried on the family’s artistic tradition. Her watercolors and acrylic paintings celebrate the strength and determination of American Indian women.

Some of the artists in Paris during their exhibition

And since it is the Grand Palais, pour le pièce de résistance … a grand nod to curator Russell Tallchief (Osage). He gathered these 11 artists in the Salon du Dessin et de la Peinture à l’eau (Room of Painting and Water Colors) at the Grand Palais. As a special treat, on Nov. 24, 2011, he performed an ancient southern style of Osage war dance. He is a Straight Dancer and performed as a Taildancer, a privileged position that serves to set the pace and motivate the other performers to dance harder. The dance symbolizes being on the battlefield.

Russell Tall Chief dancing
Russell Tallchief performing an Osage war dance in Paris

Tallchief is related to the renowned ballerinas Maria Tallchief (born 1925) who danced with the New York City Ballet and Marjorie Tallchief (born 1927) who was the first American to achieve première danseuse étoile with the Paris Opera Ballet.  

The exhibit was viewed by over 40,000 visitors.

Haida Whale Divider

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1883

1883 ‘Civilizing’ Code Smashed Religion, Culture, Social Relations

Hiram Price, Commissioner

of Indian Affairs 1881-1885

By Meteor Blades

On April 10, 1883, Secretary of Interior Henry Teller approved the Code of Indian Offenses that would henceforth be handled by the new Court of Indian Offenses, the predecessor of today’s tribal courts. The rules of the code were developed by former Iowa Congressman Hiram Price, a “radical Republican” who had been appointed by President James Garfield to the post of Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1881.

It should be remembered that this was a time when Indians, most of whom did not become U.S. citizens until 1924, were not permitted to leave their reservations except by consent and written approval of their superintendent.  

For nearly two years, Price had lobbied his boss to extend state and territorial jurisdiction over Indian reservations. There was dissembling about the purpose of this. He said Congress should enact laws to “make the Indian equally secure with the white man in his individual rights of person and property, and equally amenable for any violation of the rights of others.” But behind those seemingly reasonable words about equal protection and equal responsibility was a sinister effort to knuckle Indians under again, demolishing their religious, cultural and social practices. In other words, ethnocide.

Price presented his proposed rules to Secretary Teller in December 1882, and Teller approved them the following April. Among the true purposes, Price wrote, was “to destroy the tribal relations as fast as possible.” Just as when the Office of Indian Affairs (soon renamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was established in 1824, the imposition of the rules was done by fiat of the Secretary of Interior, without congressional action. That would not occur until 1885 when Congress passed the Major Crimes Act.

The rules set forth a Court of Indian Offenses at each Indian agency. Each court was to be presided over by a tribunal, the Indian judges automatically being the three highest-ranking officers of the tribal police. Appeals would be handled by the BIA. An amendment in 1894 allowed judges to be chosen from among other tribal members.

The rules had little to do with laws established to regulate the behavior of non-Indians. With a couple of exceptions, they were more like status crimes, that is, if you’re Indian, you can’t do this without getting into trouble-worshiping as you please or drinking alcohol, for example.

With only minor changes the rules remained in place until 1935, when Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes promulgated fresh regulations as a consequence of the Indian Reorganization Act of the previous year. Here are excerpts from the nine rules set forth in 1883:

• 1st. Establishes the court and selection of judges, each for a one-year term. “[N]o person shall be eligible to appointment as a member of said court who is a polygamist; and provided further, that the judges herein provided for shall receive no money consideration on account of their services in connection with said court.”

• 2d. Requires two regular sessions a month, the time approved by the local (government-appointed) Indian agent (who was a private contractor).

• 3d. Authorizes the agent to “compel the attendance of witnesses at any session of the court, and enforce, with the aid of the police, if necessary, all orders that may be passed by the court or a majority thereof; but all orders, decrees, or judgments of the court shall be subject to approval or disapproval of the agent, and an appeal to and final revision by this office…”

• 4th. “The ‘sun-dance,’ the ‘scalp-dance,’ the ‘war-dance,’ and all other so-called feasts assimilating thereto, shall be considered ‘Indian offenses,’ and any Indian found guilty of being a participant in any one or more of these ‘offenses’ shall, for the first offense committed, be punished by withholding from the person or persons so found guilty by the court his or their rations for a period not exceeding ten days; and if found guilty of any subsequent offense under this rule, shall by punished by withholding his or their rations for a period not less than fifteen days, nor more than thirty days, or by incarceration in the agency prison for a period not exceeding thirty days.”

• 5th. “Any plural marriage hereafter contracted or entered into by any member of an Indian tribe under the supervision of a United States Indian agent shall be considered an ‘Indian offense,’ [… and] shall pay a fine of not less than twenty dollars, or work at hard labor for a period of twenty days, or both, at the discretion of the court. […]  and so long as the Indian shall continue in this unlawful relation he shall forfeit all right to receive rations from the Government. And whenever it shall be proven to the satisfaction of the court that any member of the tribe fails, without proper cause, to support his wife and children, no rations shall be issued to him until such time as satisfactory assurance is given to the court, approved by the agent, that the offender will provide for his family to the best of his ability.”

Steven Moses (Spokane) stood trial in 1913 on the

Spokane Reservation for continuing to practice

traditional ceremonies in violation of the Code of

Indian Offenses. He was acquitted because the

main witness against him failed to show up in court.

(Courtesy of Barry Moses, his great-great grandson)

• 6th. “The usual practices of so-called ‘medicine-men’ shall be considered ‘Indian offenses’ […] and whenever it shall be proven to the satisfaction of the court that the influence or practice of a so-called ‘medicine-man’ operates as a hindrance to the civilization of a tribe, or that said ‘medicine-man’ resorts to any artifice or device to keep the Indians under his influence, or shall adopt any means to prevent the attendance of children at the agency schools, or shall use any of the arts of a conjurer to prevent the Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs, he shall be adjudged guilty of an Indian offense, and upon conviction of any one or more of these specified practices, or, any other, in the opinion of the court, of an equally anti-progressive nature, shall be confined in the agency prison for a term not less than ten days, or until such time as he shall produce evidence satisfactory to the court, and approved by the agent, that he will forever abandon all practices styled Indian offenses under this rule.”

• 7th. Requires restoration or restitution for theft or destruction of property. “Those convicted shall be confined in the agency prison for a term not exceeding thirty days; and it shall not be considered a sufficient or satisfactory answer to any of the offenses set forth in this rule that the party charged was at the time a ‘mourner,’ and thereby justified in taking or destroying the property in accordance with the customs or rites of the tribe.”

• 8th. “Any Indian or mixed-blood who shall pay or offer to pay any money or other valuable consideration to the friends or relatives of any Indian girl or woman, for the purpose of living or cohabiting with said girl or woman, shall be deemed guilty of an Indian offense, and upon conviction thereof shall forfeit all right to Government rations for a period at the discretion of the agent, or be imprisoned in the agency prison for a period not exceeding sixty days; and any Indian or mixed-blood who shall receive or offer to receive any consideration for the purpose herein before specified shall be punished in a similar manner as provided for the party paying or offering to pay the said consideration; and if any white man shall be found guilty of any of the offenses herein mentioned he shall be immediately removed from the reservation and not allowed to return thereto.”

• 9th. The court also has jurisdiction over misdemeanors and civil suits among Indians “and any Indian who shall be found intoxicated, or who shall sell, exchange, give, barter, or dispose of any spirituous, vinous, or fermented liquors to any other Indian, or who shall introduce or attempt to introduce, under any pretense whatever, any spirituous, vinous, or fermented liquors on the reservation, shall be punishable by imprisonment for not less than thirty day nor more than ninety days, or by the withholding of Government rations therefrom, at the discretion of the court and approval of the agent.”

The imposition of these rules, finalized in 1884, was spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ex Parte Crow Dog (1883). The Court ruled that despite explicit extension of U.S. jurisdiction over “certain bands of Sioux Indians” in 1877, they were subject to U.S. law not as citizens entitled to equal protection under the law and the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but as “wards subject to a guardian … as a dependent community who were in a state of pupilage.” Although laws at the time were clear about crimes committed by Indians against non-Indians and vice versa, they did not specify what to do about crimes committed by Indians against Indians. Therefore, the court ruled that Crow Dog’s killing of Spotted Tail was a matter solely for tribal jurisdiction.

As a consequence, in 1885, Congress passed the predecessor to today’s (Indian) Major Crimes Act, which Commissioner Price called a “step in the right direction.” The act established seven major crimes on the reservations as a matter for federal as opposed to tribal jurisdiction. These were (and remain today): murder; manslaughter; rape; assault with intent to commit murder; arson; burglary; and larceny. Crimes in which the maximum sentence is one year or less are still handled by many tribal courts.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

U.S. Deal for Navajo-Hopi Water Has Familiar Stench

(First of a series.)

By Aji

“Steals Water.”

That should be U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl’s “Indian name.” It would also fit Sen. John McCain, Rep. Ben Quayle and Rep. Paul Gosar.

What these four, with the apparent collaboration of the formal leadership of the Navajo and Hopi nations, have been plotting recently has the potential to become the biggest theft of natural resources from American Indians in years.

Sen. Jon Kyl and Sen. John McCain, conniving again

The bill, S-2109 (HR-4067 in the House), is known informally as the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012. The text defines its purpose as follows:

To approve the settlement of water rights claims of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the allottees of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe in the State of Arizona, to authorize construction of municipal water projects relating to the water rights claims, to resolve litigation against the United States concerning Colorado River operations affecting the States of California, Arizona, and Nevada, and for other purposes.

In reality, it’s the latest in a line of swindles in the nation’s long history of grabbing tribal resources and telling Indians it’s for their own good.

The bill’s true purpose is to coerce the Navajo and Hopi into surrendering all their rights to the Little Colorado River, the area’s major water source. Kyl, McCain, et al. are offering what amounts to a bribe in the form of much-needed and long-delayed groundwater-delivery projects for the two tribes. In exchange for those two limited-term projects, each tribe would permanently surrender all future claims to Little Colorado River water rights, and would waive all rights to future litigation in the event of damages arising in any way from the settlement agreements. 

The indemnity goes only one way, of course. It’s only the Indians who are barred from suing the state, the federal government and its agencies and the private corporations who stand to benefit most from the diversion of this precious tribal resource. And it turns out that the groundwater delivery projects may be nothing more than a mirage: The funding allocation is limited and appears to be conditioned on the assumption that certain monies, which may or may not exist, will be used.

Those terms alone should have gotten the Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation laughed out of the room, out of town, out of state, and all the way back to their insular D.C. offices.

Instead, it appears that a non-Indian lawyer on the staff of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, with the apparent blessing (some tribal members might say “connivance”) of Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Hopi Tribal Chair LeRoy Shingoitewa, “negotiated” this monstrosity with Kyl and McCain and their staffers without authorization from the Navajo Nation Tribal Council. Stanley Pollack, the NNDOJ lawyer, has been on staff for years and reputedly has experience with water rights issues. But many tribal members believe he and others involved intended to help Shelly to help Kyl and McCain ram through the legislation before anyone got wise. Since tribal grassroots environmental organizations caught wind of the scheme, they and individual members of both tribes have begun vocal protests.

Once it became apparent that the bill could not be passed quietly, Kyl and McCain made a trip to Tuba City in the heart of the Navajo Nation, ostensibly to meet with tribal representatives. It was, in fact, intended to be a private meeting, behind closed doors, with only Shelly and Shingoitewa and their staff members in a strategy session to try to salvage the bill more or less in its current form. That failed miserably. Some 200 protestors from both nations, including former tribal chairs and officers, demonstrated outside the meeting.  

Grand Falls on the Little Colorado River (Mr. Jalapeño)

Navajo Police formed a human cordon, and allegedly physically abused former Navajo Nation President Milton Bluehouse as he tried to enter the building. Eventually, Shelly emerged to try to reassure tribal members that they and the tribal council would have the final word. But his attempt to soothe everyone was met with jeers, catcalls, demands to “kill the bill” and open accusations of “selling out.”

The “sellout” label has only gained traction with reports that Shelly’s administration has hired lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt.  One of its lead lobbyists in this matter is Ryan Smith-a former Senate aide to Jon Kyl.  No word yet on who, if anyone, will be lobbying for the Hopi.

Kyl and McCain, of course, “dismiss” the people’s criticisms as just so much “misinformation” while they continue to pressure both tribes to approve the bill amid vague but dire warnings that time is somehow short.

Time is short for the 70-year-old Sen. Kyl. He’s retiring at the end of this year after 18 years in the Senate. That leaves him just a few months to bestow this particular windfall upon his political benefactors: specifically, mostly non-Native corporate interests, including the Navajo Generating Station, Peabody Western Coal and the Salt River Project. The latter was one of Kyl’s corporate clients before he entered Congress. The bill would also benefit Arizona’s non-Indian residents and other business interests.

Next Week: An analysis of the legal aspects of the case. In future pieces we will examine the many toxic currents-including sovereignty, autonomy, self-representation, politics, media and cultural theft-of contemporary “Indian policy” that have converged into the proposed Little Colorado River Settlement.

Stop SB 2109

NAN Line Separater

Feds Settle Century of Rip-offs with $1 Billion to 41 Tribes

By Meteor Blades

In just over three years, the Obama administration has done more for American Indians than any administration since Lyndon Johnson called for an end of termination policy 44 years ago. A good deal of that has to do with simply being a good listener. But the administration is also building a solid record of compensating the tribes for decades of government bungling and behavior that, labeled properly, was outright theft.

The latest move, announced April 11, is the billion-dollar settlement with 41 tribes from Maine to California. Funding does not have to be approved by Congress because it has already been allocated in the Judgment Fund. The settlement ends a 22-month-long negotiation between the tribes and the United States over more than a century of mismanagement of concessions granted to non-Indians by the departments of Interior and the Treasury. Interior oversees 56 million acres of Indian land held in trust by the government. The concessions cover various resources, including minerals, timber, oil and gas, and grazing rights.

“They literally could not tell the tribal beneficiary how much money was in the account, or how much money was in it or where it was going,”says Matthew Fletcher.  […]
Matthew Fletcher

“You know there’s sort of a moral trust responsibility of the federal government to Indian tribes. And that plays a key role,” Fletcher says. “That’s why you have press conferences with the attorney general saying ‘We’re doing the things that we should have been doing 50 years ago or 100 years ago.'”

Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, teaches indigenous law at Michigan State University and is director of the MSU College of Law’s Indigenous Law and Policy Center.

The agreement is in addition to the $3.4 billion settlement over trust-land mismanagement in a class-action lawsuit brought by the late Elouise Cobell, aka Yellow Bird Woman (Niitsítapi-Blackfoot Confederacy). The Cobell settlement covered cases brought by 300,000 individual Indians. That settlement is being appealed in federal court.

The federal government settled with the Osage for $380 million in October and $760 million in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack case in 2010. The latter was brought by individual American Indian farmers and ranchers in a class-action suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They accused the department of discrimination in administering loan programs.

“These important settlements reflect President Obama’s continuing commitment to ensuring empowerment and reconciliation for American Indians,” said Secretary [of the Interior Ken] Salazar. “It strengthens the government-to-government relationship with Tribal nations, helps restore a positive working relationship with Indian Country leaders and empowers American Indian communities.”

Hilary Tompkins

On hand for the event was Hilary Tompkins (Navajo), Solicitor General of the Interior Department. She helped work out the details of the settlement. “[W]hen I say the word trust, I don’t mean the legal definition of that word, I mean the dictionary’s definition of that word-assured reliance on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of a person or thing […] May we walk together toward a brighter future, built on trust, and not acrimony,” she said.

All tribes have had a dark relationship with the federal government, said Gary Hayes, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, whose reservation covers southwest Colorado, southeast Utah and northern New Mexico. But the settlements will assist tribal governments in supplementing decades of inadequate funding throughout Indian Country, helping to improve public safety, infrastructure and health care, he said.

“The seeds that we plant today will profit us in the future and continue for generations to come,” Hayes said.

The Ute Mountain Utes will receive nearly $42.6 million of the settlement. A government spokesman said the Feds would not announce specific amounts, but leave that up to the individual tribes’ discretion. Known amounts range from the $150 million going to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana to the $25,000 for the Nootsack Tribe of Washington state. In addition to the 41 lawsuits settled in the agreement, another 71 are still in litigation.

The tribes receiving a portion of the $1.023 billion settlement are:

Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation; Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Blackfeet Tribe; Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians; Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of Colusa Rancheria; Coeur d’Alene Tribe; Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation; Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Reservation; Hualapai Tribe; Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians of Arizona; Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas; Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians; Makah Tribe of the Makah Reservation; Mescalero Apache Nation; Minnesota Chippewa Tribe; Nez Perce Tribe; Nooksack Tribe.

Northern Cheyenne Tribe; Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine; Pawnee Nation; Pueblo of Zia; Quechan Indian Tribe of the Fort Yuma Reservation; Rincon Luiseño Band of Indians; Round Valley Tribes; Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community; Santee Sioux Tribe; Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation; Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians; Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation; Spokane Tribe; Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Fort Yates Reservation; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians; Tohono O’odham Nation; Tulalip Tribe; Tule River Tribe; Ute Mountain Ute Tribe; Ute Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.

NAN Line Separater

Stereotypes Celebrated for Privileged Children Birthday Party Idea

By navajo

Many things bother me about a blog page of party designer Kara Allen promoting her new book, Kara’s Party Ideas. The page is called Native American Party. Kara uses typical stereotypes Indian people have been fighting for decades and celebrates them as proper for impressionable young children. She has 38 photos illustrating every aspect of her partyscape. Here are the ones that bother me the most:



Calling All Little Indians?????

Plains Indian costume?????

Tomahawks and red licorice braids?????



Fortunately, there are respectful criticisms (the nasty ones are gone now) in the comment section of her blog page explaining why the use of stereotypes is racist. But the replies from Kara and her supporters bother me.

Kara offers one of those “sorry if anyone was offended” apologies:

Kara Allen

I just want to apologize. I had no intention of being disrespectful to any race or ethnicity. I have the highest regard for the Native American culture, in fact, my husband is part Cherokee. I meant the party as a way to honor the Native American heritage {just as a “Luau Party” honors the Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan, etc. cultures} while also celebrating a birthday in a fun way.

Kara’s perspective falls into the category of ignorant racism. How exactly does this theme differ from a “blackface” party? Would Kara promote that on her blog?

Kara writes that she lives in Utah, my birth state, which was once all Indian land. Land belonging to the Bannock, Goshute, Navajo, Paiute, Shoshone and Ute tribes. All very different tribes. Tribes whose traditional clothing doesn’t resemble the costumes at Kara’s party. Except for the Navajo, these tribes were forced onto small reservations long ago.

Utah tribal landUtah reservations

I wonder if Kara can name any of these Utah tribes and describe a few aspects of their different cultures. I wonder if she knows there are different bands within some of those tribes. I grew up in Utah and I’ve visited nearly all the reservations there. It was visually obvious to me even as a young child that they have higher poverty rates than the rest of Utah.

It’s disturbing to know the reality of the living conditions on our reservations and then see a stereotyped depiction of generic Indians flaunted as a party.

Personally, I don’t think the advice in the comments for taking one tribe and “honoring” them at a privileged child’s birthday party is a good approach. Better to remove this page from the upcoming book. Kara should stick to her other fantasy ideas as party themes.

American Indians are not a fantasy.

NAN Line Separater


Seattle School of Law Debuts American Indian Law Journal: Backed by the Center for Indian Law & Policy, the 96-page journal, whose cover art appears below, contains articles titled, among others: “Can Indian Tribes Sell or Encumber Their Fee Lands Without Federal Approval?”; “The Public Nature of Indian Reservation Roads”; and “Justice Rehnquist’s Theory of Indian Law: The Evolution from Mazurie to Atkinson – Where Did He Leave the Court?”

“€œRunning Eagle Takes Her Enemy”€ by Artist Terrance Guardipee

-Meteor Blades

Miccosukee Indians Allege Lawyers Ripped Them Off: The 600-member tribe has accused former Miami U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis and ex-federal prosecutor Michael Tein of luring it “into unnecessarily paying millions of dollars in legal fees that were excessive and unreasonable, for work that was fictitious, improperly created, unsubstantiated and which did not achieve any reasonable benefit.” Millions of dollars paid out to the two lawyers built the pair a lavish lifestyle that included, among other things, a huge luxury car collection and a zeppelin.

