About Neeta Lind

Neeta Lind is a tribally enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. In 2006, she founded Native American Netroots, an online forum for the discussion of political, social and economic issues affecting the indigenous peoples of the United States, including their lack of political representation, economic deprivation, health care issues, and the on-going struggle for preservation of identity and cultural history. Neeta has led the Native American Caucus at Netroots Nation for six years. Her blogging at Daily Kos in 2010 caught the attention of Keith Olbermann, who focused two segments of MSNBC's “Countdown” on the winter ice storm disaster in South Dakota that devastated the Lakota reservations. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised to help these tribes as a result. She is co-editor of the Daily Kos series “First Nations News & Views.” Neeta, who blogs under the moniker "navajo" also organizes regional in-person Daily Kos events to facilitate future political actions throughout the nation. She is an Urban Indian living the San Francisco Bay Area.

Photos & Video of Event Honoring Kossack Carter Camp in White Eagle, Oklahoma

Last Saturday I announced I was in Oklahoma to attend a special Ponca dance to honor Kossack Carter Camp aka cacamp for his role in the Wounded Knee take over 40 years ago. As promised, here are photos and video from that terrific event.

We gathered at the Ponca Cultural Center in White Eagle, OK. The event started with traditional gourd dancing, this is a 60 second video just to give you a taste:



I was welcomed by Carter’s family as we were waiting for him to arrive.


Casey Camp-Horinek and I think, her husband. Casey is Carter’s younger sister, she’s an actress and activist. She organized this event and directed it during the day and evening. With more than 200 in attendance you can imagine how much work that involved. She hardly sat down. When Carter arrived I told him Casey had been taking care of me and he said, “Isn’t she something!” He loves her.


I was also welcomed by Duane Camp, Carter’s younger brother, who was at Wounded Knee.


A close-up of Duane Camp’s sash


Carter’s sons were there, Kenneth there on the left helped me set up my chair next to the family and caught me up on all the details unfolding around me


This is Bear aka Sugar Bear, I was sitting near him. He was very friendly and brought me water. He made sure I was okay for the 9 hours I was there. He’s a Wounded Knee vet, his photo is here from ’73.

Speaking of old photos, Casey put on display her collection of Carter’s photos from Wounded Knee 73′:


Carter led Military Operations for the take over of Wounded Knee






Dennis Banks was there, here he asked to read Carter’s essay I mounted as a gift for Carter. Dennis said he’s never read it before.


Carter arrives!


Carter holds court the rest of the night


Carter signs a patch on an AIM blanket



All the attending Wounded Knee vets signed, the blanket was later presented to Carter


Casey had a special song created just for this event, one to honor all her brothers as Wounded Knee vets. Here they are listening to the song.

After that an honor dance:



(vid is 5:55 minutes)

Me presenting gifts to Carter Camp

My new friend, Glenda Sue Deer took this photo of me presenting Aji & Wings’s jewelry gifts to him. (h/t mimi)


Carter holds his new silver bracelet up for all to see, the one made by Wings

Carter then publicly thanked Native American Netroots. He said, “What you’re doing is the next wave of Indian activism. Technology is now connecting us all and we can be stronger. When you started NAN at Dkos there was nothing for a long time. Now, look what you’ve built. Thank you for telling our stories and getting our words out there to educate the public about our causes.” (paraphrased)


Linda and Carter Camp with their sleeping grandbaby

This is a day I’ll always remember. My chance to meet my hero and tell him how much he is loved by the Native American Netroots Kossacks.


Click on photo to see notes

You can see all 250 photos I took here:


Please read Aji’s diary for Ponca history: * New Day * – This Week In American Indian News: Carter Camp’s Ponca Nation

Posted in Uncategorized

First Nations News & Views: Miss Navajo Nation, Pe’ Sla Update and Custer-Loving GOP Moron


Welcome to the 21st edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find news about the Navajo Nation Annual Fair and crowning of Miss Navajo, an update on Pe’ Sla and Pat Rodgers’s last stand, a look at the years 1686 and 1935 in American Indian history, three news briefs and some bulleted news items. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Miss Navajo Nation

By navajo

The 2012 Navajo Nation Fair is coming up on September 2. The eight-day event is the largest American Indian fair in the nation and is celebrating its 66th year. Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez, who is 90, will be the grand marshal. Nez is the only living member of the original 29 U.S. Marine Corps 382nd Platoon who used the Navajo language to develop an unbreakable secret code in World War II to defeat the Japanese.

The fair will be typical in many respects. There will be a parade, rodeo, half marathon race, concerts, dancing, horticulture and an art market. But the overall flare will be uniquely Navajo. Events such as a traditional Navajo song and dance competition will feature people, including many elders, from all over the reservation dressed in their finest traditional clothing. This is in addition to a general powwow competition that is open to all tribes.

The theme the year is Appreciating Tradition. In 1999, the Branch Chiefs of the Navajo government declared that one of the fundamental principles should be the preservation of Navajo culture.

Crystalyne Gayle Curley, Miss Navajo Nation 2011-2012

~Photo Courtesy of the Office of Miss Navajo Nation

Another event based on appreciating tradition is the Miss Navajo Nation contest. While most beauty pageants have been justifiably criticized for objectifying women and focusing entirely on their appearance to the exclusion of their achievements, this pageant has NEVER had a swimsuit competition, There is an evening gown competition but the contestants are advised to select outfits that are conservative and show respect to the elders in the audience. Modesty in dress is a strong norm on the reservation. There is also a traditional Navajo clothing contest in which the women display their rich velveteen ensembles with their family heirloom silver and turquoise jewelry. Traditional Navajo moccasins and leggings are usually worn.

There is a public speaking segment to the competition where the contestants must show their fluency in both English and Navajo. There is a public interview session where questions might include “According to Navajo mythology, how are the stars created and placed?” and “How does the Navajo seal reflect the Navajo government?”

Each contestant must perform a skill and a talent in both the categories of traditional and modern. The modern category must be done in English and the traditional one in Navajo. Modern skills could include dance, acting, gymnastics. Modern talents can include singing, literary arts or musical performance. Traditional skills can be dancing, weaving, storytelling, making jewelry and grinding corn. Acceptable traditional talents include singing, musical performance or hobbies presented in an artful or musical format in Navajo.

Photo Courtesy of Navajo Times – Leigh T. Jimmie

Of course there is a fry bread contest, which is probably a popular expectation of a Miss Navajo Nation contestant. But many people do not know that there is a sheep-butchering competition. This event draws the largest crowds of spectators aside from the coronation. Sheep are held in very high regard on the reservation. They sustain life. Traditional Navajo families still maintain herds of sheep, and they must butcher them themselves. I’ve watched my aunties do this many times. It’s a definitive part of our culture and one that the Miss Navajo Council thought should be one of the selection methods for the crown. Sheep butchering became required in 1995 as a competition category.

Contestants are formed into small teams. They all begin at the same time and the team furthest along in the process after one hour wins points for each of the contestants. Each team must carry a live sheep to the arena, slit its throat, drain the blood into pans, break off its hooves, sever the head, hoist the carcass to hang and finish butchering, skin the fleece, remove and save all the organs, which will be cleaned and prepared for grilling. Cheered by the crowd are hallmarks such as hoisting the sheep to a hanging position or properly removing the legs but keeping them connected by the back muscles so they can be hung to cure, an important Navajo treatment.

According to the Miss Navajo Nation Council, “the pageant winner represents womanhood and fulfills the role of “grandmother, mother, aunt and sister” to the Navajo people. As a role model, Miss Navajo must exemplify the essence and characters of First Woman, White Shell Woman and Changing Woman and to display leadership as the Goodwill Ambassador.”

The first Miss Navajo crowned was

Dr. Beulah Ream Allen in 1952

Sixty years ago, at its annual fair, the Navajo Nation selected its first Miss Navajo Nation, Beulah Ream Allen. She was 55 when she was crowned. In those days, the “contestant who received the most and loudest applause from the audience would be crowned as the new Miss Navajo.” No surprise that Dr. Allen won. A physician, she had delivered many Navajo babies and taken care of the sick at Chinle. Today, a panel of judges assign points to each contestant for each of the contest categories over a five-day period.

In 1956 through 1963 there were two appointed Miss Navajos, one traditional and one modern. “Both positions were prestigious, as it was the responsibility of each to bridge the gap between the outside world and the Navajo Nation.” Sunni Dooley, Miss Navajo 1982-83, quipped that the modern one was always “one who looked like Jackie Kennedy.” Many photos of the past Miss Navajos can be seen here.

Currently, Miss Navajo’s duties are to promote and educate about the Navajo culture, language and traditions. She travels internationally and locally on behalf of the Navajo people for one year.

Unlike most beauty pageants around the world, the Miss Navajo Nation competition is about the Navajo word for beauty, balance and harmony: hózhǫ́ in short. The Navajo mantra is to do everything with beauty. Walk in beauty, think in beauty. If you perform your life’s actions in a beautiful way, then harmony with the earth will be balanced and achieved. Miss Navajo Nation is about the beauty within.

A film documentary by Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo), Miss Navajo, was released in 2006.

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 1686 and 1935

By Meteor Blades

On Aug. 27, 1686, the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) chiefs Mayhkeerickkishsho, Sayhoppy and Taughhoughsey supposedly sold lands along the Delaware River on the border between present-day Pennsylvania and New Jersey to William Penn. The land in question was to be measured by how far a man could walk in a day and half. Thus was born the notorious “Walking Purchase”-if one believes the document was real. No original was ever found and there is no record of the sale in Pennsylvania’s provincial land records.

Such paced-off land deals were not an unusual practice in those days. Even though King Charles II had granted all of Pennsylvania to Penn in 1681 with a stroke of his royal quill, Penn himself cultivated peaceful relations with the Indians in the region by treating them, by the standards of the time, with fairness and an honest tongue. Among other things, before selling land to colonists, Penn bought it from the Indians living on it, set clear boundaries and made sure payment was actually given. There were many such purchases, most of them small.

After Penn’s death in 1718, his sons gained the proprietorship of Pennsylvania. They had a taste for the good life and consistently outspent their income, incurring huge debts. But there was a remedy close at hand. European settlers were pouring into the area, many of them merely squatting on Native land without permission. The Proprietors felt an urgent need to extend their authority into those lands, particularly into areas where German immigrants had settled across the line from New York.

It was at this time-1732 or 1734, historians differ-that a copy of the 1686 treaty, which somehow hadn’t previously come to light, was conveniently discovered by Thomas Penn. Indians had not heard of this treaty and were, to put it mildly, not interested in ceding land that they did not believe they had ever agreed to transfer nor for which they had ever been paid. The 1686 document was incomplete and unsigned and perhaps wholly fabricated. In other words, it was a swindle. Nonetheless, the Penns began selling Lenape lands in the area before the Indians agreed and before any effort was made to measure its area.

The Lenape went to the Iroquois Confederacy seeking redress. But the Iroquois, to whom the Lenape were subordinate, had no interest in helping and themselves made a deal with the Penns giving up their interest in the land at question. Eventually, in 1737, helpless to resist effectively, enough Lenape grudgingly agreed to the deal. And so the measurement was made. The Indians figured, based on previous walking purchases, that the walkers could cover perhaps 35-40 miles. But the Penns were not their father. They hired the three fastest men they knew, cleared the route ahead of time and sent them on their way along a northwesterly route not set out by the alleged 1686 document. So fast did they go that two of the men dropped out and the third collapsed from exhaustion, having covered about 70 miles, reaching near the present-day Jim Thorpe, Pa., at the foot of the Blue Mountain.

The Lenape chief Lappawinsoe said of the cheating:

[the white runners] should have walkt along by the River Delaware or the next Indian path to it… should have walkt for a few Miles and then have sat down and smoakt a Pipe, and now and then have shot a Squirrel, and not have kept up the Run, Run all day.

When the surveyor’s lines were drawn, the “Walking Purchase” encompassed 1.2 million acres.

The Lenape refused to surrender the land and the Proprietors sought help from the Iroquois in pushing them out, which those Indians did. In 1741, having no choice but a war they could not win, the Lenape left, beginning a journey with a series of stopovers that eventually took them, under constant duress, to Indian territory, today’s Oklahoma. Today, there are two federally recognized tribes there, although Lenape also live in small clusters in New Jersey and Wisconsin.

In 2004, the Lenape sued in federal court to regain 315 acres of the original Walking Purchase. In Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the tribe. While there was included in the ruling a sentence about the “sad example of our forefathers’ interactions with the Indian nations,” the justices said it made no difference whether the land had been purchased or taken by fraud since Thomas Penn had sovereignty under the “doctrine of discovery.” The court thus had no jurisdiction in the matter of the extinguishment of aboriginal title. The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to take up the case on appeal.


On Aug. 28, 1935, Congress passed the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The purpose behind this was to “promote the economic welfare of the Indian tribes and Indian individuals through the development of Indian arts and crafts and the expansion of the market for the products of Indian art and craftsmanship.” That act, and the subsequent Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 created a board within the Department of Interior whose tasks included creating “Government trade marks of genuineness and quality for Indian products and the products of particular Indian tribes or groups; to establish standards and regulations for the use of such trade marks; to license corporations, associations, or individuals to use them; and to charge a fee for their use; to register them in the United States Patent Office without charge.”

Under the 1990 act, truth-in-marketing regarding the Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of those who make crafts sold as Native products is required. A 2010 amendment allows for fines for violations by individuals of up to $250,000 and 15 years in the slam. Businesses can be fined up to $5 million and incur civil penalties as well.



The Walking Purchase, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

The Walking Purchase August 25, 1737, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania

Lenni Lenape

The Delaware Indians: A History, by C.A. Weslager

Indians 201: The Doctrine of Discovery, by Ojibwa

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1935, UA Native Net

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Pueblo Indian Council Calls for Removal of Custer-Loving New Mexico GOP Official

Sometimes, given the outlandishness of what’s said, you have to wonder if Republicans aren’t reading from a script slipped under the door to them by Democrats. That’s what it seems like in the case of Pat Rogers’s remarks about Lt. Col. George A. Custer contained in an email to New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez. The email has spurred the All-Pueblo Council to demand the removal of Rogers from his post as Republican National Committeeman.

Rogers is a heavy hitter in GOP circles in New Mexico, a partner and vice-president of the Modrall law firm of Albuquerque. He’s a registered lobbyist for Verizon, General Motors, Scientific Gaming and the University of Phoenix, among others. He was in 2007 the favored choice of a Karl Rove flunky for replacing David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney fired because the Bush administration didn’t think he was tough enough on voter fraud. Rogers had once called voter fraud “the single greatest wedge issue ever” and was instrumental in getting Yglesias tossed. So he was on the short list for the U.S. attorney job. He has also been implicated in the “emailgate” scandal in which private emails regarding public business have raised the possibility of bid-rigging and collusion.

Earlier this month, ProgressNow, a progressive grassroots organization, reported that Rogers had sent a June 8 email to Martinez after she had met with tribal leaders in the state:

Quislings, French surrender monkeys, secret supporters (all along) of JAJ [Janice Arnold Jones]

The state is going to hell. Col. [Allen] Weh [Martinez’s 2010 GOP primary opponent] would not have dishonored Col Custer in this manner.

I hope who ever recommended this is required to read the entire redist [redistricting law suit] transcript and sit through the entire meeting with the Gov.

The email, which you can read in its entirety here, didn’t become widely known until Ryan J. Reilly brought it up at Talking Points Memo Friday. The same day, Rogers offered a lame apology, justifying his comment calling Martinez a traitor in various ways as being humorous. The chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico has accepted the apology.

Some other folks did not.

On Saturday the chairman of New Mexico’s All Indian Pueblo Council called the email “racist in tone” and said Rogers should be removed as Republican National Committeeman. Chairman Chandler Sanchez said:

I call upon the Republican National Committee to remove Mr. Rogers from his official capacity within the committee. … His statement that Custer is some kind of hero demanding deference is offensive. We have come a long way in demanding racial tolerance and acceptance in the 21st century. But remarks and statements like those written by attorney Pat Rogers sadly make you wonder if the Republican Party and those who represent Governor Martinez share his views and attitude toward the Native populations of this state.”

It’s hard to imagine how any more dishonor could be brought against Custer than what he brought upon himself. In addition to the reckless pride that wiped out his command on the Little BigHorn in 1876, there was the massacre on the Washita River in 1868 and Custer’s custom of choosing an Indian woman to sleep with when he was in the field. Commonly known as rape.

One of these was a Cheyenne woman captured on the Washita, Monahseetah, with whom Custer supposedly fathered a blond child, Yellow Bird. But some historians believe the gonorrhea Custer had contracted at West Point made him sterile and the actual father of the Indian boy was Custer’s brother, Thomas. Share and share alike, it seems. Whatever the case, when Custer’s wife Libby came out West to be with him, he  abandoned Monahseetah. No Cheyenne would marry her.

It’s unknown whether Libby ever learned of her husband’s activities in this regard. If so, it did not stop her from spending decades transforming him after his death into a glorious hero. So much so that President Theodore Roosevelt warned Edward Curtis in 1907 that the famed photographer should not include a story in his forthcoming book on The North American Indian that put a harsh light on Custer’s behavior in the battle. The nation, Roosevelt told him, was not ready just three decades after the Battle of the Little BigHorn to see Custer demoted from the pantheon of “legitimate” heroes. Curtis agreed and left out what he had learned from men who had witnessed the battle.

Previously, only one man’s views had been accepted, a Crow scout named Curley who had bolstered the view that Custer had behaved as a good leader once the fight got under way. Curley was long said to have been the only survivor among the four scouts who were with Custer that June Day in Montana. But there were three others who told Curtis their story:

The three scouts’ narrative differed sharply from the accepted story, most markedly in their assertion that Custer had paused for 45 minutes on a high point on the bluffs, where he watched [Major] Reno’s defeat and declined to go to the major’s aid. […]

To the Scout’s thinking Custer should ride down there immediately and support Reno. “White Man Runs Him” became agitated and went up to Custer and told him that this is what Custer should do. “White Man Runs Him” relayed the exchange between him and Custer this way:

[White Man Runs Him] “I said, ‘Why don’t you cross the river and fight too?’ I scolded him. Custer replied ‘It is early yet and plenty of time. Let them fight. Our turn will come.'”

And so it did. While scholars knew better, not until the 1960s did the public get an inkling of Custer’s true self. The earlier heroic version was promoted by a score of bad films and his toppling from the pedestal in the public’s mind was also a product of a film, the 1970 Little Big Man, in which he is devastatingly depicted.

Rogers, who backed Weh in the 2010 primary, has many problems with the governor. But it’s difficult to understand why he picked Custer as his choice for taking his gratuitous poke at her for showing up at a meeting she is, by state law, required to attend. Custer never had anything to do with Indians in New Mexico.

So maybe it was just a casual slur. But it’s not hard to imagine Rogers being one of the Custer-loving morons who chose to send anonymous racist hate mail to the National Park Service in the year or so before it renamed the Custer Battlefield the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument in 1991. To some people, the man is still a hero.


Land of Enchantment will be diarying in detail Monday on some of Rogers’s activities.

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Auction Canceled But the Selling of Pe’ Sla Continues

While the public auction of land sacred to the Sioux in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been canceled, a quiet sale of the land is going on privately.

We reported in FNN&V last week that Pe’ Sla, a site sacred to the various Sioux tribes, was to be auctioned Saturday. To guarantee access, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Oyate Lakota) initiated a campaign to raise money to buy as many of the five tracts of the 1942-acre total as possible. At a potential high bid around $5000 an acre, everybody knew it would be an uphill battle, $10 million is no small matter regardless of who is raising the money and the Sioux are among the most impoverished citizens in our nation.

The outpouring of support was tremendous. As of today, $288,000 has been raised. The Rosebud Sioux have pledged another $1.3 million and some the other Sioux tribes plan to provide money of their own in this effort.

However, the fund-raising campaign turned into a double-edged sword. The publicity apparently spurred the property-owners to cancel the auction, and take the sale behind closed doors. Brock Auction Co., which was handling the sale of the land-divided into five tracts-made the announcement Thursday. The family gave no explanation.

Ruth Moon reported:

Neither the family nor the auction company has given a reason for the change, but one can offer a guess. Perhaps it was the thousands of tweets, the scores of news stories, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised in an unprecedented fund-raising campaign to buy the land back for the tribes by LastRealIndians.com. Or the threat of sale day becoming a major media draw, complete with prayer circles and protesters both near and far.

But the final straw may have been yesterday’s announcement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, strongly suggesting consultation with tribes on the impending sale.

As we reported in May, the Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, said that one of the things the United States could do to improve relations with the nation’s tribes would be to return some lands to the tribes, including the Black Hills, which were taken in a congressionally mandated land grab in 1877.

The Rapid City Journal reported on the cancelation of the aucton:

“We’re on pins and needles,” said Chase Iron Eyes, owner of Last Real Indians, a website and organization raising money to buy the land. “We’re nervous. We don’t know if it’s good or bad or what it is.”

“It could be good and it could be bad,” said Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “We just don’t know what the family wants. That’s kind of the unknown. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Here’s Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux) thanking donors and explaining the latest developments as they were known as of Saturday.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/yqKUOabKkME (video will not embed)

A staff member of the Lakota Peoples Law Project told FNN&V that the organization had phoned the real estate company now in charge of the Pe’ Sla sale to scope out the situation and was asked if he wanted to make a bid for the property. There are unconfirmed rumors that the sale will be completed Monday.

Even with so many unknown factors, the Native grass roots organizers are hopeful. With their efforts to gather financial support from several Sioux tribes and the public’s help this huge purchase is possible.

The fund-raising continues.

At the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota, $300.03 was raised with a blanket dance during the traditional Wakpala Wacipi (powwow) last week. “The elders in the community, the Uncis and Lalas (Grandmas and Grandpas) were brought to tears to see their children and grandchildren working to get our sacred lands back,” Iron Eyes said.

You can contribute here.

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Street Art Hits the Red Road: Lakota Activist Madonna Thunder Hawk Protests Pe’ Sla Sale to Non Natives

Madonna Thunder Hawk

Next weekend Madonna Thunder Hawk of the Lakota People’s Law Project will travel throughout South Dakota in a truck draped with two 28-by-10-foot banners by street artist Shepard Fairey, National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey, and graphic artist Ernesto Yerena. The art will feature the words “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale” and “Honor The Treaties.” The first stop will be the big powwow on Cheyenne River and then follow up with a Pe’ Sla action in Rapid City next week. As we have reported last week and this, Pe’ Sla is sacred to the Sioux people.

Last November, Fairey and Huey wheat-pasted a 20-by-60-foot mural on the Barracuda wall on Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. The mural featured a photograph, taken by Huey and adapted by Fairey, of a young Lakota girl with a feather in her hair. Its caption read “The Black Hills Are Not For Sale.” The words refer to the U.S.’s current policy of violating the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the Lakota’s refusal to accept compensation for the Black Hills.

The art displayed in Los Angeles last fall will be featured as an act of protest by Madonna Thunder Hawk in South Dakota next weekend on one side of an enormous truck. Another banner by Yerena and Huey will appear on the other side of the truck, with the caption “Honor The Treaties.”

Thunder Hawk has worked for five years with the Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) of Rapid City and Santa Cruz, California. Her work consists of organizing Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota grandmothers in South Dakota to win the return of Native American children to their families and tribes from white-run foster care, as mandated by the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. Thunder Hawk and the Lakota People’s Law Project are fully supportive of all groups working to prevent Pe’ Sla from being sold to non-Native buyers.

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-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: Huey’s Nat Geo Cover, Lakota People’s Law Project, Jim Thorpe’s Body


Welcome to the 19th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Our edition is here. In this edition you will find an Aaron Huey update, an important petition from the Lakota People’s Law Project, a look at the year 1812 in American Indian history, three 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.

National Geographic Cover Features Spirit of Pine Ridge; New Storytelling Embed to Hear Individual Voices

By navajo


Feature Article | Photo Gallery | Voices of Pine Ridge

Community Storytelling Project | The Moment: Cover Potential | Map: The Lost Land

From 10,000 Words:

The latest cover of National Geographic features the story of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota. Alexandra Fuller’s well-written piece of long form journalism plus Aaron Huey’s series of striking photographs is standard fare in the magazine by now, but this cover story included a new form of storytelling. Huey, who has spent the past seven years documenting and befriending the Lakota teamed up with Jonathan Harris, creator of Cowbird, to launch the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project. Cowbird is a storytelling platform focused on personal narratives rather than quick status updates, and the collaboration is an attempt to give the people of Pine Ridge a chance to tell their own stories. Users can use photos, audio and text on one seamless platform that attempts to build a library of human experiences.

You can read a full interview with Aaron Huey here.

The community story-telling project was born of the frustration Aaron Huey had as a journalist having to choose the most sensational images to publish but ones he felt necessary to bring attention and raise awareness about poverty in Pine Ridge. After these photos were published, Huey received two huge envelopes of letters from Pine Ridge high school students asking him to tell their stories of success and happy family examples. On a subsequent visit, an elder told Huey she was disappointed in his coverage. It was at this time he, having learned the history of the Oglala Lakota, had shifted from journalist to advocate. (More background below on Huey’s work.)  He decided to take their side in telling the story of the broken treaties.

Huey was able to focus on this project as a Stanford University Knight Journalism Fellow this past school year. A grant from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation funded the project and is allowing him to send multiple people to help residents of Pine Ridge upload their stories. He hopes to get schools in every town on Pine Ridge involved as well as Oglala Lakota College. Another goal is more songs and Lakota language stories. The goal is 500 stories by year’s end. There are more than 200 now. Be sure to listen to some of these.

This is the interface of the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project:



A new Shepard Fairey collaboration piece has been produced and will be for sale in packs of 10 for public display. The 450 signed prints sold out in minutes on July 26. The actress Daryl Hannah is working closely with Huey to get thousands of these posters pasted up across the United States.

From Fairey’s website:

“I made this image in collaboration with National Geographic Photographer Aaron Huey in support of www.honorthetreaties.org and their efforts to educate the public about Native American Treaty rights.   This is our third project together and was built directly off of the mural we did on the Baracudda wall on Melrose last Fall.  See the full installation here.  Our first poster project went up in a dozen American cities in 2011.”

As promised, here is Eric Becker’s short film about Aaron Huey’s work. In the 14-minute video below, you’ll see footage of the Black Hills Are Not For Sale installation in Los Angeles, background on how Huey started this project and why he chose to become an advocate for Pine Ridge.

video will not embed, see links below

Honor the Treaties | The Film from Eric Becker on Vimeo

A portrait of photographer Aaron Huey’s work on the Pine Ridge Reservation

Featuring Shepard Fairey

World premiere opening night ShortsFest, Seattle International Film Festival 2012, Official Selection

Directed by Eric Becker / weareshouting.com/

Produced by Scott Everett  

Honor the Treaties: www.honorthetreaties.org

All photos (c) Aaron Huey / www.aaronhuey.com

With Artwork by Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena



Aaron Huey is a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and has gone on numerous assignments for National Geographic around the world. He emailed me in 2010 to share his TED talk. I was so moved by it that I featured it in a diary, Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334.

Huey’s TED talk was a result of getting to know the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and photographing them to raise awareness of their continuing fight for survival. In the talk he recounts the history of the Lakota starting with 1824. He details the devastating massacres and “more than a century later, the current condition of Pine Ridge reveals the legacy of colonization, forced migration, and treaty violations.” His powerful video is embedded at the link above, I urge you to watch it.

Huey created the website Honor the Treaties to house this video and educate visitors about the history of broken promises. Then he started The Pine Ridge Billboard Project. A collaboration with the street artists, Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena. Three beautiful posters were created and links were provided so anyone could download the images, and print and post them in their own cities.

The posters went up in numerous cities. The most impressive installation of this project was a billboard on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Meteor Blades and I watched for five hours as the work was completed by Huey, Fairey and some of their helpers.


Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 1812

By Meteor Blades

Most recently, it’s been called the Fort Dearborn Battle after having been for nearly two centuries called the Fort Dearborn Massacre. Even today, 200 years after the event that cost the lives of 52 white settlers and soldiers as well as 15 Indians on August 15 at the beginning of the War of 1812, people continue to argue both about what happened and about the meaning of it.

Since the 1850s to near the end of the 20th Century, the popular version of what happened that summer of 1812 in what is now the Chicago Loop, was Wau-Bun: The Early Day in the Northwest,, a book written by Juliette Magill Kinzie. She was married to a son of a fur trader who had been at Fort Dearborn when the killings occurred. The book had literary flair. And many fabrications. Although one Potawatomi retort to the conventional version by Simon Pokagon was published in 1896, corrective accounts by scholars weren’t published for more than 60 years, most notably by Milo M. Quaife in 1913. None gained the popularity of Kinzie’s book. Among other things noted in Quaife’s Chicago and the Old Northwest, he wrote of Kinzie: “Accuracy of statement is clearly not her forte, while to the objective detachment of the historian she is a complete stranger.”

Historical events can never be understood outside the context of the flow of other events around them.

Fort Dearborn, at the mouth of the Chicago River, was built there as the westernmost outpost of the United States in 1803 on landed ceded under coercion. It was a combination of fortress and trading post in a land sparsely populated by frontiersmen and white settlers amid thousands of Indians of several tribes, many of them refugees and exiles of the Iroquois wars further east. The Potawatomi (in their own Algonquian language, Bodéwadmi, “keepers of the fire”) had lived in the region for at least 175 years when Fort Dearborn was built, having originally inhabited areas north of Lake Huron and Superior. They were closely allied with the Ojibwa and Ottawa.