-Meteor Blades

S.D. State Rep. Ed Iron Cloud (Oglala Lakota ) Missed Filing Deadline for Primary: The Democratic incumbent state representative from Porcupine missed the deadline to submit petitions for running as a Democrat in the state primary June 5, but he plans to run as an independent and is gathering signatures to do so. South Dakota has 35 legislative districts, each represented by one senator and two House members. Iron Cloud has represented South Dakota’s heavily Democratic District 27 since 2009 along with Kevin Killer (Oglala Lakota). If he doesn’t make the ballot, Killer and Republican Elizabeth May will automatically get seats in the House.

-Meteor Blades

Jenna Talackova

Aboriginal Transgender Wins Fight to Compete in Miss Universe Canada Contest: A member of the Nat’oot’en (or Lake Babine) First Nation of British Columbia, Jenna Talackova was born male. At 19, four years ago, she had a sex-change operation. And now she is a 23-year-old woman competing in the Canadian Miss Universe Pageant. Three weeks ago, however, the Donald Trump-controlled pageant disqualified her for being formerly male, and Talackova decided to fight back, enlisting Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred in the battle. Which generated some heated words. Allred asked Trump to prove he is a man, and Trump fired back that she would be impressed if she saw his junk. On April 2, the pageant agreed that Talackova can compete as long as she meets Canadian “legal gender recognition requirements” and the standards of other international competitions. The latter may be difficult since some of those, including the Miss USA pageant, require a contestant to be a “naturally born genetic female.” Transgender advocates saw the win as a partial victory. Suzi Parker at the Washington Post granted that Talackova should have the right to compete, but asked why she would want to given Parker’s view that it would be better if no women desired pageant queen status.

-Meteor Blades

National Native News Offers First Nations Radio Briefs Each Day: The operation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as a provider of five minutes of radio news each day about American Indians, Alaskan Natives and First Nations peoples of Canada. Programming is available to Native and non-Native outlets. You can also listen on line.

-Meteor Blades

Gov. Brian Schweitzer Honored at 31st Annual Montana Indian Education Association Conference: The association honored the governor Friday in Bozeman for his leadership in Indian education. Among the prominent members of Montana’s Indian community in attendance was Carol Juneau (Mandan/Hidatsa), a former Montana senator. She spoke about the positive impact Schweitzer has had. Her daughter, Denise, is the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, the first Indian ever elected to statewide office in Montana. Schweitzer spoke of the importance of education in bringing down reservation unemployment rates that are six or more times the national average.

-Meteor Blades

Banks Won’t Supports Reservation Contractors for Lack of Collateral: Among the obstacles faced by reservation-based construction companies bidding to work on large construction projects is that fact that the reservation cannot use land to take out bonds to fund projects. That is because reservation land is trust land and not taxed by the federal government. “Banks won’t come anywhere near the reservation,” said Dustin Twiss (Oglala Lakota), who with his father lost a bid on a communication system for a new justice facility on the Pine Ridge Reservation. “You’d be lucky to make a payday loan, let alone a half a million dollar bond down here, unless you have 100 percent of the assets.”

-Meteor Blades

Petitioners Seek Access to “Plan B” Emergency Contraception for Native Women: A recent report by the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center showed that 90 percent of American Indian women have a very difficult time getting emergency contraception because the vast majority of Indian Health Service pharmacies don’t carry it. For reservation women, who often live in rural areas, the next nearest pharmacy may be 100 miles away. You can sign a petition urging IHS Director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux to issue a directive to all IHS service providers to make emergency contraception available on demand without a prescription or doctor visit to all women 17 or older.

-Meteor Blades (with h/t to Land of Enchantment)

Sanford School Teams, No, Not THAT Sanford, Call Themselves “Redskins” : A high school in the Maine town of 21,000 has yet to get rid of the nickname or its stereotypical mascot. Of the 448 students, faculty and staff at the school, only about 40 percent support

Sanford “Redskin” logo

changing the name, the last school in the state whose teams are called “Redskins.” Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission has asked the school’s governing committee to get rid of it. Wiscasset, a Maine town of 3600, dumped the name at its high school last year. Other less incendiary Indian-themed nicknames are still used by some schools in the state. About 50 Indians and non-Indians got together in Sanford on Wednesday for “a peace-building conversation.” Richard Silliboy, tribal councilor of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, said the “R” term is just as insulting as “squaw,” a word that has been removed from all public place names in Maine. Silliboy said he’d taken many insults in his life: “Dirty Indian, stinkin’ Indian, drunken Indian” and a “no-good-for-nothing Indian and the only good Indian’s a dead Indian.” The school committee meets next month to decide whether to change the name and get rid of its logo of a stereotypical Indian in a stereotypical Plains-style “war bonnet.” That other Sanford? The high school has “Sammy Seminole,” a stereotyped very unSeminole mascot dropped in favor of “Chief Osceola” by Florida State University years ago. (Full Disclosure: The latter FSU mascot is approved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida in which I am an enrolled member.)

-Meteor Blades

A Sacred Peak With Rich Ore Deposits: Chicago Peak is a place associated with the creation of the Kootenai world. “It’s one of the most significant sites to the Kootenai because of its association with knowledge and power,” says Maria Nieves Zedeño, an anthropologist who has studied the peak’s importance to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana. They seek to have the peak listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They hope this might spotlight a mining company’s plans to burrow beneath it and haul out its silver and copper. The listing would not legally stop the company from going ahead with its Rock Creek Mine, however. The tribe traditionally uses the spiritual site for praying, fasting and seeking visions.

-Meteor Blades (h/t to BentLiberal)

1300-Year-Old Indigenous Stone Structure Preserved by New Heritage Park: Massachusetts became home to the new Upton Heritage Park Sunday (today) and that means protected status for a stone structure built by indigenous people 13 centuries ago. Site lines in the structure, a chamber that archeologists believe was part of a series of ceremonial buildings, align perfectly with the summer solstice for the year 710 CE.

-Meteor Blades (h/t to ojibwa)

Criminal Justice Training Initiative Begins in Cherokee Nation: The Justice and Interior Departments have completed the first in a series of national level training courses, “Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country.” The courses are designed to strengthen the ability of tribal and local law enforcement to participate in the investigation and enforcement of federal crimes in Indian country and fulfill a key training requirement under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. Thirty-five class participants representing seven tribes in Oklahoma and one county sheriff’s office took part in the three-day CJIC training. Topics included training in federal Indian law criminal jurisdiction, how to best serve sexual assault and domestic violence victims, as well as the investigation and enforcement of drug and firearm offenses.

-Meteor Blades

Marty Two Bulls Wins Society of Professional Journalists’ Cartooning Award: The Oglala Lakota, editorial cartoonist for Indian Country Today, has won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the SPJ for his acerbic work. The award is divided among cartoonists at publications of 100,000 circulation or more and those of less than 100,000. Matt Bors, who cartoons appear regularly at Daily Kos, won the award for the larger circulation publications. Two Bulls lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation: “My father is Rev. Robert Two Bulls and my grandfather was Peter Two Bulls Sr. I hail from the Red Shirt Table area of our reservation. Our enemies call us the Sioux.”


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.


First Nations News & Views: Killing eagles, kill white buffalo and Jetsonorama wows ’em

Welcome to the ninth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find news briefs a look at the year 1622 in American Indian history, and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Editor’s Note: We recently reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given an extremely rare and extremely controversial approval for the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming to kill two bald eagles for religious purposes. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act forbids non-Native people to kill the eagles or possess any parts of the birds. American Indians can apply to obtain eagle feathers or carcasses from a federal repository in Colorado for ritual use. The USFWS permit states that the Northern Arapaho may kill or capture and release the birds after the ceremony. Just how controversial this decision is can be seen in the fact that not just environmental advocates but also members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, who share the Wind River Indian Reservation with the Northern Arapaho, oppose the killing of the birds.

Because of the controversy, we asked two highly respected veteran diarists at Daily Kos to explore the issue from their distinct points of view. Lineatus is a longtime birder and raptor bander. Ojibwa is an academically trained Indian historian who regularly carries out traditional ceremonies.

-Meteor Blades

Killing Eagles for Ritual Purposes Needs Thorough Reassessment

By Lineatus

Golden Eagle Lineatus
Golden Eagle

(Photo by Lineatus)

Few birds inspire the sense of awe that eagles bring out in us. Their size, their power, their presence. Not just a predator, but a flyer that can soar without effort, circling ever higher until it disappears from sight into the very ceiling of the sky. Small wonder that they’ve had a place of significance to humans virtually since the dawn of our days on the African savanna.

We have two eagle species in the US – Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Golden Eagles are found primarily in the West and North, where they favor grasslands, mountains and other open country. (They are also found in Europe and Asia.) They prefer to nest on rocky cliffs, but will use trees if they are large enough to support their massive nests. Their prey is primarily mammals, especially ground squirrels and rabbits. But they have been recorded killing prey as large as antelope and deer.  

Eagles Nest Lineatus
Golden Eagle nest site above Merced River,

Yosemite National Park

(Photo by Lineatus)

Bald Eagles range across the country, especially in the winter when they wander widely, and prefer to live near water. They primarily nest in trees. They take a wider variety of prey than Goldens, with an emphasis on fish and waterfowl, along with mammals, birds and scavenged food (i.e., carrion). They sometimes gather in large groups when there is an abundant food source, like a salmon run or a waterfowl wintering area.

Typical for a large bird at the top of the food chain, eagles are slow to mature and slow to reproduce. They take at least five years to reach sexual maturity, and their first breeding attempts are less likely to be successful. They lay one to three eggs (most commonly two) with an interval of two to three days between eggs. These hatch after incubating for five to six weeks, normally a few days apart, and the eaglets fledge 10-12 weeks later. (Males, being smaller, typically leave the nest earlier than females.) Young birds will spend several months learning to hunt with their parents before heading out on their first migrations. 

Bald Eagle Nest
Bald Eagle nest, central California

(Photo by Lineatus)

Because the time from first egg-laying to independence is so long, eagles begin nesting very early in the year, even in snowy regions. If the nest fails past the first few weeks, it’s usually too late for them to make a second attempt for the year. Frequently, only one chick will reach fledging stage. Second (and third) eggs and chicks are an “insurance policy” to make sure that at least one bird survives to fledge.

If food is abundant, the adults will feed all of the chicks, but if prey becomes scarce, they will focus their efforts on the larger, more vigorous eaglet(s) and the smaller, weaker siblings will likely die. After leaving the nest, young birds still need to learn to hunt; more than half don’t master the skills and die before their first winter is over.  About 10 percent to 20 percent of eagles actually make it to breeding age.

Such a low reproductive rate is sustainable. Over the course of a lifetime, a breeding pair only need to produce two offspring who themselves live to breeding age to maintain a stable population. Unfortunately, human activities (especially over the past century) have led to population declines. Habitat loss is one factor as is€” loss of hunting grounds to agriculture, and loss of nesting sites to logging. Intentional and unintentional killing is another. Eagles were early on targeted by ranchers who thought they killed livestock, especially calves and lambs. In one of the first laws protecting animals, intentional killing of eagles was outlawed in 1940 by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But the birds still face accidental killings from electrocution on power lines, hitting wind turbines, and secondary poisoning from baits set for ground squirrels and other prey species.  

Adult and Sub Adult Bald Eagle
Adult and sub-adult Bald Eagle

(Photo by Lineatus)

And for Bald Eagles, a devastating population crash caused by widespread use of DDT occurred in the post-World War II years. The pesticide didn’t kill them outright but built up in their systems through their prey base (especially fish and waterfowl) and caused eggshell thinning, leading to breeding failures. When DDT was banned nationwide in 1972, several generations of breeding birds had been lost, and the species was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1976. Since the DDT ban, numbers have rebounded solidly with the help of major reintroduction efforts in the earlier years. The species was officially delisted in 2007. Some raptor biologists opposed the delisting.  They weren’t sure populations had recovered sufficiently and some saw it as a ploy by the Bush administration to try to tell an environmental good-news story while allowing various areas to be opened to oil, gas and coal interests with fewer constraints.

Though delisted, the birds remain protected by the Eagle Protection Act. That law has been amended to acknowledge the significance of eagles to Native Americans to some extent, but still limits possession of feathers and other artifacts with tight regulations. With healthier eagle populations now, should those regulations be revisited to allow taking of eagles by Native people for ceremonial purposes? If so, what revisions are appropriate? Should there be different policies for Golden and Bald Eagles, based on differing population trends?

I am myself conflicted.

My main problem is with killing a member of a species that is long lived and slow reproducing, especially in the name of religious freedom.

My objection is not about killing as part of a ritual in and of itself. If the rituals involved killing, say, ducks, then no problem. They are abundant and reproduce quickly. It’s not even really about killing raptors, as much as I love them. If they wanted to take a certain number of redtail hawks every year, I would be okay with it (although admittedly not thrilled). But redtails are doing reasonably well in the world, even expanding their territory in many areas. The loss of a few would have minimal impact on the population.

It’s also not about exemption from laws in the name of religious freedom, in and of itself. If a religious practice has no harmful effect on anyone other than the practitioner, I have no objection. Muslim women (and Sikh men) should be allowed to wear head coverings in their workplace; Native Americans should be able to use peyote (though not, say, when they’re driving buses).  

So that’s what it’s not about for me. What is it about?

It’s the conflict between religious freedom and other legitimate concerns. An analogy is a church that wants to get a permit for a religious procession that will block city streets. The city should make the process as transparent and reasonable as possible, but it should also be able to say, “You can’t block the streets around fire stations and hospitals.” There are sound reasons why these protections for eagles were enacted.  The rules were not created with the intent of discriminating against Indians, though they have had that effect, they were created because populations of slow-reproducing birds were threatened (critically, in the case of Bald Eagles).

The Eagle Protection Act has been modified some to accommodate Indian concerns and should be further amended to make it more workable. But any changes should be made with consideration of both biology and tradition. The government should make the process less opaque and open it up as much as is reasonable.

If it was a very limited take, and it was timed so as not to cause problems for breeding birds or fledglings, it would be easier to support. I think the loss of a handful of eagles each year (Bald or Golden) would not have a significant impact on the population and could be safely allowed. Oddly, the thing that I’m sure many people might find hardest to deal with is the thing I could best accept the practice of taking an eaglet from a nest, raising it to a certain age, then killing it ceremonially. (Nest cams have got a lot of people very attached to baby eagles.)  As I explained, eagles often have more than one chick hatch, but only one lives to fledge. Taking a young bird that would likely have died anyway seems the least bad option. It also frees the parents to concentrate their efforts on the remaining youngster both before and after fledging, thus giving it a better chance at survival.

If an adult bird is captured and killed, then I have more concerns, mostly related to breeding. Also, there’s something inherently upsetting in thinking about ritually killing a bird that might have survived 20 to 30 years in the wild, with all the obstacles we’ve created for their survival. That’s the bird we want in the gene pool, and that’s the bird who should be teaching youngsters how to survive.

At the minimum, I’d hope that the hunt would be limited to fall and early winter and after youngsters have fledged, learned to hunt from their parents and departed and before the next breeding season begins.

One argument I totally don’t accept is: A lot of the birds are killed by power lines and autos and windmills, so what’s a few more for ceremonial reasons? I have been involved in trying to stop those deaths too, so this one just doesn’t cut it for me. If it’s bad for them to die by accident, how is it not bad for them to be killed intentionally?


For Many Indians, Eagle Feathers Remain Big Medicine

By Ojibwa

Eagles have a special spiritual significance for many, but not all, American Indians. In some cultures the spirit or soul of the eagle might visit a person during a vision quest; in some cultures eagle medicine was associated with war and the wearing of eagle feathers symbolized war honors.

Crow Chief Plenty Coups, Montana State Historical SocietyCrow Chief Plenty Coups in eagle feather headdress
Crow Chief Plenty Coups in eagle feather headdress

courtesy of Montana State Historical Society

On the Northern Plains, eagles were seen as a source of spiritual power. Hunting eagles, particularly golden eagles, was a dangerous feat performed by men who possessed special power to do so. Among the Cheyenne, the only eagle hunters were old men who had ceased being active warriors. On a hilltop, the hunter would hide in a pit covered with poles, twigs and grass, with a dead rabbit or other small mammal placed on top as bait. When an eagle swooped down to take the meat, the hunter would try to grab it by both feet, pull it into the pit and wring its neck. The eagle’s feathers were used in making bonnets and for decorating shields.

On the Central Plains, Omaha warriors recognized for bravery were allowed to wear a Crow Belt bustle: two trailers of hide covered with feathers hung from the belt with eagle wing pointer feathers protruded upward from the base of the bustle. The main body of the bustle was made of an eagle skin with head and tail still attached. For the Omaha, the eagle was associated with the destructive powers of the Thunder Being and the destructive nature of war. To wear the Crow Belt, a warrior had to be the first to strike an unwounded enemy in battle; to be the first to touch a fallen, live enemy; to be the second to touch a fallen, live enemy; and then to repeat all three of these deeds of valor.

The Cahuilla in California believed that the eagle lived forever and, by permitting itself to be killed by people, assured them of life after death. Eagles’ nests were closely watched and a feast was held when the eggs were laid. When the birds were well-feathered, one would be removed and raised in a cage. When the bird was grown, the Eagle-Killing Ceremony would be held. This included singing songs about the death of eagles and dancing with the eagle.

During the reservation era, U.S. officials, as leaders of a “Christian nation,” felt they had not only the right but also the obligation to eradicate all symbols of Indian religions, including the wearing of eagle feathers. On some reservations those who wore or displayed eagle feathers were imprisoned. In 1884 the United States formally outlawed all Indian religions.

The war against Indian religions abated during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. But in 1940 it took on a new dimension with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior issued regulations restricting the taking, possessing and transporting of bald and golden eagles and their parts, which directly undermined traditional Native peoples who use eagle feathers for religious purposes. Under the act, individual spiritual leaders and traditional practitioners were persecuted. As with most federal legislation affecting Indians, there was neither testimony from Indians nor any consideration of Indian religions before the vote was taken.  

In 1962 Congress modified the act slightly to provide an exception for Indian religious purposes.

But in 1974, 14 Indians were arrested in Oklahoma on charges relating to the possession and sale of illegal feathers. From the government’s viewpoint, the arrests were made to stop trade in the feathers of protected birds, viewing this trade as contributing to the near extinction of the birds. Some Indians, on the other hand, felt that the government’s action was really an attempt to retaliate for actions such as the 1973 takeover of the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota by traditional Lakotas and other members of the American Indian Movement.

In subsequent court cases, lawyers argued unsuccessfully that Indians had no choice but to buy religious objects and clothing from craftsmen who knew the old skills that are needed to make them. The government pointed out that the arrests had been made of Indians selling feathers to white undercover agents not to trade or sale among Indians.

In 1978, the Eagle Protection Act was further amended to let the Secretary of the Interior allow Indians to take eagles for religious purposes.

In 1986, the Supreme Court stepped in with its ruling in United States vs. Dion. This involved a Yankton Sioux who was convicted of hunting eagles. The Court found that Congress had abrogated treaty hunting rights with both the Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Winslow Friday
Winslow Friday

(photo courtesy of his family)

While the 1858 treaty with the Yankton did not place any restrictions on Indian hunting rights, the court was unanimous in its disagreement with the argument that the treaty allowed hunting of eagles. The Court felt that by passing laws protecting eagles and migratory birds, Congress intentionally relieved the Yankton Sioux of that hunting right.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order allowing eagle feathers and other animal parts to be made available to Indian tribes for religious and ceremonial use. As part of this process, the National Eagle Repository was established in Colorado. It receives bodies of eagles killed by cars or power lines and provides them on request to Indians for ceremonial use. It’s an imperfect situation, with an average wait of three-and-a-half years for obtaining an eagle carcass. Also, some traditionals feel the eagles that have been killed accidentally are not ritually clean and should not be used in ceremonies.

In 2005, Winslow Friday (Northern Arapaho) killed an eagle on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to help with his family’s Sun Dance obligations. Among the Arapaho, Sun Dance sponsorship is both an honor and a responsibility. For the sponsors’ relatives, this is a communal obligation, including the need to obtain an eagle for use in the ceremony. This eagle must be pure: It cannot have died through poison, disease, accident (often the case in roadkill) or electrocution.