The Northwest Indian War was brought to a close by the Treaty of Greenville in 1794. It forced the surrender of Indian lands of the Ohio Valley and elsewhere to the United States, including six square miles around the mouth of the Chicago River where Fort Dearborn would be built. There was a 10-year peace with little pan-tribal resistance to the growing spread of white settlers. Many Indians and their leaders chose to make cultural adjustments. However, not all agreed. They became angrier each time settlers squatted on land supposedly permanently given to the tribes, land then ceded as additional treaties were signed. Resistance grew. Starting in 1805, two Shawnee brothers, Tenskwatawa, known as “The Prophet,” and Tecumseh, rejected much of the white world, especially including alcohol, urged an end to land cessions and built a coalition among Indians from more than a dozen tribes.

The objections to the latest land cessions sought by Indiana Territory Gov. William Henry Harrison-who operated against the direct orders of President James Madison by making deals guaranteeing large payments to tribes-would in 1811 turn into Tecumseh’s War. Harrison gained the fame that would later help propel him into the Presidency when his militia defeated Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe that same year. That clash, which many Americans saw as part of British efforts to stir up “Indian trouble” on the frontier, was one of many bits of kindling leading to the War of 1812.

When that war officially started in June 1812, the British immediately captured Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinac) without a shot. With no ability to resupply the outpost, the American general at Fort Detroit William Hull ordered the commander at Fort Dearborn, Captain Nathan Heald, immediately to evacuate his 54 troops and the 39 civilians, including nine women and 18 children.

Nobody knows what crossed Heald’s mind when he read that order. But he must have at least thought briefly that, given the hundreds of Potawatomi and other warriors visible around the fort, it might be better to wait out a siege. He nevertheless chose to obey, first making a deal with the Indians that, in exchange for safe passage, they would be given all the goods inside the fort.

As part of her blast at Heald’s “incompetence,” Juliette Magill Kinzie invented a quote from Hull’s order in her 1856 book even though she had never seen it. The words “if practicable” were included in the order, she wrote, and clearly evacuation in such circumstances would not have been practicable in her view, a reflection no doubt from her husband, whose father was known as a wily trader in his days at Fort Dearborn.

The actual order was kept for posterity, so we know what it actually said. In it is a key point that some amateur and professional historians have said may well have contained the spark that led to the killings that day in August 200 years ago. General Hull told Captain Heald to destroy the stores of munitions and alcohol before leaving. The problem with that is that Heald had made other arrangements with the Potawatomi. Some historians believe the Indians felt the munitions were part of the deal and that the captain had broken it.

Heald ordered the column of evacuees-which included his son-in-law, Captain William Wells, leading 15 Miami Indian escorts-away from the fort. Whether the Potawatomi planned to attack regardless or they decided the deal was off because of the destruction of powder and bullets, the clash took place about a mile and a half from the fort. Heald, presuming an attack was imminent, ordered his troops to advance over the dunes and fire the first shot. Fifteen minutes later, 26 regulars, 12 militia, two women, 12 children and 15 Potawatomis were dead. Fifty-one others from the fort were captives.

During the fight, two of the women and most of the children were tomahawked to death. One account later claimed a single warrior killed them all. Black Partridge, a Potawatomi who had opposed the attack, rescued the wife of Heald’s second-in-command Lt. Linai Helm by dragging her away during the fight and pretending to drown her. She survived and was later ransomed. (His act was later commemorated with a sculpture that has since become the subject of political and artistic dispute and is now stored in a warehouse.)

Another person given great credit by both historians and people at the time was Captain Wells. Although his Miami allies fled immediately, he is said to have killed several Potawatomi in a desperate attempt to reach the wagons where the women and children were riding. All accounts say the Indians who killed him also lauded his bravery. With him dead on the ground, they cut out his heart instantly, dividing it into pieces and eating them to gain for themselves some of his courage.

The night after their capture, some soldiers were tortured to death. A few other captives died as well. But most were subsequently ransomed, including six-month-old Susan Simmons, who was the last survivor of the killings when she died in 1900.

Simon Pokagon, the Potawatomi whose father was alive when Fort Dearborn still stood, wrote in 1896:

It is true that the Indian retaliated, and was in many cases the aggressor, if we can call people the aggressors who object to having their native land taken from them by aliens. […] Of the savagery and brutality exhibited by the Indian in many cases, I would merely observe that it is manifestly unfair to judge them by the standards of a people who have enjoyed Christian civilization for many centuries and who have behind them the lessons and warnings, the glory and the gloom of Roman, Grecian, Syrian, Chaldean, and Egyptian civilizations. Moreover, if one calls to mind the methods which marked the terrible religious struggle of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe, and will remember how human ingenuity was taxed to its utmost to devise methods of horrible torture which were remorselessly meted out by those claiming to be Christians to others claiming to be Christians, he will, I think, feel it wisest to pass very lightly over the charge of excessive cruelty on the part of those he flippantly terms savages. Had the Indian submitted more tamely he would have been characterized by this same self-engrossed class, who delight in echoing the brutally false phrase that “there is no good Indian but a dead Indian,” as cowardly and unworthy of the land which for unnumbered generations had been the land of his fathers.”

In 2009, a new park was dedicated to commemorate the event. It is named The Battle of Fort Dearborn Park. Not everyone in Chicago who paid attention to the establishment of the park was happy about it. Some called it part of unfair revisionist history, arguing that what occurred during the evacuation of Fort Dearborn was a massacre and should continue to be called one.

Who knows what the rescuer Black Partridge would have thought? During the rest of the War of 1812, Potawatomi villages were burned and hundreds of Indians slain. The Miami, allies of the United States, were also burned out. One excuse given is that they did not fight at Fort Dearborn. One such village was Black Partridge’s. He subsequently fought alongside the British. The treaty he signed in 1815 ending hostilities between the Potawatomi and the United States stated that “every injury or act of hostility…shall be mutually forgiven.”

In 1833, a treaty signed under duress forced the Potawatomi and other tribes to Nebraska and elsewhere. Hundreds of members of the tribe held a final dance near the city in 1835 before they began their journey into exile. Many Potawatami now live in the area again.

Chicago Alderman Edward Burke earlier this year pushed for a “Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation” for the 200th anniversary. But his proposal was not gladly received by a number of Indians, particularly when he talked of smoking a “peace pipe.” A stereotypical resolution, said one critic, in which three whites were singled out for their sacrifice that day but not one Potawatami was mentioned.

In Chicago and elsewhere, there are still people on both sides who are not eager to forgive or reconcile.


Among my sources:

Introduction written by Nina Baym for the 1992 edition of Wau-Bun: The Early Day in the Northwest by Juliette Magill Kinzie.

The True Story of the Deadly Encounter at Fort Dearborn by Geoffrey Johnson.

15 bloody minutes that shaped a city by Ron Grossman.

What Happened at Fort Dearborn by Lee Sandlin

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Lakota People’s Law Project Petition to Rescue Indian Children

Action: Please Sign This Petition and Share Widely

Meteor Blades wrote a compelling piece last October about an NPR three-part series revealing that the State of South Dakota is kidnaping Lakota children and forcing them into white foster care. The state, in an effort to balance its budget, has found a way to obtain over $100 million in Federal funding each year by taking Indian children from their families. Native American children are removed in disproportionate numbers from their homes all over our nation, with South Dakota being one of the worst states.

Lakota People’s Law Project has developed

a unique resource for dealing with Native American

children seized by the state

Today, one of the greatest threats to our people is the massive theft of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children by state authorities. The state of South Dakota couldn’t have cared less about Native American children until there were millions to be had, and today the state receives almost $100 million per year from the federal government for foster care services – and $12,000 for each Indian child moved from foster care into adoption. The result: between 2001 and 2009 more than 5,000 Native children were removed from their families and, in direct violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 95 percent of them were put into white and state-run care. These actions tear at the fabric of our kinship society, cutting children off from their traditions and continuing the cycle of injustice.

We’ve made a strong connection with the Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP), a nonprofit that uses law, public education and grassroots organizing to fight the injustices perpetrated against their people. Right now, they are preparing to file a federal civil lawsuit to rescue their children.

Madonna Thunder Hawk, (Cheyenne River Sioux) the tribal liaison for LPLP, wrote a Daily Kos diary agt the beginning of August reporting that as a result of the NPR series “six members of the House of Representatives-four Democrats and two Republicans-sent letters to the assistant secretary of Interior for Indian affairs, Larry Echo Hawk. Their letters demanded that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) respond to the claims made by the NPR story and propose a plan to improve the situation in South Dakota. In response, Echo Hawk replied to the congressmen, pledging to hold a summit in South Dakota about Native American foster care. Nine months have passed and nothing has been done to keep that pledge.” Echo Hawk promised the ICWA summit would take place in early 2012. Echo Hawk left the BIA in April 2012 to take a high-ranking postion with the Mormon church.

The ICWA directors from all of South Dakota’s reservations recently met to prepare a request that the BIA host a summit, as promised. The Lakota People’s Law Project has created a petition to support the ICWA Directors in their call for this summit and in the struggle to rescue the children. Please sign the petition to the BIA, and you can help spread the word.

Meet Madonna Thunder Hawk, an original member of the American Indian Movement and a co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and learn more about this effort:

Video will not Embed: http://www.youtube.com/embed/J…
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Thrash Metal Band Testament’s New Album Features Native Blood

By navajo

Chuck Billy

-Photo Courtesy of

Nuclear Blast Records

Chuck Billy (Hopland Band of Pomo Indians), Testament’s vocalist, features his Native heritage in the band’s latest released album Dark Roots of Earth. The video for Native Blood tells the story of a young boy who endures taunting “war whoops” from his classmates for being Indian. He seeks guidance and cultural support from his elders. The same boy in his teens has his girlfriend taken away by her white father. The boy grows up to organize his community against a takeover of their sacred lands. It opens with a quote from the great Oglala Lakota war chief Crazy Horse, “Somewhere a good man must rise from the young ones among us.

From the lyrics:

I’m one in this world, so stay outta my way. My voice will be heard. So strong. I won’t be afraid. I got something to say. My voice will be heard. So loud, native blood, my native blood.

The video ends with a quote from Peter Blue Cloud(Mohawk, “We natives are guardians of the sacred place.”

The making of the video can be viewed here. It was shot on the Billy Ranch on the Hopland Indian reservation in Northern California. His community gave the shoot its full support and many tribespeople were featured in the video dancing and wearing traditional Pomo dress.

The video is very well done:

Video will not embed http://www.youtube.com/embed/g…

Billy was the first Native American entertainer to be permanently featured in one of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s memorabilia displays in Albuquerque, N.M. He was also featured last year in a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian exhibit Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture.

Here is an interview excerpt from Noisecreep:

Testament’s Cover Art for

Dark Roots of the Earth

-Photo Courtesy of

Nuclear Blast Records

“I was born in Oakland, Calif., and for the first five years was raised in Los Cerritos, Calif. After that, we moved to Dublin, Calif., and I pretty much grew up there. My father owned two properties there, and I remember going to the reservation a lot as a kid. When my father retired, he moved there permanently.”

The singer told us life on the Hopland reservation during the ’70s and ’80s was radically different from the existence he knew back at his Dublin neighborhood. “There was just so much freedom on the reservation. I hate to say it, but they were just a bunch of wild Indians [laughs]. It was crazy back then. Our tribe and reservation is really small, and before we ever had a casino on the land, there wasn’t a lot of hope. There wasn’t any money around, and it just felt desperate. It was dire, especially with education and basic resources like that. The kids didn’t even have the basic stuff other kids have in the rest of the country. So a lot of kids didn’t even bother going to school.”

Billy said the opening of the Sho-Ka-Wah Casino on his tribe’s land saved his reservation, and its people. “My father was on the tribal council, and he and a lot of other people, had a lot to do with bringing in the casino. Once that came in, it cleaned everything on the reservation up. Not just money for education and the water system, but also programs for things like keeping our language alive.”

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Pennsylvania Town, Sons Fight Over Where Jim Thorpe’s Remains Should Rest

By Meteor Blades

Ask almost about any American who Jim Thorpe was and you won’t get the blank stare so often elicited when someone renowned among American Indians is mentioned. A century ago, in Sweden, Thorpe ran two races that made him famous, delighted Indians of all tribes (his own ancestry was Sac and Fox from Oklahoma), and for the first time made the USA a real competitor in the Olympic Games. Thorpe was given a hero’s welcome in New York City. The first sports superstar.

He was already making waves at Carlisle Indian Industrial School when he led the football team there to an 11-point win over Harvard in 1911. His coach, Pop Warner, urged him to compete in the Olympics, a contest he hadn’t even heard of. When he did, the world soon heard of him.

That year, 1912, marked the fifth modern Olympiad, and Thorpe took two gold medals, one for the pentathlon and one for the first ever decathlon. He won the latter by a huge margin. Handing him his medals and trophies, the king of Sweden told him: “You, sir, are the most wonderful athlete in the world.” It was 60 years before his record in the 1,500-meter run-4 minutes 40.1 seconds-was beaten, and then, not by much. And by then, he had been dead for 20 years after careers in baseball, then football, where he was spectacular, and basketball. In a nationwide survey in 1950, he was named the greatest athlete of the half century, way ahead of the second-place finisher, Babe Ruth.

Finally too old to compete, Thorpe went to Hollywood in 1930, played bad Indian parts in 70 or more mostly bad movies and put together a casting company to recruit Indians and lobby the studios to get real Indians to play Indian parts.

Long before that, however, his unparalleled accomplishments in Sweden were tainted by the fact he had played minor league professional baseball from 1909-1910. That went against the must-be-an-amateur rules. He was stripped of his medals and his winning performances were erased from the record books.

As Scott Bomboy writes, that was bogus even then.

Thorpe had played baseball for $2 a day, like other college students, but didn’t use an alias. In a letter of apology to officials, he said, “I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy and did not know all about such things. In fact, I did not know that I was doing wrong, because I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did not use their own names.”

The apology wasn’t accepted.

So, he returned the medals. It later became known that he had never violated the amateur rules because the claim about his minor league “career” was filed after a reporting deadline in 1913.

Despite his professional career, things got rough financially at the end, even after a movie about him was made, Jim Thorpe-All-American ironically starring a fellow without a drop of Indian blood, Burt Lancaster. Thorpe died, age 64, in 1953. It wasn’t until 1983 that the International Olympic Committee, under intense pressure and with its amateur label having long since been abandoned in reality if not name, made duplicate medals for the family and made Thorpe co-equal with the silver medal winner of 1912. His records, however, were never reinstated.

And his remains still haven’t been returned home either. Three weeks ago, two of his sons testified in an arbitration hearing under terms of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 to move his body back to Oklahoma from the town that now has it. That town is Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a place he’s never been.

It wound up there in 1957 after having been stored in Los Angeles, Shawnee, Oklahoma and Tulsa for four years. Two towns, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, agreed to merge and told the widow that in exchange for his body, they would name their new town after him, and as, Kate Buford tell the story:

There were grand promises of a hospital for athletes, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a Jim Thorpe sporting goods factory.

None of them materialized.

But the fight over Thorpe’s body is still working its way through in a federal court. That is a result of a lawsuit initiated in 2010 by his son, Jack, to have his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma and buried on the remnants of the Sac and Fox reservation that, ironically, began to be dismantled the year Thorpe was born, 1888. The town decided to fight:

“This guy has a whole town named after him,” explains Jack Kmetz, president of the Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame and lifelong resident of Jim Thorpe, Pa. “He has a bank named after him. He has a post office. He has his own ZIP code.”

Jack died last year, but Thorpe’s two living sons were testifying in court-ordered mediation in a federal lawsuit three weeks ago. It’s being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Among other things, the case has revealed that Thorpe’s third wife claimed his body “the night before a traditional Sac and Fox burial ceremony could take place in Oklahoma.”

William Schaub, the attorney for Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, told a local newspaper that a Supreme Court precedent was on the town’s side, since Jim Thorpe died in California.

“Burial has traditionally been governed by the states. Jim Thorpe was a resident of California,” Schwab said. “He died in California. This case should be governed by the California probate code which gave Jim Thorpe’s third wife the right to bury him as she saw fit. They are trying to trump state law.”

Ironically, as the court case continues over Thorpe, his body rests in a mausoleum that contains soil from his home in Oklahoma and dirt sent from the former Olympic stadium in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Kevin Washburn, nominated in August 2012 to take over the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He is a Chickasaw.Kevin Washburn

Kevin Washburn Nominated for BIA Post: A 45-year-old member of the Chickasaw Nation who is an expert in Indian law and reservation gambling has been nominated by President Obama to fill the government’s top position at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He has headed the University of New Mexico Law School since 2009. If he gains approval in the U.S. Senate, he will replace Larry Echo Hawk (Pawnee) who resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs to take a high position in leadership of the Mormon church.

“I’m deeply honored-it’s an exceedingly important responsibility to serve the nation’s Indian tribes and the Indian people,” Washburn told the Albuquerque Journal.

A biography posted at the University of Minnesota Law School website states:

[…]Washburn earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1993, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation. Following law school, Professor Washburn clerked for Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 1994, Professor Washburn joined the U.S. Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. At Main Justice, he litigated cases involving Indian tribes, mostly in the context of environmental and natural resources law. In 1997, Professor Washburn left Main Justice to become a federal prosecutor in New Mexico, where he primarily prosecuted violent crimes arising in Indian country and referred by the FBI. In 2000, Professor Washburn became the General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the independent federal regulatory agency that regulates Indian gaming nationwide. […]

He spent most of his youth in small towns in Oklahoma within the original boundaries of the tribe’s former reservation. He attended the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a bachelors degree in economics with honors.

Among his many academic publications, Washburn has listed the following as representative: The Legacy of Bryan v. Itasca County: How an Erroneous $147 County Tax Notice Helped Bring Tribes $200 Billion in Indian Gaming Revenue (2008); Restoring the Grand Jury (2008); American Indians, Crime, and the Law (2006); and Federal Criminal Law and Tribal Self-Determination (2006). He has served as a trustee on the Law School Admission Council from 2006 to present; as a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Native American Sentencing Issues of the United States Sentencing Commission from 2002 to 2004; and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project of Minnesota from 2002 to 2003.

Washburn is married to Elizabeth “Libby” Rodke Washburn, who currently serves as the state director for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), and they have two children. A Democrat, Washburn has contributed $3,050 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $525 to ActBlue in 2009, $525 to Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) in 2009, and $2,000 to John Kelly’s unsuccessful campaign for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2000. Libby Washburn has contributed $1,250: $250 to Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin), who was U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District from 1969 until 2011, in 2009, and $1,000 to Sen. Bennett in 2010.

-Meteor Blades

Bill to Permit Foreign Investment on Tribal Reservations Fails: A bill that would have allowed some experiment with foreign investments on American Indian reservations has failed in the House of Representatives because it could not obtain the two-thirds vote needed for fast-track legislation. The bill’s sponsor, Tom Cole (Chickasaw), an Oklahoma Republican, said opposition came from representatives who saw it as offering too good a deal to Turkey. Cole said the Turks were the only foreign nationals who had shown any interest in investing on reservations.

-Meteor Blades

Tribe revitalizes Lakota language through dance: Fluent speakers of the Lakota language among the Rosebud Sioux in southern South Dakota are aging and dwindling. Loss of language is a problem among American Indians throughout the nation. Altogether among all Lakota on their several reservations in North Dakota and South Dakota, only about 6,000 people speak the language with any fluency. That’s less than 14 percent of the whole population. The average age of Lakota speaker is 60. The Rosebud tribe has sought various ways to keep the language alive among children. One of those focuses on song and dance. Gale Spotted Tail (Sicangu Lakota), who directs the tribe’s Child Care Service’s Song and Dance Project, says, “It’s putting identity and pride back into the people.” The program teaches families how to make accurate, detailed ceremonial regalia and teaches the intricate dances to the children so they can perform in the annual wacipi, or powwow. The effort creates a special bond between children and the older generations.

-Meteor Blades

Tribes Won’t Have to Reimburse Feds for Divided Land Government Buys for Them: The Interior Dept. ended a major worry last week for American Indian tribes who will use a settlement to buy up divided lands and reincorporate them into communally tribal property. Some $1.9 billion of a $3.4 billion settlement in the Elouise Cobell Niitsítapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) lawsuit has been set aside to purchase land that was alloted to individual tribal members from 1887 until 1935 under the Dawes Act.

Although the allotments started out as 80- to 320-acre parcels to individuals and single families, over the generations they have become entangled in fractional ownership with dozens, sometimes hundreds of individuals, owning a piece. This makes their use for anything practical very complicated. The allotment system was originated as one means of breaking up the tribes and assimilating Indians into the overall U.S. population by making them farmers and ranchers. Almost immediately, despite laws forbidding the practice, thousands of allotments were sold off cheaply to non-Indian owners, which has created a patchwork of ownership within the boundaries of many reservations.

Under previous law, liens could be placed against the land purchased for the tribes by the government. If that were the case with the Cobell settlement, it would mean they would end up having to reimburse Washington for the hard-fought money agreed to in the settlement. That deal was made to repay the for more than a century of mismanagement of those lands by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

-Meteor Blades

NBC’s Matt Lauer Spouts “Indian-Giver” During Olympics Coverage: It was a silly segment to begin with, like so much of NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Games, but Lauer made it even worse with his casual slur. So much so that Sonny Skyhawk  (Sicangu Lakota) devoted his entire “Ask N NDN” column in Indian Country Today Media Network to blasting Lauer and urge readers to email or otherwise contact NBC and “The Today Show” seeking an apology. Noting that it was a century ago that Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) had brought honor and fame to not only his tribe, but also all Indians and the U.S. by winning two gold medals in Sweden in 1912, Skyhawk wrote:

These memories of my hero have been on my mind as I have enjoyed these Olympic Games-until I heard those ugly words uttered by Matt Lauer:


I was frozen and dumbfounded, as if someone had slapped me in the face. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I paused and then recalled the countless hours and years I and many of my colleagues had spent, attending diversity meetings in which we discussed and agreed on the need for all cultures to respect each other. We agreed that all humans deserve to be given respect when it has been earned, and that we, American Indians, have earned that respect many times over.

All of that came crashing down when I heard that idiotic phrase.

Skyhawk wrote a letter to the president of NBC News and urged readers to take similar action or contact others at the network.

-Meteor Blades

Border Patrol Finds Ancient Pots in Desert:

Archeologist working in desert alcove.On patrol for undocumented immigrants in ever-more remote areas of the desert Southwest, agents of the U.S. Border Patrol stumbled onto a find that has made archeologists happy: four ancient clay pots in two rock alcoves in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The largest of the pots is thought to be an olla, a water jar. The agents may have saved the pots from looters who sell such items on the black market. Pot hunting is illegal but common on federal and state land.

Scientists say the pots, which were found whole instead of in the usual shards common to most such discoveries these days, are hundreds of years old, perhaps as many as a thousand. Although the area, which the government declined to identify specifically, is close to the Tohono O’odham reservation, what tribe made these items, or when, is unknown. The prehistoric people here are called the Hohokam.

After a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who trace their ancestors to the Hohokam, conducted a ceremony, National Park Service archaeologists removed the pots and transported them to the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, which is administered by the National Park Service.

The center, which is not open to the public, contains more than 24,000 artifacts found on national parks and monuments in the western region.

-Meteor Blades

Super PAC Tied to Copper Corp Opposes Navajo Candidate:

Wenona Benally BaldenegroOne of the founders of the Super PAC “Restoring Arizona’s Integrity” is GovGroupAZ, a Phoenix-based consulting firm that lobbies for the copper company ASARCO. The company has a history of massive pollution, one of its contaminated smelter operations having been considered the worst of the nation’s 1,200 Superfund sites. RAI is supporting conservative Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick for congresswoman in First District of Arizona against progressive Wenona Benally Baldenegro (Navajo) in the state’s upcoming primary election. Baldenegro has the support of the United Steelworkers, who represent most of Asarco’s workers. Kirkpatrick served a single term (2009-2011) as the representative from the district, which has the highest percentage of American Indians of any congressional district in the United States, 22 percent.

Although never officially a member of the congressional “Blue Dog” caucus, Kirkpatrick voted like one during her single term. She has an ample collection of powerful backers. Despite its vow to stay out of primaries, one of those is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which came out in her favor thanks in part to the “ex” Blue Dog now heading the DCCC, Steve Israel. Baldenegro had been endorsed, among others, by 7th District Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

-Meteor Blades

Judge’s Ruling Brings “Fighting Sioux” Fight to an End: U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson dismissed a year-old lawsuit by six American Indian students alleging damage from the use of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo at the University of North Dakota. The judge noted that the statewide vote in June that had overwhelmingly sent the name into retirement effectively put an end to any useful litigation in the matter.

-Meteor Blades

Janna Ryan, Wife of Paul Ryan, Has Native Blood: The wife of the presumptive GOP nominee for the vice presidency has Chickasaw ancestry through her father, Dan Little. A tax attorney, she is not an enrolled member of the the Chickasaw Nation, which is based in Oklahoma, where it was forced to move from its home turf in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1830s. The tribe is the 13th largest federally recognized tribe in the nation. Janna Ryan is a cousin of Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat, who is retiring after this term to become president of corporate development for the Chickasaws.

-Meteor Blades

Onandaga Plan to Celebrate 400-year-old Treaty that Two Scholars Say is Fake: The Onandaga Tribe, part of the Iroquois Confederacy, is preparing for a major celebration of the Treaty of Tawagonshi of 1613 between the Dutch and Haudenosauneee, what the Iroquois call themselves. But two scholars say they proved the treaty is a fake a quarter century ago based on terminology, handwriting and the fact that the names of chiefs who signed the document are actually the names of villages. But the Onandagas say their own oral history of the treaty is backed up by a two-row wampum belt created at the time to commemorate the event and that the tribe still possesses. Spokespeople for the tribe say the two scholars are anti-Iroquois and seek to alter the centuries-long relationship between whites and the Haudenosaunee.

-Meteor Blades

-Meteor Blades

-navajo with a h/t to whomever


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: ‘Sun Kissed’, Custer’s ‘Last Stand’ and the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’


Welcome to the 18th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a new documentary on the Navajo, a look at the year 1876 in American Indian history, The Doctrine of Discovery, some news briefs and a few 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.

Sun Kissed

By navajo


The sun greeted the children of Dorey and Yolanda Nez with the kiss of death when they born. The couple live in a trailer on the New Mexico part of the Navajo reservation. Their two children were born with a rare and deadly genetic disorder called Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) that causes severe sunburn with blistering and vastly increased cancer risk upon exposure to any sunlight. While the incidence of the disorder is one in a million in the general population, the occurrence among Navajo is one in 30,000. Why?

Maya Stark and Adi Lavy have filmed a documentary about Dorey, Yolanda and their children called Sun Kissed. It premiered at the L.A. Film Festival on June 16.

Like so many living on remote reservations with limited financial resources, the Nez family had to learn about their plight and how to treat their children without professional help. Before much was known about the disorder, Indian Health Service authorities took some Navajo children away from their parents because they suspected negligence after seeing cases of severe sunburning.

The Nezes’ son had died at age 11 and, before the filming ended, their daughter had died at age 16. The incredible burden of keeping their children out of the sun as much as possible and enduring the aftermath of any exposure was understandably overwhelming. Sun Kissed shows Dorey and Yolanda suffering along with their daughter as they shower her with love.

The filmmakers explore the conflict between ancient Navajo taboos and modern applications of science. Navajo traditionally do not to talk about death, disease and hardship. They rely on ancient healing methods. The Nezes natural need to know why this was happening to them and how to cure their children clashed with the rigid cultural rules guarded by their own parents.

Harmony matters in Navajo culture. When events disrupt harmony, the need – the requirement – to restore balance overrides everything. The pressure to harmonize is intense. And when people cannot achieve that, when the disruption continues despite their most vigorous effort, they often blame themselves and are blamed by others for their failure. That was where Yolanda and Dorey found themselves.

Enter the filmmakers…and science. The film’s hook – One Gene Exposes a Nation’s Dark Past – suggests that the reduced population caused by the infamous “Long Walk,” the Navajo “Trail of Tears,” may be a factor in the affliction that struck the Nezes’ children.

Under orders from President Lincoln, in 1864, as part of the government’s campaign to eradicate or assimilate Indian populations in the West, the Army captured thousands of Navajo and, in 53 separate actions, force-marched them hundreds of miles from their homelands in Arizona and New Mexico to Fort Sumner or Bosque Redondo (in Navajo: Hwéeldi). About 9000 Navajo were imprisoned there for four years along with their enemies, 400 Mescalero Apache. As you can imagine, many died during their incarceration.

Many Navajo quietly left Bosque Redondo and the government gave up its first attempt at creating a Native reservation west of Indian Territory. The two sides signed a treaty in June 1868, allowing the Navajo to return home but requiring them to send their children to government-run schools-the policy of taking the Indian out of the Indian. This marked one of the few instances where the government relocated a tribe to within its traditional boundaries. Marched to Bosque Redondo in dozens of groups, the Navajo returned to their sacred ground as one large band stretching 10 miles along the trail home.

The filmmakers suggest that the reduced population from the Long Walk may have allowed the Xeroderma Pigmentosum gene to express itself more. While this is interesting speculation, it raises many questions. The group that survived seems too large to have created this anomaly. If only a very few people who started on the Long Walk had survived, it might be evidence supporting the idea that the forced-march contributed to the prevalence of the disorder. But, in addition to the Navajo who were removed at gunpoint, thousands of Navajo who hid and weren’t captured later mixed their genes with the returning population. My Navajo ancestors were among those who hid successfully from the army.

I consulted Kossack jotter, who has a doctorate in biochemistry, to help me understand the genetic speculation of the filmmakers. He responded with an email:

Having seen only the trailer for the documentary I can only speculate that they are invoking what is called “the founder effect,” in which a gene rare in a parent population becomes more frequent when a very few survivors, or “founders” give rise to a new population after a population bottleneck (which is a nice way of saying an event which very few survive).