In response to Friday’s arrest, the Northern Arapaho tribe filed suit in a challenge to the Eagle Protection Act. While federal law allows tribal members to kill bald eagles for spiritual purposes, there is no clear way of obtaining a federal permit, they said. In fact, none had been granted since amendments to the act. Since the eagle was killed by Friday for religious purposes, the tribe argued that government’s requirement for a “fatal-take permit” runs counter to their First Amendment guarantee to the free exercise of religion, and wanted the Feds to make it easier for tribal members to kill eagles for ceremonial purposes.

Federal District Judge William Downes dismissed the case against Friday:

“Although the government professes respect and accommodation of the religious  practices of Native Americans, its actions show callous indifference to such practices. It is clear to this court that the government has no intention of accommodating the religious beliefs of Native Americans except on its own terms and in its own good time.”

The government appealed. In 2008, in U.S. v. Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturned the lower court’s ruling and ordered Friday to stand trial. He appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. In the appeal, his attorney pointed out that the government’s fatal-take permit for eagles was not well known, and tribal members as well as the government’s own field agents were unaware of it.

Friday’s attorney wrote:

“Yet still the government wants to punish criminally a tribal member who took a bird, no longer listed on the Endangered Species List, for a religious ceremony performed for centuries by his tribe, even though that bird faces a far, far greater threat from utility companies, whose power lines kill thousands of raptors, including eagles, every year.”

In 2009, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari and Friday dropped his fight, pleading guilty to killing an eagle. The prosecution then transferred the case to the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Court at Wind River. He was fined $2500 and his hunting privileges on the reservation were suspended for a year. In federal court, Friday had faced a possible sentence of a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. Those charges were dismissed.

eagle in flight

(First Nations News & Views continued below the frybread thingey)

This Week in American Indian History in 1622

By Meteor Blades

On March 22, 1622, Indians from a dozen tribes of the Tsenacommacah (Powhatan) Confederacy made a surprise attack on 36 settler communities along 50 miles of the James, Appomattox and York rivers in Virginia Colony, ultimately killing 347 men, women and children, a fourth of the white population of the time. It is often mistakenly called the Good Friday Massacre of 1622, but it didn’t happen on Good Friday, which fell that year on April 19. Mary Miley Theobald writes:

Warriors from perhaps a dozen of the thirty-two affiliated tribes -€”Quiyoughcohannocks, Waraskoyacks, Weanocks, Appomatucks, Arrohatecks, and others -€” fell on men, women, and children in their homes and in their fields, burning houses and barns, killing livestock, mutilating the bodies of their victims. Planned by the Pamunkey headman Opechancanough, kinsman of the deceased paramount chieftain Powhatan, the offensive slew about 350 whites …

A fanciful woodcut depiction of the massacre of 1622,

with fortified Jamestown shown surrounded by a moat.

(Matthaeus Merian, sometime before 1634).

Because of an early warning from an Indian who changed his mind before joining the attack, Jamestown itself was mostly spared. After the one-day uprising, many plantations and small settlements were abandoned and the English retreated to more defensible positions. But the loss of food stores and loss of land on which to plant more crops led to the starvation of another 400-500 settlers in the coming months.

Still Opechancanough did not achieve his objective, that having been to permanently push the English off Indian lands they were steadily encroaching as ever more colonists arrived and multiplied, many of them running plantations of the first export crop, the sweet Orinoco tobacco first cultivated by John Rolfe. His 1614 marriage to Pocohantas, daughter of the confederacy’s headman or werowance, Wahunsenacawh, whom the English knew as Powhatan, brought an end to the first Anglo-Powhatan War and eight years of peace.

During that time, trade between the English and the Indians became widespread. Christian ministers sought to convert and “civilize” as many as they could.

Large numbers of settlers, under relaxed rules allowing them for the first time to privately acquire their own farms, took little heed of official warnings not to settle “straglingly in divers places.” […] By 1619 only servants, potentially the most rebellious segment of society, were restricted from freely trading. Debating how to treat Indians who frequently found employment “in killing of Deere, fishing, beatting of Corne and other workes,” Virginia’s general assembly finally decided “neither to utterly reject them nor yet to drawe them in.” Although “five or six” could be admitted to “places well peopled,” “lone inhabitants” were “by no meanes to entertain them” – precaution that often went unheeded.

When Wahunsenacawh died in 1618, Opechancanough, whom many historians believe was his younger brother, became werowance of the confederacy. He viewed the English expansion as a problem that needed to be stopped and, while nobody can ever be certain, it is thought that the plans for the uprising began months, possibly even years before it occurred. George Percy, twice governor of the Virginia colony, wrote afterward:

My opinion is that their heathen priests, who are the tools of the devil, were constantly working upon the credulity and ignorance of this people to make them believe that the English had come to exterminate them in the same way as the Spaniard had done in other parts of the West Indies, and to prevent this the murderous attack was decided upon and brought into execution.

Theobald writes, “Although Percy scoffs at the idea that the English intended to exterminate the Virginia Indians, time would tell a different story.”

Early that spring morning, the Indians took advantage of the friendliness that had developed over the years to launch their attack. In some cases, they killed whole families in houses where they themselves had eaten and slept. With tomahawks and farm tools, they struck. Even some English who had been the most friendly were not spared.

Opechancanough had figured that the English would behave as tribes typically did when attacked in such force, which was a rare occurrence: They would submit or they would move somewhere else. The English did neither. Already considered a death-trap because of disease, Virginia as an investor-owned company collapsed and came under direct rule of the British Crown. Retaliation against the confederacy began that autumn and would soon take the lives of many times more Indians than English who died on March 22. In 1623, for instance, some 200 Indians were lured with talks of peace to a meeting at which they were all well fed and killed with poisoned wine.

There would be no peace for another decade during which time English war captains became the dominant leaders in Virginia colony, with absolute power. A deep-seated racial hatred developed, as epitomized by the words of Edward Waterhouse, who urged the use of bloodhounds and mastiffs to “teare them, which take this naked, tanned deformed Savages, for no other than beasts.”

Mollie Holme Adams (1881-1973) was a leader

of the Mattaponi tribe of the old Powhatan

Confederacy. She fought to keep her Indian

identity at a time when the Virginia Bureau

of Vital Statistics was classifying all Indians

as “Negro” to subject them to Jim Crow laws.

She also kept the feather-weaving craft alive.

Her grandson, Kenneth Adams, is the

Mattaponi chief today.

Gradually, the Virginians took back the land and extended themselves over far more, established eight fortresses and scores of plantations, and, three times a year, sent military expeditions against the confederacy of tribes designed to keep them in check and edge them farther and farther from the settlements. A shaky peace was agreed to in 1632.

In 1644 came another uprising, led again by the now-ancient Opechancanough, who thought to take advantage of colonial divisions brought on by the English Civil War. Some 500 English died, but by this time there were nearly 9,000 colonists in Virginia and the Indian losses were far greater. The old werowance was captured and plans were made to ship him to England. Before that could happen, an English guard shot him in the back.

A treaty was signed in 1646, but unlike previous ones, this was not between equals. The new headman Necotowance agreed to pay symbolic tribute, accept the sovereignty of the king of England and yield more territory. Stephen D. Feeley writes:

The treaty’s main points (along with successive addendums) would form the basis of Virginia’s Indian relations for the remainder of the colonial period, laying out the theoretical justification for English authority, delineating separate territories, limiting freedom of movement, and curtailing cross-racial contacts. The overarching theme was containment of Indians and settlers into more strictly defined spheres. To this end the Virginia government assigned “Necotowance and his people” an area on the north side of the York River and to the southwest, beyond the Blackwater River.

These boundaries proved to be, let us say, highly permeable, with settlers soon extending as far as the Potomac in search of ever more land suitable for growing lucrative tobacco. By 1669, the non-Indian population excluding slaves had reached 41,000. The Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy, about 15,000 when Pocohantas became a bride, had dwindled to 3,000.

Today, the only two reservations in Virginia are those of two tribes that were part of the confederacy, the Pamunkey, with some 200 enrolled members, and the Mattaponi, with 1025 enrolled members in two bands. Together, their reservations encompass a mere 1232 acres. Both tribes continue to deliver tribute in the form of game or a “peace pipe” each year to the governor of Virginia, just as they have every year without exception since the treaty of 1646. They have been seeking federal recognition without success for several decades.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Love Letters to the Navajo Nation from Jetsonorama

By navajo

The artist, Jetsonorama at work

Recently, a very thoughtful and informative article at High Country News about a street artist who has lived on the Navajo reservation for the past 25 years caught my eye. I recognized the roadside art from my last trip through the rez and wanted to know more. He goes by the moniker Jetsonorama for his art, but his full-time job is as the only permanent physician at the Indian Health Service at Inscription House in Arizona.

I first became aware of his work with a report of his contribution to’s challenge to street artists around the world to create art that reflected local effects of climate change. His piece was a beautiful Navajo baby with a large lump of coal looming over its  

Jetsonorama, Black coal with baby
Navajo baby subject with finished piece,

note traditional Navajo leggings and moccasins on baby.

This is one of several installations in Arizona

head – “a metaphorical black cloud over the head of future generations if we keep burning fossil fuels.” The Navajo Nation is home to the largest coal-mining operation in the Southwest run by the largest private-sector coal company in the world, Peabody Energy. The electricity generated on the rez supplies cities from Denver to Los Angeles. The Navajo often burn coal for fuel in their homes, causing respiratory illnesses. Jetsonorama’s piece serves as a message that energy from coal is contributing to climate change.

San Francisco Peaks Installation, San Francisco Peaks Installation - Flagstaff
The artist with his Save the San Francisco Peaks

installation in Flagstaff

Last year, Jetsonorama teamed up with activists who have been fighting a legal battle since 2005 to prevent the Snowbowl ski resort from further desecrating the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff by making artificial snow from 100 percent reclaimed sewage water. These are sacred to 13 surrounding tribes. He asked friends and activists what their thoughts were about what’s happening to the peaks. Those thoughts were written on their faces. Jetsonorama photographed them and the installation went up in Flagstaff last year. Unfortunately, the latest ruling allows Snowbowl to continue using sewage water, something not done anywhere else in the world. But the battle isn’t over.

code talkers, 89 north
Jetsonorama’s Code Talker installation

on a roadside jewelry kiosk

Before Jetsonorama hit the street scene, one of his hobbies was photography. Dinétah (Navajoland) made a lovely subject. Today for a big installation he enlarges his photos in 2-foot by 2-foot sections, trims them, makes his own wheat paste using Bluebird Flour -€” a staple on the rez for making fry bread -€” and leaves these love notes around the rez, often where they can be seen from the highways. One of his first installations was on one of the numerous and often abandoned roadside kiosks of Navajo jewelry vendors. He noticed after his installation of the Code Talkers on one kiosk that the owners were making repairs. He stopped to find out why, and the owners said that many more tourists were attracted by the murals and business had picked up. He was asked to install more art on the other walls attracting traffic in the opposite direction.

Yote Jetsonorama dialogue
The dialogue between Yote and Jetsonorama began here

when Yote anonymously added his woodblock coyote

to Jetsonorama’s work.

Thus, The Painted Desert Project was born. Launched a few weeks ago, a collaboration with Yote, another street artist, the project aims to invite their favorite street artists to the rez and show it some love. Painting the numerous roadside kiosks – which are usually barren plywood – is the main goal.

Jetsonorama said: “The purpose of the project is three-fold. It will increase interactions between travelers and the local population hopefully fostering dialogue and challenging negative stereotypes. The second objective is to involve youth from the local communities in mural making workshops and thirdly, we’ll have incredible art along the roadside in northern Arizona.”

The project is already moving fast and the following artists are on board for personal apperances: Breeze, Gaia, Over Under, Doodles, Chris Stain and Caledonia.  If this ambitious tour de force project moves you, visit this link and you’ll see how you can help.

I cannot wait for my next road trip through the rez!


Coincidentally: Aaron Huey (amazing new project from him in the works, btw) told me I needed to connect with Jetsonorama. My mother was born at Inscription House where this good doctor is practicing. He knows all my relatives who live in nearby Shonto and Kaibeto. What a delight to see street art, relating to my heritage, on the vast Navajo rez. I urge you to click on the links above to see more of the artists’ work. The videos are simply wonderful.

NAN Line Separater

Texas Hunt Lodge Scrubs White Buffalo Hunting Package from Its Website

By navajo

Texas Hunt Lodge White Buffalo Kill, Texas Hunt Lodge White Buffalo Kill
A very brave hunter with ultra modern equipment who shot a domesticated white buffalo

while it just stood there. Now that’s a trophy!

The Lakota Sioux and other tribes consider the white buffalo to be sacred. The animal is part of the Lakota creation story and a key component of their spirituality. White buffalo are considered sacred omens when they are born. Last year, a naming ceremony was held for a white buffalo born in a thunderstorm in May 2011 on the Lakota Ranch near Greenville, Tex. He was named Lightning Medicine Cloud. That name is also a tribute to a female white buffalo calf born in 1933 and called Big Medicine. Lightning Medicine Cloud is thought to be the first male white buffalo calf born in 150 years. The National Bison Association say white buffalo naturally occur about once in every 10 million births.

Traditionalists believe that Whope, goddess of peace, appeared in the form of a white buffalo calf once, and that she will return when four white calves are born. That will bring about a new age. Thus, it was no surprise that the arrival of Lightning Medicine Cloud generated widespread celebration among the Lakota and other tribes across the nation. In June last year, 2,000 Indians traveled to the ranch to take part in ceremonies honoring the white calf.

But there are some white buffalo that aren’t born in natural, luck-of-the-draw circumstances. They are bred for a specific purpose, the kind of captive “hunting” favored by the likes of Dick Cheney.

It was noticed recently by Indian Country Today that a big game company was offering a $13,500 hunting package to bag an enormous white buffalo:

Texas Hunt Lodge allows the opportunity to hunt and harvest the Authentic and Rare White Buffalo. There are no seasonal restrictions on hunting the White Buffalo, or White Bison, in Texas, which makes it a suitable trophy year round.

We typically let our hunters choose the method of hunting White Buffalo that they prefer. Hunters of White Buffalo can choose the Spot and Stalk method, Bow Hunting, Rifle Hunting, Black Powder, Safari Style Hunting, Handgun, as well as hunting from a Blind. We can accomodate [sic] hunters of any age and experience level, as well as hunters which have physical disabilities or may be confined to a wheelchair.

Our White Buffalo bulls weigh 1200-1500lbs, and have horns in the 17-20 inch [range] … your white buffalo trophy will be a huge!

The outrage over this quickly came to a boil:

“€œThe company started the white buffalo hunts about two years ago, and there was a big outcry about it then,” said James Swan (Cheyenne River Sioux), founder and president of the Rapid City-based United Urban Warrior Society.

The lodge acquiesced to pressure from Native Americans at the time and ceased its white buffalo hunts, according to Swan.

“But now it’s started back up again,” he said. “€œIt’s a slap in the face for our people.”

That was two weeks ago. Soon, a social media uproar forced the lodge to remove the content from that page.

Indians and other people took issue with a business making money off a white buffalo kill. But the whole purpose of the company is to provide access to exotic animals that clients can pretend to have stalked and killed in the wild so they can mount them on the wall and regale their beer buddies with tales of their daring.

Aaron Bulkley, owner of Texas Hunt Lodge, told ICT “€œWe’€™ve had a ton of feedback from people since the white buffalo story came out, and I understand the white buffalo is sacred to Indians,”€ he said. “It’€™s been on the website for three years and all of a sudden people are excited about it. I do understand their point. I’€™m not saying I disagree with it or agree with it but I am going to take it off the website.”€

Asked directly if he would be offering white buffalo hunts at all, he responded, €œ”Not for white buffalo.”

But, apparently, there’s still a market for it.

NAN Line Separater

Former AIM Activist Appeals Conviction in Aquash Murder: One of the two men convicted in the 1975 slaying of fellow American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash (Mi’kmaq) is appealing on the grounds that the government should not have been allowed to move his case from federal to state court after he was extradited from his Canadian home to the United States. Prosecutors claim that John Graham (Southern Tutchone) helped kidnap Aquash from Denver and then shoot at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on suspicion that she was a government snitch.

-€”Meteor Blades

Washington Governor OKs a Bill Allowing End of State Jurisdiction Over Tribes: Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed legislation that would sets up a procedure to cede state jurisdiction over some criminal and civil matters to American Indian tribes seeking that authority. A tribe could also ask that the state give the authority to the federal government. The federal government already has jurisdiction on Indians reservations when it comes to major crimes, including homicide, child sexual and physical abuse and violent assault as well as crime related to casino gaming.

-Meteor Blades

The Quandary of American Indian Quasi-Dual Citizenship: Attending the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Convention got Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton/Mdwakanton/Hunkpapa) at The Last Real Indians web site to thinking about what it means to be Native in America. She went specifically to hear Bill Clinton speak and came away thinking: “Part of me would like to wash my hands of the whole American political process, not necessarily because of our notable absence in Clinton’s speech, but because of the entire twisted, ruinous history of U.S. and Tribal relations.” On the other hand, she concludes that voting to protect Indian rights, women’s rights and poor people’s rights as well as to support good programs is crucial: “If we don’t, those decisions will be made for us, and against us; and I for one know that my ancestors didn’t fight for my freedom just so I could close my eyes to it.  In this case, silence could spell our doom. Stand up and be counted.”

-Meteor Blades

Indians Unhappy with Nevada Bear Hunt, Racist Remark: Some American Indians have joined the fight against Nevada’s black bear hunt. They also a comment made last week by the chairman of the Washoe County wildlife advisory board, Rex Flowers. Flowers told the group of eight Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone that he didn’t want to “hear of bows and arrows” because his panel was committed to the bear hunt, according to Raquel Arthur (Pyramid Lake Paiute), spokeswoman for the northern Nevada chapter of the American Indian Movement.

-Meteor Blades

Oglalas Win Full Early Voting-for 2012: Shannon County, S.D., has always sought ways to keep Oglala Lakota people from exercising their voting franchise. But thanks to a settlement forced by a lawsuit, they will for first time be able to early-vote during a 46-day period leading up to the June primary and November general election, just like other South Dakotans. They originally had just 6 days, something their lawsuit called “a denial of the right to vote” and “discriminatory.” With access assured for 2012, the request for a preliminary injunction ordering that access became moot, Judge Karen Scheier declared.

-Meteor Blades

California Tribes Fight Ocotillo Wind Farm Near Sacred Sites: Kumeyaay, Cocopah, Quechan and other American Indian tribes in southern California have banded together to oppose a massive wind energy project proposed for construction on publicly owned Bureau of Land Management land. They say the project will damage hundreds of cultural and archaeological sites. Their opposition makes them allies of desert conservation groups and recreation enthusiasts. The project would put up as many 155 wind turbines on towers as tall as 450 feet.

-Meteor Blades

Little River Casino Agrees To Second Union Contract: The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Manistee, Mich., have announced that the tribe has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the United Steelworkers Union. The agreement covers slot machine technicians at the Little River Casino Resort. Security guards also signed an agreement at the end of last year. Many tribes argue that they are, as sovereign nations exempt from federal and state labor law, and refuse to allow unions in tribal casinos.

-Meteor Blades


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.

First Nations News & Views: ‘Twilight’ rips off Indians, Hate Crime Ignored, Jon Kyl’s Water Deal

( – promoted by Meteor Blades)

Welcome to the fifth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find Aji‘s essay on the brazen and lucrative slap in the face the “Twilight” series delivers to Indians, a look at the year 1599 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.

‘Twilight’ Series Fakes Authenticity, Rips Off Quileute Nation

There’s nothing “Indian” about Twilight.

Oh, sure, the books, TV series and movies all engage in lofty pretensions to the contrary, but there’s nothing Indian about them.  

Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie Meyer

Twilight is the latest in a long line of books, TV shows, and movies involving the trendy vampire/werewolf theme.  In this particular series, the werewolves are supposedly descended from the Pacific Northwest’s Quileute Nation – which, by the way, is still very much alive.  Despite that, there’s no evidence that the series’ creator, Stephenie Meyer, asked the Quileute for permission to steal and utterly distort their sacred origin stories and then line her pockets by way of their exploitation.

This is not a new phenomenon, but there’s been a drastic uptick in recent decades.  Hollywood kicked it into high gear, but what really cemented the practice was publication of Tony Hillerman’s first “Joe Leaphorn” mystery, set on the Navajo Nation.  Hillerman thereafter made a reputation, a life and millions upon millions exploiting the Diné, and helped others, such as Aimee and David Thurlo, to follow in his footsteps.  He blazed a trail for Lori Armstrong, Sandi Ault, Margaret Coel, James Doss, the Gears, Craig Johnson, Jennifer Kitchell, William Kent Krueger, Kirk Mitchell, and a host of others to imitate: a trail of exploitation, cultural theft and, in many instances, overt racism.

Animals often figure prominently in our traditional origin stories, and the Quileute are no exception:  

Traditional stories take place at the Time of Beginnings in the world, back when animals were like human beings. They could [sic] talk and paddle canoes and live in longhouses.

Quileute Wolf Mask, Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History Library
Quileute Wolf Transformation Mask

(Courtesy of American Museum

of Natural History Library)

As they tell it, in the old days, their ancestors had been washed away from their original lands, to a new place where they were surrounded by strangers. One of their spirit beings, known as a Transformer, traveled to this new place, where he encountered a pair of wolves, male and female. He changed them into humans and they became the Quileute First Man and First Woman.  

Note that nothing in the story involves shape-shifting or skin-changing or skin-walking or witchery or werewolfery or other such quasi-violent, sensationalistic interpretations.  It has nothing to do with Indians turning lupine when the moon is full, or becoming savage animals when feeling threatened, or vampires (or any other putative group) being their mortal enemies. It’s merely an origin story, like those of indigenous peoples the world over, putting how they came to be in a context that accords with their history and their spiritual beliefs and traditions.

In 2010, with the help of the Seattle Art Museum, the Quileute began taking back their story. The museum’s curator and staff worked closely with tribal representatives to tell their people’s story as it really is, debunking the Hollywoodized mythology in the process. Instead of mounting a static exhibit, they worked together to make it a truly interactive, year-long educational experience. The on-site exhibit displayed traditional Quileute art and historical and cultural items, both ancient and contemporary, including paintings, photography, jewelry, masks, weaving, baskets, regalia, and other pieces. The museum also coordinated programs, tours, a teen workshop, drumming circles and other activities with the Quileute on their lands, and worked with the tribe to create accurate teaching guides and other resources for educators to use.  

Nuu-chah-nulth Wolf Headdress, Early 20th centuryPlywood, paint, string, thread spools, fabric, cedar twigsWashington State Historical Society, catalog no. 1999.105.1 (Smithsonian)
Nuu-chah-nulth Wolf Headdress

(Courtesy of the Smithsonian)

The exhibit has garnered significant media coverage – although that, too, is not without problems. The Washington Post‘s “Team Wolf” provides a good example: It does a thorough job of quoting the Seattle Art Museum exhibit’s non-Indian curator about the details of the exhibit, including the importance for the Quileute of reclaiming their narrative. But wouldn’t it ordinarily be required to go straight to the source for at least one quote, i.e., to an actual member of the Quileute Nation? Apparently, talking to actual Indians about their own tribe’s exhibit and origin story was not considered necessary to “reporting” about either the exhibit or the story.

Will every visitor be happy with the exhibit? Probably not. The curator chose to include a reproduction of a so-called “raven necklace” that appears in the Twilight movies, and there are a few other such references throughout. In addition, the Quileute Nation has highlighted Twilight on its website, a decision that may disappoint some traditionals. But it is understandable: They have shrewdly used the linkage to obtain celebrity support for environmental and safety initiatives and may ultimately get from them the help needed to retake complete control of their own narrative.

The exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum closed on Aug. 14, 2011, but it can still be seen at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., through May 9, 2012.

– Aji

Santa Domingo Shell Piece, Divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1599

On Feb. 12, 1599, in the mesa-top Pueblo of Acoma in what is now central-west New Mexico, Juan de Oñate ordered punishment for the 80 surviving warriors who had battled the Spanish for three days. Every man 25 and older among them had a foot cut off and was enslaved for 20 years. Everyone 12 to 25 merely had his foot cut off.

Thus did Oñate begin his 10th month among the pueblos. Known as “the last conquistador,” he had arrived in the spring of 1598 with a band of friars, soldiers and other fortune-hunters, figuring to repeat his father’s success in what is now northern Mexico. There the elder Oñate had gotten rich conquering and converting the Native people whose land would soon be the source of millions of ounces of silver shipped back to Spain. For his son, however, there would be no silver and no fame.

A few of the 19 New Mexico pueblos crumpled without resistance when faced with the Toledo blades of Oñate’s armored soldiers on horseback. But he and his men knew they could not win a war in a head-to-head contest against thousands of Indians. So they set out for Acoma, a natural fortress atop a steep-sided sandstone bluff, 367 feet above the valley floor. Official correspondence of the expedition shows that Oñate had all along intended to make an example of the Keres people of Acoma, razing their stone and adobe houses and ceremonial buildings in the belief the other pueblos would yield before this show of force.

But when the Spaniards arrived to declare “this land belongs to the king of Spain” and to demand food and other supplies, the Keres said “no” and proceeded to kill 13 of the invaders. In response, the soldiers massacred 800 Indians without regard to age or sex, slicing and stabbing and throwing them over the cliffs. They enslaved the 500 survivors and chopped off 80 feet, although some historians claim it was “only” 24.

On the 400th anniversary of Oñate’s entrance into New Mexico, state officials invited the people of Acoma to tell their version of the story in commemorative ceremonies, but they refused to participate. In January 1998, someone cut off the bronze foot of the only statue of Oñate in New Mexico, leaving a note saying “Fair is fair.” Another huge statue of Oñate astride his Andalusian stallion was dedicated in 2007 in El Paso, Texas. The Spanish ambassador made an appearance. So did protesters from Acoma.

The Pueblo of Acoma’s “Sky City” is a recognized site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. At around 1000 years, Acoma is the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States. The pueblo’s enrollment as of 2010 was 4,989, who now communally own about 10 percent of the land their ancestors did when Oñate arrived.

– Meteor Blades

On Feb. 17, 2009, the 100th anniversary of the death of Geronimo (Chiricahua Apache), his great-grandson and other descendants filed a lawsuit in federal court against Yale University, secretive student society Skull and Bones and the federal government. The suit alleged the Geronimo’s remains were stolen by the society’s members in 1918 from his grave in Oklahoma and taken to Connecticut. Descendants wanted to rebury the remains in New Mexico. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2010.

– Meteor Blades

(First Nations News & Views continued below)

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

New Federal Rule Would Speed Approval of Indian Solar and Wind Projects

A string of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines spin in the

January fog on a ridge of the Kumeyaay

reservation in southern California.

(Photo by navajo)

For 125 years, American Indian lands have been exploited for their energy resources. Oil, coal, natural gas and uranium have all fed the nation’s appetite for fuel and electricity. Corruption at the Bureau of Indians Affairs, which has included everything from putting non-Indians on tribal rolls to sweetheart arrangements with corporations, transferred much of the wealth derived from these resources away from the tribes. Even when corruption was not at issue, BIA deals with non-Indians for tribal resources often amounted to rip-offs, and the process for royalty payments was more like embezzling than accounting.

There are still ample conventional resources being mined and drilled on tribal land. But the tribes have an abundance of some other resources for which there is a steadily growing demand: wind and sun. While Indian lands constitute only about 5 percent of U.S. territory, they contain 10 percent of its renewable energy resources. About 15 percent of the nation’s estimated wind resources can be found on reservations. And the Department of Energy estimates the solar energy potential of tribal lands equivalent to four-and-a-half times the nation’s electricity production.

That’s a good thing because tribal lands are subject to many of the worst effects from climate change: drought, water scarcity, flooding and extreme weather, such as record-breaking snowstorms and warmer winter temperatures. Not only can the tribes help provide themselves and others with renewably generated electricity, doing so could over time reduce the impact of climate change. A modern version of trying to live in harmony with nature.

The problem has been turning tribal renewable resources into electricity. Standing in the way has been a morass of bureaucratic rules that are far more cumbersome than what non-tribal developers face. President Obama promised in December 2010 to streamline those rules.

A year ago, reporter Justin Gerdes interviewed Jose Aguto, policy adviser with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). He described the bureaucratic obstacles slowing tribal renewable energy projects.

“As [former U.S.] Senator [Byron] Dorgan was wont to say, ’49 steps and two to three years in Indian Country, seven steps, two to three weeks, just outside Indian Country for similarly situated land’ – that’s the broad-brush inequity that we’re talking about,” he said. “In Indian Country, only the Department of Interior can do appraisal and approval, and they often don’t have expertise on the ground. Why not let tribes, or a third party, do the appraisal? And then have a 30-day window to approve?” he asked.

While a medium-sized wind farm can be spinning its turbines within 12-18 months after the permits are signed, for Indian lands it can, as Dorgan said, take years to get those permits. Or they can disapproved by a BIA official who is untrained in assessing such projects.

Monique LaChappa (Kumeyaay), chairwoman of the Kumeyaay tribe near Campo in southern California, had a similar story to tell:

“We need equal access to financing, a seat at the planning table, and streamlined processes for leasing, rights of way and environmental review to seize the opportunity before us,” she said.

Together with an outside partner that is the majority owner, the Kumeyaays have built a 50-megawatt wind farm atop the ridges of their reservation deep in southern California east of San Diego. It wasn’t easy navigating the regulatory barriers.

Indian tribes have been trying to get changes adopted since the Clinton Administration, according to John Dossett, general counsel at the National Congress of American Indians. For once the BIA and its parent, the Department of Interior, have been listening. In November, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 60-day comment period for a proposed new rule that would revamp 50-year-old surface leasing regulations on the 56 million acres Interior holds in trust for the tribes.

The short version: Simplified processes for green-lighting wind and solar projects; BIA agreement to the tribe’s negotiated value of tribal land without additional appraisals; 30- and 60-day deadlines for BIA approvals. If the deadline isn’t met, the project is automatically approved. More detail can be found here and here.

The comment period ended late last month, and the final rule is expected to be announced by the end of 2012.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Hate Crime on Navajo/Apache Woman Downgraded by Fresno D.A.

On June 14, 2011 around 2:30 in the afternoon, Patty Dawson (Navajo/San Carlos Apache) was waiting at a stop sign when the car behind tapped her bumper. In the rear-view mirror she saw three people and decided not to get out since she was in Clovis, Calif., which has a reputation for hostility to Indians and other minorities. After the light turned green and Dawson began driving, the car that had bumped her began an aggressive pursuit, driving onto the shoulder and speeding along side her.

Fearful, she drove into an ARCO station parking lot where she thought she could be safe. Instead, the trio pulled Dawson out of her car and began to pound on her.

Witnesses told police they saw a white woman and two men with swastika tattoos and shaved heads kick and beat Dawson, leaving her unconscious and bleeding in the parking lot.

Dawson, a mother of a young family, said all she remembers is a woman covered in tattoos spitting on her, then hitting her so hard she blacked out. Two men – one with a swastika tattoo on his face and the other with a shaved head – joined in the beating, but it was mainly the woman attacking her, according to witness statements to the local police.

Dawson woke up in a Fresno emergency room having suffered a concussion and not being able to remember her name. Her nose was broken and she was severely bruised all over her body. A nurse, she was unable to work for a long time.

Patty Dawson

Patty Dawson shows the site where she was attacked last June.

(Photo courtesy of Indian Country Today Media Network

When the three attackers fled the scene, they were followed by eyewitnesses who wrote down their license plate number. Consequently, Jennifer Davette Fraser was finally arrested three months later and was released on bail. Her two accomplices were not picked up.

According to law enforcement officials, Fraser’s charges will likely be upgraded to federal hate crime charges based on eyewitness accounts and the extensive injuries to Dawson. Under federal law, a hate crime is one “in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim … because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation of any person…”

However, Fraser’s court appointed attorney stated in a preliminary hearing that she should not be charged with a hate crime because Fraser recently found out she has Native American blood. A continuance was granted so she could provide proper documention for the court. Proceedings were further delayed when Fraser was granted another continuance because of pregnancy. Fraser never provided proper documentation of her alleged Indian heritage.

Fraser is now charged with felonious assault, defined under California law as “an attack on another individual in which the attacker uses a dangerous weapon and seeks to cause serious harm but stops short of an attempt to kill the victim.”

Fraser requested a plea bargain. But Dawson’s family and other members of the American Indian community have complained that the incident was not thoroughly investigated. Numerous businesses at the scene have security surveillance cameras but investigators never asked for the footage, they claimed. Officers were more interested in what Dawson had done to provoke the attack. Nothing, she said. The family was also disturbed that while all participants were waiting in line for the court metal detectors Fraser was given court protection and the fact that in a mid-January meeting with Fresno District Attorney’s supervisor, Blake Gunderson refused to meet with Dawson’s assembled group of eight relatives and advocates. Gunderson only allowed four people to sit in his office when a nearby conference room could have easily accommodated all.  

In the meeting, Gunderson allegedly told Dawson that he “didn’t see a hate crime here.” He told her that since she couldn’t remember the exact words her assailants were yelling when they chased her and spat on her, it was hard for him to prove it was race-related. “He said that if I was able to write down exactly what they said, it might help my case. So what I’m hearing is that I’m supposed to remember every detail after being beaten unconscious, write it all down for them, then do my own investigation to get evidence of a hate crime,” said Dawson, in tears. “I just want them to do their jobs. No matter how much I repeat myself about what happened that day, I’m not being heard. I’ve talked to detectives three times now, and I even saw my other attacker in court with Jennifer Fraser. I remember him from that day. They are still walking around free after tearing my life apart.”

This on-going case has gathered the attention of numerous American Indian groups, such as AIM [American Indian Movement]-West . The last few hearings have been attended by drumming groups plus individuals interested in showing their support for Dawson. The next scheduled hearing is on March 5 and groups are already planning their support. The Justice for Patty Dawson Committee has been formed and there is an online petition demanding that the Fresno County District Attorney and the US Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division bring justice to Patty Dawson.

-navajo with a h/t to dopper0189

NAN Line Separater

‘Fighting Sioux’ Fight Continues, Rick Santorum Takes Sides

As we reported in the Feb. 12 edition of FNN&V, the NCAA’s ban on what it calls “abusive and hostile” nicknames has not ended in North Dakota. There, the use of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname for University of North Dakota athletic teams is now in its sixth year. Last week, the State Board of Education (SBHE) dragged the courts into the dispute, and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum joined in at a rally in Fargo.

Santorum was at a Feb. 15 campaign stop promoting his candidacy for the March 6 state caucus that will choose 28 delegates for the Republican National Convention. When a man handed him a “Fighting Sioux” hockey jersey, Santorum held it up and said to some cheers, “I sort of like that logo. What do you think?” Had the forum been larger, that question might have drawn a round of boos as well.

The real news came Feb. 13 when the SBHE decided to go to the state supreme court to block a statewide vote in support of a North Dakota law that requires the university to call all its teams the “Fighting Sioux.” The board initiated the lawsuit in a 7-1 vote after consultation with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He thinks the law violates the state constitution. While board members see themselves defending constitutional prerogatives, however, nickname supporters who gathered signatures to force the referendum see the board’s move as an attempt to silence voters. To overturn the law, four of the five supreme court members must rule it is unconstitutional. Which would render the referendum moot.

Reed Soderstrom, a leader of the referendum forces, issued a statement:

“It is clear to us they fear an overwhelming mandate would be given by those voters to keep the name. It is also clear to us that with this decision, the board has lost their way, and should no longer be entrusted with the responsibility of oversight of the university system.”

The board decision is just the latest official action in a long string stemming from the NCCA’s 2005 rule against insulting American Indian nicknames and mascots. Exceptions were allowed for schools that got direct permission from the tribes whose names their teams used. Three teams did so. But UND was only able to get one of North Dakota’s two Sioux (Lakota) tribes to agree. That wasn’t good enough for the NCAA. Rather than lose valuable revenue, the university acquiesced.

But shortly after UND announced in November 2010 that it would start removing the name and logo from its team’s uniforms, souvenir tee-shirts and other items, the state legislature passed a law requiring it to keep the name. The transition was put on hold. After a meeting in August 2011 at which the NCAA said it would not budge on the issue, the legislature repealed the law. Again, the university started removing the logo and ordering new uniforms. The cost of the transition? $750,000.

But then citizens, including some Indians from both North Dakota tribes, began circulating a petition to hold a voter referendum in support of the law. They turned in 3000 more names than needed to get the matter on the state’s June ballot. Consequently, because of the way referendums work in North Dakota, the repealed law is now back on the books until the matter is settled. That fact forced the UND president to reinstate the Fighting Sioux nickname. And that brought about the SBHE’s lawsuit.

Whatever the outcome of the court battle and the referendum, however, there are three interrelated problems for UND that could deeply wound the university’s athletic programs if the nickname and logo are retained. One, of course, is the certainty of NCAA sanctions. Another is that more and more rival teams are saying they won’t play against UND if it keeps the nickname. And then there is UND’s new membership in the Big Sky Conference.

UND Athletic director Brian Faison has warned that “The tone has gotten more serious. […] How patient, ultimately, the presidents will be with where we find ourselves? I can’t say,” he said. “It’s absolutely frightening to think what would happen if we lost our Big Sky membership.” And, on Friday, Tim O’Keefe, chief of the UND Alumni Association, said the university’s future, “athletically, academically, in stature and in reputation,” is at stake if nickname supporters prevail and force UND to keep the name and logo despite NCAA sanctions.

In all the meetings during the past years involving the NCAA, the legislature, the UND board and the SBHE board, nobody has thought to include at the table anyone from the Spirit Lake Tribe (Sisseton Wahpeton), which favors keeping the nickname, or the Standing Rock Tribe (Lakota, Yanktonai, Dakota), which opposes it. So we have invisible real Indians even when the issue is a highly visible representation of an idealized Indian.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Student Challenges NYT Stereotypes About Wind River Reservation

The original story made page one of The New York Times on Feb. 3. It documented what almost seemed to be a reign of terror: brutal homicides, sexual assaults, chaotic law enforcement, broken homes, gangs, drunkenness and drug abuse, shockingly high unemployment even by reservation standards and the poverty to go with it, child abuse, Indian-white tension, an expected life span more than 20 years below the national average, soaring teen pregnancies and a sky-high school drop-out rate.

Willow Pingree

The place? Wind River Indian Reservation in central-west Wyoming, home to some 7500 Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone and 17,000 non-Indians located in some of the nation’s most beautiful country. Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who traveled with the Lewis and Clark expedition is buried there. A portion of the reservation was sold off to non-Indians under the 1906 Burke Act. That provided the land for the largest town within Wind River’s boundaries, Riverton, with about 10,000 residents, 90 percent of them non-Indian.

A two-year federal effort begun in 2009 on five of the nation’s most crime-plagued reservations reduced violent crimes on four of them. However, even though the effort temporarily increased the number of police officers from six to 37 at Wind River, the crime rate there increased.

For students at Fort Washakie Charter High School, reading that NYT story was disturbing, to say the least. English teacher Michael L. Read told the Times in an email, “These students know that there are problems in their community, but they also love it and are fully committed to honoring their ancestors and the future.” Student Willow Pingree (Shoshone/Arapahoe) wrote a comment on the Times web site. Out of this came a conference call and a request for Pingree to write a lengthier reply. He did. It didn’t make the front page. It didn’t make the print edition at all. But Pingree had his say. Here is an excerpt:

During the time of our ancestors, the Shoshone and Arapaho people once were enemies who constantly fought each other for land and food. After the reservation was established in 1876, the federal government moved the Northern Arapaho people to a temporary home on the Shoshone reservation in Wyoming. Washakie, chief of the Eastern Band of Shoshones, allowed the Arapaho tribe to stay on the reservation while the government sought a different home for them. The Northern Arapaho tribe was never relocated to a different reservation, nor were they ever asked to leave by the Shoshones, and so they remained on the Shoshone reservation, now called the Wind River Reservation. […]

The people of both tribes still have their languages, their traditional beliefs and values. Involvement in tribal government allows people the opportunity to learn more about the history of the tribes and the reservation. Powwows, Sun Dances, picnics, memorial events such as walks, runs and feasts: These are just a few of the things that the people of the Wind River Reservation do to keep people, especially the young ones, away from drugs, alcohol and violence and help the communities and cultures become stronger.

The reservation sells no alcohol. However, most people buy their alcohol off-reservation. Alcoholism is often a contributing factor in the fatalities that have occurred on the reservation. That is not to say that the Shoshone or Arapaho tribes are not doing something to deal with these issues. …

After the Plains Indian Wars were over, and all tribes were confined to reservations, the Native children were forced to go to boarding schools to learn the Christian way of education. Their long hair, which was a symbol of pride and honor, was cut off and they were prohibited from speaking in the language of their people.