Whether or not this is a true interpretation of the events around the Long Walk, I have no idea.  If only a very few people who started on the Long Walk survived, it might give credence to the idea.

What I managed to read on line suggested that there were at least 9000 survivors of the Long Walk, but there may have been many fewer women who went on to have children.

This has been seen many times, in many populations, it is a consequence of a small population size. For example, Tay-Sachs is much more common in people of Ashkenazi (European Jewish) heritage than in other populations.

XP is actually a disease with many “causes,” at least 8 different genes can, when they are damaged, give rise to XP.

I couldn’t find anything about which type of XP is found in the Navajo, or if there is only one kind. If there is more than one kind, it would argue strongly against there being anything related to the Long Walk.

Without knowing what the incidence was before and after the Long Walk, it is kind of speculative to attribute the high incidence (relative to European populations) to that event.

I also wonder if the high incidence of XP isn’t of a more ancient origin. XP has a higher frequency in Japan. What about Taiwan, or Polynesia? There is genetic evidence for a closer association between peoples of the Southwest and South America to Southeast Asians.

Genetic questions aside, the beautifully shot film appears to take an engaged look at the Navajo culture. It documents the traditional taboos and stigma of having a disabled child, depicts the limited resources available on the reservation and recounts the multi-generational trauma of the tragic history of genocide by the government against the Navajo.

The film’s trailer can be seen here:http://www.youtube.com/embed/gz7Q4PQXZ74

Sun Kissed will be nationally broadcast on PBS this fall,

with the first showing on Oct. 18, 2012.
Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 1876

By Meteor Blades

 Tȟatȟáŋka PtÃčela aka Grant Short Bull, an Oglala Lakota witness to
Tȟatȟáŋka Ptéčela aka Grant Short Bull, an Oglala

Lakota witness to “Custer’s Last Stand”

“The Custer Myth is a living thing, which refuses to die despite the efforts of careful historians to reduce it to uncontroverted facts. Almost everything about it is in some degree disputed.”

 -The Custer Myth, by William A. Graham (1953)

On June 25, 1876, the Custer myth got its start as Sioux and Cheyenne warriors clashed with the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry in Medicine Tail Coulee and the surrounding area on the Greasy Grass River (Little Big Horn) in Montana Territory. When the shooting was over, five companies of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s command had been wiped out, with 262 men dead and 55 wounded, half the battalion. So startling was the Indian victory that when Crow scouts who had been riding with Custer met up with Gen. Alfred Terry the day after the fight and told him what they had seen, he refused to believe them.

Since that June day 136 years ago, hundreds of books, most of them bad and some of them brimful of outright lies from beginning to end, and more than 50 movies, most of them dreadful, have kept that myth flourishing. A good deal of it was spun into being by Libby Bacon Custer, his widow, who wrote three books glorifying her husband and transforming him from a reckless, aggressively ambitious military politician into a heroic legend. This effort was assisted by two factors:

One was the classifying of the Official Record of the Court of Inquiry of 1879 until 1951. The inquiry was requested by Major Marcus Reno to clear his name for conduct he had been accused of during the battle. It was not until retired Col. William A. Graham wrote The Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana (1953) that a book came close to telling the details of that bloody day on the Greasy Grass.

The second factor was President Theodore Roosevelt’s persuading of Edward Curtis in 1906 to leave an account of the Crow scouts he had interviewed out of his photo-rich, 20-volume The North American Indian. The scouts’ version was at odds with the image that Libby Custer had created over 30 years of books, lectures and interviews. Custer was Roosevelt’s hero, and the president informed Curtis that Americans would not take kindly to having their “memory” of the “Last Stand” besmirched by a trio of Indians, who, of course, were untrustworthy just by being Indian. Curtis dutifully left out that part of the story. Indeed, despite ample opportunity, the Indian side did not fully emerge into the view of the general public until the 1970s. That, in part, came about because the murderous policies that led to the battle and hundreds of others throughout American history began then to be examined outside of scholarly circles.

Seventh Cavalry Guidon
Seventh Cavalry Guidon

Graham’s 60-year-old book was the first popular work to dismember the myth, as historians and other writers have done in microscopic detail since. Yet, even today, in spite of the scholarly delving into the battle, archeological studies of the ground where the fight took place and the amateur and professional exploration of every scrap of minutiae, every bullet casing, every written or recorded word, elements of what happened at the Little Big Horn remain in dispute. Moreover, some Americans continue to revere Custer as a major hero. For instance, Congress voted in 1991 to rename Custer Battlefield National Monument the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. In the year beforehand, the National Park Service received a steady flow of mail filled with racist slurs, bolstered by twisted patriotism and calling the name-change everything from a travesty to treason.  

As Graham wrote in reply to his publisher’s pressure to ditch the word “myth” from the title:

Just what is a Myth? Ever since I began the study of history, many long years ago, I have been making the acquaintance of myths in one form or another. The exploits of the ancient gods of Greece and Rome come to one’s mind instantly when one speaks of myths; but each of them, very probably, was founded in greater or less degree upon the accomplishments of some man, whose identity, once known, was lost in the maze of traditions, fictions and inventions that ascribed to him the attributes of a superman; and as the centuries passed, endowed him with the character of a supernatural person.

We have ourselves created myths in the course of our own short history, which spans less than two hundred years. Washington was in fact a very human person, as contemporary records prove; but the Washington the average American knows is not the real Washington. As “Father of his Country”; the all-wise leader, the military hero, the champion of freedom and foe of tyranny, his human qualities have all but disappeared. He has become a Myth.

So also with Lincoln, martyred savior of his country; about whom and around whom has been built so fantastic a structure of fictitious tales and absurd stores, that the real Lincoln has been obscured from view; and so in our own day with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who to millions of Americans was a selfless, immaculate latter-day Messiah, who gave his life on the altar of self sacrifice. Both these men were human beings-very human; but the Lincoln and the Roosevelt known to the average American are Myths.

And so with Custer, and so with nearly everyone involved in the Custer story. It began in controversy and dispute; but because a devoted wife so skilfully and so forcefully painted her hero as a plumed knight in shining armor-a “chevalier sans peur and sans reproche,” that all who stood in the way of her appraisal were made to appear as cowards or scoundrels; and because her hero went out in a blaze of glory that became the setting for propaganda which caught and held, and still holds, the imagination of the American people, what began in controversy and dispute has ended in Myth; a myth built, like other myths, upon actual deeds and events, magnified, distorted and disproportioned by fiction, invention, imagination and speculation. The Custer known to the average Amercian is a Myth; and so is Reno; and so also in Benteen.

The Little Big Horn battle was neither the greatest nor most important fight in the Indian Wars that began in North America in 1540 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado attacked the Tiwa in what is present-day New Mexico and ended in Bear Valley, Arizona, in 1918 in a clash between African American 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” and a band of Yaqui. But the battle everyone can name has come down to us as the mythical “Custer’s Last Stand” and has in a multitude of ways shaped the American psyche regarding the collision between Europeans and Natives. Although the myth has been under attack for decades, both by scholars and Indians alike, it refuses to yield completely.  



The Custer Myth, W.A. Graham, 1953 and 1981.

Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Big Horn, Evan S. Connell, 1991.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

The Doctrine of Discovery Still Plagues Native Peoples

By Ojibwa
Click for larger size
by Marty Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota)

Law and its interpretation by the courts regarding American Indians in the United States are based on two concepts: (1) the U.S. Constitution, and (2) legal precedents from international law, primarily a legal fiction known as the Doctrine of Discovery.

In 1787, the United States adopted a Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 delegates to Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” Thus, dealings with the tribes were assigned to the federal government from the beginning. Most litigation regarding Indian matters derives from this clause. However, it has not been unusual for legal scholars, including one Supreme Court Chief Justice, and for many politicians and government leaders, to ignore it or otherwise get around it.

The “Doctrine of Discovery” is not well-known to Americans who are not historians, legal scholars or Natives. In brief, it is an ancient European legal concept which says that Christian nations have a right, if not an obligation, to rule over all non-Christian nations. Thus, the European nations, and the United States after 1787, felt that they had a legal right to govern American Indians. The Doctrine of Discovery accorded Christian nations the right to take land away from indigenous peoples, paying for it with the gift of religious conversion.

The Popes and Spanish Law

Pope Nicholas V in 1452 laid the foundation for the Doctrine of Discovery by issuing the papal bull dum diversas. This instructed the Portuguese monarchy “to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property.” The ideas found in this papal document were later woven into U.S. Indian law and, even today, is a shadow guiding U.S. Indian policy.

The original papal bull, technically still in force, was strengthened in 1455 with another, Romanus Pontifex. This sanctified the seizure of non-Christian lands and encouraged the slavery of native peoples wherever they were found.

Following the “discovery” of the Americas by Europeans, bulls by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 granted Spain and Portugal all the lands in the Americas which were not under Christian rule. His Inter Caetera Divina bull stated: “We trust in Him from whom empires, and governments, and all good things proceed.” Thus began the European assumption that the Native people of the hemisphere didn’t own the land they called their own because they were not Christian. The Pope decreed that: “barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.” In short, Christian-that is, Catholic-nations had the Pope’s written blessing to wage a “just war” against Indian nations that failed to recognize the Doctrine of Discovery.  

Vine Deloria, Jr. (Yankton-Dakota) would write in the Afterword to Alvin Josephy, Jr.’s America in 1492: The World of Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus (1991): “Thus armed with a totally bogus title issued by God’s representative on earth, the Spaniards then began a brutal conquest in the Americas which virtually obliterated the native populations in the Caribbean within a generation.”

By 1513, Palacios Rubios, Spain’s master jurist, had refined the Doctrine of Discovery into a document that was to be read aloud, in Spanish or in Latin, when new peoples and/or lands were encountered. The fact that the indigenous people might not speak Spanish or Latin was not seen as relevant. The document recited the Christian history of the world and then demanded that the Natives accept this version of history and submit themselves to the authority of the Spanish king, who ruled by “Divine Right.”

The indigenous peoples were told that God has declared that the Pope rules all people, regardless of their law, sect or belief. This includes Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, or any other sect. The Native Americans were to come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or “with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals.”

Furthermore, Natives who resist are to be held guilty of all resulting deaths and injuries from the “just” war waged against them.

American Law

Pope Nicholas V portrait
Pope Nicholas V

The Doctrine of Discovery entered into American jurisprudence in 1823 when the Supreme Court ruled on Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh. The Court found that the Doctrine of Discovery gave sovereignty of Indian lands to England and then to the United States. Indian nations, under this doctrine, have a right of occupancy to the land. Christian nations, such as England and the United States, have superior rights over the supposedly inferior culture and inferior religion of the Indians. According to the Court, Indians have been compensated for their lands by having the gift of Christianity bestowed upon them.

The Supreme Court’s use of the Doctrine of Discovery in Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh (1823) laid the foundation for Indian law that still continues, but without the brutal language of Palacio Rubios. The ruling reinforced the superiority of Christianity as a governing philosophy and paid little attention to either Indian history or Indian religions.

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States. The government argued that under international law Christian nations can acquire lands occupied by heathens and infidels. It was an argument made by the United States government on the basis of the Christian religion. In their argument before the Court, government attorneys not only cited the 19th Century case of Johnson v. M’Intosh, but also the papal bulls of the 15th Century and the Old Testament of the Bible.

In 1955, the Supreme Court announced its decision denying the Tee-Hit-Ton (a band of the Tlingit Indians) any compensation for the taking of timber from their land. According to the Court: “The Christian nations of Europe acquired jurisdiction over newly discovered lands by virtue of grants from the Popes, who claimed the power to grant Christian monarchs the right to acquire territory in the possession of heathens and infidels.”

The Tee-Hit-Ton case reaffirmed the Doctrine of Discovery as the basis for U.S. law. It reaffirmed this Christian doctrine as the principle to be used in judging American Indians and discounted American Indian history and religious traditions. It denied that Indians had any legal rights as pagan nations.

In 2005, the Supreme Court once again cited the Discovery Doctrine in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: “Under the ‘doctrine of discovery,’ fee title to the lands occupied by the Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign-first the discovering European nation and later the original States and the United States.” The case ruled that tribal repurchase of land taken in the past does not restore Indian sovereignty over it.

In 2008, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers traveled to the Vatican to ask Pope Benedict XVI to rescind the Discovery Doctrine that they said has encouraged the genocide of millions of indigenous people. Vatican police, however, claimed that the women were engaged in conducting anti-Catholic demonstrations.

In 2009, Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons asked Pope Benedict XVI to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery. The Pope declined, thus indicating that the doctrine continues as Church policy. However, that same year, the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution repudiating the doctrine. The resolution called on the United States to review its historical and contemporary policies that contribute to the continued colonization of Native peoples. The resolution also called for Queen Elizabeth II to repudiate publicly the validity of the Doctrine of Discovery.

In 2010, A Preliminary Study on the Doctrine of Discovery was presented to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues by Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga). According to the study, the Doctrine of Discovery has been used to justify indigenous genocide and is one of the underlying reasons for the worldwide violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples. In 2012, the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues discussed the Doctrine of Discovery.

On numerous other occasions, Indian leaders in the Americas have formally asked the Pope to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery. At the present time, it is still official policy of the Catholic Church and underlies part of American law.

NAN Line Separater

NCAI President Seeks Voter Registration at Indian Health Services

By Meteor Blades

Jefferson Keel photo
Jefferson Keel

Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw), the president of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest group representing American Indians and Alaska Natives, is pushing voter registration for Indians in a way never seen before. He wants the largest-ever Native turnout this year at the polls. He told the Associated Press that the government should establish voter registration operations at Indian Health Service facilities under the provisions in accord with the National Voter Registration Act.

On reservations and in urban centers, the IHS provides members of federally recognized tribes health care and advocacy. It runs 142 hospitals, health centers and 50 health stations on reservations and about 30 urban Indian health projects where voter registration could be done, just as it is now done at public assistance agencies and local branches of the departments of motor vehicles in some states.

Only 40 percent of eligible Indians were registered to vote in 2008, meaning there are at least one million unregistered Indians. “This should be considered a civic emergency,” Keel told NCAI members assembled for a mid-year meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, Tuesday. Many politicians believe the Indian vote is too small to care about. But boosting turnout can make a difference in the outcome of local, state and, very occasionally, congressional elections in several states where there are large concentrations of Indians.

For instance, in 2002, South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson won reelection to his U.S. Senate seat against challenger John Thune by 532 votes, less than one-tenth of one percent of the vote. That victory can be credited to the huge margin he won on the Pine Ridge reservation by virtue of an unprecedented voter registration drive there that turned out large numbers of Oglala Lakota at the polls. The Democrats typically get more than 80 percent of the vote at Pine Ridge.

A new report from Demos found the Indian Health Service voting registration idea completely in line with public assistance agency registration. It also found that American Indians have the lowest voter participation rate of any ethnic group in the nation.

Demos found that when the law was implemented tens of thousands of new voters were added in North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio and Illinois. “In Illinois, the number of public agency registration applications is now at levels 18 times the rate before re-implementation” of that voting registration law. That’s exactly the kind of boost that would be needed to register a million American Indian and Alaska Native voters. This process would also be cost-effective voter registration, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the total cost at less than $500,000 over a four-year period.

“The Native community in the United States is increasingly making its voice heard in state and national elections,” the Demos report said. “Unfortunately, most of our history has been one of state mistreatment and exclusion of indigenous peoples. There are still problems and tensions … Making voter registration easier and more accessible through designation of Indian Health Service facilities as voter registration agencies will not solve all the problems that are causing low rates of participation among American Indians and Alaska Natives or fully address the ongoing mistrust. Nonetheless, it would be an important step that would have a significant positive impact on the voting rights of thousands of Americans.”

Getting registered is, for Indians, just part of battle to get unfettered access at the polls. Since Indians gained citizenship in 1924, states and counties have tried all kinds of chicanery to keep them from exercising their rights. This ranges in recent years from denials based on tribal identity cards in Minnesota to at-large elections in Wyoming, from refusing to provide language assistance under the 1965 Voting Rights Act in New Mexico to discriminating against reservation-dwelling Indians by having fewer polling places per capita and fewer hours allowed for early voting in South Dakota.

NAN Line Separater

Navajo Code Talker Frank Chee Willeto Walks On:


“Code Talker” Frank Chee Willeto (Navajo) died on Saturday, June 23. Willeto enlisted in the U.S. Marines 6th Division in 1944 at the age of 17. Willeto served in the Pacific Theatre in Saipan and Okinawa during World War II. 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. For example, the term for “platoon” was has-clish-nih, the Navajo word for “mud,” where platoons spent much of their time. The undecipherable Navajo code 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.


Supreme Court: Tribes Owed Millions in Reimbursements: In a major 5-4 ruling in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter that saw an unusual mix of justices on each side, the Supreme Court has decided the government must reimburse American Indian tribes for millions of dollars they spent on federal programs. Although $1.6 billion was appropriated to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for “the operations of Indian programs” in 2000, only $120.2 million was paid out. The justices ruled that the government “was obligated to pay the tribes’ contract support costs in full.” Roger Martinez, president of the Ramah Navajo Chapter in New Mexico was a plaintiff in the case. He told journalists that the band was sad the case had had to go to the Supreme Court, but “happy that they sided with us.”

-Meteor Blades

Tribes Start to Receive $1 Billion in Settlement Money:

T.J. Show, Blackfeet Chairman
T.J. Show, Blackfeet Chairman

As we reported in April, the federal government has come to agreement with 41 tribes over mismanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of concessions on Indian trust land. The payout? $1 billion. Some tribes are now receiving their share of that money. Among them:

– Minnesota: Leech Lake, $3 million; the Minnesota Chippewa, $1.99 million; the Bois Forte, $1 million

– Wisconsin: Lac Courte Oreilles, $8 million; Lac du Flambeau, $5 million; Bad River, $3 million.

– North Dakota: Spirit Lake, $6 million; Standing Rock Sioux, $48.9 million

Blackfeet Nation Chairman T.J. Show said that half of his tribe’s $19 million will go for investment projects on its Montana reservation, including a 90-room hotel. The rest of the money will be distributed evenly to each of the tribe’s approximately 17,000 members-$550 per person. Said Show:

We received an avalanche of responses with many, many great ideas. Some said it all should go to our youth, others said it should all go to per caps, some wanted debt paid down, others wanted to better fund programs and projects. After giving much consideration to all these great ideas and requests, we decided the fair and responsible thing to do was spend half on per caps and then stretch the other half as far as we can. […]

I believe it will be an economic benefit to the tribal members to use as they see fit, whether it be for college kids going to school or parents just needing to feed their child.

-Meteor Blades

Indians Worry About Bill Relaxing Eco-Rules at Border: The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that eases environmental regulations along the Canadian and Mexican borders. The bill is meant to keep out drug smugglers. But the Department of Homeland Security has said it is unnecessary. It would allow the Border Patrol to have full access access to public and tribal lands within 100 miles of the borders. It would also waive dozens of protective laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and others. The National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s largest representative body of Indians, sent a letter to the Senate in opposition to the bill.

The House measure exempted tribes, but Kesner Flores [Wintun/Paute-Cortina Rancheria], interim director of the National Tribal Environmental Council, is concerned that the Senate version of the bill contains no such exemption. The House version affects swaths of land along both the northern and southern U.S. borders, which he says are home to numerous tribes.

“That actually are homelands to a lot of native nations, who have their sovereignty issues and the nations; endangered species, and habitat and other things that are there that might be impacted, or could be impacted and probably will be impacted by this bill.”

Flores says the Obama administration and federal public lands rules require that tribes be consulted before making these types of major changes.

-Meteor Blades

The 20th Annual Lakota War Pony Races Will Be Held June 25

Young Lakota Rider on Palomino

Each year, the Lakota on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota commemorate their victory over the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Greasy Grass, better known in American history as the Battle of Little Bighorn. Several horse races are held during the day, including one where the riders chase a volunteer dressed as George Armstrong Custer. I wrote about this event in 2010 with photos and a video. 


100 Trail of Tears Route Markers Dedicated:

Trail of Tears route marker

Among the people of the “Five Civilized Tribes,” most particularly the Cherokee, the Trail of Tears is not forgotten. But most Americans have only the vaguest notion of the atrocity bearing that name. It was the relocation-at-gunpoint of tens of thousands of Indians, mostly from Southern states, to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. Along the trail, nearly a quarter of the Cherokee Nation died from exposure and inadequate food. This past week, some 100 Trail of Tear route markers were dedicated in Alabama, just as they have been in other states, including Missouri in April.

Patsy Edgar (Cherokee) said that remembering the past is not done only to show the past but also “[t]o point out to people that we are still here as a nation, and we still actually, we thrive, so it’s not all about the negative, it’s also very much about the positive.”

In a short speech, Aaron Mahr, the superintendent of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, said at the dedication ceremony:

“It’s a tragic story from our past that reveals some of the darker forces,” Mahr said.

“It speaks to the issue of racism, it speaks to the issue of forced relocation, removal, concentration camps on American soil.

“The dangers of extremism, issues that are part of our past.”

-Meteor Blades

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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: Giving Pine Ridge a voice, 1637, Native caucus at Netroots Nation ’12


Welcome to the 16th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Our last edition is here. In this edition you will find a new project by Aaron Huey, a special storyteller attending our caucus, veterans using sweat lodges for PTSD, a look at the year 1637 in American Indian history, two 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.

Giving Pine Ridge a Voice

By navajo

Aaron Huey has a new project. It’s another one born out of the frustration of “trying” to tell the complex story of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. He is currently a Stanford Knight Fellow for which he developed a new project to “explore how photojournalism, through radical collaboration, can grow to include more voices from the community.” It’s a spectacular project. But, first, for those unfamiliar with our alliance with the photographer, let me give you some background.

Huey is a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and has gone on numerous assignments for National Geographic around the world. Huey emailed me in 2010 to share his TED talk. I was so moved by it that I featured it in a diary, Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334.

Huey’s TED talk was a result of getting to know the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and photographing them to raise awareness of their continuing fight for survival. In the talk he recounts the history of the Lakota starting with 1824. He details the devastating massacres and “more than a century later, the current condition of Pine Ridge reveals the legacy of colonization, forced migration, and treaty violations.” His powerful video is embedded at the link above, I urge you to watch it.

Huey created the website Honor the Treaties to house this video and educate visitors about the history of broken promises. Then he started The Pine Ridge Billboard Project. A collaboration with the street artists, Shepard Fairey and Ernesto Yerena. Three beautiful posters were created and links were provided so anyone could download the images, and print and post them in their own cities.

The posters went up in numerous cities. The most impressive installation of this project was a billboard on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Meteor Blades and I watched for five hours as the work was completed by Huey, Fairey and some of their helpers.


Enough background. In the video below, Huey makes a powerful announcement about his new project:

Video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/s… frameborder=”0″


“So I have a confession.  

When I tell stories — when we, as journalists tell stories — we miss most of the good stuff. Some of the best stories end up on the cutting room floor because they aren’t “newsworthy,” or flashy, or violent enough. Or because there just isn’t space. The communities we report on know this, and when we leave they are often are left wondering if they will be misrepresented. This is the nature of our business.  We have to cut and simplify and flatten incredibly complex worlds so they can fit between car advertisements in ever shrinking print publications.

I know that when I am telling a story about a place or a people my job as a journalist is not to tell EVERY story of every person in a community, but when I go really deep, when I return enough times to see beyond the statistics and obvious stories, when I have to look back into the eyes of the same people after they have seen themselves on our websites or in the pages of our magazines, I want so badly to give them more of a voice.

As a photojournalist who has been working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota for the past 7 years I have struggled with this.

I think that I now I have a solution for this dilemma of representation, a solution for both the communities and for the publications.

I have been lucky to find collaborators in this endeavor in Jonathan Harris and his Editorial Director Annie Correal.  Jonathan is the creator of influential Internet projects like We Feel Fine, I Want You to Want Me, the Whale Hunt, and most recently the online community called Cowbird.

Together we plan to connect collections of community-generated stories to mainstream media publications through Cowbird.com, a visionary storytelling platform that can be customized and embedded in big media websites.

The key word here is “embedded.” Ultimately, for me, this project is more about redesigning a relationship – between communities and big media – than it is about designing a digital platform. Crowd-sourced and community-generated story sites already exist, but none thus far have been designed to plug directly into multiple Big Media websites. That relationship has not yet been established, and that is where we stand out.

We plan to create networks of local storytellers on Cowbird and connect them to powerful, popular idea-makers starting with National Geographic and moving on to other news and feature publications. These pairings can be started from the inception of a story.

Our first test case is my story about the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge that will run as a cover story in National Geographic this summer. These are a people who have always felt misrepresented by the media.

National Geographic has been visionary in allowing us to co-launch a community story collection on their website. We have already gathered over 50 stories from the Red Cloud High School on Pine Ridge.  More schools and story-tellers will follow with a community collection of 100-200 stories ready to accompany my piece when it launches July 15th.

Imagine the power – of involving communities in telling their own stories – and giving them a platform to publish their own unedited voices along side the story done by a journalist.    

That new relationship, between those formerly known as the “subject,” and the publication will open up a new kind of transparency and dialogue rarely seen in mainstream journalism.  

Launch THEIR stories together with OURS and you have something truly revolutionary.

This is the plug-in interface that will be launched at National Geographic mid-July:


I’m looking forward to exploring all the stories from Pine Ridge this July.


On a related subject, a new short film has been produced about Huey. Once it has premiered in Seattle I’ll provide viewing details for you.

Here’s the trailer:

Honor the Treaties | Trailer from eric becker on Vimeo.A portrait of photographer Aaron Huey’s powerful advocacy work for Native American rights on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Official Selection, Seattle International Film Festival, 2012

Directed by Eric Becker / weareshouting.com/

Produced by Scott Everett

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 1637

By Meteor Blades

Statue of Capt. John Mason on 
Pequot Hill, in Mystic, Connecticut
1889 Statue of Captain John Mason

was moved in 1996 to Windsor, Conn.,

from its original location on Pequot Hill,

in Mystic, where he led the 1637 slaughter

of hundreds of women and children.

On May 26, 1637, under the leadership of Capt. John Mason of Connecticut and Capt. John Underhill of Massachusetts Bay Colony, an English militia of 110 soldiers with some 200 Mohegan and Narragansett allies attacked a fortified Pequot village at Missituk, Conn., now Mystic. Inside the fort were 400 to 700 people-historians differ-most of them women, children and old men. Even so, they put up fierce resistance and Mason soon ordered the stockade set afire, its two exits blocked. Inhabitants who managed to climb out were killed. Most of the Pequot warriors were away on a raiding party to Hartford.

It was a turning point in the Pequot War, which had been going on since 1634. The roots of the conflict were deep, a product of growing Puritan immigration into New England and the inevitable friction between them and people whose land was being settled. But the spark that set it off was the slaying of the principal Pequot sachem Tatobem by Dutch traders.

Historians disagree about who responded, the Pequot or the Niantic, who were tributary to the Pequot. Whichever it was attacked Capt. John Stone, an English privateer and smuggler whom the Puritans called “a drunkard, lecher, braggart, bully, and blasphemer.” He and seven of his crew were killed and two Indian captives freed. The Niantic did not realize Stone was English, not Dutch.

The Pequots got the blame. Even though the Puritans had previously ordered Stone out of Plymouth Plantation upon penalty of death after he had threatened the governor with a knife, the death of one of their own by “savages” could not be left to stand. Repeatedly ordered to turn over the killers, the Pequot repeatedly refused. The English retaliated by burning some outlying villages and corn stores. By 1636, the Pequot had begun raiding English settlements with a good deal more seriousness than in years past. In response, a militia was raised and the war was full on. It was fought mostly as skirmishes, nobody getting the upper hand, and both sides seeking to put wedges between traditional allies of the other.

That changed at Mystic. In the days after the massacre, the surviving Pequot were hunted down, killed, sold into Caribbean slavery or forced to join their enemies, the tribe being obliterated until it gained federal recognition three centuries later, in 1983, as the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut.

Historian Alden T. Vaughan wrote in New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675:

“The effect of the Pequot War was profound. Overnight the balance of power had shifted from the populous but unorganized natives to the English colonies. Henceforth [until King Philip’s War in 1675-6] there was no combination of Indian tribes that could seriously threaten the English. The destruction of the Pequots cleared away the only major obstacle to Puritan expansion. And the thoroughness of that destruction made a deep impression on the other tribes.”

The general attitude about the massacre was reflected in the declaration of William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation:

“Those that [escaped] the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.”

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

American Indian Caucus at Netroots Nation will feature Paulla Dove-Jennings

By Meteor Blades and navajo

Narragansett seal

Both of us will be heading out next week to Providence, Rhode Island, for a busy schedule of reconnecting, networking, attending talks, envisioning the future and generally carousing at the Netroots Nation 2012 conference. We hope to meet lots of you there.

We also hope those of you who make it to Providence will attend our reinvented American Indian Caucus. We’re excited to have a special guest this year. Her name is Paulla Dove-Jennings, née Tabautne (aka SunFlower). She’s a member of the Turtle clan of the Narrangansett Tribe of Rhode Island. Her ancestors were the people who lived there for thousands of years before it was Rhode Island. You can read about them in more detail at Invisible Indians at Netroots Nation.

Jennings is an oral historian and story-teller who has spoken all over the nation, including Alaska. She has never spoken in Hawaii or Europe because her grandmother told her never to cross the big waters. At our caucus she will speak about politics and women in the light of the traditional views of her tribe.

In her own words:

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.

NAN Line Separater

At the caucus, the two of us will also very briefly discuss our rationale and progress with First Nations News & Views and summarize voter suppression against Native people. As many of you know, our proposal for a Netroots Nation panel on the latter subject was rejected for the second time this year. We have not given up trying to make this panel a reality because we strongly believe that our story in this regard is unique and has impacts on the progressive agenda that go well beyond keeping a few thousand American Indians from voting.

There is a panel on voter suppression in general that deserves people’s attention:

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.

In addition to leading our caucus, navajo will be giving a presentation again this year:

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.


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VA Recognizes Benefit of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies for Veterans

By navajo

Veteran Steve Rich prays before placing

a log in the fire pit. (Photo byTaki Telonidis/NPR)

Ever since the government finally agreed that post traumatic stress syndrome-PTSD-is a real phenomenon, it has been thoroughly covered in the media. We all know now what it is, the havoc it can wreak on individuals, families and society at large, and we continue to develop ways it can be treated.

One new treatment is an old tradition, the sweat house, used to cleanse American Indian warriors of the bad spirits of war and death. Many tribes believe that in war a part of the soldier is left on the battlefield and when veterans return home they need a special ceremony to bring back that part of their spirit, to become complete again. Sweat lodges are common on many reservations. Today they are being used by a special group of American Indian veterans in Utah at the Veterans Administration center in Salt Lake City.

We can’t just walk away from war. The lasting effects of the exposure are real. We go into war knowing that a price has to be paid for going there, for engaging in the taking of lives. If the war is unjust … so much more the cognitive dissonance as well as the reasoning and emotional turmoil as we deal with the conflict in our psyche.

Native veterans are finding relief from anxiety in participating in the sweat ceremony as well as a spiritual connection to their heritage.

A sweat is a ceremony conducted by an Indian spiritual leader, or medicine man, in a dome-shaped structure. A fire is built and about 50 large stones are heated and then placed in the lodge. Water is poured over the hot stones, creating steam. The medicine man sings prayer songs and then, using eagle feathers, he blesses the troubled veterans. Using a scraping motion with the feathers he cleanses them of war.

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Native Swimmer Hopes for Olympic Gold in London:

photo of Maria Koroleva and Mary Killman
Maria Koroleva and Mary Killman

Synchronized swimmer Mary Killman (Citizen Potowatomie Nation) will be partnered with teammate Maria Koroleva in the duet event at the Olympics this year. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of another Native Olympian, the renowned Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), also known as Wa-Tho-Huk (“Bright Path”), who won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. He, in fact, is her idol. Killman has been preparing for her moment in the spotlight since she was 11. She now trains ten hours a day, six days a week, both swimming and lifting weights. Like Thorpe, she was born and raised in Oklahoma, a consequence of government policy that relocated 22 tribes there beginning in the 1830s. Thorpe was not the first Indian to participate in the Olympics. In 1904 at St. Louis, the Canadians won the gold medal for lacrosse in a contest against the U.S. team. Among the names of the competitors: Black Eagle, Spotted Tail, Snake Eater and Rain in Face.

Killman says:

“It’s not as easy as it looks […] Synchro is a theatrical sport, like figure skating, where we have the pretty makeup and the big smiles. But under all that-under water-it’s chaos. We’re kicking each other like crazy and trying to hold each other up.”

[For] Koroleva, the most challenging part of the sport-and one of synchro’s biggest misconceptions-is not ever touching the bottom of the pool. “The pools we swim in are at least nine feet deep,” Koroleva says. “There are underwater cameras and referees watching the routine to make sure we never touch the bottom, even by accident.”

-Meteor Blades

Jim Thorpe Native Games Anticipating 4000 Competitors: Six weeks before Killman has her chance in London, American Indians from across the nation will compete in Oklahoma City, Okla., in the Jim Thorpe Native Games in honor of the 100th anniversary of victories of the great runner. The games, running from today through next Sunday, June 17, comprise 11 competitive sports: baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, stickball, golf, track and field, cross country, wrestling, beach volleyball and martial arts. The week-long event will also include an American Art Exhibition and traditional cultural exhibitions. There will also be an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition and a 5-kilometer run. All participants must have a valid Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.

-Meteor Blades

Wyoming County Balks Over Fees in Voter Suppression:

Under fire for discrimination against Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Fremont County proposed a partial replacement for the at-large districting system that a federal district court ruled in 2010 violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Indian vote. The new system, part of the county’s appeal, would have created an Indian district but kept the rest of the districts at charge. In rejecting the county’s plans, Judge Alan Johnson wrote that county officials “appear to be devised solely for the purpose of segregating citizens into separate voting districts on the basis of race without sufficient justification, contrary to the defendants’ assertions.” The Ten Circuit Court agreed and ruled against the appeal.

Lawyers for the five tribal members who brought the suit have now asked Johnson to award more than $85,000 for their work on the appeal. The plaintiffs’ 2010 request for more than $880,000 for legal work for the original trial is still pending with the same judge. Fremont County, however, says the legal fees are too high and they have filed papers asked the judge to reduce them.

-Meteor Blades

Children bring joy to prison powwows:

Powwow visitors, including children for the first time in years, enter the state penitentiary in Walla Walla last Tuesday.
Powwow visitors, including children for the first

time in years, enter the state penitentiary

in Walla Walla last Tuesday.

(Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas/

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin)

Under a new policy in Washington state, American Indian prison inmates may request that children be allowed to join in annual religious and cultural gatherings behind bars. Including children has already had an impact. “People die inside themselves in here,” said Herbert Rice (Yakama), who remembers teaching his son, now 20, how to grass-dance in a prison visiting room. “These elders here today remind us of who we are, they bring us back to who we are. And the kids, for us, remind us of what we used to be, and they remind us what tomorrow is going to be, especially these young kids here dancing.”

It had been at least five years since some prison superintendents-each one decided individually-last allowed minors to attend Native American powwows inside the state’s 12 correctional facilities. And it’s been two years since the Department of Corrections (DOC) implemented sweeping changes that deemed as contraband the “sacred tobacco” used in Native American ceremonies, authorized hands-on property searches of ceremonial items that were reclassified as “nonsacred,” and curtailed sweat-lodge ceremonies due to the cost of firewood. As part of the change, barring children from religious or cultural events was codified in DOC policy. […]

“DOC, with basically a sweep of a pen, erased all these religious, tribal, spiritual and ceremonial rights,” said Gabe Galanda, a Seattle attorney who worked on behalf of Native inmates. […]

“It’s taken us two years, through a lot of diplomatic effort and patience, to get everything back,” Galanda said. The one thing still missing, however, was the inclusion of children – often referred to as “shorties” – at powwows. […]

A few weeks ago, the DOC – after months of discussions about security and the need to protect children, especially from incarcerated sex offenders – decided to allow children to attend the first powwow of the summer season at the prison in Walla Walla. As a result of tribal leaders’ efforts, other religious groups – be they Catholics or Muslims – now can also request that children be allowed to participate in their annual religious or cultural events, Galanda said.

-Meteor Blades

Oglala Ready to Take Control of First Tribal National Park:

A photo of the Badlands
Badlands National Park (Courtesy NPS)

It appears a wrong may soon be partially righted. The South Unit of the Badlands National Park, 133,000 acres entirely within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, may become the first ever tribally run National Park. The history of how that land came not to be in control of the tribe in the first place has a familiar ring. In the cautious language of the National Parks Traveler:

The South Unit of Badlands National Park is an oddity, having been born of an administrative decision that incorporated a large tract of Indian-owned land into a national park in a rather heavy-handed manner. A gunnery and bombing range was established on [Lakota] land in 1942 shortly after America entered World War II. When the range was declared excess and closed in the 1960s, it was returned to the Oglala Sioux in the form of a government-held trust, and with the provision that it be part of the expanded Badlands National Monument. A Memorandum of Agreement stipulated that the OST-owned land was to be managed by the National Park Service.

Translation: The government took the land and the Oglala were told to shove it. Once the government gave up using the land for target practice, the Oglala and the Park Service reached a new agreement to govern the park and, in 1978, Congress redesignated the monument as Badlands National Park. Scroll forward another 25 years to 2003 and the Oglala requested government-to-government negotiations over future management of the South Unit. The Park Service is ready to go wholly to tribal management, but that will take an act of Congress..

“Our National Park System is one of America’s greatest story tellers,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said: “As we seek to tell a more inclusive story of America, a tribal national park would help celebrate and honor the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux people. Working closely with the Tribe, Congress, and the public, the Park Service will work to develop a legislative proposal to make the South Unit a tribal national park.” A map of the park can be found here.

-Meteor Blades

Poll: N.D. Voters Will Reject ‘Fighting Sioux’ Nickname:

Fighting Sioux logo saying

What could be the end of the tortuous path taken by supporters and foes of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo of the University of North Dakota will June 12. That’s when voters will give thumbs up or thumbs down on whether UND should retire the “Fighting Sioux” or keep the name in the face of NCAA sanctions. The battle has been going on since 2006 when the NCAA told all participating college teams that it will allow no more Indian-themed mascots, nicknames and logos except in those cases, like the Florida Seminoles, when the tribes agreed to their use. As we have reported here and here and the nickname dispute in North Dakota has involved the state’s two Dakota (Sioux) tribes (who disagree with each other), the governing board of UND, the state legislature and the state supreme court. The poll shows 56 percent favor Measure 4, which would allow UND to ditch the name, and 44 percent want to require the university to keep it.

-Meteor Blades

USDA Chief Names 11 to Native Council: As part of the 2010 settlement in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack lawsuit, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has appointed 11 American Indians to two-year terms on the Council on Native American Farming and Ranching. The lawsuit alleged discrimination against Indians by the USDA in its farm loan program. The council, which is only advisory in nature, will suggest changes to Farm Service Agency regulations, make suggestions for ways to boost participation of Native farmers and ranchers in all other USDA programs and support government-to-government relations between USDA and tribal governments. In the modern era, the government-to-government approach dates back to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, to President Richard Nixon’s 1971 formal ending of the tribal termination acts of ’50s and ’60s and to an executive order on such matters by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Making the government-to-government approach with the tribes across all U.S. executive departments actually happen obviously loses something from the signed paper to actual implementation. The council, The 11 councilmembers are Gilbert Harrison (Navajo Nation), rancher; Henry Holder (Choctaw Nation), farmer/rancher; Michael Jandreau (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), tribal chairman; Gerald Lunak, natural resources director (Blackfeet Nation); Jerry McPeak, (Muscogee Nation), farmer/rancher and Oklahoma state legislator; Lance Morgan (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc.; Angela Sandstol,  (Native Tribe of Tyonek), natural resources and conservation official; Edward Soza (Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians), farmer/rancher; Mary Thompson (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), farmer/rancher; Sarah Vogel (civil rights attorney and former agricultural commissioner for North Dakota); Mark Wadsworth, (Shoshone-Bannock Tribes).

-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: Living in two worlds, ‘An Overdue Apology’ & rally against racism

Welcome to the 14th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find my personal account of living in two worlds, a look at the years 1541 and 1885 in American Indian history, four news briefs and some linked 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.


Half Breed

By navajo

I am trying to live in two worlds.

I was born in Utah. My white father descended from the Mormon pioneers. His grandparents were polygamists. My full-blood Navajo mother – who was taken from her family at age five to be assimilated into white culture at the Tuba City Boarding School – joined the Mormon church in her 20s.

Mom had the typical boarding school experience. Overwhelming homesickness, having her mouth washed out with soap for accidentally speaking forbidden Navajo, witnessing others endure severe punishment for being incorrigible in some Navajo way and a constant curriculum of You Need to Become White Now. My mom was smart, she learned fast to conform, to survive. She excelled at the school and even skipped grades.

Many of her supervisors there were Mormon and the church also had a strong presence on the rest of the Navajo reservation. It was everywhere. Mom eventually served a two-year mission for the church, doing her work among the Zuni. When she completed her mission, the local paper, the Richfield Reaper, reported her accomplishment. Someone mailed the announcement to my father because he had an interest in Indians and a strong love of the church. He was so impressed that she had devoted two years of her life to the church while leaving her three-year-old son with friends. Her first husband, another Navajo, had been killed at a young age. My dad wrote her a letter and asked to meet her. Later they married and started a family in rural Utah.

1959. As you can see, we assimilated quite well with our modern hairstyles and contemporary dress in the dominant culture’s approved fashions. From left to right: My little brother Spence, (named after Spencer W. Kimball, who was an apostle of the Mormon church at that time), my mom Flora, my older half-brother Tom, my dad Rulon, and me, age four.

Being Indian, being Navajo, is one world. I’ll get to that shortly.

The majority of my life was spent living in the world of white where I often hid my real blood by altering my appearance as best I could. All around me was a common attitude that my brown skin made me inferior to the white townfolk. See my essay Born Evil for my experience growing up as a “Lamanite.” That’s what the Mormon church still calls Indians. In those days not so long ago, it went further and called us fierce, bloodthirsty, lazy, idolatrous and loathsome because God cursed us with dark skin. In that essay you can read about my being told in public that I was not preferred by God the way my white Sunday school classmates were. And that I must work hard to make up for it.

The common belief system supported directly by the Book of Mormon and emphasized by public comments from the leaders of the church fostered an attitude that being “white and delightsome” was superior in the eyes of God. Thus white was the preferred skin color in the community as well.

It was hard growing up where I was considered a second-class citizen, even by Utahns who were non-Mormon.

There are two reasons my memories have come flooding back now. The news about Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in which her alleged “Indianness” has been made an issue and the bullying by presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The right-wing’s instant response regarding Warren’s claims of a Native heritage was to make fun of her by slurring Indians with a flurry of insults using stereotypes and calling her “Pinocchio-hontas,” “Faux-hontas,” “Chief Full-of-Lies,” “Running Joke” “Sacaja-whiner” and “Spreading Bull.” A name like Sitting Bull should be treated with respect. Why is this the first thing people think to do when they want to make fun of Indians?

The slurs reminded me of the same sad treatment I received as I was growing up.

In 1973, after the American Indian Movement and Oglalas on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota took over the village of Wounded Knee, my bully of a high school political science teacher, who was also the football coach, took to calling me Wounded Knee in class. Every time I raised my hand to ask a question he would say, “Oh, Wounded Knee has a question!” I was deeply annoyed but did not want to draw more attention to myself, so I did not respond publicly with anger or sadness. I went on as though nothing had happened. Fortunately, the majority of my classmates were fond of me and did not themselves adopt this racist dig of a nickname. They also never used the slur “half breed” to me.

But when I was nominated to be homecoming queen the next year, I knew that that fondness had its limits. No way would I be chosen since I was running against two of the prettiest and most popular girls in my class. White girls. I was certain one of them would win. I was honored just to have been nominated. That was enough for me. The three of us were called on stage during an assembly to announce the new queen. I wondered which of them would be chosen. Then my name was announced! I couldn’t believe it. The other two burst into tears. Like me, neither of them thought I would be chosen. As I looked out into the cheering audience, I saw why the three of us had misjudged. All the Navajo Dormitory students were jumping up and down with huge grins. They were the students separated from their families and brought to town from all over the Navajo Nation to have the Indian taken out of them in the Richfield schools. My mother worked in the cafeteria at the Navajo Dormitory. I had forgotten the alliance I would have with those students. I had the swing vote!

Another time I felt very unsafe. The sheriff’s son, who was a senior when I was a sophomore, said harshly and menacingly close to my face, “Ho.” For NavaHO. That’s what jerks like him called all Indian students in town: Hos. This was well before the word was slang for “whore,” as it is today, so that was not his intent. But it was meant to be derogatory. I stayed away from him after that. Fifteen years later I was in my hometown with my young daughters at a restaurant. In walks the guy, and I see that he’s now the sheriff! I quietly grabbed my girls, got in the car and left town. I saw his gaze follow me as we left. He seemed to being trying to place me. I checked my rearview mirror several times on the way to the freeway. I’m always afraid of lawmen in small towns.

When I finally started to pursue a career, I found I advanced faster if I didn’t dress to match like my ethnic background. Dressing with Indian elements was viewed as a caricature, as if I were wearing a costume rather than expressing ethnic pride. In the workplace my ethnic clothing and jewelry were met with raised eyebrows. I got the distinct impression I needed to dress more conservatively, to fit in better. And I did. I tried to look as white as possible. I cut my long brown hair very short. I didn’t wear any Navajo jewelry.

Decades later, I finally took a break from working as a result of too much travel and burnout. It was during that quiet interlude I found that I regretted not having embrace my Indianness and especially regretted that my daughters didn’t know much about their heritage. I made a concerted effort after that to take regular road trips to the reservation with my daughters so they could meet their relatives and taste the wonderful, rich culture. I wanted them to feel a part of the reservation even though they are assimilated.

I’m also assimilated. Born and raised off the reservation, never taught my Native language and existing more or less comfortably within the dominant culture. I’m invisible to non-Indians, so we get along well. In the past few years, I have made strong statements with my appearance, but no one ever asks if I’m Indian. They just assume I’m of the hippie culture that is very much alive and well here in urban Northern California.

Now for that other world.

In spite of my Navajo grandparents having to give up their children to the government-run boarding schools to have the Indian removed from each child, our extended family miraculously retained its culture. My grandparents plotted to hide half their children from the Bureau of Indian Affairs kidnappers in the deep canyons of Inscription House on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. Those kids did not learn English and they kept to the traditional lifestyle of living in hogans without electricity or plumbed water. Shi cheii (the term meaning “my maternal grandfather” in Navajo) was a renowned medicine man. He passed on his hathalie (healing and spiritual) knowledge to his eldest son Robert. I became very close with my Uncle Robert in his last few years. That’s another story I’ll tell another day.

In the previous century, my mother’s ancestors defeated one of the myriad government actions meant to destroy our culture. In 1864, thousands of Navajo were forcefully removed from their lands and force-marched almost 300 miles away to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Fortunately, the tribe was able to return four years later, but it was devastated by the trauma of incarceration. Our family was lucky. They were able to hide deep in the canyons and high on top of Navajo Mountain. They did not go on The Long Walk. But it was still difficult for them to endure this wartime atmosphere and recover from it. In order for the Navajo to return to their lands they had to sign a treaty with many demands. One was that all the children would be given up to the government boarding schools to be assimilated. That led to the boarding school experience my mother survived. Her older sister Zonnie didn’t survive.

Because this family culture wasn’t destroyed, my mom’s Navajo roots remained strong. She visited her family on vacations and she remained steeped in the culture. She maintained fluency in the language. She took us along for several weeks every summer to herd sheep, enjoy the wonderful food, play with our cousins and live in the traditional style. We watched shi cheii perform ceremonies. I treasured every moment on the Rez.

1958. My father took this photograph of us all standing next to the hogan where my grandparents lived. My mother is to the far right holding my little brother Spence. I’m the little one at her feet in the red moccasins. Next to me is my grandfather (shi cheii) who was a medicine man. He’s the one in the tobacco-colored trousers. I loved sitting on his lap. He was so accepting of me, as was my grandmother (shi choi) who is to his right.

However, years earlier when my mom was at boarding school, she was advised to marry a white man and not teach her children the Navajo language. She was told this would raise her out of poverty and not hold her children back from advancing in the white world. It was curious that with such a strong cultural background that my mom followed this terrible advice. I think it points to how forceful the directives were from the government and how much of a survival instinct my mom had.

She felt that she was doing the right thing for us.

I admire non-English speakers who immerse their children in their mother tongue. As a result, as adults they can communicate more broadly and understand other cultures in ways monolingual people cannot. Sadly, neither I nor my siblings are fluent in Navajo, a result of the government assimilation policy and a compliant Indian woman who took the path of least resistance in her struggle to get by, to fit in.

I pay a price for not knowing the language when I visit my relatives on the Rez. Every time I go, I’m completely left out as my relatives converse in Navajo. I have to patiently wait for someone to translate for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for a translation and no one could go back that far in the conversation to help me out. And then the talk forges on while I sit in the dark.

Once, a few years ago at a family reunion for a traditional Navajo marriage, my cousin said deliberately within earshot of me, “Well, we are certainly getting whiter and whiter every time we get together …” I felt unwelcomed by him. The same cousin later laughed when I tried to pronounce a word in Navajo. Another time I asked a question of my Uncle Robert and this cousin interrupted: “We don’t share our stories with outsiders. You can ask all the questions you want but we won’t answer them.”  

So here I was, again in the same situation I dreaded in the white world. Not fully accepted in either world. Half breed.

But my uncle Robert, who usually sat quietly and merely observed, slowly started to speak, in Navajo. He spoke a long time with many hand gestures indicating distance, of travel. When he finished, this cousin, his son, sat silent. Everyone sat silent. When I realized no one was going to fill me in without prompting I asked what had just been said. My cousin Judy said that Uncle Robert had told his son that I was not an outsider. He had described the story of how I found him and reunited him with my mother, his sister he had not seen for 30 years. There’s much more to that story, one I’ll tell another day. Uncle Robert told his son I was blood and that I should be included. His son stood down and sat quietly the rest of the visit.

So in both worlds, there are inclusive people and exclusive people. Fortunately for my mental health there were many more nice people than mean ones. But the adverse experiences take a toll, especially on a young heart and mind.

One tends to never forget them.

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 1541 and 1885

By Meteor Blades

portrait of Hernando de Soto in armor
Hernando de Soto

On May 8, 1541, on a fruitless search for gold and other riches, the thief, slaver and conquistador Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River somewhere south of present-day Memphis, Tenn. About a month later, having built crude boats, he and the remaining 400 men of the expedition that had begun in Florida two years before managed to evade the patrols of Indian war canoes and become the first-known Europeans to cross the great river. From there, they wound through what are now Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. In a year, de Soto would be dead.

Another Spaniard took his place and continued the expedition. But the Spaniards had lost more than half their number, including their translator, a slave whose death made communication difficult with the Indians they encountered everywhere they went. They were harried by warriors constantly. They could not find enough food after having consumed most of their horses and all of the 200 pigs they had brought with them (except for those that escaped to form the ancestors of the razorback population of wild hogs now prevalent throughout the South). Most of all they could find no gold or silver. It was decided to pack it in and head back to the Mississippi and eventually to Mexico City. When a further expedition into North America was announced there in 1545, almost none of them signed on.

Even in that era, de Soto was considered a brutal man. Born and raised in the northwest Spanish province of Extremadura, a region of poverty that spawned many conquistadors, he first came to the “New World” in 1514 at age 17. He gained a reputation for loyalty and cleverness in the conquest of Central America and became wealthy in the Indian slave trade. He was made governor of Cuba and gained estates in Nicaragua and Guatemala worked by Indian slaves. But he longed for greater success and finally was sent on his own expedition to Yucatan in 1530 to hunt for a passage to China, the quest that Spain had been on for four decades. He did not succeed. But in 1532 joined Francisco Pizarro for the conquest of Peru. From the loot of that slaughter, de Soto became fabulously wealthy and returned to Spain, married well beyond his social station to a relative of someone close to the queen and seemed set for life.

But he was soon restless and champing at the bit for another adventure and more gold. That’s when the North American expedition was hatched. And, according to what we know now, that was when the fate of the Mississippian culture of the Southeast was sealed. De Soto’s three-year trek from village to village, sometimes trading peacefully, sometimes fighting, as they did at the Battle of Mabila – Mobile, Ala., takes its name from that one – under Chief Tuskaloosa. They won the battle and burned Mabila. But it was a Pyrhhic victory. By the time they reached the Mississippi, de Soto’s original expedition was in a bad way, its crossbows no longer working, the horses gone, the heavy armor cast off and most of the survivors of the trek weakened and diseased.

They were spreading disease, too. The populace in towns and forts throughout the region was dense and diverse, agriculture abundant, culture sophisticated. The next time Europeans would encounter the region, it was depopulated, having been wiped out by the germs the Spaniards brought with them. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who had never seen a European lost their lives to them as smallpox and other diseases against which they had no immunity took out as much as 90 percent of village after village. That kind of plague destroys more than people. It obliterates entire societies, which is exactly what happened.

Because de Soto had assured the Indians he was an immortal deity related to the sun, when he died of fever on May 21, 1542, his men weighed his body down with sand and secretly deep-sixed him in the Mississippi.


On May 12, 1885, the Metís of Canada surrendered and brought an end to the Second Riel Rebellion. The Metís were people of mixed European and Indian blood, often with French (sometimes Scottish or English) fathers, and mothers of one of several First Nations tribes, mostly Cree, Ojibwe, Saulteaux or Miqmaq.

The Francophone Metís were increasingly upset about an influx of Anglophone settlers and the impending transfer of land from control by the Hudson Bay Company to Canadian sovereignty. They had no title to the land and feared they would lose their de facto control of it under the new arrangement. They were led by Louis Riel. He first spoke out publicly in early October 1869 – saying that nothing should be done before Ottawa negotiated with the Metís. Ottawa was not listening. So the Metís blocked the arrival of the new lieutenant governor and seized Fort Garry on Nov. 6. Thus began the Red River Rebellion or the First Riel Rebellion. The Metís soon set up a provisional government, the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, with Riel as president, to handle affairs in the North-West Territory and Rupert’s Land. They established their own newspaper, New Nation.

Statue of Louis Riel
Louis Riel statue on Manitoba

Legislative Building Grounds, Winnipeg.

After several months of negotiation with Ottawa and much internal wrangling, an agreement was reached allowing the Manitoba Act to be passed, bringing that province into the Canadian Confederation. The provisional government had arrested people who resisted its authority and executed one of them, Thomas Scott. The killing meant there would be no amnesty for leadrs of the provisional government. When military force was sent from Canada to enforce federal law, Riel fled to the United States. The rebellion ended. But a complicated dance took place over the next few years as Riel won election in Manitoba but could not take his seat in parliament for lack of amnesty.

Ultimately, in 1875, he was given amnesty but only if he agreed to remain in exile in New York for the next five years. During that time, his already strong religious obsession took such fierce hold of him that he was given to outbursts of irrational behavior and speech that he was finally committed for some time to an asylum.

Meanwhile, the Metís had moved west. With the buffalo herds rapidly dwindling from the U.S. government-backed assault on them as part of its cultural genocide against the Plain Indians, and with Canadian government assistance reduced in violation of treaties, the Metís found themselves forced to take up agriculture but faced the old problems of land titles.

In early 1885, emissaries were sent to Ottawa to work out some arrangement. Instead, more troops of the North-West Mounted Police were sent and rumor had it, wrongly, that still more would come. Once again, a provisional government was established, this time for Saskatchewan and once again led by Riel, now back in Canada and recovered from his mental aberrations.

In March, a militia of the provisional government clashed with mounted police they encountered by accident while on patrol, a battle ensued, and the militia won. The Metís soon were in open rebellion. They were joined by other First Nations. Some hit-and-run battles were won, but Riel chose to concentrate his forces in Batoche, and after a three-day battle it became clear all was lost. Riel surrendered and was incarcerated. After a trial for treason, he was hanged in November 1885.

He remains a popular hero in Quebec and Manitoba.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Killing of White Buffalo Seen As Possible Hate Crime

By Meteor Blades

Photo of the buffalo Lightning Medicine Cloud and his mother
Lightning Medicine Cloud and his mother

(Photo by Kathy Old Crow)
Photo of Arby Little Soldier, the Hidatsa Indian owner of the white buffalo yearling slain in Texas
Arby Little Soldier

As we reported previously, Lightning Medicine Cloud, the all-white yearling buffalo, was slain and skinned April 30 on the Texas ranch where he was born in a thunderstorm. Because of the sacredness in which white buffalo are held by Lakota and other Plains tribes, a $45,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of his killer.

Said rancher Arby Little Soldier (Three Affiliated Tribes-Fort Berthold): “Local people here are pushing for this to be considered a hate crime. They’re contacting their senators, their congressmen. There is no penalty for killing a buffalo in the state of Texas. If you kill a horse, you get hung. If you kill a buffalo, nothing happens. So some people around here would like to see this classified as a hate crime, which would make it a federal crime.” Investigators say they have no suspects so far.

Meanwhile, Cynthia Hart-Button, president of the Sacred World Peace Alliance, has donated a white 7-year-old buffalo bull to Little Soldier from the group’s own herd in Oregon. He is named Chief Hiawatha, and Hart-Button said she is sending him to Texas “to protect not only the buffalo but to protect him (Little Soldier) and his family.”

Hart-Button said her organization doesn’t open its sanctuary up to the public because of safety concerns. “We’ve been threatened, people have offered me millions of dollars for their heads and hides,” she said. “I’ve even been offered money for their meat. These are the rarest animals in the world.”

The peace organization’s bull may not carry the same spiritual significance, as Little Soldier said it was bred to be a white buffalo. But he said he’s grateful and excited for the gift.

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Indians Plan Rally Over Racist Attack on Blind Lakota Man

By Meteor Blades

The American Indian Movement, LastRealIndians.com and Lakota elders and others are planning a rally May 21 in Rapid City, S.D., to protest a racist hate crime. As we reported in the 13th edition of First Nations News & Views, Vernon Traversie (Cheyenne River Sioux) had the letters “KKK” carved or burned into his abdomen while recovering from heart surgery in a Rapid City, S.D., hospital. The 68-year-old is blind. He spent two weeks in recovery at the hospital. During this time, he said, a nurse named “Greg” refused to give him pain medication and otherwise treated him disrespectfully.

When Traversie was discharged, a co-worker, shocked at what she saw, told him he should have photographs taken of his stomach because someone had used a knife or some other means to put three “K’s” on his stomach. That’s the acronym of the racist Ku Klux Klan. Tribal police investigated and took their own photos. They sent copies to Rapid City police. They investigated but filed no charges. FBI agents told Traversie they were going to take a statement from him, but Traversie says he hasn’t heard from the bureau in months.

Traversie said he plans to file a lawsuit.