However, as time passed, the Native people of America began to renew the pride that they had in their cultures and languages, and began standing up for their rights as nations. Soon, schools began accepting the traditional values of Native people and even began teaching Native languages in schools. As Chief Washakie said: “I fought to keep our land, our water and our hunting grounds. Today, education is the weapon my people will need to protect them.” …

No matter what negative things we face every day, nothing can break our spirit. We will not give up the war to save our culture or our languages, the war that all Native people in America have been fighting for since 1492. I will fight to ensure the survival of our cultures and languages for the rest of my days on this Earth.

You can see and hear Pingree performing a drum chant here.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Navajo Eco-Justice Group Opposes McCain/Kyl Water Settlement

Navajos protest Peabody to protect homelands

in Navajo capital of Window Rock, Ariz.

(Photo by Sierra Club)

It sounds like a reasonable idea at first glance. Federal legislation would put $315 million to work building three delivery systems that would supply groundwater drinking supplies to thousands of Hopi and Navajo who still must haul water to meet their needs. It will also make available to the Navajo some 6400 acre-feet of water out of Arizona’s allocation from the Colorado River. The arrangement was mostly put together behind closed doors. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, backed by fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, introduced it to an nearly empty Senate chamber Thursday, Feb. 16.

All the tribes must do is surrender their claims on Little Colorado River system water,

something they have so far refused to do. The Navajo would also be required to ensure continued operation of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page. That electricity-generating plant on leased tribal land, powered by coal tribal mines, must undergo extensive upgrades by 2016 or it will be shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency under its new toxic emissions rule. For towns and other water users along the Little Colorado, the settlement’s elimination of Navajo and Hopi claims to that water would offer freedom from the insecurity caused by the threat of tribal lawsuits.

Said Kyl: “[This settlement] brings us one step closer to addressing the significant water needs of impoverished areas on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, while also providing certainty for non-Indian communities trying to plan for their water future,” he said.  Flagstaff, Ariz., Mayor Sara Presler said: “If the tribes are going to achieve that next level of success, it’s necessary to have a secure water supply. In more urban areas of Arizona, we’re excited to see a new business open up, but we’re not asking the very basic questions of, ‘Do we have enough water to deliver to that business?'”

Dine’ CARE-Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, a Navajo advocacy organization, doesn’t see things that way. The group said in a statement Thursday:

Dine’ CARE strongly condemns the Big Business Salt River Project, Navajo Generating Station and Central Arizona Project bill portrayed as providing water to the Navajo Nation and Hopi to make life better.

In reality this is a death sentence where the Indigenous Peoples will be forever giving up their water rights to Lower Colorado River. […]

The 1970s Salt River Project lawyer, Senator Jon Kyl, is still carrying out SRP and CAP’s priorities to take the water rights from aboriginal water owners in northern Arizona.”

To add insult to injury, not only has the Navajo Tribe suffered from receiving discounted value for water but suffer from consequences of pollution from Navajo Generating Station, who provides power for SRP and ensuring that Navajo Nation provide cheap electricity. A fair value is needed in this deal to not steal Navajo water and condemn the people to poor health from Navajo Generating Station’s pollution.

The Navajo Nation is already an energy and water colony for Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and southern California. If passed, signed, and enacted, the Kyl bill would guarantee 34,000 plus acre-feet a year to Navajo Generating Station for the proposed extended life of the power plant. It also favors Peabody Coal Company since its Kayenta Mine fuels NGS. […]

In sum, the KYL bill must be KILLED before it KILLS us.


Dine’ CARE president Adella Begaye said: “It is important for native communities to unite and oppose this legislation. We cannot afford to be idle as our future generations are robbed of their heritage and lifeline.”

A key worry is that the Kyl/McCain legislation would set a precedent that could extinguish Hopi and Navajo water rights under the so-called Winters Doctrine. That stems from an 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Winters v. United States) in 1908 stating that tribes did not have to reserve rights to water on their land if they already had established by treaty or other agreements the right to use their lands for agriculture.

Broader previous agreements to settle water rights claims among the tribes, federal, state and local governments and other users have failed to gain Hopi and Navajo approval. The most recent didn’t make the grade in 2004.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Concern Expressed that Johnny Depp is cast as Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger: New Mexico State Rep. Sandra Jeff (Navajo) (D-Crownpoint.) said that an actor from one of the tribes of New Mexico should have been hired for the Tonto role. Depp is rumored to have taken a 20 percent  pay cut to bring the film in line with its budget.

-navajo with a h/t to Bill in MD

Pala Band of Mission Indians Removes 154 From Its Membership: Blood quantum is the likely reason. Members must have one-sixteenth Pala ancestry to receive payments from the band’s business ventures. Several other tribes in California, including the Chukchansi, United Auburn and San Pasqual, have also recently kicked members off their tribal rolls. These disenrolled Indians have been cut off from their tribal per capita payments from casino revenues, collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars.


Napa Valley Museum Damages Loaned Pomo Artifacts, Complaint Settled: Coleen McCloud (Kashia Band of Pomo Indians) and her husband Chester McCloud (Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians) sued when their 7-foot-tall, old-growth bark house was lost and several artifacts were mishandled.

– navajo

Ngobe-Bugle Indians Block Road to Protest Dams and Mining: For the second time in two weeks, the Panamanian tribe used stones and branches to blockade roads in Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui in western Panama. Tribal members are angry that the government has lifted a mining moratorium on Indian lands.

-Meteor Blades

President of Indigenous Language Institute: ‘Racisim is Alive and Well in Wisconsin’: Jerry L. Hill (Oneida Nation) wrote that the Washinawatok incident in which a girl was suspended for speaking her Native language (see FNN&V of Feb. 5) has served to refocus Indian attention on the issue of boarding schools. Indian children forced into such schools from the 1870s through the 1960s were not allowed to speak their own tongues, and the issue remains a sore point today.


University of Southern Mississippi Plans Community Housing Option for Indian Students: The new option will house American Indian students on one floor of dormitory so they can provide support for one another. USM student Cody Roth (Choctaw) grew up just off of the Choctaw Indian Reservation. “Native American students, when they come here, they come from tight-knit communities where everybody knows everybody,” Roth said. The dorm arrangement could provide a substitute for that at-home community.

-Meteor Blades

New on DVD: Indian School, A Survivors Story: The documentary interviews students of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School established in 1893 by an act of Congress. Indian children were forcefully removed from their families into the mid 1950s to be assimilated. The result was multi-generational trauma in effect today.

-navajo with a h/t to Bill in MD

The Berenstain Bears have been translated into Lakota: Matȟó Waúŋšila Thiwáhe-The Compassionate Bear Family is the title of the Lakota version. In an effort to keep the language alive the cartoon series helps adults learn along with their children. All 20 episode video links are available in the headline. If you’ve not heard Lakota, here is your chance.

– navajo

American Small Business League Complains Too Many Contracts Going to Alaska Natives: The league reviewed the top 100 contractors in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and found 33 were Alaska Native Corporations that exceeded small business size standards the SBA normally requires. These 33 corporations won $2.6 billion of the $6.9 billion awarded to the top 100 small business firms. ANCs can take advantage of several regulatory and legislative privileges that allow them to exist as large businesses in the program, which is designed to benefit small businesses.

-Meteor Blades


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.

First Nations News & Views: This Week – Code Talkers, Slurs and Silencing Native Tongues

Welcome to the third edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition is published at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, includes a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada. Last week’s edition is here.


Cross Posted at Daily Kos

70 Years Ago This Month the Navajo ‘Code Talkers’ Were Born

Joe Morris Sr. walked away from us on July 17. Keith Little walked away from us on Jan. 3. Jimmy Begay walked away from us Feb. 1. They were Navajo “Code Talkers,” three of the tribe’s 421 warriors who enlisted in the U.S. Marines to learn how to give Japanese intelligence headaches. Only a handful of those who joined up in the early months of 1942 remain and will soon also “walk away from us,” a common Navajo expression for dying. On Jan. 29, the last surviving member of the original 29 enlistees, Chester Nez, celebrated his 92nd birthday. Without them, their commanders and other officers have said, American casualties in battles for Japanese-held islands would have been far more ghastly than they were.

Those 29 and all the other Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy in case the code had to be used again. It was, in Korea and Vietnam. It was never broken. In 1968, the code and the story of its crucial role were declassified, freeing those who invented and used it to tell their experiences. Since then, more than 500 books have been written, several documentaries have been produced, Hollywood made a version called Windtalkers, a film that spends more of its time following Nick Cage around than it does Adam Beach (Saulteaux), who for his role spent six months learning Diné, the Navajo language. Famed sculptor Oreland Joe (Navajo-Ute) created the Navajo Code Talker Memorial at the Navajo Tribal Park & Veterans Memorial at Window Rock, Ariz. Oral histories were taken.

The original 29 Navajo “code talkers” at Camp Pendleton in 1942.

Yet, although President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14, 1982, National Navajo Code Talkers Day, it wasn’t until Dec. 21, 2000, 56 years after they first saw action, that the five surviving original Code Talkers and relatives of the other 24 received Congressional Gold Medals for their innovativeness and heroism. The other Code Talkers were awarded Congressional Silver Medals. The belated awards contained a deep irony. Many of these men who had saved untold numbers of American lives by using their native language had been punished for speaking that same language as children in boarding schools.  

It may come as a surprise to many who are acquainted with the story of the Code Talkers that the Navajos weren’t the only Indians used for code work during World War II. And they weren’t the first. The Army even used eight Chocktaw speakers to confuse German troops in 1918. In the the next war, the Army in both the Pacific and Europe used Lakota speakers, Oneidas, Chippewas, Pimas, Hopis,Choctaws, Sac and Fox and Comanches. But those Indians simply talked to each other in their Native language. The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers developed a real code. They could not even be understood by other speakers of Navajo.

The Marines had never used Indians for this purpose. But Philip Johnston, a white man who had grown up on the lands of the Navajo Nation, approached the Corps in mid-February with an idea. Why not use Navajos and members of other large tribes for military communications? Show us, the Marines said. So Johnston brought four Navajos with him to Camp Elliott, Calif., for a demonstration. They were given some military messages. They substituted some Navajo words and then, in pairs, went into separate rooms and communicated by radio. Gen. Clayton Vogel witnessed the success, the decoded messages were accurate renditions of their English originals. He recommended to his superiors that 200 Navajos be recruited.

It took some high-level meetings before a decision was made. But, in April, a pilot program was initiated and in May 29 of the 30 Navajos recruited showed up at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., for seven weeks of basic training. They came from places named Chinle, Kayenta, Blue Canyon and Kaibeto. Many had never before been off the reservation.

Haida Whale Divider

They developed a dictionary with words for military terms and then they memorized them. The Navajos could encode, transmit and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the era took 30 minutes to do the same thing. Before the code, the fluent-in-English Japanese intercepted and deciphered codes easily. The Americans developed complex code, but these took a long time to decode, which could cost lives.

Initially, the Navajo code comprised about 200 assigned words, but by the end of the war, there were 800. Here is a small  sample from the many to be found at Official Website of the Navajo Codetalkers:

Dive Bomber  –  Gini – Sparrow Hawk

Torpedo Plane – Tas-chizzie – Swallow

Observation Plane – ine-ahs-jah – Owl

Fighter Plane  – Da-he-tih-hi  – Hummingbird

Bomber Plane – Jav-sho – Buzzard

Patrol Plane – Ga- gih – Crow

Transport Plane – Astah – Eagle

The code was more complicated than mere word substitutions. The fear was that some sharp Japanese linguist might catch on to that soon enough. So words also could be spelled out using Navajo words representing individual letters of the alphabet. The Navajo words “wol-la-chee” (ant), “be-la-sana” (apple) and “tse-nill” (axe) all stood for the letter “a.” To say “Navy” in Navajo Code, they could say “tsah (needle)  wol-la-chee (ant)  ah-keh-di- glini (victor)  tsah-ah-dzoh (yucca).” Thus, using assigned words or the alphabet code, they could encrypt anything. By not repeating the same word all the time for the same letter, they made it next to impossible to crack the code. In fact, it never was.

Navajo Code Talkers stand and salute as the colors are posted during Code Talkers Day event in Window Rock, Ariz., Aug. 14, 2008. Photo courtesy of Morris Bitsie

Navajo code talkers were on the ground with their fellow Marines in every major action in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They proved their value at Guadalcanal, at Tarawa and at the 36-day siege on Iwo Jima. After that immensely bloody battle, Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, said: “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” He had commanded six Navajo code talkers during the first two days of the battle. They sent more than 800 messages, all without error.

Their participation went unsung for decades because of the secrecy. The world they returned to was not unlike the one they left. Federal policies which had improved somewhat during the New Deal era again focused on assimilation and terminating reservations. Many returning veterans were denied the right to vote even though they had supposedly been made full citizens by the Snyder Act in 1924.

Like other veterans of World War II, most of these men, many of them teenagers when they enlisted, have already walked away from us. The death of Keith Little leaves a big hole because, as a long-time leader of the Navajo Code Talkers Organization, he was the powerhouse behind the National Navajo Code Talkers Museum & Veterans Center project:

The museum is dedicated to the overarching purpose of providing historical clarity, accuracy and context in preserving the extraordinary contribution of the Navajo Code Talkers for future generations. Their story will be told in compelling detail through an immersive learning environment, powerful interactive exhibits and activities, living demonstrations of the Navajo code and culture in the larger perspective of modern history. The museum and integrated education programs will serve as the national repository for the once-secret military voice code and the legendary skill, endurance, courage and ingenuity of the Navajo Code Talkers.

The project also will include a veterans center for all Armed Forces veterans and active-duty personnel.

New Mexico State Sen. John Pinto has introduced a bill in the legislature there to appropriate $175,000 for the project. In October, just two months before he died, Little testified in Santa Fe before the Senate’s Military & Veterans Affairs Committee seeking to revive the bill, which was languishing. The bill received a unanimious “DO PASS” from the Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee on the last day of January and has been  forwarded to the Finance Committee.

Donations to support the Museum & Veterans project that Mr. Little envisioned and was very much committed to can be made through the website: or by contacting Wynette Arviso at 505-870-9167 or via email

The Code Talker Emblem

Code Talker Emblem

The emblem of the Code Talker represents a communication device used by two young Navajo boys called the Hero Twins. The device allowed them to secretly communicate with each other. The legendary Hero Twins were sent to the Sun to seek a weapon that would kill the monsters attacked the Navajo. The Sun gave them the Thunderbolt.

The Code Talker emblem and is also pictured on the reverse side of the Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.

This Week in American Indian History in 1890

The Indians must conform to the “white man’s ways” peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantially to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible but it is the best the Indians can get.

-(Bureau of Indian Affairs Report, 1889)

On February 11, 1890, half of the land on the five reservations making up the remnants of the Great Sioux Reservation was opened up to the public, continuing what was by then already a 40-year-old process that would continue to shrink Lakota tribal lands well into the 1960s. Both the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and later Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 reduced the area in which the Lakotas (and other tribes) were allowed to live. But, everything to what is now the boundary between Wyoming and South Dakota lying west of the Missouri River, including the sacred Black Hills, was to be theirs forever. Years of government pressure had failed to persuade many Lakota to stay within the reservation boundaries. This was especially true of the Oglala and Hunkpapa, whose chief and holy man, Tathanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull), had refused to sign the 1868 Treaty or live on the designated lands.

The shrinking of the Lakota Nation

for a larger version of this map.

When a thousand soldiers under George A. Custer confirmed the presence of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, a deluge of miners staked claims on reservation land, which led to repeated clashes. Those clashes and refusal of thousands of Lakota to keep to the reservation ended in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn River) in June 1876, a Pyrrhic victory for the Lakota. Just four months after Custer and his men died in Medicine Tail Coulee, Washington imposed the Treaty with the Sioux Nation of 1876. Under the provisions of the 1868 treaty, terms could only be changed with approval of three-fourths of Lakota adult men. Nowhere near that number signed in 1876. But the treaty was imposed anyway, stripping away a 50-mile-wide swath of land in what is now western South Dakota, including the Black Hills.

Preparing for statehood, Dakotans lobbied Washington for a cutting up of what was left of the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller reservations, grabbing nine million acres and opening land to homesteaders. In 1888, a federal commission sought to collect signatures from three-fourths of Lakota adult males. They were unsuccessful. The next year, they stepped up the pressure but still the Lakota refused to assent. Spokesmen John Grass, Gall, and Mad Bear opposed it, and though not chosen by his people to speak, Sitting Bull did speak and urged everyone to not be intimidated into signing away the land.

But enough signatures were obtained and, in 1889, Congress passed the Sioux Bill, opening the reservation to non-Indians and making acreage allotments to individual Indians with the intent of breaking up tribal land held in common and ending reservations entirely. Non-violent resistance continued after the law took effect in February 1890. Consequently, Sitting Bull was murdered during an arrest in mid-December and the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee came two weeks later. After that, resistance ended. More land was taken in 1910.

Many non-Lakota homesteads were abandoned in the 1930s, but instead of restoring these lands to the tribes, Washington turned them over to the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Even more land was taken for the Badlands Bombing Range during World War II. When the Air Force declared it was unneeded in the 1960s, it was transferred to the NPS instead of being returned to communal tribal ownership.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

South Dakota May Adopt Flag with Medicine Wheel Motif

Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, one of the 24 Democrats in the 105-member South Dakota legislature, is sponsoring a bill to choose a new flag that is different from the state seal. The one he has in mind was designed Dick Termes in 1989 for the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s admission to the Union. It’s flashy and contains a stylized medicine wheel inside a sunburst. Medicine wheels are also known as sacred hoops. As described in a June 2007 article in Indian Country written by Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa, Santee Dakota, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo)

The hoop is symbolic of “the never-ending cycle of life.” It has no beginning and no end. Tribal healers and holy men have regarded the hoop as sacred and have always used it in their ceremonies. Its significance enhanced the embodiment of healing ceremonies.

The best known medicine wheel is the 300-400-year-old, Indian-constructed 80-foot stone circle in the Bighorn Range in Wyoming.

Possible choice for new South Dakota flag

Termes’s creation was forgotten 23 years ago. But he recently posted it on his Facebook page. And, in yet another example of how social media can turn obscurity into fame overnight, his design could soon be flying over public buildings everywhere in South Dakota. So, in a state known for the rapacity of the Indian wars fought on its soil, in the land of the Black Hills whose ownership is still in dispute, a place where ferocious anti-Indian racism still thrives in voter suppression and a hundred other ways, a new flag may soon incorporate a Native design as an expression of what Hunhoff calls a symbol of unity.

Bison rancher Ed Iron Cloud, III (Oglala), one of three Indian representatives in the legislature, said such a flag might show unity and coexistence.

– Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Miranda Washinawatok
Miranda Washinawatok

Menominee 7th Grader Suspended for Speaking Her Native Language

The student body at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisc., is more than 60 percent American Indian and the Menominee reservation is just six miles away. Twelve-year-old Miranda Washinawatok (Menominee) was having a casual conversation with her Menominee friends, as were many other groups in their home room class while the teacher, Julie Gurta, worked on progress reports. Washinawatok, who is fluent in her native language, translated “hello” into “posoh” and “I love you” into “Ketapanen” for her friends. Gurta abruptly walked up to the group, slammed her hand onto Washinawatok’s desk and said: “You are not to be speaking like that. How do I know you’re not saying something bad and how would you like it if I spoke Polish and you didn’t understand.”

Gurta had told the group once before that they could not speak Menominee. She did not ask what the girls were saying. Later, another teacher told Washinawatok that she did not appreciate her upsetting Gurta because “she is like a daughter to me.” By the time school ended Washinawatok had been informed by Assistant Coach Billie Joe Duquaine, a preschool teacher at the school, that she was suspended from the next basketball game because of an “attitude issue.” Washinawatok told her mother she had not talked back, argued with Gurta or otherwise behaved badly.

According to Tanaes Washinawatok, Miranda’s mother: “Miranda knows quite a bit of  Menominee. We speak it. My mother, Karen Washinawatok, is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute. She is a former tribal chair and is strong into our culture.”

Washinawatok’s mother and Tribal legislators Rebecca Alegria and Orman Waukau Jr. met with Principal Dan Minter and the teachers. A verbal apology was given to Washinawatok and a public apology was promised.