Harry Smiskin, the chairman of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation wrote a scathing letter regarding the incident. It reads, in part:

As a former tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, I am particularly disturbed by what has not taken place in the aftermath of the assault upon Mr. Traversie. Upon the Yakama Nation’s inquiry of his tribal leaders and other relatives, I understand that there has been a complete failure of any federal, state or local law enforcement agency to take any initiative on the matter – despite that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Police have determined conclusively that a hate crime has been committed against Mr. Traversie. In particular, the United States seems to ignore the trust responsibility it owes Mr. Traversie as a Sioux Indian. Like the assault itself, this federal and state inaction is grossly unjust. […]

Rapid City Hospital and its medical and convalescent “care providers” seem to have violated Mr. Traversie’s civil rights as an American and his fundamental freedoms as a human being. If everything is as it seems, there could be no clearer case of discriminatory treatment, depravation of the equal protection of law, and violation of human rights than here: “KKK” was somehow etched across Mr. Traversie’s abdomen – literally etched in his own blood – because he is a Sioux Indian. Our Lakota Brother was viciously violated because he cannot see. This simply would not have happened to an Anglo American elder or an affluent patient, or to any non-Indian person with sight.

Based on Mr. Traversie’s account and the corroboration of photographs, it appears that Rapid City Regional Hospital allowed a hate crime and a racially motivated attack to take place, at the hands of its “health care professionals.” It does not take a medical professional to observe that three separate incisions across his abdomen that read “KKK” were not the result of open-heart surgery or post-operative care. […]

Again, I have been told that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have been formally notified of the attack, but have failed to investigate the crime, obtain a search warrant, or apprehend any suspects. This inaction, too, stands as a clear violation of Mr. Traversie’s federal civil rights and his basic human rights. Were Mr. Traversie an Anglo American, we can be sure that federal and state law enforcement would not have handled the referral from the Cheyenne River Police with such disregard.

We urge the United States Department of Justice and the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office to immediately cause an investigation of this hate crime. Anything less would be a violation of the trust responsibility that the United States owes to Mr. Traversie.

Poster announcing rally for Indian man who had KKK carved on his chest while he was in hospital

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Samuel Tso, VP of the Navajo Code Talkers Association Has Walked On

By navajo

Samuel Tso

Photo Courtesy of the Navajo Nation

Samuel Tso, 89, of Lukachukai, Ariz. died at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, N.M. on May 9th after battling cancer.

Tso was Vice President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association whose president, Keith Little died this past January at the age of 87.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley said, “The Navajo Nation has lost another Code Talker and that saddens my heart. The Code Talkers have brought great pride to our Nation and the loss of Samuel Tso saddens not only myself, his loss saddens the Navajo Nation. On behalf of the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Navajo people, we offer our prayers, condolences and words of encouragement to the Tso family. Samuel Tso was a true Navajo warrior.”

The Navajo Nation flag was flown at half staff from May 10th through May 14th to honor  the Code Talker for his service to the Navajo Nation and his country in World War II.

Tso enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 by claiming to be 21 years old. He was sent to Camp Pendleton where he mastered the second version of the code as the original 29 code talkers were being deployed. Tso had to learn both versions.

Tso was of the Zuni Tachii’nii clan and born for the Naakai Dine’e clan on June 22, 1922, at Black Mountain near Many Farms, Ariz. The Navajo introduce themselves first by naming their mother’s clan, since they’re a matrilineal society, and then they say they are born for their father’s clan.

See our previous coverage of Code Talker history here.

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U. of Minnesota Students Produce Film Calling for Apology to Dakota Indians

Photo of Indian Jail in Minnesota
Indian Jail

By Meteor Blades

For a dozen years, Carter Meland has taught American Indian literature in the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies program. This term 60 students in his “American Indians in Minnesota” class explored an issue we too have examined in FNN&V here and here: the 1862 Dakota War. They came away so appalled that they made a video.

The Dakotas (also known as Santee Sioux or Eastern Dakota) had been promised 1.4 million acres in perpetuity in exchange for giving up 23 million acres. Cut off from their hunting grounds, faced with two bad harvests, encroached on all sides by white settlers and having their treaty-guaranteed food distributions delayed, they sought confirmation of the land deal. They also asked for a loan so they could buy food to hold them over to the next season. The government-appointed Indian agent, Andrew Myrick, said, “If they are hungry, let them eat grass.” Five days later, the long-standing tensions exploded and white settlers were attacked. Myrick was soon found dead, his mouth stuff with grass.

President Lincoln’s advisors and the president himself thought perhaps this uprising was engineered by the Confederacy, speculation which was found to be false later. Lincoln at one point contemplated sending 10,000 Rebel prisoners of war under Union command to “Attend to the Indians.” Congress set a $25 bounty for each scalp of an Indian killed in the state. More than 1600 Dakota were placed in a concentration camp where hundreds starved. When the conflict was over, an estimated 500 whites and more than a 1000 Dakota were dead, although the actual numbers will be forever unknown. Several months after the six-week the conflict ended, 38 Dakota were executed on Lincoln’s orders in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

That, however, was not the end of the maltreatment the state dealt to the Dakota and Ojibwe. A good portion of this was delivered in the cultural genocide that was the mission of the residential boarding schools which many Indian children were forced into after being grabbed from their parents.

When the UofM students were done with their exploration of this history, they decided that a government apology to the Dakota and Ojibwe people was in order. To make their case, they put together a five-part, one-hour video, An Overdue Apology,offering a brief history of those people and their interactions with non-Indians and the U.S. and state governments.

Video will not embed, Part 1 here:


As you can see, it is an amateur film, created by non-historians, and it suffers from the speed with which it had to be produced. As the Minnesota Post‘s Paul Udstrand writes, “it’s not as polished as a Robert Redford documentary.” But it covers the ground and provides the kind of information that ought to be taught about local tribes in every middle school, high school and college across the nation.

As Udstrand says:

The demand for an apology is quite provocative, but it shouldn’t be. In many ways it’s simply a request that history be recognized and accounted for. Nevertheless many people seem to take reflexive offense at the proposal, as if it’s a personal attack of some kind. This is a request for an apology from the US government and Government of MN, not a request for a personal apology from people who obviously did not participate in historical crimes or injustices. A president or governor may be the voice of that apology, but no one is claiming that they are personally responsible. This is not a bizarre concept, Government[s] are durable entities that are accountable for the duration of their existence.  […]

Before you declare an apology to be “meaningless” you need give those requesting the apology a chance to explain what it means to them. And since any consequences of an apology are created by the apology, one cannot declare an apology that has not been rendered to be inconsequential. Obviously an apology could be a meaningless gesture, but it could also be a bridge to a better understanding of history and more respectful relationships among people. You may be able to argue that an apology is useless as long as it’s theoretical, but once an actual apology is issued, it may well create a powerful significance.

Part 2: The Dakota War’s atrocities, Dakota and Ojibwe traditions and daily life.

Part 3: Land allotment, blood quantum issues, the boarding schools and renaming of Indian children with Christian names.

Part 4: Economic revitalization, Indian gaming, interviews with UofM students on their knowledge of the tribes.

Part 5 : Gaining justice, the rationale behind an apology, nine UofM students from Meland’s class express support for Minnesota Indians by giving their own apologies for the injustices that have occurred in the state:

“The fight for indigenous rights fits into a larger struggle for social justice. Social justice is the upholding of the natural law that all persons irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc. are to be treated with equity and without prejudice. The path to justice for American Indians in Minnesota starts with recognizing the implications that these historical events have on relations between Native and non-Native communities. Things like the Dakota War and the dispossession of White Earth are part of a colonialist system that damages Native sovereignty and identity.”

An apology isn’t the end-all, be-all of reconciliation. But it’s always a good start.

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Lakota Farmers Reluctantly Join Loggers In Beetle-Infested Forest: The last thing Joe Shark (Oglala-Lakota) wants to be doing is cutting down trees in the forests of the Black Hills sacred to the Lakota. In fact, he has been opposed to logging there for a long time. But the Pine Beetle has killed many trees throughout the West, and the Black Hills are no exception. Left uncut, the infested trees provide an incubator for another generation of the destructive pests. So now Shark and other Oglalas have joined the Lakota Logging Project to cut the infested trees as a means of rescuing the still-healthy ones. Dave Ventimiglia, who co-founded the Lakota Logging Project, said he hopes to eventually raise $150,000 to build a saw mill on the Pine Ridge reservation. Oglala loggers could take the downed trees there and perhaps replace the run-down mobile homes occupied by so many of the tribe.

-Meteor Blades

Government Cannot Satisfy Indian Need for Eagle Feathers : Officials at the National Eagle Repository in Denver say they cannot keep up with the demand for carcasses needed by American Indians for bald and golden eagle carcasses used in ceremonies. The repository is the only place Indians can legally obtain the carcasses because the birds are heavily protected and their killing outlawed. Nobody can keep eagle feathers or other parts of the birds without a federal permit.  

-Meteor Blades

Federally Recognized Tribes Worry About State-Recognized Tribes: Kerry Holton, president of the Delaware Nation (aka Western Delaware) based in Anardarko, Okla., fears that state recognition of tribes could hurt tribes that are only recognized by the federal government. About half the states, mostly east of the Mississippi, give recognition to tribes based on widely varying rules. At an Indian business group luncheon recently, Holton said of federal aid to the tribes from Washington: “They’re taking some of our pie. That’s our money.” The problem, he said, is that “nobody has defined what that means, to be state-recognized. There are 800 to 1,000 unrecognized entities out there,” he said. He noted that the Lumbee, a state-recognized tribe in North Carolina, recently got $13 million through an Indian Housing Block Grant. The Western Delawares, on the other hand, only received $87,051 for that purpose. The Lumbee population is 55,000; the Western Delawares have 1440 enrolled members, which means that on a per capita basis the Lumbees got four times what the Delawares received. At the request of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), the Government Accountability Office drafted a report on the issue of state-recognized tribes. Boren has seen it, but it hasn’t been released to the public. The Lumbees have protested, saying the GAO report was written from the point of view of opponents to state recognition.

-Meteor Blades

Photo of Crooked Arrows Lacrosse game underway
(Photo by Kent Eanes)

Independent Film on Native Lacrosse Players Debuts: It took six years to get made, but Crooked Arrows opened in a few theaters this past week and will get a wider audience June 1. It’s the story of a troubled team of Indian lacrosse players whose coach is determined to help them win against a better equipped prep-school team. Finding enough Indians who could also play lacrosse and act was the task of Neal Powless. He is a member of the Eel Clan of the Onondaga Nation and director of Native Student Program at Syracuse University. “I was told if I did this movie I was no longer Neal Powless of the Onondaga Nation,” he said. “I was no longer Neal Powless of Syracuse University. I was on my own.” None of the eight players eventually chosen had ever been in front of a movie camera before. Lacrosse is a tradition of the Haudenosaunee nations (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy), which include the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora nations. The film tells the history of lacrosse as well as a more or less familiar feel-good tale of a team that starts out without a chance and proves itself capable of more than the individuals in it thought possible. Some of the actors talk about the movie here.

-Meteor Blades

Sanford “Redskin” logo

School Committee in Maine Town Dumps ‘Redskin’: After several meetings and extensive community discussion, plus the demands of a state commission, the governing body of the schools in Sanford, Maine, voted May 7 to stop using the racist slur “Redskin” for its high school sports teams. The vote was 4-1. The Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission has been working for years to get all schools in the state to replace offensive Indian nicknames, logos and mascots with more neutral team names. As we reported in the 11th edition of First Nations News & Views, only about 40 percent of the faculty, students and staff at the Sanford High School favored getting rid of the “Redskin” name and a logo depicting an Indian wearing a “typical Plains Indian headdress, nothing like the traditional attire of Maine’s Indians. At a public meeting in April, Richard Silliboy, tribal councilor of the local 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.” Meanwhile, the other Sanford in the news, the one in Florida, continues to use a racist mascot by the name of “Sammy Seminole.”

-Meteor Blades

Boston-Area Indian Center Asks Elizabeth Warren to Come Visit: The head of the North American Indian Center of Boston has extended an invitation to Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren to come visit the center in Jamaica Plain, an historic urban area of the city where she has made many campaign stops. Warren came under fire two weeks ago after it was revealed she listed herself as Native American in a widely circulated law school directory starting in the 1980s. Also, Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania both listed her as a minority professor. No record exists of her objecting to this claim. The right-wing Boston Herald, Republican Sen. Scott Brown and several conservative political pundits have attacked Warren, who is campaigning for Brown’s seat. The attacks have included racial slurs and stereotypes and displayed profound ignorance about Indians. But the critics’ implications that Warren may have used her Indian heritage to gain a hiring or matriculation advantage over other students have not been borne out by records from several universities she attended or was employed by, including Harvard. A reference to Warren’s great-great-great grandmother being listed on a 19th Century marriage certificate as Cherokee was found by a genealogist. But no copy of the marriage certificate itself has been uncovered. “We’ve never heard from Elizabeth Warren, unfortunately,” said NAICOB Executive Director Joanne Dunn in an interview. “We would like to see her. It would be nice if she reached out to us. She can come on down. We’ll make her some frybread.”

-Meteor Blades

Is ‘One Drop’ Rule Overruled for Indians? Columnist Clarence Page weighs in on the Elizabeth Warren controversy:

If Warren was claiming Indian ancestry when it worked to her benefit, she was following another American tradition, writes David Treuer, an Ojibwe Indian from northern Minnesota and author of Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life.

“An Indian identity has become a commodity,” he recently wrote in the Washington Post, “though not one that is openly traded. It has real value in only a few places; the academy is one of them. And like most commodities, it is largely controlled by the elite.”

-Meteor Blades

You can read our take on the Warren affair in the 13th edition of First Nations News & Views.

Mother’s Day Native American Powwow Celebrates 21st Year: Mittie Wood started the powwow in Dade City, Fla., when her twin grand-daughters were 5 years old in 1991. She did it to honor the Muscogee (Creek) ancestry her mother had quietly inculcated in her and other young kin since she was a young girl. But when she decided to go public with the powwow in Withlacoochee River Park, her mother, then 78, spoke of her fear that exposure would mean the whole family would be shipped off to Oklahoma. Wood’s great-great grandmother had been one of the 70,000 Indians of several tribes forced at gunpoint to go to what is now Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Thousands died on the trip. Eventually, Wood’s mother became comfortable with the powwow, which brings out up to 3000 visitors each year. The park on the river (whose Muscogee name means “crooked river”) includes an authentic replica of a Creek village built years ago specifically for the powwow, as well as an arena where storytelling, demonstrations, drumming and performances are held. “It’s like you’re stepping back in time,” said the powwow’s organizer Sharon Thomas, Wood’s daughter.

-Meteor Blades

Native Kids Participate in Solar-Powered Drag Race: In Albuquerque last Friday, some American Indian elementary students raced drag cars they built with solar technology. It was the 18th Annual Zia Solar Car Race. The goal, besides having fun, is to prepare kids to be future alternative energy leaders. Students from the Santa Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Tesuque and Isleta Pueblos participated in the event along with a group from Mesa Elementary School on the Navajo Nation.

-Meteor Blades

Eco-Advocates, Tribes and Others Fight Wind Project: A coalition of environmentalists, tribal representatives, recreational vehicle users, hunters and community residents are calling for a national moratorium on the “fast-tracking” of large energy projects on federal lands. The coalition’s action was kindled by local approval of the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility, a massive project that will cover 12,500 acres of desert in Imperial County, Calif. In a press release, Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects Coordinator for the Desert Protective Council, said: “This industrial wind project is symbolic of what’s wrong with the current federal fast-tracking process. We are the canaries in the coal mine. If this is not stopped here, destruction of millions of acres of public lands across the Southwest will likely soon follow.” Unless blocked, the project on Bureau of Land Management land will be going forward under new executive-ordered rules that open up previously protected lands. It will consist of 112 wind turbines-each perched atop a 450-foot-high pillar-with a total generating capacity of 465 megawatts, the 12th largest wind farm in the United States, enough to power 140,000 homes.

In a letter to President Obama in February, Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas

band of Kumeyaay Indians, wrote: “We believe that the Department of the Interior is poised to violate the law and our rights to religious freedom and our cultural identities guaranteed by DOI’s own policies, the United States Constitution, and international declarations. We need your help.”

-Meteor Blades

Photo of Curley Youpee in ceremonial dress
Curley Youpee in ceremonial dress

Smuggled Cultural Items Returned to Tribes: Sixteen Native items a smuggler was caught trying to sneak across the Canadian border into Montana have been returned to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes at Fort Peck. Eight other items have been returned to other tribes in Montana and one in North Dakota. The items, which include a knife in a beaded sheath, date to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Four of them have distinct Nakoda and Dakota designs; the origins of the rest are less certain. Fort Peck Tribal Cultural Resources Director Curly Youpee (Pabaksa-Dakota and Minicoujou/Hunkpapa-Lakota) said: “These will help with the identification of our own culture for future generations. That’s what we lack, an identity for our children. They need something to grasp onto that’s bigger than them. These are not artifacts. They are cultural items to us, and we need to maintain that.”

-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: Lamanites aren’t us, Ely Parker and Johnny Depp reprises sidekick role

Welcome to the 12th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find my personal encounter as second-grader with Mormon racism, a look at the year 1869 in American Indian history, Johnny Depp’s meeting with starstruck Navajo leaders and several 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.

Born Evil

By navajo

I was probably in the second grade. The Sunday school teacher in my southern Utah town was giving a lesson from the Book of Mormon to a small class of a few girls. It had to have been in very simple terms since we were so young. I can see now that the lesson was meant to be a self esteem-builder. But it backfired on me. The teacher was trying to show us little girls how much God loved us and how important we are on this earth to do his work. I was barely paying attention since I really wanted to be home watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. I resented missing all my cartoons and being forced to go to church, which I considered boring. But I had no choice in the matter.

That day, however, as the teacher recited the lesson and looked from girl to girl, my attention perked up when she said, “and YOU are all white and delightsome to our lord and he has special plans for you in this world …” Just then, she came to me and her roving eyes stalled out. She stammered a couple of times because she had forgotten that her rote lesson was being delivered in a class that now included a little brown girl. An Indian that the Book of Mormon (I later found out) describes as bloodthirsty, fierce and loathsome. An Indian whose skin was dark because of a curse from God.

After gulping a couple of times, she said something like “but Neeta here is a Lamanite (the Book of Mormon’s name for the descendants of Laman, who was cursed with dark skin for displeasing god) and we welcome her. They too, if they work very hard can go to the Celestial Kingdom.” That being the highest of the three kingdoms in heaven. I was told that if I made it to the Celestial Kingdom my skin would turn light.

This promise of skin lightening was commonly preached when I was growing up. In fact, there was a Paiute woman in our town who had vitiligo, “a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin.” My full-blood Navajo mother, Flora, a devoted Mormon, said that one of the bishops had told Mrs. Kanosh that the skin-color change was her reward from God for going to church. My mother was so pleased with this news. She loved anything that pointed to proof the Mormon gospel was true.

Gradually, over the next few years, I learned more of what Joseph Smith (the founder of the church and the author of the Book of Mormon) had said about Indians. We were innately wicked. We converted ones had to be constantly watched against reverting to our evil, heathen ways. This was on top of the church’s attitudes toward women. The General Counsel (the church’s highest governing body) instructed women to obey their husbands, the priesthood holders. Another instruction I remember: The priesthood holder should love the lord first and then his wife. One really had to accept a lot of demoralization to be female AND BROWN when I was growing up Mormon.

Attitude was bolstered by action. The church’s Indian Placement Program ran from 1947 to 1996. Its mission was to remove children from desolate reservations and help them get an education by placing them in Mormon foster homes. Any child involved had to be baptized in order to participate. Nothing subtle about this virtual kidnapping. The church took children away from their homes to assimilate them into Mormon culture.

As the daughter of a Navajo mother and a white father, I straddled two cultures differently than the foster kids. I had many relatives on the reservation and spent much time in the summers there. But it wasn’t home. In talking with some of the foster kids, I learned they had a hard time when they were younger. Some didn’t want to join the church but were forced into it. They found it difficult to live in two worlds, the white world during the school year and then back on the reservation during the summer. Some of them sadly recounted that they were made fun of back on the reservation because they had lost some of their language and traditional knowledge.

The majority of the Indian students attending school in our town were not foster kids but lived instead at the Indian dormitory on the outskirts. There was no requirement there to join the church. But those kids also told me about being homesick and feeling like an outsider in both worlds.

Today, it’s clear to most people that taking young children away from their families and culture is NOT a good thing. In fact, it’s terrible. And it happened to 20,000 children in the Mormon church’s Indian Placement Program.

These decades-old memories came flooding back to me when I saw a recent report that Lamanite action figures were being sold at the church-owned Deseret Bookstore and online by a private company, Latter Day Designs.

The Book of Mormon descriptions I came to strongly resent are used for each product.



Lamanite Warrior

[01020] $5.95

Lamanite Warriors were lazy and idolatrous … wild and ferocious … believing in the false traditions of their fathers. They trusted in their own abilities and not in the strength of the Lord. The Book of Mormon tells that the heads of the Lamanites were shorn, they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins… (Alma 3) They were armed with bows, arrows, stones and slings. …They had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites… These wicked warriors … reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery …

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 30 April, 2009.


[01005] $5.95

Laman, the oldest son of Lehi and Sariah, was stubborn, hard-hearted, and did not believe in the righteous teachings of his father, Lehi. The Book of Mormon records that Laman was so rebellious that he refused to listen when an angel from the Lord told him to change his behavior. Laman was a troublemaker and seldom helped his family. His wickedness caused his parents a great deal of pain and sorrow.


(Laman is available in two versions. The one on the right has been cursed by god with dark skin for his wickedness.)

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 30 April, 2009.


King Lamoni

[01019] $5.95

King Lamoni was a ruthless leader who ruled his people harshly. He often executed servants for being careless with his herds of sheep. Ammon, desiring to teach the Gospel to the Lamanites, fasted and prayed for guidance from the Lord. He became a faithful servant to King Lamoni. Recorded in The Book of Mormon (Alma 18 & 19) is the marvelous conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Lamoni, the queen, servants, and many of his people. Lamoni repented and helped his people become zealous in keeping the commandments of God.

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 30 April, 2009.

There are three more Lamanite action figures. However, they are good guys and are approved by God for their good works unto him.  It’s curious though. Shouldn’t their skin have been lightened for being such obedient souls? By the way, that hot-buff one is called a Stripling Warrior because he’s young. Conveniently, there were exactly 2000 of them in the Book of Mormon for important plot purposes.


Mormons weren’t the only people who believed that the curse of Cain was dark skin. That was once the standard Christian view. But Mormons took it very seriously and barred African Americans from holding the priesthood because of the curse. I was 22 years old in 1978 when the church back-pedaled and allowed black men to hold the priesthood. That was quite a big step in damage control. But the teachings that produced the racist beliefs in the first place have never been officially repudiated. Still, I never thought I’d see African Americans allowed into the priesthood. It was hardly enough to keep me in the church and I left shortly afterward.

All the derogatory descriptions about Lamanites remain in the Book of Mormon in verses like Alma 3:6:

“And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.”

Those descriptions live on in Sunday school lessons and action figures for impressionable Mormon children. It’s hard to change the word of God in books like that, so the record on what the Mormons think of Indians is written on golden plates, never to be changed.

How one can be Indian and a member of the Mormon church is completely beyond me.

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1869

By Meteor Blades

Donagä’wa aka Ely S. Parker

On April 21, 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Donehogä’wa, a Seneca Indian who had been his adjutant and military secretary during the Civil War, as the first Native commissioner of Indian affairs. That made him the overseer of the civilian bureaucracy responsible for some 300,000 Indians.  In the white world, he was known as Ely S. Parker.

Born in 1828 on the Tonawanda Reservation in Indian Falls, N.Y, to a prominent Seneca family with a lineage tracing to the famed Red Jacket, he was educated at a missionary school and learned perfect English by age 14 when he became the scribe and translator for his tribe. That proved crucial when the government tried to exile the Senecas to Kansas in the late 1840s as part of Indian removal policy. The tribe fought this vigorously, its leaders arguing that the treaties requiring removal were unfair and had been arrived at without their consent. Parker lobbied Congress at the time, but he was just 19, and despite his diplomatic skills, his efforts failed. Ultimately, however, the Seneca prevailed in court, and most of their descendants now live in New York on the same land they traditionally held. Some Seneca also live in Oklahoma.

Parker studied law for three years. But after completing his studies, he was not allowed to take the bar because he was Indian. With the help of a scholar studying the kinship structure of the League of the Haudenosaunee (the six-tribe Iroquois Confederacy of which the Seneca are a part), Parker enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, got his civil engineering degree and practiced as an engineer from 1850 until the Civil War broke out. In 1852, he became one of the 10 chiefs of the Seneca nation.

It was as an engineer in Galena, Ill., where he had moved in 1857 to build a customshouse, that he met a demoralized, hard-drinking, ex-Army officer, U.S. Grant, then working as a storekeeper. They hit it off.

When the war broke out, Parker tried to raise a regiment of Iroquois volunteers, but the New York governor nixed the idea of Indians in Union uniforms. Parker then tried to join the Army directly but was again rejected because he was an Indian, this time by the Secretary of War.

But persistence was one of Parker’s key traits. So he contacted Grant who finagled him a job as an engineer with the rank of captain in 1863. He performed well and Grant soon appointed him as his adjutant and later his military secretary, a job for which he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Much of Grant’s subsequent correspondence was written by Parker. He also helped draft the surrender documents signed by Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Those documents are in Parker’s handwriting.

Parker remained as Grant’s military secretary until he resigned from the Army in 1869 with the rank of brigadier general when the president appointed him to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

But, as he rose in white society, having married the socialite Minnie Orton Sackett in 1867, the Tonawanda Senecas became increasingly critical of him for neglecting his own people and taking stances they felt reflected an anti-Indian attitude. That wasn’t how Parker saw it. In his 1867 Report on Indian Affairs, he wrote:

“…as the hardy pioneer and adventurous miner advanced into the inhospitable regions occupied by the Indians, in search of the precious metals, they found no rights possessed by the Indians that they were bound to respect. The faith of treaties solemnly entered into were totally disregarded, and Indian territory wantonly violated. If any tribe remonstrated against the violation of their natural and treaty rights, members of the tribe were inhumanely shot down and the whole treated as mere dogs. Retaliation generally followed, and bloody Indian wars have been the consequence, costing many lives…”

Far left, Lt. Col. Ely S. Parker in 1865,

with Gen. U.S. Grant in the center.

But as a man straddling two worlds, as so many Indians did then and today, he was conflicted in his own views and afflicted by those of the dominant society. Obviously having already in mind a plan before he took office, Parker crafted what would become Grant’s “Peace Policy,” a means to reduce military conflicts with the tribes. Despite his views that Indians had been sorely mistreated, Parker still bought into the widespread view of the era that the “savages” should be “civilized” and have the Indian taken out of them. Here’s how he addressed the issue in his BIA report:

Arrangements now, as heretofore, will doubtless be required with tribes desiring to be settled upon reservations for the relinquishment of their rights to the lands claimed by them, and for assistance in sustaining themselves in a new position, but I am of the opinion that they should not be of a treaty nature. It has become a matter of serious import whether the treaty system in use ought longer to be continued. In my judgement it should not. A treaty involves the idea of a compact between two or more sovereign powers, each possessing of sufficient authority and force to compel a compliance with the obligations incurred. The Indian tribes of the United States are not sovereign nations, capable of making treaties, as none of them have an organized government of such inherent strength as would secure a faithful obedience of its people in the observance of compacts of this character. They are held to be the wards of the government, and the only title to the law concedes to them to the lands they occupy or claim is a mere possessory one. But because treaties have been made with them generally for the extinguishment of their supposed absolute title to land inhabited by them, or over which they roam, they have become falsely impressed with the notion of national independence.

It is time that this idea should be dispelled, and that the government cease the cruel farce of thus dealing with its helpless and ignorant wards. Many good men, looking at this matter only from a Christian point of view, will perhaps say that the poor Indian has been greatly wronged and ill treated; that this whole county was once his of which he has been despoiled, and that he has been driven from place to place until he has hardly left to him a spot where to lay his head. This indeed may be philanthropic, and human, but the stern letter of the law admits of no conclusion, and great injury has been done by the government deluding these people into the belief of their being independent sovereignties, while they were at the same time recognized only as it s dependents and wards.

As a consequence of this report and subsequent pressure, no treaties were signed with the tribes after 1871. But most of Parker’s other recommendations for restructuring the bureau and ending the corruption associated with providing goods for the tribes and private acquisition of Indian resources, were ignored. And, ironically, it was a scandal, that of the deeply corrupt Indian Ring, that forced him to resign, even though he was personally cleared of any wrongdoing and the ring had come into being well before he as appointed.

After resigning, Parker made a quick fortune in the stock market, lost it in the Panic of 1873, then got what amounted to a clerk’s job where he worked until retiring. He died in poverty in Connecticut in 1895 and was buried there. At the request of tribal leaders, he was exhumed two years later and reburied in Seneca territory next to his ancestor, Red Jacket.

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

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Navajo Nation Leaders Welcome Johnny Depp on Film Set in Monument Valley

Navajo Nation Vice President, Rex Lee Jim, Johnny Depp as Tonto and Navajo Nation President, Ben Shelley.

By navajo

We reported in our fifth edition that Johnny Depp had been cast as Tonto in the upcoming Disney film, The Lone Ranger. Some concern had been expressed for casting a non-Native in the role, although Depp says his great-grandmother had some Cherokee blood. The film is currently on location in Monument Valley. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley, Vice President Rex Lee Jim and Surgeon General Gayle Diné Chacon visited the set to welcome and present Johnny Depp with an authentic Pendleton blanket! Yes, let’s give a product from the number one retailer of Indian misappropriation! (FAIL)  I guess it didn’t occur to anyone to give an authentic Navajo weaving …

The Facebook Indians immediately posted their disdain for such fawning over a role that has long been considered a racist portrayal of American Indians. They also criticized Navajo President Ben Shelley’s lack of backbone regarding Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl’s water shell game proposal, SB2109.


One of my concerns is the now-famous makeup Depp wears for the film. Does this reflect the practice of an actual tribe? The Tonto character’s affiliation is unclear from series to series. This underlines a persistent problem we Indians face, homogenization, the representation throughout the dominant culture that we are all one generic Plains tribe rather than the many unique tribes that we actually are members of. In the old radio program, Tonto was Potawatomi. This tribe hails from Michigan and not from the Southwest where the Lone Ranger’s story is played out. Some connect the Tonto name with the Tonto Apache, one of the groups of Western Apache. One of the objections to the name “Tonto” is that in Spanish it means “fool.” So the Spanish likely named the Apache tribe just as they named the Diné people “Navajo,” a corruption of a word meaning “people who grow plants in green valleys.”

A little research shows that Depp’s makeup is based on the work of non-Native artist Kirby Sattler. And while the I Am Crow image is killer cool, is it authentic? The artist has a short promo video here. He says on his web site:

“I purposely do not denote a tribal affiliation to the majority of my subjects, rather, I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.”

We have issues with this. So often, our story is not told accurately by outsiders. And Hollywood, in particular, has been the grossest example of generating stereotypes and perpetuating misinformation.


So, let’s just do the basic search on the Crow:  The tribe is originally called “Apsáalooke,” which means “children of the large-beaked bird.” Whites later misinterpreted the word as “Crow.” Funny how that happens, huh? President Obama was adopted into the Crow Nation in 2008. Also note at that link the photos. No images like the Sattler piece appear.  An image search produces many photos without any likenesses similar to the one from Sattler. However, lower down you can see his image appear, and it will likely rise as his hits increase due to the popularity of Depp. Thank you again, Hollywood, for influencing another probably incorrect perception of Indian cultures.

This little tangental google exercise still doesn’t address the question of what tribe is Tonto from?

We’ll never know.

Because these are stories told by the conquerers.

NAN Line Separater

News Bullets

Beer Bill Dies in Nebraska Legislature: A bill that would have created “alcohol impact zones” to curtail sales of booze in Whiteclay, Nebr., to Indians from just across the state boundary on the Pine Ridge Reservation has died in a legislative committee dominated by recipients of campaign money from the alcohol industry. Oglala Lakota leaders say beer sales there are a plague on their people. They filed a lawsuit against two major brewers, their distributors and the owners of four beer shops in the unincorporated town, which the 2010 Census showed has a population of 44. The equivalent of 4.3 million 12-ounce cans of beer was sold in Whitelclay in 2011, most of it to Indians. The suit says the businesses encourage the illegal possession, transport and consumption of alcohol on the reservation, where booze is banned. Whiteclay is little different than the “whiskey ranches” set up in the 19th Century to move illegal alcohol onto what was then called Pine Ridge Agency. Alcohol, Oglala leaders say, is behind 90 percent of the crime on the reservation and causes serious health problems.

-Meteor Blades

Asa Carter (alias: Forrest Carter)

PBS Program Shows How Klansman Hoaxed His Way to Becoming an ‘American Indian’ Best-selling Novelist : PBS is airing “The Reconstruction of a Asa Carter: His Greatest Story Was the One He Never Told” throughout April. Carter was a Klansman and George Corley Wallace’s speechwriter, the guy who reportedly invented the Alabama governor’s most famous incantation: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” He transformed himself into Forrest Carter, claimed to be Cherokee, and wrote The Education of Little Tree, , published in 1976. The book allegedly is about his childhood experiences. Well after his death in 1979, the book took off and sold more than a million copies. It won the 1991 American Booksellers Association Book of the Year (ABBY) award. Oprah Winfrey praised it to the skies. But it was an elaborate, well-written fabrication. The book clashes with the linguistic and cultural realities of the Cherokee.  Noted Native author Sherman Alexie (Coeur d’Alene/Spokane/Flathead) has said: “Little Tree is a lovely little book, and I sometimes wonder if it is an act of romantic atonement by a guilt-ridden white supremacist, but ultimately I think it is the racial hypocrisy of a white supremacist.” A movie of the same name has also been made.

-Meteor Blades

North Dakota’s Oil Boom Disastrous for Many Indians: For the Three Affiliated Tribes-the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations-the phenomenal explosion in oil wealth from the Bakken shale has not trickled down. In fact, for poor Indians in the area, it’s been the opposite. Many are being evicted in New Town to make way for oil-field workers. The lack of housing in the area, a long-term product of failures by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, means there is no place to live for workers coming from outside the area. Solution? Evict people already living there, about 70 percent of whom are tribal members. So who gets evicted? The poorest people. That’s what has happened in a mobile home park that was purchased by a housing developer tightly linked to one of the major oil operations. The housing corporation claims it is both difficult to find housing and difficult to find land suitable for building new housing. So it plans to build new housing after it destroys the park. The eviction deadline is Aug. 31.

-Meteor Blades

Molalla High School mascot

Oregon Town’s Residents Fight to Keep Racist Mascot: Some citizens of Molalla have signed a petition to reject the Oregon Board of Education’s threat to cut off funding for schools that do not abandon Indian mascots within five years. As is so often the case, ignoring sociological studies, including those by Indians with both cultural and academic credentials, the petitioners in Molalla, a town of 6000 in northwest Oregon, say their high school mascot is all about honoring the Indians of the area, the Molale. But, in the common fashion of many such mascots, the depiction is stereotypically Plains style, the head of an Indian dressed in full “war bonnet” and looking a good deal like the composite Indian of the Buffalo nickel. Not as grotesque as Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo, but nothing to do with honor either. The Molale were forced off their land in the 1800s and are now a part of the Grand Ronde Tribe. (Here’s how they traditionally dressed.) The board started the mascot removal effort in 2006. State Superintendent Susan Castillo says six years of gathering evidence have increasingly made it clear that this is a civil rights issue.

-Meteor Blades

Spirit Lake Tribe Suit for ‘Fighting Sioux’ Nickname Gets Court Hearing: Archie Fool Bear (Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux) and the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota took their argument to federal court last week to keep in place the disputed “Fighting Sioux” nickname of sports teams at the University of North Dakota. Some details of the argument are here. See our previous coverage here and here.

-Meteor Blades

Digital Divide Isolates Tribal People in Remote Areas: For Wilhelmina Tsosie (Navajo), graduation day is now two semesters away. It should have been just one. The delay came because she has to drive 30 miles from her home on the Navajo Reservation to a hotel that has an Internet connection. Last term she missed too many assignments and now must take the course again. Like 90 percent of Indians on tribal lands, she lacks broadband service. “Native Americans face an ever-increasing digital divide, because they have been purposefully discriminated against in the business models and rollouts of next-generation networks,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank. “These are places that have been systematically forgotten by society.” The Federal Communications Commission initiated the Office of Native Affairs and Policy in 2010, one of the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan. ONAP’s mission includes promoting “the deployment and adoption of communications services and technology throughout Tribal Lands.”

-Meteor Blades

Veronica (Family photo)

Cherokee Girl’s Adoptive Parents Want Her Back: Matt and Melanie Capobianco have gone to the South Carolina Supreme Court to get 2 1/2-year-old Veronica back from her biological father, Dusten Brown (Cherokee). He gained custody four months ago under the 1978 federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The Capobiancos adopted Veronica in 2009 when her non-Native mother gave birth to the girl but could not take care of her. She was not married to Brown, who she said didn’t support her. He was in the Army when the adoption occurred and began proceedings to override the adoption when Veronica was four months old.  The law requires that an Indian child whose parent(s) cannot care for him or her should be placed with a member of the child’s extended family, a member of the child’s tribe or a member of another Indian tribe. Chrissi Nimmo, assistant attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, says the law was passed “as a result of studies that found that Indian children were being removed from their families at a disproportionately higher rate than other children. […] “And 99 percent of Indian children in adoptive placements were in non-Indian homes.”

-Meteor Blades (with a h/t to Ojibwa)

Ojibwa ‘Adopt’ Catholic Archbishop in Reconciliation Ceremony: Archbishop James Weisgerber, head of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, was adopted in a traditional rite as a step toward healing old wounds. From 1884 to 1948, First Nations children were legally forced to leave their kin and attend residential schools where their religion, culture and language were systematically stripped away. Many of the schools were run by Catholic religious communities, in which physical and sexual abuse took place. The last residential school closed in 1996. “In so many ways, our presence here has damaged the aboriginal people-their culture, their language, their communities-and they are the ones who are asking us for reconciliation,” Weisgerber said in a speech after the ritual conducted by Ojibwa tribal elders. A Canadian government Truth and Reconciliation Commission is gathering stories of survivors, as many former students of the residential schools call themselves. It has also established a $5 billion compensation fund.

-Meteor Blades

Former Landfill Operator Hopes to Make Big Bucks on White Buffalo: Lynn Pollard, who has been raising buffalo for two decades, has had his ups and downs with the animals. But now, after buying a white buffalo cow and successfully breeding her to produce another white one as well as buying a white bull, he hopes to do well all the time. Fully grown brown buffalo go for $1000 apiece, but a white can bring two to five times more. White buffalo are sacred to the Lakota and other Plains tribes. Pollard says he’s aware of their significance to those tribes but is himself only interested in the financial aspect.

-Meteor Blades

Ojibwe Professor Helps Bridge Cultural Gap in Bemidji: In this town between Minnesota’s three largest Indian reservations, nearly a third of the people are Ojibwe and racial tensions have always been high. But, Anton Treuer (Ojibwe), a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and editor of the Oshkaabewist Native Journal, and Michael Meuers, a white resident, came up with a simple way to start breaking down barriers-putting up bilingual signs in public buildings such as schools and hospitals.

-Meteor Blades

Manuals Being Developed for Ethical Health Studies of Indians : American Indians have profound health problems that could be aided by research. But Arizona State University’s use of blood samples taken from the tiny Havasupai tribe “put genetic research on the front burner,” says Ron Whitener, executive director of the University of Washington’s Native American Law Center in Seattle. He is working with the National Institutes of Health to put together manuals to help the tribes control research through methodical reviews of study proposals and by establishing protections both for human subjects and the tribal communities. Use of the blood samples for studies the Havasupai had not given their consent to led to a public apology and a $700,000 settlement from ASU. “Probably most offensive [of those uses],” Whitener said was ASU research and publication in journals of articles “looking at inbreeding among this very small tribe located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”

-Meteor Blades

Klamaths Win Big on Water Rights: An administrative law judge on April 16 gave a resounding victory to the Klamath Tribes’ efforts to secure their treaty-reserved water rights. Water from the Klamath River and Klamath Lake was confirmed in the amounts claimed by the tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs as trustee for the tribes. Specifically, the judge ruled that the tribes’ water rights are the most senior in the Klamath Basin, seniority being one of the key factors in U.S. water law. The tribes were guaranteed their traditional rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather plants in the area in an 1864 treaty. But for 36 years, they have been in litigation to secure the water rights necessary to ensure the health of the game and plant life in the basin. The Native American Rights Fund, the nation’s oldest non-profit firm working for Indian rights, has been involved for the entire process.

-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: Sliammon protest singer, ‘Clowns’ and wild bison transfers stopped

Welcome to the 10th edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a story about First Nations pipeline protests in Vancouver, a look at the years 603 and 1916 in American Indian history, three news briefs and a big collection of 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.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

By navajo

Navajo Night Dance Clown
Navajo Night Dance Clown

Today we feature medicine clowns in honor of April Fools’ Day. Many American Indian cultures have medicine people whose focus is emotional and spiritual healing though humor and parody. The English term clown is translated in various native languages to refer to members of a community who are considered tricksters, riddlers and jokers but who are also healers, mediators, oracles, counselors, storytellers and teachers. The Hopi Hyoka is the best-known example. Some tribes traditionally viewed medicine clowns as shape-shifters and changelings. As with other aspects of indigenous religions, the clowns were suppressed and demonized by invading European religious leaders who considered them a threat to their conversion-to-Christianity crusade. Eventually, Indian religion was banned entirely. But the custom of the clown was kept alive through oral history. An example of their practice is conflict resolution. The medicine clown would reenact the conflict using humor and satire. Once everyone was laughing the conflict could be resolved because of the mood. The Wampanoag Ahanaeenun are an example of contemporary medicine clowns who keep their traditions alive using technology and the written word to maintain the spiritual and emotional well-being of their community in a modern society.

Haunting Young Singer Punctuates First Nations Pipeline and Oil Tanker Protest

By navajo and Meteor Blades

11-year-old singer-protester Ta’Kaiya Blaney in traditional canoe

Just days after the 23rd anniversary of the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, more than 2000 people came out in support of a March 26 rally in Vancouver organized by First Nations people and environmental groups to protest the oil tanker traffic along British Columbia’s coastline and proposed pipeline expansion throughout Canada.

Rain is an eternal presence in the region and did not stop the large crowd from gathering in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Many First Nations people turned out in full traditional regalia, perfectly designed to deal with rain. Among the many speakers was famed environmental advocate and climate-change activist Bill McKibben:

Along with protecting this most beautiful coastline, and along with protecting all the people and other creatures that have been here for so long, you also have the great honor and the great burden of having to help protect the rest of the planet.

What they want is for British Columbia to be a kind of carbon portal, a kind of carbon gateway for oil and coal … and we just can’t let that happen. That oil has got to stay in the ground.

McKibben’s reference is to the tar sands oil of Alberta, much in the news in the United States because of opposition to the 1661-mile Keystone XL that builder TransCanada has proposed to deliver the hydrocarbon in those sands, bitumen, in a slurry from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast where most of it will be exported. McKibben and hundreds of other pipeline foes, including many American Indians, were arrested for protests around the White House last summer.

The Vancouver protesters object to the proposed $5.5 billion (Canadian) Northern Gateway pipeline to be built by Calgary-based Enbridge. It would carry slurry bitumen the 731 miles from Bruderheim, Alta., to Kitimat, British Columbia. The Despite significant financial and other benefits being offered First Nations people, some 60 percent still oppose it on environmental, social and cultural grounds.

Edwin Newman (Heiltsuk First Nation) one of the main organizers of this event, said, “We are trying to protect a way of life, a way of life that we’ve enjoyed as Heiltsuk people and as coastal people since time immemorial. We’re pleading with our coastal neighbours to stand with us to fight this issue.”

The Heiltsuk, which, with two neighboring First Nations people once populated a large portion of the central coast of British Columbia, are now based at Bella Bella on Campbell Island, 250 miles south-southwest of Kitimat and vulnerable to tanker spills. A Heiltsuk member read a statement in opposition to allowing pipelines and oil tankers passage through their territory.

The most moving speaker, who actually sang her protest, was Ta’Kaiya Blaney (Sliammon First Nation), an 11-year-old actress, singer and songwriter who performed her song “Shallow Waters” (lyrics) for the crowd. Released in early 2011, the song warns that an oil spill along the northwest coast could end all hope of maintaining traditions for coastal First Nations people. A spill would devastate marine life and coastal habitat. The lyrics and melody are hauntingly beautiful.

The studio version is here with amazing images and Blaney in her traditional cedar bark regalia. The documentation is very well done. It’s had 87,333 views. Her crying voice pleads to our emotions to listen, please listen, and do something.

The crowd, led by the First Nations, then marched to Enbridge Northern Gateway offices and surrounded the building, trapping the people inside for a time.

The demonstration ended peacefully.

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

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

This Week in American Indian History in 603 and 1916

Pakal the Great, King of Palenque, Born in 603

K’inich Janahb’ Pakal

On March 23, 603, the most famous Mayan king, K’inich Janahb’ Pakal, was born. (If you prefer the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar to mark important birthdays, it was, that is: 9 b’ak’tun, 8 k’atun, 9 tun, 13 winal, 0 kin from the 3114 BCE creation of the world according to the Maya. Yes, that’s a zero, the Maya being among the first to use it.) He was born in Otolam or Lakam Ha (Big Water) in the lowlands of what is now Chiapas state in southern Mexico. The Spanish conquistadors named the place Palenque, already a centuries-old ruin by the time they first visited in the 1500s.

The word “Pakal” means “shield” in the Chol Maya dialect. The king is familiarly known as Pakal the Great. He took the throne from his mother Sak K’uk’ at age 12 and ruled for 68 years. It was in his time that great architecture was built in Palenque, a response to attacks and destruction from another city state. Pakal’s tomb, in the Temple of Inscriptions (named for the extensive text on its walls), was for decades after its 1948-52 excavation by Alberto Ruz Lhuillier considered the richest  and best preserved archeological find of the ancient Americas. It took Ruz four years to dig through the floor of the temple, carefully clear the rubble and discover the elaborately carved sarcophagus. Ruz wrote:

Out of the dim shadows emerged a vision from a fairy tale, a fantastic, ethereal sight from another world. It seemed a huge magic grotto carved out of ice, the walls sparkling and glistening like snow crystals. Delicate festoons of stalactites hung like tassels of a curtain, and the stalagmites on the floor looked like drippings from a great candle. The impression, in fact, was that of an abandoned chapel. Across the walls marched stucco figures in low relief. Then my eyes sought the floor. This was almost entirely filled with a great carved stone slab, in perfect condition.

Under that slab, Ruz ultimately found, was a skeleton, the skull covered with a jade mask. The whole was surrounded by stucco and stone reliefs connecting the occupant with Maya mythology and the afterlife. The inscriptions stated this was indeed K’inich Janahb’ Pakal, but there were scientific concerns. After years of dispute over the age of the man whose bones these were, most scholars agree that the remains really are Pakal’s.  

Ishi, the Last of His Tribe, Dies in 1916

By Meteor Blades

On March 25, 1916, a Yahi Indian of the Yana people named Ishi died of tuberculosis in his quarters at the University of California’s anthropology museum in San Francisco. He was about 55 years old. Thanks to national fascination with him almost from the moment he stepped out of the woods near Oroville, he is possibly the most famous California Indian who ever lived. Except for the final five years of his life, he lived completely outside the white world.

During those five years, he was intensively studied. He became friends and a hunting companion of some of those who studied him, taught them the intricacies of his dialect and aspects of his culture, including how to knapp stone arrowheads the way he had been taught. In the latter case, his techniques are still used by many modern flint-knappers.

He was born about 1862, a time of tremendous pressure from whites on the Indians of northern California. The influx of the gold rush was over, but the flood of immigrants to the state never stopped. Mining and other activities wreaked ecological havoc everywhere they turned, killing off food sources for the Indians and driving down their population numbers by squeezing their habitant and by the California genocide. Ishi was a survivor of that slaughter.

Gov. Peter Burnett

The first governor of California, Peter H. Burnett, didn’t start that genocide, but he added to it. In January 1851, he said: “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.” That “painful regret” didn’t stop future governors from supporting volunteer militias to hunt and kill Indians. Between 1851 and 1859, the state spent more than $1.3 million for this purpose. The federal government reimbursed California for some of this spending. In addition, towns offered scalp bounties, as much as $5 each in some cases.

Groups like Humboldt Home Guard, the Eel River Minutemen and the Placer Blades terrorized and murdered local Indians. The 19th century historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote: “The California valley cannot grace her annals with a single Indian war bordering on respectability. It can, however, boast a hundred or two of as brutal butchering, on the part of our honest miners and brave pioneers, as any area of equal extent in our republic.”

At statehood in 1850, the Indian population of California was estimated to be 150,000, about half what it is thought to have been when the Spanish arrived. Thanks to the government-funded extermination policy, by 1900 only 16,000 remained. Among them were Ishi, his mother and his sister, survivors of the Three Knolls Massacre of 1865. That is when an impromptu militia of white settlers had killed some 40 Yahi on Mill Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River near Mt. Lassen in today’s Tehama County. The survivors, including 3-year-old Ishi, had fled.

Half of them were killed in 1867 or ’68 by another ad hoc militia. Its leader, Norman Kingsley, later said that during the slaughter, he had exchanged his .56 caliber Spencer rifle for a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver because the rifle “tore them up so bad,” particularly the babies. The few remaining Yahi fled into the wilderness where they effectively hid out for the next 40 years.

In 1908, a survey team ran across Ishi’s camp. He fled with his sister and another man, but his mother was too frail to run. The surveyors looted the camp, taking everything of value. Soon afterward, the rest of Ishi’s tiny band died. For the next three years, he lived alone. But in 1911, starving, he stole into a slaughterhouse where he was caught by the butchers and briefly jailed.

Ishi’s quiver and arrows

It was at that point that he came to the attention of anthropologists Thomas Talbot Waterman and Alfred Kroeber, who would make the Indian their research assistant and life’s work. When the ambitious Kroeber first heard about Ishi’s appearance, he wrote to linguist Edward Sapir: “Have totally wild Indian at the museum. Do you want to come and work him up?”

Ishi spent a good deal of time teaching the linguists and anthropologists what he knew. But he was also quite involved in the community. He dated, he played with local children. One of the most difficult adjustments for him was crowds. Before he went looking for a meal in that slaughterhouse, he had never seen more than perhaps 50 people all in one place.

After five years living in the white world that he had previously avoided all his life, he died of tuberculosis. In his culture, keeping the body intact for burial was important, but the doctors performed an autopsy, removed his brain and cremated the ashes. Those were buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in San Francisco, but the brain wasn’t interred with them for another 89 years.

Much has been written about Ishi, the most famous being the book published on the 50th anniversary of his emergence from the wild, Ishi in Two Worlds, written by Alfred Kroeber’s anthropologist wife Theodora. In 2003, anthropologists Clifton and Karl Kroeber, sons of Theodora and Alfred, edited Ishi in Three Centuries, a scholarly book on the subject that included essays by American Indians. In 2004, anthropologist Orin Starn wrote Ishi’s Brain: In Search of America’s Last “Wild” Indian There was a television film in 1978, a mediocre biopic called Ishi: The Last of His Kind.

In 1996, based mostly on the style of arrowheads that Ishi knapped, research archaeologist Steven Shackley concluded that Ishi likely wasn’t the last pure Yahi, but a mixed blood whose parents, like other California Indians may have been forced by white encroachment and slaughter into tribal mergers with their enemies. Proof of that theory likely will never be known. Today, there are no known members of the Yana, the larger group of whom the Yahi were a part.

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Montana Judge Orders Stop to Further Wild Bison Transfers

Drummers welcome the bison to the

Fort Peck Indian Reservation, March 21, 2012.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, wildlife conservation advocates and members of the Assinibone and Sioux (Nakota) tribes celebrated the arrival of 62 genetically pure, wild Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck Reservation on March 21. But it will be the last such move for a while. The next day a Montana judge turned objections of white ranchers and property rights groups into a temporary restraining order on such transfers. A hearing will be held April 11 in Chinook. Thus continues a fight that in various forms is a century-and-a-half old.

Unaffected are the four bison already on their way from Yellowstone when Judge John McKeon issued his order. But the transfer of half the herd of 62 to the Fort Belknap Reservation (Assiniboine-A’aninin-Gros Ventre) and a planned transfer from the herd of billionaire Ted Turner are on hold. That puts a major hurdle in the path of a long-term wild bison restoration program that Gov. Schweitzer has enthusiastically endorsed.

Opponents of the transfer who filed the lawsuit that prompted McKeon’s action want the relocation program stopped permanently. They argue that wild bison will hurt their livelihood by spreading disease to cattle herds, eating hay meant for those cattle and damaging fences meant to keep cattle penned in. Tribal leadership at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap have pledged to keep the bison in fenced pastures for several years and monitor them for disease. The message ranchers want to deliver is as clear as it was in the 1870s when bison were being slaughtered in their millions and Indians were being herded into their own pens: This land is our land, not your land.

The 62 bison shipped to Fort Peck were moved without prior public notice and during a snowstorm-a maneuver by the Schweitzer administration and tribes that was meant to get the bison to Fort Peck ahead of a possible court ruling such as the one handed down [March 22].

Opponents of the relocation complained the tactic violated requirements under state law that the transfers be part of an open and transparent process.

Cory Swanson, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said Thursday’s ruling was a huge victory […]

“There’s no more stealthy movement of bison anywhere. No more secret agreements that are not fully part of the process,” Swanson said. “The trust factor is really low here and the judge recognized that.”

The 62 Yellowstone bison spent five years in quarantine to ensure that they were free of brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can infect sheep, cattle, dogs and humans. Some Indian advocates of restoring wild bison to a portion of their former range consider the quarantine not only unnecessary but part of a long-standing pattern.

“Quarantine is an insulting government program force-fed to First Nations as the only way to reconnect with buffalo,” blogs Peet on the Buffalo Field Campaign website. “It is damaging to wild bison and the Tribes that would see them home again. Is that all we can do is abuse wildlife, create livestock situations and call it wildlife restoration? We can certainly do better in our efforts at ‘wildlife restoration’ than to abuse and treat members of America’s only continuously wild population of buffalo like livestock. Quarantine is no more than a fear-based response to unfounded livestock industry complaints that are nothing but efforts to protect a subsidized lifestyle.”

The Buffalo Field Campaign, which works to stop Yellowstone’s 3000 wild bison from slaughter and harassment asserts that these 62 animals were the only survivors of a process of confinement that denied them their natural instincts and caused injuries and deaths from stress and human handling. Several females, the BFC said, were overfed during winter and died while trying to deliver their calves in spring. Other young mothers abandoned their calves. Some bison were gored or crushed to death against the corral pens and many were slaughtered.

The transferred bison aren’t the first at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap. The tribes have worked assiduously since the 1970s to restore the animals. About 700 already graze at Fort Belknap and another 200 can be found at Turtle Mound Buffalo Ranch on the Fort Peck reservation.

Theirs is part of what Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says is “a much broader effort to restore Yellowstone bison to more places across the entire region and revitalize our prairie ecosystems.”

She was in the small crowd at Fort Peck to welcome the animals:

“The return of genetically pure, wild bison to tribal lands in eastern Montana has been a long time coming, and it’s great to see it finally happening. […] Native Americans have had a special relationship with bison for thousands of years,” said Clark. “The tribes at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap have generously offered to take these wild bison to restore new herds of genetically pure bison, which only adds to the cultural significance of this homecoming. We would like to thank the tribes for making this dream come true, and we’re honored to have been able to play a part in making it happen.”

Her organization has already put up more than $84,000 for bison restoration on the two reservations. It will also help pay for fencing and buying contiguous grazing allotments.

While there are today perhaps 500,000 fenced bison in commercial herds, most of them are genetically intermixed with cattle breeds and sold for meat domestically and abroad. An estimated total of 20,000 genetically pure bison live, but none but those in Yellowstone are completely free roaming.

The connection is direct between the 62 transferred bison and the millions that once roamed the Great Plains until a government-funded extermination policy directed at domesticating and confining the Plains tribes nearly brought the species to extinction. As Ojibwa tells the story:

One hundred-forty years ago, Walking Coyote (Pend d’Oreille) of the Flathead Reservation had, as a consequence of killing his wife, fled to live among the Blackfoot. He became homesick and some Blackfoot told him it might help if he were to capture a few bison and take them back to the Flathead Reservation “as a kind of peace offering.” Together with his Blackfoot companions, he caught some stray, motherless calves and returned with them to his reservation. Twelve years later Charles Allard and Michael Pablo started their own herd with bison bought from Walking Coyote. In 1902, 21 bison from the Allard-Pablo herd were bought by Yellowstone National Park.

“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

The map shows the current distribution of bison herds, the vast majority of them made up of animals with a mixed heritage of bison and cattle genes.

Current Distribution

NAN Line Separater

“Greeks” Apologize for Hosting a “Cowboys and Indians”-Themed party at DU

By navajo and Meteor Blades

Cowboy and Indian party

Two University of Denver “Greek” chapters, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority hosted a “Cowboys and Indians” party Feb. 25. Photos of the event soon hit Facebook and made their way to the inboxes of members of the DU Native Student Alliance. They were not pleased. Soon their displeasure was felt all the way in the office of DU Chancellor Robert Coombe. He ultimately decried the party and after a months of talking, members of the two Greek houses made public apologies. But did those apologies really mean anything? Only a single representative from each Greek house showed up to read the apologies.

Said Viki Eagle, (Sicangu Lakota Nation) co-chair of the NSA, “This proves to me that our society and our fellow students still view us as nonexistent, [our peers] depicted us as mascots or a Halloween costume.”

Simon Moya-Smith (Oglala Lakota), the DU graduate student adviser to the NSA, said the party was offensive “because it dehumanizes and objectifies American Indians. People think our regalia are costumes to play around in, but they are not costumes. They are very spiritual and, if you want to use the western term, holy garb that would be reserved for elders of title.”

From Indian Country Today:

[S]ome American Indian students feel that the theme party is just another blistering offense to add to DU’s lengthy pattern of racial insensitivity toward its American Indian community.

Amanda Williams, 18, a member of the Navajo and San Carlos Apache tribes, said that last year DU had planned to title their homecoming parade “How the West Was Won” until the Native Student Alliance petitioned and protested against the name.

And according to Williams, on the night of the Cowboys and Indians party, a classmate and dorm neighbor had knocked at her door and asked her if she had “anything Indian” he could wear to the party.

Determined not to let the matter pass, the NSA requested a formal apology. When they finally got a promise in the matter, they sent a letter to supporters:

Last month, two University of Denver Greek Life organizations hosted a piercingly offensive Cowboys and Indians theme party where students donned phony headdresses, face paint, loincloths, and all manner of stereotypical viciousness.


After weeks of correspondence with the director of student activities at DU, the school and the Greek Life organizations – Lambda Chi Alpha and Delta Delta Delta – have agreed to publicly apologize to the members of the Native Student Alliance.

Yet we, the members of NSA, believe that they should not only apologize to us, but to the American Indian community at large for their arrogance and ignorance.