However, the letter sent home with students was not the agreed-upon apology to Washinawatok, the family and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

Principal Dan Minter, however, instead sent students home Wednesday with a letter addressed to Sacred Heart’s parents and families. In it, he apologized for allowing a “perception” of cultural discrimination to exist, but denied the reprimand and benching – which are not mentioned specifically – were the “result of any discriminatory action or attitude and did not happen as a negative reaction to the cultural heritage of any of our students.” […] Minter said the incident was the result of “a breakdown of our internal processes designed to offer protection to student, faculty, staff, volunteers and administrators.”

“I regret if there was any perception by a student or family that this in any way promoted an atmosphere of cultural discrimination,” he said in the letter. “If that perception was allowed to exist, then it is deeply regretted by Sacred Heart School and for that we apologize.”

Sacred Heart Catholic School was established in November 1881. One hundred thirty-one years later, it is finally creating a awareness program to promote cultural diversity, which will include education for both the students and staff.

News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

– navajo

NAN Line Separater

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero

Lansing Mayor Slurs Indians in Casino Dispute:

On one side are the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians and the city of Lansing, Mich. On the other are the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. The four are in a clash over a proposed $245-million casino in downtown Lansing, the state capital.

For Lansing, adding a local casino to the more than two dozen now operating in the state means an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs and 700 construction jobs and more tax revenue to help revitalize the city. For the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewas, it gives an off-reservation foothold from which to expand into southern Michigan, adding to the five Kewadin casinos the tribe owns on the state’s Upper Peninsula. For the Saginaws and the Nottawaseppis, it means competition for their casinos in Battle Creek and Mt. Pleasant and, in their view, is a violation of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA). For Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D), avidly in favor of the casino, it has meant getting a remedial lesson regarding racist outbursts.

At a fund-raising breakfast, Bernero showed up wearing a bulls-eye taped to his back, implying he is the target of arrows. According to people at the fund-raiser, he referred to James Nye (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), a spokesman for casino opponents, as “Chief Chicken Little.” That generated calls for apologies. Bernero obliged with one of those no-apology apologies to “any and all who were offended. […] but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponents’ attempt to spin it that way.”

In a statement from the two Tribes, Saginaw Chippewa Chief Dennis Kequom said Bernero’s presentation clearly was racial: “Racial slurs by government officials against Native Americans conjure images of a bygone era of destructive policies that resulted in centuries of genocide and poverty.” Kequom called on other Native American leaders-and particularly those of the Sault Tribe-to condemn Bernero’s actions. He also told the mayor to get some sensitivity training.

Under the plan, the tribe would buy land from the city to build the casino, which would need approval from the Department of the Interior. The Saginaws and Nottawaseppis issued a statement saying the casino “stands no chance under federal law and administrative rules governing land into trust acquisitions for ‘gaming eligible’ lands.” The statement was accompanied by a letter from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette and Philip N. Hogen, a former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Hogen said the Sault Tribe’s actions were an attempt “to circumvent the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and applicable state laws against illegal gambling. […] The distant sites do not constitute ‘Indian lands,’ as defined by IGRA and therefore Michigan state gambling laws apply.”

– Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

David Slagger is the first member of the

Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to serve

in the Maine House of Representatives. In

his hand is the golden eagle feather he held

when he was sworn in by Gov. Paul LePage

last month. (Gabor Degre)

Maliseet Added to Maine’s Unique System of Tribal Representatives in the Legislature

He can’t vote in the Maine House of Representatives, but David Slagger of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians can make speeches, propose legislation with a co-sponsor and sit on committees. He is the first member of his 800-person band to be chosen as a tribal representative to the legislature since the state approved the position in 2010. The Maliseets were not federally recognized until 1980.

Slagger joins non-voting representatives from Maine’s two biggest tribes, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot nation. Both have sent representatives to the legislature for years. His cross-borders tribe is part of the larger Maliseet Nation of New Brunswick, Canada, and together with the Passamaquoddy, Penobscots, Abenaki and Mi’kmaq, form the Wabanaki Confederacy, which means people of the “dawn land.” Maine is unique among the states in having tribal representatives in its legislature.

Slagger told the Bangor Daily News that he has been involved in tribal issues for 25 years. “In public service, it is the people’s voice that matters,” he told a reporter. “But for a long time the Maliseet people have not had a voice. This is a good first step.” He was appointed by Chief Brenda Commander after interviews by the tribal council. For now Slagger has a seat on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and sits in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses to get a good picture of what the issues are in the legislature. He has a couple of ideas for new laws. He would outlaw people from pretending to be Indians so they can sell arts and crafts and other Indian-branded products. He also wants the state to create a repository for bird feathers and allow Indians to use them in their crafts.

Slagger lives in Kenduskeag with his wife (a Mi’kmaq) and their three children. You can listen to some of his interviews here.

– Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter

Kootenai Get ETC Cards for Easier Border Crossings

As a consequence of the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted. This requires all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to present passports or other secure documents upon entering the United States. Technology, including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, are now being used to enhance identification documents and speed the processing of cross-border traffic.

Beginning in 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began working with federally recognized Indian tribes to produce an “Enhanced Tribal Card” showing citizenship and identity that would be acceptable for entry into the United States. Under a memorandum of agreement, a secure photo identification document with embedded RFID verification would be issued to enrolled tribal members whether they were U.S. or Canadian citizens.

The Idaho Kootenai tribe, whose 142 members live on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, were the first to sign such a memorandum in 2009. The Idaho band is one of seven making up the Kootenai Nation. Their ETC officially became a valid form of I.D. to enter the U.S. on Jan. 31. So far, 11 other tribes have applied for an ETC memorandum of agreement. Besides the Kootenai, CBP has signed an agreement with five others: the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona, the Seneca of New York, the Tohono O’odham of Arizona, the Coquille of Oregon and the Hydaburg of Alaska.

Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter said, “The Kootenai ETC allows our tribal citizens to continue to travel within Kootenai Territory on both sides of the United States-Canada boundary to visit family and practice our culture while helping to secure the border for the greater good of all citizens.”

– Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Johnson Holy Rock, Prominent Lakota Language Preservationist Passes: A World War II veteran, Lakota Language Consortium founder and past Oglala Sioux Tribe president who met with John F. Kennedy in the White House has died. His grandfathers traveled with Crazy Horse and his father was 11 years old when Custer attacked the Lakota-Cheyenne encampment at the Little Bighorn. He was featured in A Thunder-Being Nation. In 2005, he recorded the telling his life story in Lakota.

– navajo

Frybread Mockumentary Spoofs Importance of Which Tribe Makes the BEST: In the comedy More than Frybread, 22 American Indians, representing all federally recognized tribes in Arizona, convene in Flagstaff to compete for the first-ever Arizona Frybread Championship. The film has been selected to show at the Sedona International Film Festival and the Durango Independent Film Festival in 2012.

– navajo

Tribal Identity Film Selected for Sundance: OK BREATHE AURALEE is writer/director Brooke Swaney’s (Blackfeet & Salish) NYU thesis film. It stars Kendra Mylnechuk (Inuit) and Nathaniel Arcand (Cree) with music composed by Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache). A Native identity film about an adopted woman discovering her past was selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2012.

– navajo

Daugaard’s Staff Attacks NPR Report on Indian Foster Care Scam: South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who personally profited from placing Lakota children in non-indian foster homes calls the NPR report flawed and useless. But two members of the U.S. House of Representatives thought the NPR report was valid enough to call for an investigation.

– navajo

Does Spam Cause Diabetes in Native Populations?: The researchers said that their study could not prove that eating processed meats was to blame for the increased risk of diabetes. I suspect highly refined carbs are also to blame since low income and need for long shelf life products are prevalent on our reservations.

– navajo

National Marine Fisheries Service Sued For Not Protecting Our Northwest Coast: A coalition of conservation and American Indian groups filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to mitigate harm to marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

– navajo


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.

First Nations News & Views: Tribes Work to Return the Bison

Welcome to the first edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition will include a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada.


“The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.”

 – Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano, Testimony to Congress, 1874

“We recognize the bison is a symbol of our strength and unity, and that as we bring our herds back to health, we will also bring our people back to health.”

 – Fred DuBray, former president Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, 2005

By 1870, the great herds of buffalo, or American Bison, that had in the 1500s roamed everywhere except present-day New England, were limited to 11 Western states and territories. There were still millions of them, perhaps 40 million. The massive slaughter that began in earnest in 1874 ended nine years later. By 1890, only 500 bison remained, and the devastated, decimated tribes who had depended on them were confined to reservations and a hard-scrabble existence.

Today, however, there are around 500,000 fenced bison in commercial herds, many of them genetically intermixed with cattle breeds and sold for meat domestically and abroad. There are also some 20,000 genetically pure bison in free-roaming herds, like the 3000 in Yellowstone National Park. The biggest fenced herds are in Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the leader, where there are about 40,000 head of bison on private ranches and tribal land.

As NPR reported early last year, the demand for bison meat is rising, and not just for burgers. And the demand in 2011 kept up the pace.

“Five years ago, I spent 90 percent of my time trying to get people to eat bison. Now, I spend 90 percent of my time getting people to raise bison,” said Dave Carter​, executive director of the Westminster-based National Bison Association.

Among the bison raisers are the 56 tribes of the non-profit Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, which got its start in 1990. Some tribes started as early as 1971 to reintroduce bison and, collectively, they now have herds totaling about 15,000 head in 19 states. The idea behind this is far more than economic. As the ITBC web site states, the “reintroduction of the buffalo to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo.” For Indians of the Plains and far beyond, the bison was woven into every aspect of their lives and was an integral part of their philosophy and religion.

ITBC Cultural Education Coordinator Carla Rae Brings Plenty (Lakota-Cheyenne River) recently wrote:

[The council] is committed to reestablishing bison herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development. ITBC is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of one tribal representative from each member tribe.

The role of the ITBC, as established by its membership, is to act as a facilitator in coordinating education and training programs, develop marketing strategies, coordinate the transfer of surplus American buffalo – also known as bison – from national parks to tribal lands, and provide technical assistance to its membership. The ITBC works collaboratively with members to develop sound management plans that enable tribal herds to become successful and self-sufficient operations.

Among other reasons for restoring the bison herds is some hope for change in the diet of many Indians, on and off the reservation, who have high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease as consequence of both poverty and a poor understanding of nutrition. Bison meat is extremely lean, with less than a third the amount of fat and cholesterol and less than two-thirds as many calories as beef. It also has more iron an vitamin B12 than beef. But it is a very long way from providing more than an occasional meal on any of the reservations.

The process of restoration is slow, but growth in tribal herds steadily continues. In early December, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approved the removal of 68 quarantined bison to the reservations at Fort Belknap (A’aninin-Gros Ventre and the Nakota-Assiniboine) and Fort Peck (Assiniboine-Sioux). About 700 now graze at Fort Belknap and another 200 can be found Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch on the Fort Peck reservation.  

Haida Whale Divider

Cherokee leader John Ross

This Week in American Indian History in 1833:

It can be said that the non-violent resistance campaign by the Cherokee nation against removal and relocation to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) began on Jan. 28, 1833. Tribal leaders, including John Ross, the principal chief of the Eastern Cherokee, met that day with Secretary of War John Eaton to say they would not negotiate with the federal government about removal because Washington was not living up to previous agreements to protect them since gold had been discovered on Cherokee land in 1829. Murderous white “pony clubs,” a kind of pre-Civil War Ku Klux Klan killed Cherokee men, raped Cherokee women and burned their houses and entire towns, allowing whites to stake mining claims. The Cherokee delegation in Washington had reason to be worried because President Andrew Jackson, was no friend, having betrayed the Cherokee by forcing the cession of more than 2 million acres of their land after the Red Stick War ended in 1814 even though they had allied themselves with the federal government against the rebellious wing of the Creek tribe in that conflict. Moreover, as soon as gold had been discovered in 1829, Jackson had removed all federal troops from Georgia and let state authorities and the ad hoc “pony clubs” to act they wished.

Eaton told them their only hope was removal. Jackson offered the Eastern Cherokee $3 million for all their lands east of the Mississippi except those in North Carolina if they would move. The delegation said the illegal Georgia gold mines alone were worth more than that. Thus began a five-year effort of sophisticated non-violent resistance which appealed to both moral and political authority. Ultimately, it failed and 16,000 Cherokee were removed across the Mississippi, at least 4,000 of their number dying along what is now known as the “Trail of Tears.”

NAN Line Separater

Susan Allen

Susan Allen (Sicangu-Oglala Lakota) Wins Seat in Minnesota Legislature

Susan Allen of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party won a special election for district 61B seat of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Jan. 10. The race was notable because Allen, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, is the first lesbian American Indian elected to any state legislature. The impoverished district in south-central Minneapolis has many problems with which Allen is familiar. She was born on the Uintah and Ouray Ute reservation in northeastern Utah, moved around to many reservations as a young girl because her Oglala Lakota father was an episcopal priest. She saw much social and economic injustice, which has played a major role in determining her political views.  

She says she will focus on investing in jobs, education, tax reform, as well as creating a single-payer health care system, preserving the environment, and saying no to the anti-gay marriage amendment on the state ballot next November. “We’re thrilled for Susan and the remarkable progress her victory represents,” said Tiffany Muller, vice president for political operations for the Victory Fund. “This is our first win of 2012, and it’s a fantastic way to start off what will be a very exciting year for LGBT candidates.”

NAN Line Separater

Cartoon by Marty Two Bulls

U.S. Supreme Court Takes Indian Casino Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on two petitions related to a decision by the federal government to take the Bradley Tract, a parcel of Pottawatomi-owned land in Michigan, into trust. The petitions were brought by Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, which seeks to have the land taken into trust so they can build a casino on it. David Patchak, a private individual who lives near the land in question, filed a complaint alleging that a casino would destroy the peace and quiet of the area and create pollution. The tribe won a judgment in U.S. District Court on the grounds that Patchak had no “prudential” interest in the case. But the Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The case may boil down to an interpretation of whether putting the land into trust can be done by the Interior Department for tribes that were not yet recognized by the federal government in 1934 at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act. The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band did not receive federal recognition until 1998.

NAN Line Separater

Maryland recognizes the Piscataways

After years of struggle and appeals, as well as an internal schism, the Piscataway tribe of southern Maryland has gained state recognition. The tribe’s ancestors have lived in the area for as much as 12 millennia. But Maryland officials previously said documentation connecting today’s Piscataways with Indians dating back before 1790 was inadequate for recognition and had rejected their applications. One motivation behind the rejection was the view of some citizens that the tribe is only interested in recognition so they could build casinos. The Piscataways, of whom there are now about 5,000, renounced any right to casinos in the negotiations to get recognition.

Mervin Savoy, the 68-year-old chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy, had waited a long time for the day Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley to make the recognition official.

“A reporter once asked me what it felt like to be an Indian,” Savoy says, laughing. “You might as well ask me what it feels like to be a woman. I don’t know; I’ve never been anything else.”

Savoy didn’t see anything unusual in the way her grandparents lived off the land. Her grandmother picked mint and peach leaves to flavor food. For a headache, she prescribed bark from a weeping willow tree. For a bee sting, she rubbed the irritated skin with three types of grass.

“All of these things, you could just walk out to the yard and get,” Savoy says.

The struggle for federal recognition, which would provide the Piscataways with funds for education, housing and public health, continues.

-News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

Piscataways in traditional cloth regalia. Left to Right: Piscataway Tribal Spokesman Rico Newman, Diona Kakinohana, Desiree Windsor, Provisional Tribal Council Chairwoman Mervin Savoy, MCIA Vice Chair Thomas Windsor, Linda Proctor, Argentine Newman, Piscataway Communications Director Chris Newman (Photo courtesy of Shikya Wilson)
NAN Line Separater

Do Congress and Obama Really Support the Tribal Law and Order Act?

The 2010 passage and signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act was viewed by many Indians as a major step forward and the keeping of one of the promises made by the Obama administration to pay attention to Indian voices about our needs. But, as Rob Capriccioso reports, TLOA is being undermined by budget cuts and an apparent lack of seriousness in pursuing key aspects of the legislation. In November $90 million was cut from the Department of Justice’s programs. “There continues to be a public safety crisis on our Indian reservations, and the lives of women and children are in danger every day,” said retired Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a key promoter of the TLOA when he chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Unlike other areas of government spending, the federal government has a distinct legal, treaty, and trust obligation to provide for the public safety of Indian country,” wrote [Ryan] Dreveskracht, a lawyer with the Galanda Broadman Indian-focused law firm in an article posted on his firm’s web site. … This obligation was made explicit in section 202 of the TLOA and was thoroughly discussed in the congressional record. That that same Congress is absolutely ignoring those duties now makes it that much worse. As a result, people are literally dying,” Dreveskracht added. “While crime outside Indian reservations has declined in recent years, the violent crime rate in Indian country has increased dramatically over the same time period – with homicides increasing by 14 percent in just four years.”

NAN Line Separater

Wisconsin Fights Suit Over Law Banning Indian Mascots

The state of Wisconsin wants the courts to dismiss a challenge to the constitutionality of a 2010 law that allows the state school superintendent to ban American Indian mascots and logos. The Department of Public Instruction ordered the Berlin School District to drop its “Indians” nickname and logo by Sept. 16, 2012, because its promotes stereotyping, discrimination and pupil harassment. The state had received a complaint from a district resident regarding the Berlin Indians’ nickname. The state also plans to appeal the decision of a judge to overturn his ruling rejecting a previous DPI order that the Mukwonago High School ditch its mascot and the “Indians” name of its athletic teams. That judge called the law, Act 250, “uncommonly silly.” It was passed when Democrats controlled the legislature. Republicans are now in charge, and some seek to repeal the law.

Barbara Munson (Oneida) chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce. She says 33 of the 65 Wisconsin schools with Indian-related team names have dropped them, or changed their logos since 1994. That was the year Marquette University dropped its Warriors team name and mascot and became the Golden Eagles. Wisconsin’s 11 tribes, through their Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, are on record opposing the names. “These images are archaic,” she says, and “should have left our culture as a whole along with Sambo’s restaurants (and) blackface minstrel shows.”

NAN Line Separater

Saginaw Chippewa Tribe Holds Repatriation Ceremony

The Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan held a repatriation and reburial ceremony at its Nibokaan Ancestral Cemetery Dec. 19. The remains of an indigenous woman who died before the arrival of Europeans but was dug up in 1905 and wound up in the Museum of Vancouver, BC, were buried along with 256 funerary items.

Nibokaan was established in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., in 1995 specifically for the purpose of reburying indigenous ancestors. Such repatriations were made more possible by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. From the time of the tribe’s initial request until reburial, such repatriations 10 years or more. Fourteen months ago, the Saginaw Chippewa reburied the remains of 144 indigenous individuals who had been dug up in the 1960s by Central Michigan University for use as a teaching tool for its archaeological program. The bodies had been placed in a storage room ever since.

NAN Line Separater

Tohono O’odham Shadow Wolves Patrol Border for Drug Contraband

The Shadow Wolves is an elite force that patrols the Arizona-Mexico border and uses traditional tracking methods to find drug smugglers and their goods. The force comprises nine members of the Tohono O’odham tribe, whose 28,000 members have the second largest tribal land base in the United States. The technique used is known as “cutting for sign.” It is taught from childhood, says one of the wolves, Jason Garcia: “This takes a lot of patience. You’re looking for something that’s almost invisible.”

A reporter traveling was astonished when Garcia told him from looking at the signs that the quarry they were hunting “had passed by only minutes before in an SUV, probably a Chevrolet, heading directly north towards Phoenix 100 miles away.”

NAN Line Separater

A new group has launched a web site, The Last Real Indians, readers may find to their liking. Here’s an excerpt from one of the team of five writers, Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton/Mdwakanton/Hunkpapa), whose tribal enrollment is at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation:

Indigenous peoples are always on the precipice, so it should come as no surprise that we are making good use of social media and the blogosphere as well.  Facebook helped The Indigenous Environmental Network mobilize American Indian and First Nation citizens to protest against fracking on Tribal lands, and the Keystone XL pipeline.  If implemented, the pipeline would transport toxic fossil fuel from Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf of Mexico- traveling directly through the Ogallala aquifer, the source of pure drinking water for millions.  Buffalo Nickel Creative (BNC3) and its affiliate, the 1491s, is an indigenous social media powerhouse.


Interior Department Finalizes 20-Year Ban on Grand Canyon Area Uranium Mining

Grand Canyon from the South Rim (photo by navajo)

Although the direction of the administration was made clear in October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will on Monday finalize a 20-year ban on new uranium-mining on some one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. The announcement will be made at the National Geographic Society HQ in Washington, D.C.