Megan Pendly Pickett, assistant director of campus activities, who acted as a liaison between the NSA and the Greek chapters, revealed in an email to NSA that “the leadership of both Greek communities are baffled as to why an apology is warranted at all. They don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.” That, of course, calls into question just how sincere the “Greeks” were when they agreed under pressure from students and the administration to make the apology. Native students experience that kind of racial insensitivity on a daily basis. Not at all unlike the attitude of people who who shudder at a sports team called the “Niggers,” but find nothing wrong with “Redskins.”

The public apology was scheduled for late afternoon on March 25 at a spot on the campus green where NSA had erected a tipi. A crowd of more than 100 students, faculty and community members gathered for the event.

“We understand our event was insensitive and hurtful to other members of the DU community,” said [Ross] Larson. “I’m here to make sure we can right our wrongs.” [Larson also said that the party was held “out of ignorance,” and not “racism.”]

Delta Delta Delta representative Molly Gasch said during her apology that the party will “be the last of its kind for our groups.”

“We understand that we have detrimentally affected more than just ourselves by failing to act as the community leaders that we strive to be,” she said, reading from a document. “Both of our organizations will be using this as an opportunity to improve our fraternity and sorority member education programs by increasing awareness and sensitivity of minority groups on campus.”

In an email to the DU community, Chancellor Coomb wrote:

Whether or not anyone meant to be disrespectful or hurtful, their actions did inflict painful wounds. We must all come to understand how our actions affect others, and how cartoonish depictions not only push us apart, but also reflect our limited understanding of one another.

Members of the Native Student Alliance, the Campus Activities office, the Center for Multicultural Excellence, and the involved fraternity and sorority have already embarked on a learning and healing process, meeting several times since the incident to talk, and more importantly, to listen.

Sounds an awful lot like what used to be called “palaver.” While the public apology could be seen as a step in the right direction, the failure of the Greek community to show up indicates that a large group of party-goers still doesn’t understand or care about the issue. From experience, American Indians know what the whisperers are likely still saying: “What’s the big deal?”

NAN Line Separater

Caught with Illegal Animal Parts, Welsh “Apache” Claims Native Heritage

By Meteor Blades

Mangas Coloradas, the Welsh Apache

The reporters have had a fun time with Mangas Coloradas. The 60-year-old Welshman claims to be Apache. Or at least he has since a divorce 20 years ago when he took the name of a famous Eastern Chiricahua leader and began living what he calls the Apache lifestyle out of what the Telegraph smirkily notes is “his three-bedroom detached house in the Townhill suburb of Swansea.” Dasoda-hae-the real Mangas Coloradas (“Red Sleeves,” in Spanish, a translation of his Apache nickname: Kan-da-zis Tlishishen)-would surely be smirking, too. But the failure to go beyond smirking reinforces stereotypes.

The Welshman traveled to the United States in 1997 and tried to live on a reservation, but he says the government would not let him. He lived in Spain in a tipi for a while, too. He keeps snakes as pets and claims to have cured thousands of people of their fear of them. He makes tomahawks and bows and arrows. He also says he loves animals in general. But what got him notice in the newspapers and on-line, starting in January in the South Wales Evening Post was the fact he was arrested with badger paws and bird parts in his house, a violation of the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act and the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

He is fighting the charges based on his claims of Apache heritage. In January, at a preliminary hearing, he showed up in a miserable mishmash of faux Indian garb, fringed jacket, suede moccasins and beads. His solicitor, Anne Griffiths, said: “My client is part of a native American Apache tribe. His belief means he travels abroad and lives in these communities in the summer.” As for Mangas Coloradas himself:

“I dress like this all the time I’m not just some weekend Indian. I don’t put it on to show off, I put it on because I want to wear it,” he said.

“I’m against modern life, nobody cares about anybody else, nobody cares about mother earth.” […]

“I have the motto Hóka-héy, which means it is a good day to die. I live everyday like it could be my last for we are only on this world for a short time.”

Apparently no reporter thought to ask Coloradas exactly which of the six Apache sub-tribes he spends his summers with, where he obtained his outlandish anything-but-Apache clothes or the fake Northern Plains-style headdress no Chiricahua would be caught dead in, or why he adopted face-paint more appropriate to a party rent-a-clown than a warrior of his namesake’s reputation. Nor did any reporter ask him why he chose as his motto a Lakota expression meaning “Let’s get a move on” or “Hurry, hurry” instead of his interpretation.

Perhaps the prosecutor will do so when Coloradas appears at trial in August.

NAN Line Separater

Top BIA Official Resigns to Take LDS Church Post: Larry Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation) is resigning as the assistant secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, the post to which he was appointed by President Obama in 2009. The assistant secretary oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, which runs schools for some 50,000 Indian children. The former Brigham Young University law professor is being appointed to the Quorum of the Seventy, which is the Mormon Church’s third-highest governing body. Echo Hawk was elected Idaho attorney general in 1990.


And the 38th Annual Denver March Powwow Princess for 2012 is  .  .  .   :

Calsee Has No Horse (Oglala Lakota) from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota!

Calsee Has No Horse, Miss Denver March Powwow 2012 PrincessCalsee Has No Horse, Calsee Has No HorseMiss Denver 2012Calsee Has No Horse, Miss Denver March Powwow Princess 2012Calsee Has No Horse, Miss Denver March Powwow Princess 2012

Powwows are one of our richest cultural community events. They take place all across the nation, and there is a powwow circuit that many dancers follow to compete for money rewards. Powwows are also spiritual events, a way to give thanks to the creator and pay tribute to our veterans. Like the Miss Navajo Nation contest, the powwow royalty competes based on skill. There is no, nor will there ever be, a bathing suit contest. If you haven’t attended a powwow, you should but be aware there are cultural rules you need to follow.


Lakota Hunger Strikers Target Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline: The Lakota Hunger Strike for Sacred Water Protection began today at 11 a.m. and will continue through Tuesday, April 3. The strike is in solidarity with First Nations people of Canada who opposed a proposed pipeline that would run from Alberta to Pacific ports to supply supertankers with tar sands oil for shipping along the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest. In a statement, Cheyenne River Reservation participants said: “Mining corporations use and contaminate an enormous, irreplaceable amount of pure drinking water, creating the world’s greatest ecological manmade disaster in the extraction of tar-sands oil.” Strikers will burn a sacred fire at a campsite on the reservation near Eagle Butte for the entire 48 hours they go without eating.

-Meteor Blades

Amnesty Int’l Reports on Abuses of Immigrants, Natives in Southwest: The 85-page report, titled “In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest,” says there are systemic failures of federal, state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws without discrimination. “Communities living along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly Latinos, individuals perceived to be of Latino origin and indigenous communities, are disproportionately affected by a range of immigration-control measures, resulting in a pattern of human rights violations.”

-Meteor Blades

Meet the Vochol, Beadwork on Wheels:

The Huichol Indians of west-central Mexico have poured artisanship into the iconic VW Beetle,

smothering it in their characteristic beadwork. (Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine.com via ICTMN)

At one time, hailing a cab Mexico City meant that about half the time you would be taken to your destination in a Volkswagen Beetle, the Bug in the United States, but the “Vocho” in Mexico. Indeed, the car was a favorite everywhere. I once rented a brand new one in Nogales, drove it all around Mexico for two weeks before dropping it off in Mérida. But I never saw one like this done up in the intricate style of the Huichol Indians of Nayarit and Jalisco. It’s the work of Huichols Francisco Bautista Carrillo and his daughter Kena Bautista, 227 million beads’ worth. The vehicle is named the Vochol, a combination of the nickname Vocho, and the tribal name Huichol.

-Meteor Blades

Illinois Junior High School Votes to Drop Indian Mascot: Aptakisic Junior High in Buffalo Grove, named after the man who was chief of the area’s Potawatomi tribe nearly 200 years ago, recently announced it’s changing its sport mascot from the “Indians” to the “Eagles.” The principal noted that this generation of kids is very sensitive and more aware of the harmful effects of Native American mascots.

-navajo with a h/t to lexalou

Indian Inmates Challenge S.D. Prison Tobacco Ban: In a federal trial of a lawsuit filed in 2009, a Lakota traditional healer, Richard Moves Camp (Oglala Lakota), has argued that tobacco is an integral part of American Indian religious ceremonies and denying its use can be compared with taking away the Bible from a Christian. South Dakota prisons ban even ceremonial tobacco use. Camp said tobacco has been a central part of prayer for thousands of years. Inmates Blaine Brings Plenty and Clayton Creek, both Oglala Lakotas and members of prison-based Native American Council of Tribes filed the suit.

-Meteor Blades

Department of Labor Announces $60 Million in Indian Jobs & Training Grants: Via the Workforce Investment Act’s Section 166-Indian and Native American Programs (INAP), the grants are targeted to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities for developing academic, occupational, and literacy skills to individuals making more competitive in the workforce. The grants will be administered in accordance with the community’s goals and values. Of the total, $12.4 million of grants will be focused on youth programs.

-Meteor Blades

ACLU Sues BIA-Run School for Publicly Humiliating Navajo Student for Pregnancy: Last fall, Shantelle Hicks (Navajo) was a 15-year-old student at Wingate Boarding School in Gallup, N.M., who was expelled for being pregnant. Advised that expulsion for pregnancy was discriminatory and a violation of state law, they re-admitted her, but not before forcibly mandating her attendance at an all-school assembly, where they brought her in front of the entire student body and publicly shamed her for having a pregnancy out of wedlock. At the time, only one other person knew of the pregnancy – her sister. Privately, the school told Hicks she was a bad example and should look for another school. On March 6, the ACLU filed a suit against the Bureau of Indian Education school, a teacher and a counselor “seeking punitive damages and declaratory relief for violation of constitutional rights to equal protection and of the Title IX prohibition against sex and pregnancy discrimination in education.” A KOB.com reporter telephoned the principal, Timothy Nelson, who said the allegations weren’t true and hung up.

-navajo with a h/t to Aji

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Keeps Position: Charlie Murphy (Dakota) has kept his post as chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe whose reservation straddles North and South Dakota. Charges of misconduct and neglect of office were voted down 12-3 and 9-6 in the seven-hour meeting of the tribal council. All charges had to do with recent personnel moves that spurred tribal member Avis Little Eagle to seek Murphy’s removal. Little Eagle is a former managing editor of the on-line newspaper Indian Country Today. Murphy beat incumbent Ron His Horse Is Thunder in an election two years ago. One casualty of the effort to oust Murphy was executive director Cheryl Kary who had pushed through extensive changes in operations of the tribe’s executive branch.

-Meteor Blades

Federal Judge Says No Taxing of Mashantucket’s Slot Machines: An attempt by the town of Ledyard, Conn., will not be able to collect property taxes on slot machines that the Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation leases from non-Indian vendors has run afoul of federal district Judge Warren W. Eginton. He agreed with the Mashantucket’s lawsuit saying the town’s action are pre-empted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and violate the tribe’s sovereignty. Documents on the case can be found here.

-Meteor Blades

AMC Developing Carlisle School Show: ‘The Real All Americans’: The channel is in the early stages of development for a show directed by Tommy Lee Jones (Cherokee) about the football team at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School that included famed Olympian Jim Thorpe. The exact parameters are not known but will certainly include some focus on Capt. Richard Henry Pratt, who founded the school to “civilize” Indians and made the notorious remark in an 1892 speech in Denver “that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

-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: AIDS/HIV awareness, Lakota block pipeline trucks, mass hanging memorial

Welcome to the eighth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find a focus on Native and AIDS/HIV, a look at the year 1824 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.

The Red Road Needs More Than Red Ribbons

By Aji

KyleThumb When you think of the face of HIV/AIDS, it probably doesn’t look like this – but maybe it should. Meet Kyle. He’s a young American Indian man. And he’s HIV-positive.

Tuesday, March 20, is National Native HIV and AIDS Awareness Day.

American Indians now constitute the third-fastest-growing ethnic group with new diagnoses of HIV and AIDS: 10.4 for every 100,000 persons. At first glance, that number seems much smaller than the rate for Hispanics, at 27.8/100,000, and that for African Americans, at 71.3/100,000.

However, the numbers are deceptive. First, as with everything else related to American Indian health, rates of HIV and AIDS are without doubt substantially underreported. Second, “current” estimates are already seven years out of date: The most recent global figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control are from 2005, and the trends indicate greater rates of infection since then. Indian youth are becoming infected with HIV at faster rates than whites, with shorter survival times.

Third, talking about rates of HIV/AIDS in American Indian communities in terms of numbers per 100,000 population misses the forest for the trees. In the 2010 census, a mere 5.2 million people identified themselves as American Indians, either wholly or in part. That’s only 1.7% of the total U.S. population of some 308 million people. At that level, a diagnosis rate of 1/100th of a percent is a great deal more significant for the entire ethnic group.

And, according to CDC research covering diagnoses between 1997 and 2004, of all ethnic groups, American Indians and African Americans have the shortest rates of post-diagnosis survival: 67% and 66%, respectively, at the end of the period’s nine-year follow-up.

For a demographic in which 26% of those infected don’t even know they have HIV, awareness has now become a matter of both individual and ethnic survival.

It can be disheartening to read the literature of the world of HIV/AIDS awareness and outreach. Even efforts geared toward people of color regularly omit American Indians. Those that do remember to include them too often do so from a dominant-culture perspective that doesn’t even realize that there are cultural and other differences that must be recognized and incorporated into any successful outreach program. This approach makes Indian health, wellness and survival a mere afterthought. And all the red ribbons in the world won’t do a thing to increase awareness of the growing threat that HIV and AIDS present to our communities, much less enhance prevention and ensure survival.

The good news is that several Indian nations have already taken steps to create HIV/AIDS awareness, education, diagnosis, and treatment programs that are culturally relevant and respectful of tradition. Partnering with the Indian Health Service and other public health entities, these efforts target this most underrepresented and underserved of populations in concrete ways.

The Navajo Nation helps administer perhaps the most comprehensive programs currently in existence. The Navajo AIDS Network, founded by Melvin Harrison, partners with the Gallup [New Mexico] Indian Medical Center to provide counseling and case management services to Navajo patients diagnosed with HIV. The group also offers testing and educational services.  

The GIMC itself is a valuable resource: Geared explicitly toward tribal members, it works closely with both the Indian Health Service and traditional hataa’lii, or medicine persons, to provide comprehensive medical and spiritual healing for HIV and AIDS (as well as for any other illness, injury or condition).

The lack of awareness spurred the 2006-2007 Miss Navajo Nation, Jocelyn Billy, to make HIV/AIDS education and outreach the service program for her year in office. Ms. Billy connected with the young people, the group most at risk, and helped adults navigate the gaps between traditional ways and modern medical realities.

Admirable as such efforts are, they aren’t enough, of course. What’s needed is the sort of full-bore commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness in Indian Country that is seen in other public health contexts – for cancer, heart disease or illnesses that are not seen as belonging to some marginalized “other.” On March 14, the White House announced that President Obama has appointed Dr. Grant Colfax as the new director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.Colfax is widely regarded as a public health expert on HIV and AIDS. Now would be a good time to push him and his agency to expand their work to include culturally appropriate outreach, education and treatment among our Native populations.  

The models are already there: Other programs are taking shape around the country.  For a glimpse of some of the events currently planned for Native communities for the coming week, visit NHAAD.org’s site, which features a clickable map.  

You can learn more about Kyle’s daily journey on the Red Road, living as an Indian with HIV, at The Positive Project.

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

This week in American Indian History in 1824

By Meteor Blades

Thomas McKenney

On March 11, 1824, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established. That it was set up, without congressional authorization, as a division of the War Department explains the prevailing view at the time. In fact, Indian affairs had been handled by the War Department since 1789, having been during the Revolution and its aftermath in the hands of three commissioners who included Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry. Ironically, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who invented the BIA, appointed Thomas McKenney, a Quaker, as its first superintendent. McKenney had been Superintendent of Indian Trade from 1816 until 1822 when the 16-year-old trade program was abolished. Among other things, McKenney took to calling it the Office of Indians Affairs, a name that stuck until authority was transferred to the Interior Department 25 years later.

McKenney worked diligently to get the OIA made official. In 1829, Congress did so, establishing a budget and giving the president authority to appoint a Commissioner of Indian Affairs who reported to the Secretary of War and had responsibility for “the direction and management of all Indian affairs, and all matters arising out of Indian relations.” 

McKenney was a great believer in “civilizing” American Indians but, during his six years at the OIA, he became a vigorous proponent of removing Indians to places west of the Mississippi River. The removed Indians included the Cherokee who had become so “civilized” that thousands of them were literate in their own language with its own alphabet when they were marched out of their homeland at gunpoint. McKenney lost his job in 1830 because another great believer in removing Indians when he wasn’t actively engaged in killing them-Andrew Jackson-disagreed with his view that  “the Indian was, in his intellectual and moral structure, our equal.” McKenney was shocked when he later saw how brutal the murderous removals actually were in practice.

When the Interior Department was established in 1849, the OIA was moved out of the War Department and permanently named the BIA, as Calhoun had intended from the beginning. Over the next 18 years, much of its work related to distributing aid, including food, both to Indians who had been removed and were now starving in their strange new environments, and to others who had signed treaties providing annuities in exchange for great swaths of their land. Corruption was the rule of the day. Indian agents, who often bribed their way into office, cheated the tribes of what was due them in various ways, many of them becoming wealthy buying secondhand goods and wormy food with Washington’s allocated funds for the tribes and pocketing the difference.

A congressional investigation in 1867 made recommendations for modest changes, some of which were enacted. However, a proposal to remove the BIA from Interior and make it an independent agency failed. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed his Civil War adjustant, Ely Parker (Seneca) as the first commissioner of the BIA with Native blood. For the next two years, under Grant’s “peace policy,” military conflict with the tribes was greatly reduced. But after Parker left office, that changed again. Indians were fought, defeated and corralled onto ever smaller pieces of land, often far from their home territory. By 1900, the BIA had effectively become tribal government for all intents and purposes.

Over the next century, the BIA was investigated, reformed and reorganized several times as Indian policy went from the devastating allotment period that led to the seizure of tens of thousands of acres of land, the reestablishment tribal governments under the New Deal, the termination policies of the 1950s and 1960s during which more land was taken, and the turn toward more tribal sovereignty in the ’70s and ’80s as a partial consequence of red militancy emerging out of the broader civil rights movement. 

Today, the BIA remains at Interior and holds nearly 56 million acres of land in trust for 566 Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives. How that land gets exploited by non-Indians remains a major point of contention between the bureau and many tribes. The BIA also runs Indian schools and Indian child welfare. It provides funding and training for police forces, tribal courts, reservation road building and other operations in cooperation with tribal governments. Where once Indian employees were rare, they now make up the vast majority of the bureau’s workforce, which is headed by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk (Pawnee). Having Indians in charge has not stopped many other Indians from continuing to call the agency the Bureau of Incompetence and Arrogance.


Additional information about the BIA can be found in this diary by Ojibwa.

More below:

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Oglalas Face Criminal Charges for Civil Disobedience Related to Canadian Tar Sands

By navajo

Debra White Plume, Lakota Blockade

First Nations people in Canada and the United States have been in the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline ever since builder TransCanada proposed it years ago. The 1661-mile pipeline is designed to carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands deposits to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas where it can be turned into oil. Along with other foes, some Indians were arrested last summer during protests against the pipeline at the White House.

Earlier this month, Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota stepped up their opposition by blocking a highway when two massive trucks headed for the tar-sands mines forced a reservation motorist to pull off the road. Several of them were arrested but they vow to keep up their opposition.

The blockade got underway March 5 after word reached Debra White Plume (Oglala)that trucks carrying unusual covered cargo were making their way down the relatively narrow reservation highway not built for such heavy vehicles. White Plume, who was arrested last year in the White House protests, and whom climate-change activist Bill McKibben calls his “hero,” went into action when she heard that “Calgary, Alberta, Canada” was written on the side of the trucks from the Trotan company. She wasted no time in rallying her people and rushing to intercept the trucks. While she was en route, social media and the local reservation radio station, KILI, went into action, calling all able- bodied people to show up and support the blockade.

Marie Randall, Marie Brush Breaker Randall, Oyate Akitapi Win - Nation Woman, who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the small hamlet of Wanblee, South Dakota
Marie Brush Breaker Randall 

or Grandma Marie, 92 

(Oglala Lakota)

Nearly 75 people eventually arrived, including 92-year-old Marie Brush Breaker Randall (Oglala), who is called Grandma Marie by everyone on the reservation, and another revered elder, Renabelle Bad Cob (Oglala), who came in her wheelchair. 

Grandma Marie, her given name is Oyate Akitapi Win-Nation Woman (Oglala), lives in Wanblee, the word for “eagle” in Lakota. Her work includes raising awareness about diabetes and teaching the Lakota language to the next generation of Oglalas at Crazy Horse High School.

Her eloquent statements to the tribal police about the reasons for the human blockade are documented in this video that has had over 23,000 views since March 6. She says the road traverses Lakota land and asks the truckers who gave them permission to drive through. Why, she asks, didn’t they take much-faster state roads? In fact, who can travel on reservation roads has been long established by the courts, and the truckers were within the law.

Video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/9…

The truckers, who were bringing their cargo from Texas, told blockade leaders that they had not been told their designated route would take them through Indian Country. They produced papers showing they “…each carried a ‘treater vessel’ which is used to separate gas and oil and other elements. Each weighs 229,155 pounds [far more than the residential roads are built to handle] and is valued at $1,259,593…” White Plume says in the video that the truckers also told them that the corporate office in Canada and the state of South Dakota made a deal to save the corporation $50,000 per truck by driving through the reservation to avoid state weighing stations. Randall proposed that the reservation needs to set up its own weigh stations. 

The prevailing attitude of the peaceful blockaders was we will not stand down whatever the cost. 

After six hours, the tribal police showed up and asked everyone to leave. Five Lakota refused. So Alex White Plume, Debra White Plume, Andrew Ironshell, Sam Long Black Cat and Don Ironshell were arrested and charged with the only thing police could come up with, disorderly conduct. They were booked and released. Debra White Plume:

We stood our ground for our land, our treaty rights, our human rights to clean drinking water and our coming generations. We did this in solidarity with the First Nations people in Canada who are being killed by the tar sands oil mine, which is so big it can be seen from outer space, it is as big as the state of Florida. It didn’t matter where the heavy haul was going, either to the tarsands oil killing fields, or another oil mine, we didn’t want it crossing our lands, until the Tribal Police could get there and determine under whose authority they got onto the Reservation

The huge trucks could not be turned around easily, so they were escorted off the reservation by the tribal police.

After the blockade, Debra White Plume says the Associated Press incorrectly attributed to her statements about what she was told. She said the reporter wrote in a story that appeared in the Argus Leader and Rapid City Journal that “the truckers told the group they were heading to a Canadian oil field with empty containers for drinking water,” when the truckers actually told her they were carrying treater vessels. The AP article also said a spokesperson for TransCanada had denied the trucks or their cargo had anything to do with the tar sands or the pipeline.

People on other reservations are organizing and preparing to block future Trotan convoys if they try to transit through their reservations. This likely generated new charges against the previously arrested five Oglalas have been told they now face.

According to a posting on Andrew Ironshell’s Facebook page, tribal Attorney General Rae Ann Red Owl is compiling a list of as many as eight charges put together with FBI involvement. A trial date will be set sometime in the coming week. The five arrested protesters have been told not to speak with the media and not to return to the blockade site on the highway. They may travel to Wanblee, but cannot pass through, which is something Ironshell called “ironic, huh?” the blockaders now blocked. “Will the OST [Oglala Sioux Tribe] Tribal Court support the values of the community or the interests of a corporate US Congress and a foreign company – TransCanada?”

On March 7, Alex White Plume wrote that the acting chief judge of the OST will handle the case and that Judge Fred Cedar Face has been recused. This presents an issue of fairness, White Plume wrote, because Cedar Face knows Oglala customs and speaks Lakota but the acting chief judge, who is not Oglala, does not.

Meanwhile, next Thursday, President Obama will visit Cushing, Okla., a major hub of oil pipelines. TransCanada has been given the green-light to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL from Cushing to Texas refineries at Port Arthur. Many foes of Keystone view the president’s “welcoming” statement regarding that section of the pipeline as an indication he will approve the whole project once the company has provided an alternative route that avoids the ecologically fragile Sandhills of Nebraska, a major focus of the opposition to TransCanada’s original rejected application.

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Dakota Descendants Seek Memorial for Largest U.S. Mass Execution

By Meteor Blades

Vernell and Ernest Wabasha with young relative

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. On Dec. 26, 1862, on the direct orders of President Abraham Lincoln, 38 eastern Dakota (Sioux) men were sent to the gallows in Mankato, Minn., the penultimate act in the six-week-long Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising. The final act was the expulsion of the Dakota from Minnesota and the termination of their reservations in the state.

Now, direct descendants of those hanged that day want to establish a memorial to them in Reconciliation Park in Mankato. But the majority of the city council, after informally approving the memorial, retreated recently by tabling formal consideration. Calling up old language, one councilman spoke of the “hostility” in the words of a 1971 poem that supporters of the memorial want included on it. That poem, which the councilman called divisive and untrue had nothing to do with reconciliation, he said.

Like hundreds of conflicts in the Indian wars before and after, the 1862 Dakota resistance arose out of broken promises. Before the ink was dry on the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, Congress had stricken the crucial Article 3. This guaranteed a strip of land 70 miles long and 10 miles wide on each side of the Minnesota River for a reservation. Instead, Congress bought the land for 10 cents an acre and annuities.  

Jerome Big Eagle

(Mdewakanton Dakota)

Soon the Dakota were confined to the strip on the south side of the river. Payment of annuities were often late when they weren’t diverted by greedy, unscrupulous Indian agents who had bribed their way into office. They stole from the Dakota by various means. By the late 1850s, deprived or their best hunting grounds, plagued by rough winters and failed crops, the starving Dakota became ever more dependent on government food distributions. These too were often late and, thanks to government contractors and agents, consisted of substandard goods when they arrived at all. The Dakota became increasingly incensed over land encroachments and the failure to enforce the treaty rights they had forced to exchange for money and goods.

The push into a smaller space was meant to force the Dakota to adopt a new way of life. Chief Big Eagle said many years later, “It seemed too sudden to make a change […] If the Indians had tried to make the whites live like them, the whites would have resisted and it was the same with many Indians.”

Though accounts of his specific words vary, storekeeper Andrew J. Myrick inflamed passions in August 1862, by remarking at a meeting where Dakota representatives sought to buy food on credit, “If they are hungry, let them eat grass.” Several days after the meeting, four hungry and enraged Rice Creek Dakotas took it out on five settlers near Acton, Minn. Those killings spurred Dakota chief Little Crow to call a council that chose to go to war. Soon after the fighting broke out, Myrick was found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.

The conflict ultimately killed some 500 whites and an uncounted number of Dakotas, including the 38 who were hanged in December that year. At one point, thinking the uprising might be part of a Rebel conspiracy, President Lincoln pondered the option of freeing 10,000 Confederate POWs to fight the Dakota under Union commanders. Before that could happen, however, the war was over.

In late September, a five-member military commission was convened. On the first day, 10 Dakota were sentenced to death. So it went for six weeks, 393 cases, 323 convictions, 303 death sentences. Thanks to pleas from an episcopal bishop, Lincoln commuted the sentences of all but 39, and one additional man was later granted a reprieve. The day after Christmas, chanting their death songs, they marched single file onto the gallows in Mankato and were hanged. Seven months later, Little Crow – who had escaped to Canada before the trial but returned to Minnesota – was killed by a white settler who shot him for a $500 bounty. Little Crow’s scalp and skull were displayed in St. Paul and finally returned to his grandson in 1971.

The proposed memorial

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich declared 1987, the 125th anniversary of the executions, a “Year of Reconciliation.” Out of that came Reconciliation Park in Mankato, where today there is a plaque and two sculptures, one of a Dakota “Winter Warrior” and one of a bison, both victims of the Manifest Destiny that generated the 1862 uprising in the first place.

But those sculptures aren’t enough for Vernal Wabasha (Dakota). She and others want a memorial in the park for those executed. “They have markers all along the road about our savage Indians attacking white people,” said Wabasha, who has been married to Ernest Wabasha, a hereditary Dakota chief, for 56 years. He is the sixth chief of that name. The third one was chief at the time of the executions. Said Vernell Wabasha: “These men fought for the Dakota way of life, trying to hang onto something, to hang onto this land for the future generations of their children and grandchildren. […] They weren’t savages like they’ve been depicted for so long,”

Designed by Linda Bernard and Martin Barnard (Dakota), the proposed memorial lists the 38 names on a 10-by-4-foot scroll. The phrase “forgive everyone everything” circles the monument, planned to be 20 feet in diameter. The names on one of the fiberglass scrolls will face south because the Dakota traditionally believe the spirits of the dead rise on the fourth day and travel south.

On the other scroll was to be a poem about executions written in 1971 by the state’s former human rights commissioner, Conrad Balfour. But that 20-line verse is what prompted the city council to back off endorsing the memorial two weeks ago. Among the criticized lines:

The day before the countryside had mourned the

death of Christ the Jew

Then went to bed to rise again to crucify the

captured Sioux […]

Then Captain Dooley cut the rope

38 was cleared of breath

Christmas day the children laughed and churches prayed the blessing set

In that town was 38 was blessed

Peace on earth good will to men

A few days after the council’s action, a bland new poem was written by Katherine Hughes that is more to the liking of at least some councilmembers:

Remember the innocent dead,

Both Dakota and white,

Victims of events they could not control.

Remember the guilty dead,

Both white and Dakota,

Whom reason abandoned.

Regret the times and attitudes

That brought dishonor

To both cultures.

Respect the deeds and kindnesses

that brought honor

To both cultures

Hope for a future

When memories remain,

Balanced by forgiveness.