The ban, which is actually an extension of an existing ban, has been under consideration since 2009. Under the Bush administration, thousands of new mining claims had been encouraged under the 1872 Mining Act.

After Salazar’s position became clear when he chose “Alternative B” from the Bureau of Land Management’s final environmental impact statement on withdrawing lands, Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, as well as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, announced their intention to introduced legislation that would allow new uranium mining.

Alternative B bars 1,006,545 acres of federal lands from new mining. It allows previously approved operations to continue and some new operations on mining claims with valid existing rights. The federal lands are located on two parcels north of the Grand Canyon National Park and one parcel south of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.

The move no doubt would be approved by a Republican President unlike any we have seen since, Teddy Roosevelt, who said in a speech at the Grand Canyon more than a century ago:

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.”

Some people just can’t stand to see any land unmolested by development or mining. Thankfully, these million acres are getting another 20-year reprieve. But count on the “improvers” to be back licking their chops about 18 years from now.  

The Black Hills Are Not for Sale: The Mural Is Up in Los Angeles. Here’s How It Got There

The text of this post was a collaborative project of navajo and Meteor Blades. All but four of the photos, most of which appear below the squiggle, were taken by navajo.

Invisible Indians

This is the third in a year-long series being posted at Native American Netroots dedicated to revealing how American Indians – on reservations and in urban environments – are mostly invisible, a product of long-standing U.S. policy and societal ignorance.

On Nov. 26, 2011, Harper’s magazine Contributing Editor and National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey joined Shepard Fairey, the prolific street artist known to most people for his iconic Obama HOPE campaign image, and installed a stunning 20×80-foot mural THE BLACK HILLS ARE NOT FOR SALE. It’s at the intersection of Ogden and the highly trafficked Melrose Avenue in West Los Angeles near Fairfax.

The result is a beautiful, intriguing “billboard” that we hope will spur those who walk and drive by to educate themselves about what it means. The composition brings visibility to a group that is otherwise pretty much hidden from the rest of the nation, the Lakota people of South Dakota.

NAN line separater


NAN line separater

The Black Hills (He Sapa in Lakota, the language of the people most Americans know as Sioux) were wrenched from the tribes in 1877. Starting in 1922, the Lakota have sought what has become an 89-year-long array of complex legal efforts to have them returned, so far without success.

In 1950, the Sioux Nation filed a petition with the Indian Claims Commission for He Sapa and other lands based on two factors: treaty violations and lack of compensation. Thirty years later, ruling in what is one of the longest running court cases in U.S. history, United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the Supreme Court ruled that the Lakotas had been unjustly moved onto reservations and 7 million acres of their lands, including the He Sapa, illegally opened up to prospectors and homesteaders in violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Rather than give the Black Hills back, the court affirmed a lower court decision backing the ICC’s award of $106 million in compensation, which included 103 years of compound interest. It did not include compensation for the vast amount of minerals that have been extracted from the area.

The Sioux Tribal Council said no to the settlement, fearing that agreeing to take the money would mean they could never get back the sacred He Sapa. Thus the slogan, “The Black Hills are not for sale.” In the 30 years since then, the compensation fund held by the government has grown to more than $1 billion, and the pressure inside the Sioux Nation to accept payment has grown in great part because of the continuing poverty and associated ills the Lakota people endure decade after decade. This past August, a case brought by 19 Lakotas seeking to have the money divided equally among individuals was dismissed by a federal court to the relief of tribal leaders.

Considerable hope has been placed in President Obama to resolve the issue. Unlike past presidents, he is widely viewed among Indians to have actually listened to our concerns and promised to deal with them fairly. Since the highest court has made its ruling, only the President and Congress can change things.

Some solutions have been suggested with varying degrees of acceptance among Lakotas. One proposal would release the accumulated funds from the court-ordered settlement and turn over the federally owned land in the Black Hills and other nearby lands. Excepted would be Mt. Rushmore, which hosts the granite faces of four presidents who presided over the taking of Indian land from coast to coast. No private land owned by non-Lakotas would be part of the deal.

In 2009 the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association formed the Great Sioux Nation He Sapa Reparation Alliance in hopes of presenting a unified voice for realizing a settlement that would hold the United States responsible for the violations of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and take action on both the land and compensation issues. Nearly 135 years after the Black Hills were taken, the Lakota people still want them back and seem determined not to sell them, not even for a billion dollars.

Here’s a video of Aaron Huey’s TED talk on the Lakota people and the broken treaties:

Transcript of Aaron’s talk and a timeline of treaties made, treaties broken and massacres disguised as battles.


I have been asked to talk about my relationship with the Lakota. That is a very difficult thing for me because, if you haven’t noticed from my skin color, I’m white. And that will always be a huge barrier on a native reservation. You will see a lot of people in my photographs today. I’ve become very close with them. They have welcomed me like family. They called me “uncle: and “brother” and they welcomed me back many times over in my five years of visits. But on Pine Ridge I will always be what is called Wasi’chu. Wasi’chu is a Lakota word that means “non-Indian,” but another version of this word means “Takes the best part of the meat.” And that is what I want to focus on today: “The one who takes the best part of the meat.” It means “greedy.”

Aaron has been photographing his friends on Pine Ridge since 2004. His goal now is to bring much-needed attention to the Lakota and the history of broken treaties with the U.S. government at Honor The

Ojibwa has more history on American Lies and the Treaty of Fort Laramie

NAN line separater


NAN line separater


Meet Miguel Garcia, in the center, with Shepard Fairey on the left and Aaron Huey on the right, Miguel is owner of De La Barracuda, a boxing club at 7769 Melrose. Miguel donated the wall for this installation. The prominent space normally rents for $15,000-20,000.


We arrive after an 85 mph trip from San Francisco at midday and the work is well under way. They started at 11 a.m. This is Shep walking briskly along the wall, directing the volunteer installers.


Volunteers have pasted all that can be done at ground level and are now boarding the scissors truck to reach higher spots.


They have gone through many buckets of wheat paste by the time we arrive.


Shep scoops up excess wheat paste.


Shep swabs the installed paper pieces with a thick coat of wheat paste.


Daryl Hannah and Aaron, who met her at the MountainFilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado this past May. She is now an avid supporter of his Honor the Treaties: Pine Ridge Billboard Project.


Daryl cuts paper snippets of the image to correct imperfections in the pasting. She was on site for several hours.


Aaron plots logistics with Shep.


Daryl and Chet Hay (Aaron’s assistant) join Aaron and Shep to discuss some details of the installation.  



Chet keeps the mural pieces organized.


Lakota pow-wow dancer’s ear is hoisted for installation.


This is Sinuhé Xavier. He knows Miguel, the club owner, and after he met Aaron, he connected the two.


A large portion of the beautiful Lakota pow-wow dancer’s face is being installed by Shep and other members of the team.  


Aaron stacks paper strips for the next upload.

Shots taken by co-author Meteor Blades:


This figure with the outstretched arms is co-author navajo showing how extremely happy she is to be there.


Shep, Aaron, Meteor Blades, Shockwave and Lara. Honorary SFKossacks Represent!


Shep, navajo and Aaron.


Shep’s presence being documented.


Watching and waiting for the next hand-off of paper.


Daniel Salin, a producer and curator for art shows and an installer for the famous international street artist Banksy, takes a break from working on the scissors truck. Daniel was connected with Aaron through Sinuhé. He has done the Barracuda wall before with Shep and photograffeur JR.


Documenting is done from all angles.


Daniel, Shep and Eric Becker


The face gets closer to completion.


Urban Indians: navajo and her daughter mangolind watch the mural’s progress.


Aaron and Shep paste the mural’s strips on the top edge of the wall.


Shep and Daniel, covered in wheat paste.


Aaron finishes the last square of paper!


He turns around with a grin.



Aaron, Daryl and Shep pose with the completed project.



Now for the Pièce de Résistance: The billboard is tagged with HONOR THE




Chet, Aaron, Sinuhé and Daniel are happy to be done.


Sinuhé and Aaron snap pics of their work from across the street.


Aaron, navajo, Sinuhé, Daniel and Taylor Kent, who documented the project with a time-lapse camera across the street.

You can browse more than 290 of navajo’s photos of the installation here by clicking the slideshow button.

NAN line separater


NAN line separater

#1: Share and Tweet this diary with your networks.

Honor The Treaties at Facebook.

#2: Support the organization that directly helps the youth of Pine Ridge who are featured in the images above.

The Owe Aku International Justice Project DONATE is guided daily by traditional leaders and elders who speak our language and live our Lakota way of life.  This approach has preserved our nation for 170 years against unyielding attempts to annihilate, assimilate and legislate us out of existence.  Our goal is to do nothing more than continue the process left to us by our ancestors.


South Dakota Kidnaps Indian Children and Sticks Them in White Foster Homes

Invisible Indians

If you find typos here, it’s because my hands are trembling in fury over the keyboard as I write this. That comes from reading Part 1 of National Public Radio’s three-part report on yet another round of cultural genocide against the Indians of South Dakota. What it amounts to is state-sanctioned kidnapping. You can read or listen to Part 1 here and, starting at 4 p.m. Pacific Time, Part 2. I hope that, after you do, you’ll take action to help bring an end to the continuing effort to separate Indian children from their families. Here are the bullet points from the kick-ass investigation Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters put together over 12 months:

• A 2005 study found that 32 states are, in various ways, failing to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Congress passed that law in 1978 after a century of federal policy had forcibly removed tens of thousands of American Indian children from their families and sent them off to abusive boarding schools.

• Under the law, social services agencies are supposed to place Indian children they remove from troubled homes into Indian foster-care homes. But that requirement is being ignored. And in South Dakota, more than 700 Indian children are removed from their families each year, often under questionable circumstances. Over the years, state records show, only 13 percent of these children have gone to Indian foster parents.

• Anecdotal evidence indicates that foster-care homes  licensed to Indians are ignored by the state’s social services agency when placing children removed from their families.

• Some children are taken for legitimate reasons, but most are removed because of “neglect,” a fuzzy definition that often is arrived at because of a failure of the mostly non-Indian social-service workers to understand Indian culture. “[E]ven Native American children who grow up to become foster care success stories, living happy, productive lives, say the loss of their culture and identities leaves a deep hole they spend years trying hopelessly to fill,” NPR reports.

• While Indian children make up less than 15 percent of the state’s population, they are more than half the children in foster care. South Dakota receives thousands of dollars from the feds for every child it takes from a family, and typically gets more money if a child is Indian.

• South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugard once headed a group that was a major recipient of federal money provided for foster children. As lieutenant governor, he was on the group’s payroll when it received tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, a “highly unusual relationship.”

Photo Credit: Boys at the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation/Aaron Huey

“It enrages me,” says Crow Creek tribal council member Peter Lengkeek. “We’re very tight-knit families and cousins are disappearing. Family members are disappearing.”

The Crow Creek tribe has lost more than 33 children in recent years. The reservation only has 1,400 people. Last year Lengkeek asked social service officials to tell him where the children were and who they were placed with.

Seven months later, he received a list. Lengkeek says every single child was placed in a white foster home.

He says if the state had its way, “we’d still be playing cowboys and Indians. I couldn’t imagine what they tell these kids about where they come from and who they are.”

“It’s kidnapping,” he says. “That’s how we see it.”

Except for the obvious reasons, many people may wonder why this matters so much to Indians, why it arouses our fury more intensely than just about any other conflict between Indians and non-Indians in today’s world. That’s because the foster-care program contains a powerful echo. Our rage arises out of a history that is, for many of us, devastatingly personal.

For instance, among Indians who participate in the Daily Kos group Native American Netroots, at least four of us have relatives who were yanked away from their families and sent to boarding schools (aji: great-grandmother; me, grandmother and great-aunt; navajo: mother; cacamp: grandparents, parents and himself).

Some went to government-run schools; others were taken in by church operations, Catholics and Mormons being among the prominent proponents of this approach to “civilizing” us.

In addition to being physically abused and treated as sexual prey in many cases, children in the boarding schools had their language, culture and religion yanked away. That wasn’t collateral damage. It was the whole point. The concept behind the boarding schools, more than 150 of them by 1900, was “Kill the Indian…save the man,” as noted in an 1892 Denver speech by Col. Richard H Pratt, founder of the U.S. Training and Industrial School at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. In short, demolish Indians by literally stealing their children.

Apache children on arrival at the Carlisle Indian School wearing traditional clothing.
The same children at the Carlisle School four months later. Note the haircuts.
NAN line separater

Here’s cacamp – Carter Camp – giving the short version of his boarding school story:

I was a repeat run-away same as my Mom, so I didn’t graduate until I was 19. Mom never did because her Dad hid her from the agent after the first time. In my parents’ day the schools were run like military academies where the kids marched in formation and drilled like soldiers. They had disciplinarians and jails and ran farms, which the students worked on to feed themselves. Those were the bad old days. By the time I got there, they were more benevolent but still strict about erasing our cultures. We still had to work on the farm two hours a day and more if we got in trouble.

The Navajo had it especially rough since they were forcefully rounded up like my parents were and taken up [to] Kansas, far from home, while the rest of us were sent by our parents because of poverty. We were high school age; so were the Navajo but they hadn’t gone to any school before and most spoke no English so they had “special ed” and were segregated in different dorms. Funny thing though, we met and became friends with students from all over and later on became tribal leaders and American Indian Movement leaders who knew each other and could work together for things like tribal sovereignty.

Back then the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent stole the kids and ran roughshod over the parents and tribe. Today it’s the State and the welfare system that is doing the same thing. We call our lost children “Lost Birds” after the baby girl who survived [the] Wounded Knee [massacre of 1890] and was adopted out to a white family but finally (recently) came home to her people to be buried again at Wounded Knee.

Each year we have “lost birds” coming home who have turned 18 and come seeking their families and yearning to learn their culture. Many times they don’t even know who to ask for and sometimes they’re quite old, grown up and with their own children looking for a connection to their past. Winter Rabbit reminded me of such a lost one. The majority of the stolen kids know their families and come home ASAP, so we have a large population of Indian kids who were brought up outside the tribe and have now come home. They almost all have stories of abuse. Only a few were lucky enough to find love and stability. Most are passed around in the system and bounce from foster home to foster home. This has been going on so long that thousands of lost ones are out there from every nation in America. It needs to stop.

Aji tells the story of her great-grandmother:

[My mom’s grandmother] died without ever knowing who or what she was; it’s taken a lot of work, years later, to piece her “self” together. Initially, the family thought she was of Scots descent, not realizing that the Scottish surname was that of her by-then-widowed mother’s second husband.  Her adoptive name was English. There is no record of what her traditional name (or any surname) might have been; they were more interested in covering up the very fact of adoption than anything else.

In the 1870s, the Catholic Church in Michigan was very invested in saving Indian children from an alleged “epidemic” of illness.  What they were really doing was stealing kids and farming them out as fast as they could to reliably Catholic families who would … “save the [wo]man by killing the Indian.” No one knows how many were lost to white families via church theft. Hundreds, at a minimum. Probably thousands over the course of one generation alone. But one day in the late 1870s, a good white Catholic couple of English extraction left their home and traveled to the rez for two months, and came back bearing their new little Indian “papoose,” promptly given a white name and identity, with never a reference to be made to the adoption, much less from where.  

Ironically, when she married, her husband ran his father’s logging business, and during the summer months, he traveled around the state; in his absence, she ran the business for him. She hired and fired – you guessed it – Indian laborers, some of whom were undoubtedly relatives, but neither side ever knew it. She died thinking that 1) she was English, and 2) she was the lineal descendant of those English “parents.” To this day, I’m not sure how they explained the differences in coloring – probably via the “Gasp! That’s not discussed in polite company” method.

Also ironically, after her adoption, her new parents went on to have nine biological children of their own. You’d’ve thought they could’ve been a little less greedy about acquiring someone else’s child as a possession.

NAN line separater

Nobody is suggesting that the foster-case system in South Dakota is treating Indian children the way the boarding schools did back, in Carter’s words, in the “bad old days.” Or that children are being snatched in quite the same way that the churches did decades ago. But many of today’s Indian foster-kids are still losing their culture and the connection to their heritage.

Take the case of Janice Howe, one of the grandmothers that the NPR team focused on. Her four grandchildren, the children of her daughter Erin Yellow Robe, wound up in foster care despite the 1978 law.

Except rarely, that law requires that Indian children be placed with relatives, a tribal member or at the very least, another American Indian. And it requires states to do all they can to first keep a family together through services and programs. Surely, a grandmother qualifies.

But nothing Howe did over 18 months brought her grandchildren back until she told the Crow Creek tribal council that they were about to be put up for adoption. The council passed a resolution warning the state that if the Yellow Robe children were not returned, it would be charged with kidnapping and prosecuted. Nobody thought this would work, but it did.

“Antoinette came in and said ‘Grandma, Grandma. We get to stay! We get to stay!'” …

Howe thinks the babies were treated well. But Rashauna and Antoinette left a size 10 and came back a size smaller. Howe says they hoard food under their pillows and hide under the bed when a car pulls up.

“I feel like they were traumatized so much,” Howe says.

The children don’t remember their native dance, something Howe says is especially important for Antoinette, the oldest.

“We go to sweats,” Howe says. “We have ceremonies at certain times a year. She’s got to be getting ready to learn these things that she has to do in order to become a young lady. They took a year and a half away from us. How are we going to get that back?”

Among other tasks, Danny Sheehan works for the Lakota People’s law office. He has about 150 case files on removals.

“These are all the different people who had their kids taken away from their entire families. … Not one of them has had their children left with a relative of any kind.”

He hopes one day he can sue. …

“Maybe if we devoted all our resources to a particular case and said, look, we’re going to land on you like a ton of bricks [social services] and make you give this one kid back and sue you and do everything else, they would probably just turn the kid loose,” he says. “But it wouldn’t change anything. It wouldn’t stop them from doing it a hundred times again.”

But why should lawsuits be necessary? There is a law against what’s being done. It’s just not being enforced. A good deal of the reason for that is because the centuries-long efforts to make Indians disappear, to make us invisible, has succeeded. Our political clout in such matters, even in places where we can still be found in substantial numbers, is next to zero. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act appears to us to be just another ignored bit of paper, like hundreds of treaties, and nobody official is doing squat about it. When it comes to invisible Indians who enforces the enforcers?


America’s Shame: Forgotten Warriors on Memorial Day

[This is a rewritten version of a diary first posted for Memorial Day 2008.]

My stepfather’s brother died with other Marines on the beach at Guadacanal during World War II.

My best friend in my high school days, Manny Miller, was killed in the early days of the Vietnam War.

These men will be honored on Monday in Memorial Day ceremonies along with nearly a million of their soldier, sailor, marine, coast guard, air force and militia compatriots who gave their lives in military service. Technically, Memorial Day is a remembrance of all who lived before us, those who gave their lives in military service or not. But its origins among formerly enslaved African Americans as Decoration Day and long-standing tradition continue to make it a day to take special note of those who lost their lives while in the military.

No distinction is made between the hundreds of thousands who died fighting in wars most Americans would consider righteous and the hundreds of thousands who were killed in the furtherance of bad causes or died in vain because their criminal or reckless leaders sent them into harm’s way for greed, stupidity or empire. Those who fought in gray uniforms in a war of secession are given the same reverence, the same moments of silence, the same commemoration of sacrifice as those who wore blue into battle.

It doesn’t matter whether they were white boys from the First Tennessee Infantry Regiment who fell in the land-grabbing war with Mexico in 1847, black soldiers of the 93rd Infantry Division fighting Germans in the war to end all wars, or Japanese-Americans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team slugging their way through Italy while their relatives lived incarcerated in camps back home.

It doesn’t matter whether their name was Hernández, or Hansen, or Hashimoto. It makes no never mind whether they caught enemy shrapnel or a bullet from friendly fire. No difference if they were drafted or volunteered. Nor whether they died fighting for liberty more than 200 years ago at


Southern Cheyenne

(1839-June 25, 1876)

Bunker Hill or crushing it more than 100 years ago in the boondocks of the Philippines. On Memorial Day all American warriors who lost their lives are honored because they did lose their lives.  

With one exception.

My great-great-great-great-great uncle was killed by U.S. soldiers during the Second Seminole War. Other distant relatives were killed during the Third Seminole War. Killed for trying to hold onto freedom, land, the right to self-determination. They get no recognition on Memorial Day.

On the hand, whether they killed warriors and women on the banks of the Pease River in Texas, the Washita River in Kansas, Sand Creek in Colorado or Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota; whether they fought Shawnee in Indiana, Asakiwaki in Wisconsin, Lakota and Cheyenne in Montana, Chiricahua in Arizona, Nez Perce in Idaho or Modocs in California, the men in blue who were killed in the Indian Wars are among those who will be honored Monday.

“Peace through Unity” sculpture at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

(Photo: Richard E. Miller)

But the thousands of warriors they killed – the ancestors of us “original” Americans – aren’t counted for the ultimately futile but unhesitating sacrifice they made fighting to keep their people free. On Memorial Day, they are invisible. Monuments to the Rebel dead can be found in practically every town of the Confederacy. Memorials to Indian resistance are next to non-existent.

Many Americans of Indian ancestry are, of course, interred in military cemeteries. As far back as the Revolutionary War, Indians have fought in uniform under the Stars and Stripes. But those who died in the century of armed resistance from 1790 to 1890 get no recognition, even though the battlefields where they resisted can be found in nearly every state of the union.

Attempts have been made to correct this. In 2002, the 1909 memorial on the Denver Capitol grounds that honored the 22 soldiers killed as they and their compatriots massacred the southern Arapaho and Cheyenne at Sand Creek got a new plaque to replace the one calling that slaughter a Civil War victory for the Union.

And 19 years ago, after years of vicious racist attacks from foes of the switch, the Custer Battlefield National Monument was renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Now, intermixed with the 249 white marble 7th Cavalry gravestones are a double handful of red granite gravestones placed at the site since 1999 for fallen Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. An innovative Indian memorial was designed on the theme of “Peace through Unity” and includes a haunting sculpture (see photo). Steps in the right direction. But not nearly enough.

The marker for the Southern Cheyenne battle

chief known as Ve’ho’enohnenehe is one

of a few red granite gravestones added

at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National

Monument since 1999 to honor the fallen

Lakota and Cheyenne warriors there.

(Photo by MB)

Scores of sites throughout America could display memorial statues commemorating events with succinct plaques: From this site in 17– or 18–, the Anishinaabe (or Comanche, or Alibamu) were removed to reservations far from home in ——- after 50 (or 120, or 350) of their number were killed in a surprise attack by the U.S. soldiers, some of whom cut off breasts or scrota for use as trophies and tobacco pouches. Their lands were turned over to settlers, miners and railroad builders and the city of —— was built on their burial grounds.

Monday, when the nation’s war dead are remembered, when we are supposed to put aside political and ethnic divisions for a few moments of introspection, many of our politicians still won’t take a break from the lies – past and current lies – for which too many men and women went prematurely into the ground. Monday, we will hear plenty from many politicians about liberty, freedom and sacrifice associated with American wars, but nothing about the plunder, rapine and imperial machinations associated with some of those wars, the Mexican War, the Philippines War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and, of course, the Indian Wars.

Let me be crystal clear. I’m for moving ahead, for transcendence, Indians and non-Indians alike. We live in the 21st Century, and people alive now bear no responsibility and should carry no guilt for what was done more than a century or two ago.

But Monday is Memorial Day, memory day, and, just as we do not forget the men who froze at Valley Forge or took bullets at Fort Wagner or were blown up at Khe Sanh, there is no excuse for the nation to retreat into convenient amnesia and forget the deaths of those who resisted the theft and genocide led by leaders masquerading as divinely inspired messengers of freedom in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Until the nation remembers all its dead warriors, you’ll pardon me if my Memorial Day reverence is tempered with an undercurrent of rage.

On Mother’s Day, Remembering My Puse 56 Years Later

Fifty-six years ago this summer, August 23, 1955, a stroke killed my grandmother, Simmalikee. She had been my mother until then, raising me until my own mother, who was just 15 when I was born, could get her chaotic life together. Suddenly, aged 51, my grandmother was gone. I miss her still. Especially on Mother’s Day.

My grandmother connected me to the Seminole world-the tribal world, the spirit world of our panther clan, the Muskogee language of our Creek ancestors-in ways that my mixed-blood grandfather did not. After his teen years, he had chosen a different road, coal miner, union organizer, political radical. Not that he ever forgot his origins. The world wouldn’t let him.

At Big Cypress in 1965, Billy Bowlegs III,

the half-African American, half-Seminole

tribal historian, at age 103.

But like so many Indians of his and later generations, operating in the new world cut him off from the old world, the half-assimilated culture of his parents and grandparents. He left the land that would later become the Seminole reservation on the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee when he was not yet 20, and, except for brief visits, he did not return there until the final two years of his life five decades later.

My grandmother, on the other hand, would have lived forever where she was born if she could have. When she wed my grandfather at age 16, however, she signed on for a peripatetic life that took them and their children to the coal and metal mines of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois, West Virginia, Alabama and finally Georgia, where I was born. But, every August, no matter what, she traveled to Brighton for the Green Corn Ceremony and the stomp dance. Five times she took me with her on the long, long bus ride in those pre-Interstate highway days through a blur of towns and cities: Blakely, Bainbridge, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Ocala, Lakeland and Winter Haven, until we got to the Big Water.

There, for five or six weeks, I played with my first and second cousins, dark-skinned and light, full bloods and mixed. We caught frogs and snakes in the sawgrass, paddled flatboats and canoes in the marsh, and listened rapt to my great aunts and great uncles tell stories in Creek and English that they had heard from their own great uncles and aunts who had lived through the last two Seminole wars with the United States. They spoke of the government’s betrayal of Osceola, of Aripeka and his half-Irish wife Itee, and of Olacto Mico, known to the outside world as Billy Bowlegs.

At age 7, I was introduced along with some of my visiting cousins to Chofeehatcho, Billy Bowlegs III, a grandson of Osceola who was then 91 years old and would live another 12. His father was African American, his mother half-Seminole and half-Scottish, and he had been the tribal historian for 50 years. I remember he had piercing eyes and a deep voice. We all sat on his porch while he told us kids a story about a character I knew well from my grandmother’s own stories, Chufi, the rabbit who is trickster, just as coyote is in Southwest Indian lore.

Like my grandmother, when the ceremonies were over and all the summer visitors prepared to leave, I never wanted to get back on the bus. But my grandfather wanted her home and me back in school. Obligations that could not be denied.

My grandmother was herself not keen on school. From age 9 until 15, she had been  taken away to boarding school, a Cherokee boarding school since there was none exclusively for Seminoles. There, they worked her over but good, doing all they could to snatch away her culture, her language, her roots. They did not succeed. But as young as I was, I knew she was bitter about the attempt.

At home, in an extended family sometimes swelling to more than a dozen in a big but dilapidated house my grandfather had managed to buy for back taxes, she was my guide, my explainer, my soother and my shield against the none-too-friendly world of Jim Crow. She counseled me to patience but not surrender.

Although some of the memories have faded in the decades since she was there every day for me, one that I have told here previously remains sharp-edged, as if it had happened yesterday:

I was 6 years old and sitting next to my grandmother at the table where as many as 14 of our extended family members ate our evening meals. I quickly finished my small plate of rice and beans, and said, “But, grandma, I’m still hungry.” Everyone went silent. My grandma, Simmalikee, smiled at me, took her plate and scraped off the several spoonfuls she had not yet eaten onto mine. No, I thought. Not your food, grandma. Some other food. I sobbed as she coaxed me to eat each bite. No matter how empty my belly felt, I never again said I was still hungry after a meal.

That was a long time ago, and my grandma has been dead more than 50 years, but I have never forgotten that terrible moment nor what it means to be poor. If there was meat or fish on the table then, it was possum, deer, catfish and the occasional wild hog. In those days, before food stamps, we received surplus government hand-outs every month: rice, beans, cornmeal, lard, cheese and powdered milk. It was never enough, and toward the end of each month, everybody’s portions got smaller.

I escaped that poverty long ago. And, as I said, I’ve forgotten many of the details my grandmother taught me, including much of the language we spoke with each other. But she will forever be in my heart, and Mother’s Day will never pass without the memory of her smile and embrace bringing me to tears. M’vto, puse, (thank you, grandmother) for all you did.

Obama Will Sign Rights Declaration

What with the Afghan war review, tax-cut extensions, omnibus budget bill, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the DREAM Act, a bit of good news got mostly ignored Thursday. President Barack Obama informed representatives of  hundreds of recognized American Indian tribes that he will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Obama made the announcement during a speech at the 2nd Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference:

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.    

The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill.  And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country.  But I want to be clear:  What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s what this conference is about.  That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Let me respond with one of the first words my Seminole grandmother Simmalikee taught me more than 60 years ago: “M’vto,  Mr. President. Thank you.” This is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  

Although not legally binding, the human rights declaration, a public acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, property, religion, language and culture, has been sought for decades. When it was first voted on at the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, only four votes were cast against it – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Canada now remains the only hold-out.

Susan Masten, a Yurok who is chairperson of the board of directors of the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC), had this to say:

Robert T. Coulter, a Potawatomi who is founder of the ILRC, wrote a column praising Obama’s announcement.

At Indian Country Today, the Oneida Nation-owned weekly based in  Canastota, N.Y., Rob Capriccioso reported:

The president also used his summit speech to clarify his support for the Native American Apology Resolution, which he signed last year, after which he did not make an out-loud apology to Native Americans for the historic federal injustices noted in the legislation. Some Natives said at the time that for the apology to hold weight, he should say it out loud.

“It’s a resolution I fully supported – recognizing that no statement can undo the damage that was done; what it can do is help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future. It’s only by heeding the lessons of our history that we can move forward.”

Heeding history’s lessons is good advice in a lot of matters.

American Indians have been next-to-invisible in our nation’s discourse over the past 120 years, marginalized, ignored, discriminated against and cheated simply because we can be without political repercussions. Voter suppression that would raise holy hoopla if it were imposed on any other ethnicity gets little attention. Indian poverty, crime, domestic violence, endemic joblessness, resource rip-offs and a multitude of other ills are covered by the media in the most superficial and stereotypical manner when they are acknowledged at all. It’s not untypical to hear non-Indians say that casinos have made things all better.

Signing the indigenous rights declaration won’t make all these problems go away, of course. And there are no doubt those who would love to see this as merely a feel-good symbolic ritual that requires no follow-up. But, if it’s taken seriously, it should spur “actions to match those words,” such as the recently signed Claims Resolution Act. As Masten, Coulter and others say, this is just a beginning. There have been false starts before. But the Obama White House has already done more than the past 11 administrations to advance the rights of Indian nations. Most important of all, it has shown the good sense to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Will Sign Rights Declaration

What with the Afghan war review, tax-cut extensions, omnibus budget bill, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the DREAM Act, a bit of good news got mostly ignored Thursday. President Barack Obama informed representatives of  hundreds of recognized American Indian tribes that he will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Obama made the announcement during a speech at the 2nd Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference:

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.    

The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill.  And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country.  But I want to be clear:  What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s what this conference is about.  That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Let me respond with one of the first words my Seminole grandmother Simmalikee taught me more than 60 years ago: “M’vto,  Mr. President. Thank you.” This is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  

Although not legally binding, the human rights declaration, a public acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, property, religion, language and culture, has been sought for decades. When it was first voted on at the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, only four votes were cast against it – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Canada now remains the only hold-out.

Susan Masten, a Yurok who is chairperson of the board of directors of the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC), had this to say:

Robert T. Coulter, a Potawatomi who is founder of the ILRC, wrote a column praising Obama’s announcement.

At Indian Country Today, the Oneida Nation-owned weekly based in  Canastota, N.Y., Rob Capriccioso reported:

The president also used his summit speech to clarify his support for the Native American Apology Resolution, which he signed last year, after which he did not make an out-loud apology to Native Americans for the historic federal injustices noted in the legislation. Some Natives said at the time that for the apology to hold weight, he should say it out loud.

“It’s a resolution I fully supported – recognizing that no statement can undo the damage that was done; what it can do is help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future. It’s only by heeding the lessons of our history that we can move forward.”

Heeding history’s lessons is good advice in a lot of matters.

American Indians have been next-to-invisible in our nation’s discourse over the past 120 years, marginalized, ignored, discriminated against and cheated simply because we can be without political repercussions. Voter suppression that would raise holy hoopla if it were imposed on any other ethnicity gets little attention. Indian poverty, crime, domestic violence, endemic joblessness, resource rip-offs and a multitude of other ills are covered by the media in the most superficial and stereotypical manner when they are acknowledged at all. It’s not untypical to hear non-Indians say that casinos have made things all better.

Signing the indigenous rights declaration won’t make all these problems go away, of course. And there are no doubt those who would love to see this as merely a feel-good symbolic ritual that requires no follow-up. But, if it’s taken seriously, it should spur “actions to match those words,” such as the recently signed Claims Resolution Act. As Masten, Coulter and others say, this is just a beginning. There have been false starts before. But the Obama White House has already done more than the past 11 administrations to advance the rights of Indian nations. Most important of all, it has shown the good sense to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Will Sign Rights Declaration

What with the Afghan war review, tax-cut extensions, omnibus budget bill, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the DREAM Act, a bit of good news got mostly ignored Thursday. President Barack Obama informed representatives of  hundreds of recognized American Indian tribes that he will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Obama made the announcement during a speech at the 2nd Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference:

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.    

The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill.  And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country.  But I want to be clear:  What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s what this conference is about.  That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Let me respond with one of the first words my Seminole grandmother Simmalikee taught me more than 60 years ago: “M’vto,  Mr. President. Thank you.” This is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  

Although not legally binding, the human rights declaration, a public acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, property, religion, language and culture, has been sought for decades. When it was first voted on at the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, only four votes were cast against it – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Canada now remains the only hold-out.

Susan Masten, a Yurok who is chairperson of the board of directors of the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC), had this to say:

Robert T. Coulter, a Potawatomi who is founder of the ILRC, wrote a column praising Obama’s announcement.

At Indian Country Today, the Oneida Nation-owned weekly based in  Canastota, N.Y., Rob Capriccioso reported:

The president also used his summit speech to clarify his support for the Native American Apology Resolution, which he signed last year, after which he did not make an out-loud apology to Native Americans for the historic federal injustices noted in the legislation. Some Natives said at the time that for the apology to hold weight, he should say it out loud.

“It’s a resolution I fully supported – recognizing that no statement can undo the damage that was done; what it can do is help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future. It’s only by heeding the lessons of our history that we can move forward.”

Heeding history’s lessons is good advice in a lot of matters.

American Indians have been next-to-invisible in our nation’s discourse over the past 120 years, marginalized, ignored, discriminated against and cheated simply because we can be without political repercussions. Voter suppression that would raise holy hoopla if it were imposed on any other ethnicity gets little attention. Indian poverty, crime, domestic violence, endemic joblessness, resource rip-offs and a multitude of other ills are covered by the media in the most superficial and stereotypical manner when they are acknowledged at all. It’s not untypical to hear non-Indians say that casinos have made things all better.

Signing the indigenous rights declaration won’t make all these problems go away, of course. And there are no doubt those who would love to see this as merely a feel-good symbolic ritual that requires no follow-up. But, if it’s taken seriously, it should spur “actions to match those words,” such as the recently signed Claims Resolution Act. As Masten, Coulter and others say, this is just a beginning. There have been false starts before. But the Obama White House has already done more than the past 11 administrations to advance the rights of Indian nations. Most important of all, it has shown the good sense to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Will Sign U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

What with the Afghan war review, tax-cut extensions, omnibus budget bill, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the DREAM Act, a bit of good news got mostly ignored Thursday. President Barack Obama informed representatives of  hundreds of recognized American Indian tribes that he will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Obama made the announcement during a speech at the 2nd Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference:

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.    

The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill.  And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country.  But I want to be clear:  What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s what this conference is about.  That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Let me respond with one of the first words my Seminole grandmother Simmalikee taught me more than 60 years ago: “M’vto,  Mr. President. Thank you.” This is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  

Although not legally binding, the human rights declaration, a public acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, property, religion, language and culture, has been sought for decades. When it was first voted on at the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, only four votes were cast against it – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Canada now remains the only hold-out.

Susan Masten, a Yurok who is chairperson of the board of directors of the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC), had this to say:

Robert T. Coulter, a Potawatomi who is founder of the ILRC, wrote a column praising Obama’s announcement.

At Indian Country Today, the Oneida Nation-owned weekly based in  Canastota, N.Y., Rob Capriccioso reported:

The president also used his summit speech to clarify his support for the Native American Apology Resolution, which he signed last year, after which he did not make an out-loud apology to Native Americans for the historic federal injustices noted in the legislation. Some Natives said at the time that for the apology to hold weight, he should say it out loud.

“It’s a resolution I fully supported – recognizing that no statement can undo the damage that was done; what it can do is help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future. It’s only by heeding the lessons of our history that we can move forward.”

Heeding history’s lessons is good advice in a lot of matters.

American Indians have been next-to-invisible in our nation’s discourse over the past 120 years, marginalized, ignored, discriminated against and cheated simply because we can be without political repercussions. Voter suppression that would raise holy hoopla if it were imposed on any other ethnicity gets little attention. Indian poverty, crime, domestic violence, endemic joblessness, resource rip-offs and a multitude of other ills are covered by the media in the most superficial and stereotypical manner when they are acknowledged at all. It’s not untypical to hear non-Indians say that casinos have made things all better.

Signing the indigenous rights declaration won’t make all these problems go away, of course. And there are no doubt those who would love to see this as merely a feel-good symbolic ritual that requires no follow-up. But, if it’s taken seriously, it should spur “actions to match those words,” such as the recently signed Claims Resolution Act. As Masten, Coulter and others say, this is just a beginning. There have been false starts before. But the Obama White House has already done more than the past 11 administrations to advance the rights of Indian nations. Most important of all, it has shown the good sense to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama Will Sign U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

What with the Afghan war review, tax-cut extensions, omnibus budget bill, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the DREAM Act, a bit of good news got mostly ignored Thursday. President Barack Obama informed representatives of  hundreds of recognized American Indian tribes that he will sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Obama made the announcement during a speech at the 2nd Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference:

And as you know, in April, we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And today I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.    

The aspirations it affirms – including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples – are one we must always seek to fulfill.  And we’re releasing a more detailed statement about U.S. support for the declaration and our ongoing work in Indian Country.  But I want to be clear:  What matters far more than words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.  And that’s what this conference is about.  That’s what this conference is about.  That’s the standard I expect my administration to be held to.

Let me respond with one of the first words my Seminole grandmother Simmalikee taught me more than 60 years ago: “M’vto,  Mr. President. Thank you.” This is a small but welcome step in the right direction.  

Although not legally binding, the human rights declaration, a public acknowledgment of indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, property, religion, language and culture, has been sought for decades. When it was first voted on at the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, only four votes were cast against it – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Canada now remains the only hold-out.

Susan Masten, a Yurok who is chairperson of the board of directors of the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC), had this to say:

Robert T. Coulter, a Potawatomi who is founder of the ILRC, wrote a column praising Obama’s announcement.

At Indian Country Today, the Oneida Nation-owned weekly based in  Canastota, N.Y., Rob Capriccioso reported:

The president also used his summit speech to clarify his support for the Native American Apology Resolution, which he signed last year, after which he did not make an out-loud apology to Native Americans for the historic federal injustices noted in the legislation. Some Natives said at the time that for the apology to hold weight, he should say it out loud.

“It’s a resolution I fully supported – recognizing that no statement can undo the damage that was done; what it can do is help reaffirm the principles that should guide our future. It’s only by heeding the lessons of our history that we can move forward.”

Heeding history’s lessons is good advice in a lot of matters.

American Indians have been next-to-invisible in our nation’s discourse over the past 120 years, marginalized, ignored, discriminated against and cheated simply because we can be without political repercussions. Voter suppression that would raise holy hoopla if it were imposed on any other ethnicity gets little attention. Indian poverty, crime, domestic violence, endemic joblessness, resource rip-offs and a multitude of other ills are covered by the media in the most superficial and stereotypical manner when they are acknowledged at all. It’s not untypical to hear non-Indians say that casinos have made things all better.

Signing the indigenous rights declaration won’t make all these problems go away, of course. And there are no doubt those who would love to see this as merely a feel-good symbolic ritual that requires no follow-up. But, if it’s taken seriously, it should spur “actions to match those words,” such as the recently signed Claims Resolution Act. As Masten, Coulter and others say, this is just a beginning. There have been false starts before. But the Obama White House has already done more than the past 11 administrations to advance the rights of Indian nations. Most important of all, it has shown the good sense to listen.

Posted in Uncategorized