While several councilmembers have said the new poem is acceptable, Vernell Wabasha is withholding judgment. Nothing is “chiseled in stone,” she said.

Cost of the memorial is estimated at between $55,000 and $75,000. Thus, if it is approved, fund-raising is next on the agenda. Wabasha, the Barnards and supporters of the project hope finished it by September, in time for the Mankato wacipi (pow-wow) gathering.

The names of the 38 who were executed:

Ti-hdo-ni-ca (One Who Jealously Guards His Home)

Ptan Du-ta (Scarlet Otter)

Oyate Ta-wa (His People)

Hin-han-sun-ko-yag-ma-ni (One Who Walks Clothed In Owl Feathers)

Ma-za Bo-mdu (Iron Blower)

Wa-hpe Duta (Scarlet Leaf)

Wa-hi-na (I Came)

Sna Ma-ni (Tinkling Walker)

Hda In-yan-ka (Rattling Runner)

Do-wan-s-a (Sings A Lot)

He-pan (Second Born Male Child)

Sun-ka ska (White Dog)

Tun-kan I-ca-hda ma-ni (One Who Walks By His Grandfather)

I-te Du-ta (Scarlet Face)

Ka-mde-ca (Broken Into Pieces)

He pi-da (Third Born Male)

Ma-kpi-ya (Cut Nose)

Henry Milord

Wa-kin-yan-na (Little Thunder)

Cas-ke-da (First Born)

Baptiste Campbell

Ta-te Ka-ga (Wind Maker)

He In-Kpa (The Tip Of The Horn)

Hypolite Ange

Na-pe-sni (Fearless)

Wa-kan Tanka (Great Spirit)

Tun-kan Ko-yag I-na-zin (One Who Stands Cloaked In Stone)

Ma-ka-ta I-na-zin (One Who Stands On The Earth)

Maza Kute-mani (One Who Shoots As He Walks)

Ta-te Hdi-da (Wind Comes Home)

Wa-si-cun (White Man)

A-i-ca-ga (To Grow Upon)

Ho-i-tan-in-ku (Returning Clear Voice)

Ce-tan Hu-nka (Elder Hawk)

Can ka-hda (Near The Woods)

Hda-hin-hde (Sudden Rattle)

Oyate A-ku (He Brings The People)

Ma-hu-we-hi (He Comes For Me)

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Ancient Alutiiq Kayak to Revive Construction Knowledge

By navajo

Illustration of an Alutiiq Hunter

Alutiiq seal-skin kayaks were usually buried with their owners. But one dating back nearly a century and a half has been stored at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology since 1869. Now, with help from two visiting Alutiiqs from Alaska – Alfred Naumoff, the last traditionally trained Alutiiq kayak-maker and seal-skin sewer Susan Malutin – researchers hope to learn more about the kayak and take efforts to preserve it before it is moved to the Alutiiq Museum on long-term loan.

When he was a teenager, Naumoff began to ask tribal elders about traditional kayak-making. On his trip to Cambridge he identified many components of the kayak that the researchers did not previously understand, such as that it had been made for a right-hander and that the craftspeople engaged in a long process to ensure the seal skins produced a light weight, yet extremely durable covering for the kayak.

For centuries, kayaks were central to the lives of the people of the southern Alaskan coast.

“I heard a reference that to insult somebody, you said, ‘Your father had no kayak,'” [Alutiiq Museum Director Sven] Haakanson said with a laugh. Alutiiqs used their kayaks to fish for porpoise, to hunt seals, whales and sea lions, as well as for traveling through the Aleutians and, at least once, as far as San Francisco, he said. “It was critical. Without having those skills to go out and kayak, you were going to starve. You couldn’t survive in Kodiak without that knowledge.”

The ancient Alutiiq way of hunting was replaced upon contact with Russian and European invaders who had modern boats and firearms. Assimilation and persecution took effect and traditional kayak-making, like language and other cultural elements, began a path toward extinction.

When the Peabody researchers complete their work, the kayak will be moved to the Alutiiq Museum. “It is hoped it can be used to invigorate the next generation’s interest in Alutiiq traditions and repatriate the knowledge,” Haakanson said.

h/t to GreyHawk

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Youngest Iditarod Winner Ever Followed Trail of Ancient Alaskan Natives

By navajo and Meteor Blades

Iditarod dogs, Photo Courtesy of Frank Kovalchek

-Photo Courtesy of Frank Kovalchek

Part of what is now the Iditarod Trail was used by the Native American Inupiak and Athabascan peoples hundreds or more years before Russian fur traders began traveling that route in the 1800s. Now, it’s famous for the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The 2011 winner was John Baker, a 48-year-old Inupiak, the first Native to win the race since 1976. It was his 15th Iditarod. His lead dogs were Velvet and Snickers. They, Baker and the other dogs on the team covered the race in 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds, slicing three hours off the previous record.

That record was not eclipsed by this year’s winner of the 40th Iditarod, Dallas Seavey, from Willow, Alaska. At 25, Seavey is the youngest musher ever to win. His lead dogs were Guinness and Diesel. It took them 9 days, 4 hours, 29 minutes and 26 seconds to complete the grueling race. His father won the race in 2004. His grandfather, now 74, competed in the first Iditarod in 1972.

Two women, Libby Shaw and Susan Butcher, won the Iditarod in the 1980s. Butcher won four times, having lost her chance to become the first women to win in 1985 when her sled rounded a sharp turn and ran into a pregnant moose that killed two and injured five of her dogs. A woman, veteran musher Aliy Zirkle, came in second this year.

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Drunken Indian Poster Celebrates Record Company’s Anniversary

By Meteor Blades

Jonathan Fischer wondered this past week whether the poster advertising a “Pow Wow Party” for Windian Records’ third anniversary had crossed the line.

Is that a Native American? With fangs and exaggerated features? And an intoxicated look? Yes, it is all of those things.

But is it racist? One Washington City Paper contributor thought so, and he let the label know via Twitter. To which Windian proprietor Travis Jackson tweeted back, with his usual caps-lock affect: “HOW IS IT RACIST? ITS JUST ART MAN. BESIDES, IM NATIVE, AND IM NOT OFFENDED…HOW ARE YOU?”

Jackson, former drummer of the garage band The Points, sometimes calls himself “Beeronimo,” claims his grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee and “celebrate my heritage loudly, thru rock and roll music and art.” The Windian logo itself is a Plains Indian wearing a battered feather headdress and a puzzled expression. The fanged pow-wow drawing, which looks a lot like some now-abandoned sports-team logos, is typical, Jackson says, of the work of the artist, Ben Lyon. But Lyon’s work published on-line contains no fanged, besotted caricatures of other people of color. Nothing minstrelsy or lazy-Mexican-style.

Via email, Fischer asked Jackson what was up with the poster and he replied: “Its rock and roll. Its art. Its influenced from 50-60’s Rock N Roll art and culture. Its nothing new, its been done many times over.”

Yes, racist images are indeed nothing new and have been done plenty of times. You can still find wooden “cigar-store” Indians in front of small-town shops the way black lawn jockeys once populated so many front yards.

Ben Lyon himself wrote: “I know I’m not a racist. I think anyone offended enough to make a big stink over the art on a poster for a punk show, that they probably aren’t gonna attend in the first place, probably needs to get a life. Leave it to white American 20-somethings to see a neo-nazi lurking behind every tree.(ha ha!) Who says Indians can only be drawn as stern wisemen? Sounds like stereotyping to me! (ha ha) I would have no problem showing the poster to any of my Native American friends. I stand by my work.”

By March 14, Windian Records has replaced the show poster with a new one. Could “Beeronimo” have wised up?

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Last Fluent Speaker of ‘Kiksht’ Language Dies in Oregon: Gladys Thompson, (Wasco) 97, learned Kiksht from her parents and was also fluent in Ichishkiin and Sahaptin. Honored by the Oregon Legislature in 2007 for working to preserve the culture of the Wasco Tribe and keeping the Kiksht and Ichishkiin languages alive, Thompson also helped pass a bill to certify native language teachers. At the time she had 26 grandchildren, 78 great-grandchildren, and 23 great-great-grandchildren.


Larry Echo Hawk Receives the 2012 Governmental Leadership Award from NCAI: Echo Hawk (Pawnee) was appointed in May 2009 as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, a position that oversees 10,000 employees in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education. The National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s oldest and most representative body of Indians, has made the award for the past 13 years. In 2011, it went to then-Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli. Echo Hawk said: “The work we do at Indian Affairs is a rewarding experience in and of itself. It reminds me daily of my civic duty and loyalty toward my tribe, my people, my heritage, Indian Country and America.”

-Meteor Blades

Native Youth and Young Adults Smoke the Most: A 920-page report released by the U.S. Surgeon General shows that American Indian youth (12-17) and young adults (18-25)  are far more likely to smoke tobacco than any other racial/ethnic group in their age bracket. Nearly 50 percent of young adult Indians smoke. The only good news is that there has been a sharp drop in smoking among these cohorts over the past few years.

-Meteor Blades

High-Tech Glass Helps Ojibwes Connect with Beauty of Ancestral Homeland: When the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe built its new government center on the shores of the eastern Minnesota lake to which it has strong ancestral ties, it included large windows so tribal employees could enjoy the view and connect with the outdoors. But when the sun reflects off the water, they have to pull the blinds. Unhappy with that, the band installed SageGlass® in the nine south-facing windows in the wall of the conference room. The glass electronically (and automatically) tints itself and eliminates the need for blinds. The glare is eliminated but employees and visitors have an unobstructed view of the lake.

-Meteor Blades

Sixteen-Year-Old Learns Ojibwe in 10 Days: Tim, who runs the YouTube channel PolyglotPal’s, has taught himself several languages via computer, including Russian, Pashto, two Arabic dialects, Hindi and the American Indian language Ojibwe. You can watch him speaking Ojibwe, or Anishinaabe (with subtitles) here.

-Meteor Blades

Oregon May Ban Schools’ Use of Indian Nicknames for Their Teams: The state board of education has held hearings on whether to force 15 Oregon high schools to stop using Indian nicknames, logos and mascots for sports teams. About 20 schools dropped the usage in the 1970s, but the rest have hung on despite a 2007 recommendation that they be dropped. As elsewhere, some Indians support the ban; others do not. One Indian on the state board, Chairwoman Brenda Frank (Klamath), wants to see the nicknames go. Numerous studies cited by the American Psychological Association say the names, logos and mascots give Indian children a negative self-image. According to psychology professor Andrae Brown, who testified before the board, the use of the nicknames and associated material “undermines the ability of American Indian nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality and traditions.”

-Meteor Blades

A New TV Series, Navajo Cops premieres on National Geographic Channel: Perhaps the most unusual “cops” series yet, the 17-million-acre reservation is the main challenge the tribal police face, but the scenery shots are a bonus. Officers with traditional views are featured. One policeman washes himself with bitter herb for protection, and many on the force take calls about witchcraft seriously. Clips can be seen here.

-navajo with a h/t to Ed Tracey

Bald Eagle Kill OKed for Northern Arapaho Tribe Under pressure from a lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given an extremely rare approval for kill two bald eagles for religious purposes by the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act forbids killing the eagles or possession of any parts of the birds by non-Indians. American Indians can apply to obtain eagle feathers or carcasses from a federal repository in Colorado to use in ceremonies. The law also allows them to apply for permits to kill bald eagles, but permission has never previously been given. In testimony in 2007 regarding a member of the tribe who had killed an eagle and was being prosecuted for it, Nelson P. White Sr. (Northern Arapaho) said that birds obtained from the repositories were often rotten: “That’s unacceptable. How would a non-Indian feel if they had to get their Bible from a repository?” The USFWS permit states that the tribe may kill or capture and release the birds after the ceremony. Members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, who share the Wind River Indian Reservation with the Northern Arapaho, oppose the killing of the birds.

-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: Wounded Knee memories, Seattle totem pole honors carver killed by cop

Welcome to the seventh 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 remembrance by Carter Camp of the Wounded Knee siege 39 years ago, a look at the year 1954 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.

Carter Camp Tells Why Wounded Knee Siege of 1973

Still Matters Today

Carter Camp marked as a warrior

Carter Camp marked as a warrior at Wounded Knee, S.D., in the late winter of 1973

Thirty-nine years ago at the end of February in 1973, some 250 Oglalas and their supporters in the American Indian Movement took over the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The immediate catalyst for the protest was the corrupt leadership of the tribal chairman, Dick Wilson. By many traditional Oglala, he and his administration were viewed as an extension of the “colonial” system that had ruled the reservations for decades despite a veneer of sovereignty conveyed by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

But their objections in this specific matter had their roots in a different, broader issue, one that remains unresolved to this day, the unfulfilled promises in hundreds of broken treaties and other agreements between Indians and the U.S. government. Those pacts smoothed the way across the nation for the expropriation and occupation of the land of hundreds of tribes as well as the destruction of our culture, our languages, our religions and our traditions.

By the time of Wounded Knee, AIM had been in the forefront of high-profile protests against the injustices against Indians by the government for nearly five years. It had already organized an occupation of Alcatraz Island, marched across the country to Washington in the Trail of Broken Treaties, and occupied BIA headquarters, making off with boxes full of documents after a week inside the building.

The takeover at Wounded Knee had resulted in a siege by U.S. Marshalls and the FBI that lasted 73 days. I was there for 51 of those days, leaving only when it briefly appeared a resolution had been achieved. The siege continued for another three weeks. When it was over, two members of AIM and one federal marshall were dead. In the following two years, 60 AIM members and two FBI agents were also killed.

Though his name is less known than that of Russell Means and Dennis Banks, in the AIM leadership at the time was a young Ponca man named Carter Camp. He was chosen as war chief.

But let my friend Carter tell this story in his own words, compiled from a number of his writings and interviews over the past dozen years.

-Meteor Blades

By Carter Camp

Carter posts at Daily Kos as cacamp.

Ah-ho, My Relations,

I ask you to remember that our reasons for going to Wounded Knee still exist and that means the need for struggle and resistance also still exist. Our land and sacred sites are threatened as never before. Even our sacred Mother herself is faced with unnatural warming caused by extreme greed.

Wounded Knee takeover leaders were upset by the Nixon

White House’s response to the siege and asked for

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to visit.

Here an interviewer asks Carter Camp if that’s really

necessary. Camp asks, “Why not? Indians are just as

important as any other issue the U.S. has, like Vietnam.”

In some areas of conflict between our people and those we signed treaties with, it is best to negotiate or “work within the system.” But, because our struggle is one of survival, there are also times when a warrior must stand fast even at the risk of one’s life. I believed that in 1973 when I was 30 and I believe it today at 70. But to me Wounded Knee ’73 was really not about the fight, it was about the strong statement that our traditional way of living in this world is not about to disappear and our people are not a “vanishing race” as wasicu (white) education would have you believe. As time has passed and I see so many of our young people taking part in a traditional way of living and believing, I know our fight was worth it and those we lost for our movement died worthy deaths. […]

Today is heavy with prayer and reminiscence for me. Not only are those who walk for the Yellowstone Buffalo reaching their destination, today is the anniversary of the night when, at the direction of the Oglala Chiefs, I went with a special squad of warriors to liberate Wounded Knee in advance of the main AIM caravan.

For security reasons the people had been told everyone was going to a meeting/wacipi in Porcupine, the road goes through Wounded Knee. When the People arrived at the Trading Post we had already set up a perimeter, taken 11 hostages, run the BIA cops out of town, cut most phone lines, and begun 73 days of the best, most free time of my life. The honor of being chosen to go first still lives strong in my heart.

That night we had no idea what fate awaited us. It was a cold night with not much moonlight,  I clearly remember the nervous anticipation I felt as we drove the back way from Oglala into Wounded Knee. The Chiefs had tasked me with a mission and we were sworn to succeed, of that I was sure, but I couldn’t help wondering if we were prepared. The FBI, BIA and marshalls had fortified Pine Ridge with machine-gun bunkers and armored personnel carriers with M-60s. They had unleashed the GOON squad [Dick Wilson’s Guardians of the Oglala Nation] on the people and a reign of terror had begun. We knew we had to fight, but we could not fight on wasicu terms. We were lightly armed and dependent on the weapons and ammo inside the Wounded Knee trading post, I worried that we would not get to them before the shooting started.

As we stared silently into the darkness driving into the hamlet, I tried to foresee what opposition we would encounter and how to neutralize it. We were approaching a sacred place and each of us knew it. We could feel it deep inside. As a warrior leading warriors I humbly prayed to Wakonda for the lives of all and the wisdom to do things right. Never before or since have I offered my tobacco with such a plea or put on my feathers with such purpose. It was the birth of the Independent Oglala Nation.

Things went well for us that night, we accomplished our task without loss of life. Then, in the cold darkness as we waited for Dennis and Russ to bring in the caravan (or for the fight to start), I stood on the bank of the shallow ravine where our people had been murdered by the 7th Cavalry [in 1890]. There I prayed for the defenseless ones, torn apart by Hotchkiss cannons and trampled under hooves of steel by drunken wasicu. I could feel the touch of their spirits as I eased quietly into the gully and stood silently, waiting for my future, touching my past.

Finally, I bent over and picked a sprig of sage – whose ancestors in 1890 had been nourished by the blood of Red babies, ripped from their mothers’ dying grasp and bayoneted by the evil ones. As I washed myself with that sacred herb, I became cold in my determination and cleansed of fear. I looked for Big Foot and YellowBird in the darkness and I said aloud:

“We are back, my relations, we are home.”

Carter Camp being interviewed for the

2009 PBS special, “We Shall Remain.”

We were fighting every day and in danger every day. But it was a lot of fun. During the lulls in the fighting, or during the time when there was not actual danger, it was just a wonderful time being together. People would break out the drum every night and we’d sing together, and different tribes would sing their songs. We had Indian ceremonies that are very special to us, but we don’t bring ’em out in public. But now we could have ’em right there where everybody could participate. We don’t have to hide them around anymore. We had the elders, medicine men, women and children – all in Wounded Knee with us.

We were a strong community. We all had work to do and fighting to do. But at the same time, we could live together and do the things that we wanted to do, say the things that we wanted to say and understand this world the way that Indian people understand it. So it made us feel good. We just really were able to come together in a unity that you don’t hardly find in Indian Country. We’re different tribes and we don’t always get around to each other like that. I mean literally thousands of Indian people were coming from around the country. At any one time we might only have 700 or 800 people in Wounded Knee, but people were coming and leaving. Then, of course, a group of AIM people and the traditionalists stayed there throughout the thing.

Wounded Knee galvanized Indian Country, all over. During those 73 days we were in there, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and from New York to Florida, Indian people were trashing BIA offices, protesting at the Indian Health Services, telling their own tribal governments to stop the leases with the uranium companies and the coal digging and that sort of thing. Indian people were just making themselves known.

Wounded Knee and the rise of the American Indian Movement and the struggle of the late ’60s and ’70s just changed everything about the way Indian people think of themselves. They started thinking in terms of the future, not of being exterminated or maybe this is our last generation that cares about being Indian. It just invigorated the entire Indian nations […] They started having pride in where they came from and what they were and who they were. […] It also made the government understand that once more there was a line in the sand that they couldn’t push us beyond. We had taken all we could absorb and that if they pushed us just too damn far then we’ll fight.

There is a excellent PBS documentary about the Wounded Knee takeover and siege on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Carter is featured in this 80-minute segment, We Shall Remain, Wounded Knee, Episode 5. (h/t exmearden)

We Shall Remain PBS header

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This Week in American Indian History in 1954

A secton of the Garrison Dam, the fifth largest earthen dam in the world. (Bureau of Reclamation)

On Feb. 27, 1954, the U.S. government took additional land from the Yankton Sioux Tribe to build the Fort Randall Dam and Reservoir in southeastern South Dakota. That dam and four others built on the Missouri River by the Army Corps of Engineers from 1946 to 1966 were approved for flood control, pollution and sediment control, navigation, conservation, recreation, hydroelectric power and enhancement of fish and wildlife under the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, a part of the Flood Control Act of 1944.

Construction of the dams and consequent flooding forced the relocation of more than 1500 Indian families on seven reservations, including some 136 on the Yankton Reservation. The tribes lost more than 350,000 acres. Besides the Yankton Reservation, fertile bottom land was condemned on reservations at Fort Berthold, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Lower Brule, Crow Creek and Santee.

The tribes didn’t only lose their land but also any timber, wildlife and native plants plus homes and ranches. In the case of Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Reservation, an entire town was inundated. As a consequence, the BIA and Indian Health Service offices were moved off the reservation to Pierre, making it far more difficult for Indians they were supposed to serve to use them.

The losses also included spiritual ties to the land and the intangible benefits that came from living along the Missouri.

The tribes were never consulted about the project during the planning stages. No Indians were asked to testify during hearings on the projects in Congress. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which supervises Indian land held in trust by the Department of Interior, raised no objections.

The Corps of Engineers handled negotiations. Tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, including the Yankton Treaty of 1858, were completely ignored. So also was the Winters Doctrine, a Supreme Court ruling that Indians have inherent rights to water resources on their lands. Philleo Nash, who had advised Presidents Roosevelt and Truman to integrate the Armed Forces and later served as BIA Commissioner under JFK and LBJ, would later say that Pick-Sloan “caused more damage to Indian land than any other public works project in America.”

The amount of money offered to owners of individual Indian land allotments was often significantly less than the amount offered to non-Indian land owners. Likewise, as the dam projects began in a time when termination of reservations was in full swing, government compensation for damages caused by the taking of communally owned tribal land was well below its market value. Land at North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people was condemned and bought for $33 an acre. Today, the earthen Garrison Dam is on the land, holding back Lake Sakakawea, and capable of generating some 583 megawatts of electricity.

Twenty-five years after the last dam was completed, the General Accounting Office undertook the first of four reports on providing better compensation, which you can see here: 1991; 1998; 2006; and, 2007

Today, the tribes whose land was taken have an on-reservation population of about 32,000, with another 20,000 enrolled members living elsewhere.

-Meteor Blades with a h/t to ojibwa

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

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

First Totem Pole in a Century Raised in Seattle for Victim of Police Shooting

John T Williams Mural Seattle
A large mural of

folk hero John T. Williams

is at 11th Avenue

between Pike and Pine

The strength of a First Nations community came together on Feb. 26 when a 33-foot-tall, 5,000-pound totem pole was ceremoniously carried a mile-and-a-half from its carving site on the shoulders of scores of supporters and erected near the 50-year-old Space Needle. It was the first totem pole erected in Seattle in nearly 100 years. Conceived and carved in the traditional manner, the cedar totem pole honors John T. Williams (Ditidaht), himself a master carver, who was shot and killed by Seattle police officer Ian Birk in August 2010. After months of protest by Indians and their supporters, the shooting death was found not justified. Officials said Birk took actions that were “outside of policy, tactics and training.”

John T Williams Totem Pole

As can be seen and heard in this disturbing video here, Birk stepped from his patrol cruiser and came up behind Williams on the street, who was walking and carrying a small, legal folding knife and a plank of wood which he had been carving. Birk told Williams to put down the knife. He then shot Williams four times in the back, killing him instantly. The entire encounter took eight seconds. Facing termination from the force after the damning report was released, Birk resigned.

Immediately after the shooting, the Williams family reported strained relations with police. They said they were being scrutinized and harassed by bicycle patrol officers in a street market where vendors have sold their goods for decades. Other Native people complained in public forums that they had good reason to feel unsafe around the police. Demonstrations erupted and community meetings turned into shouting matches.  

Over time, the tensions relaxed. One element that helped bend police officials and Native peoples toward better interaction was the initiation of a restorative circle, a practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter.

In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice released the findings of its investigation of the City of Seattle Police Department. It concluded the SPD has a “pattern and practice” of using excessive force, especially in communities of color, and that it needs structural reform in training, supervision and discipline. While disagreeing with aspects of the report, the department has stated it will overhaul its use of force policies and procedures.

The Williams family’s seven generations of traditional carving inspired Williams’s brother Rick to design a totem pole that turned the tragedy into an honoring of his brother’s life and heritage. Rick called for a peaceful resolution to the community conflict that followed the fatal shooting but had been building beforehand. “Despite his grief and anger, Rick Williams, by his own account, found strength in the wisdom of his ancestors and rejected calls for violence and retribution against the police. He requested that the response to the shooting be peaceful, in respect for his brother. By his example and explicit requests, he helped keep the peace in the streets where many felt despair, outrage, the need for change, and an urge for revenge.”

The team of master carvers took more than six months to finish the totem pole. The cedar tree came from Harstine Island and was donated by the Manke Lumber Company. The loggers who cut it estimate its age to be at least 120 years. Two other totem poles carved from the same tree are in the works and will be placed elsewhere in Seattle.

The family of John T. Williams has forgiven the Seattle police force. Now at peace, they honor Williams’s life with an exquisite piece of art but also an important symbol of cultural legacy, hope and community healing.

An interpretive display at the carving site explains the figures on the memorial totem pole:

• Top: Eagle. “The Eagle flies the highest and sees the farthest, so he takes the perch at the top of the pole.”

• Middle: Master Carver. “This is a Williams family symbol handed down through seven generations of woodcarvers. This master carver is John T. Williams displaying his own signature totem, which features the Kingfisher and the Salmon. This carving, at the age of 15, made John a master carver in the Ditidaht First Nation, in British Columbia.” According to the interpretive display, John T. Williams’s works, and other Williams family pieces, are displayed all over Seattle, at the White House and in the Smithsonian. At this writing, early John T. Williams carvings are being sold on eBay for $8,500.

• Bottom: Raven Mother and Baby. “The Raven watches and nurtures us, making up the foundation of the totem.”

Rick Williams carving Johns Totem Pole
Rick Williams carving his brother John’s memorial totem pole

There is an amazing video of the whole procession and traditional raising of the memorial totem pole. http://blog.seattlepi.com/theb…

The final stage of this publicly funded project is a seating area for contemplation encircling the pole with customizable granite tiles. Interested people can make a donation at The John T. Williams Totem Pole Project to secure a tile.

You can also support the project at Facebook. Almost 3000 others have.

-navajo & Meteor Blades

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Two Vermont Abenaki Bands Expect State Recognition

Under a new Vermont law, two bands of Abenaki Indians gained state recognition in 2011. Two more may now be on the verge of doing so. The Abenaki were once part of the Confederacy of the Wabanaki, the “People of the Dawn Land” in their Algonquin tongue. They ranged from modern-day New England into Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. Today bands with and without reservations live in Quebec, New Brunswick, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Vermont Commissioner of Native

American Affairs Luke Willard

Twenty-three states have laws that set parameters for recognition, which can confer various benefits to members that are not otherwise available. In a few cases, such as Florida, no tribe can receive state recognition unless it is already one of the 566 federally recognized tribes of Indians or Alaskan Natives. Others require some genealogical proof of native ancestry and a historical connection to the area in which they now live. A few don’t require that, and some tribally enrolled Indians consider recognition of tribes in those states to be fraudulent.

Indeed, critics have claimed that all the Vermont bands are modern inventions and that most or all of the people claiming tribal connection have no true claims to being Abenaki or Indians at all. At his web site – The Reinvention of the Alleged Vermont and New Hampshire Abenakis – Doug Buchholz has published birth certificates that he says prove some of the leading members of the tribes are fraudulent wannabes. That’s not how the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs see things.

The commission was established by the new law and recommends which tribes should be granted recognition based on nine criteria. Most of members of a tribe must live within a specific area inside the state and a large number must be related through kinship. They must have a connection to the state that can documented by historical, ethnographic or archaeological evidence. After a tribe submits its evidence, a panel of scholars and other experts reviews it and reports to the commission, which decides whether or not to recommend recognition. The legislature can grant or reject recognition then and there. Or it can choose to do nothing. If it takes the latter course, a recommended tribe gains recognition automatically after two years.

Based on these criteria, the Elnu Abenaki in Windham County and the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation in northeastern Vermont – gained state recognition last year. The two other bands of Abenaki in Vermont – the St. Francis-Sokoki Band of the Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi in northwestern Vermont and the Koasek Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation from the Connecticut River Valley – presented their evidence before a joint legislative committee hearing Feb. 14:  

St. Francis-Sokoki band Chief John Churchill testified that state recognition will bring cultural pride to his band.

“Pride is a big thing. Whatever nationality one says you are, you don’t have to prove it. If you say you’re Abenaki or Native American, for some reason you have to prove it,” he said.

Roger Longtoe Sheehan, chief of Elnu Abenaki, testified on the positive cultural impact of recognition, particularly in his band’s relationship with other nations.

“It’s a pride thing so you can walk into a pow-wow and go to any sort of site that would be tied to the culture and be able to say, ‘We’re Abenaki,'” Sheehan said, later adding. “Unless you get state recognition, they basically won’t talk to you.”  

State recognition can lead to some limited federal benefits, particularly in education and in grants for economic development and cultural rejuvenation. State-recognized tribes can also legally sell handicrafts such as baskets with “Indian-made” labels attached. But state recognition does not set up a government-to-government relationship of sovereignty the way federal recognition does.

Luke Willard, chairman of the state Native American Affairs Commissiion and a tribal trustee and treasurer of the Nulhegan Band has pointed out that what Vermont provides is more of a “cultural recognition.” No tax money is expended. There will be land claims, no casinos, no treaty rights fights, no battles over tax-exempt cigarette sales and or reservation tax exemptions because there is no communally owned tribal land from which to assert such claims.

Among the difficulties the St. Francis-Sokoki and Koasek have had is finding Colonial-era documents proving that a majority of members have continuously resided in the same  historical area. According Erin Hale at VTDIGGER.org, Peter Thomas, the retired director of the University of Vermont’s archaeology program, thinks it doesn’t make sense to make a recognition determination based on today’s borders to a region occupied by Native people for at least 11,000 years and the Abenaki since before Anglo-Americans arrived on the Continent.

The Koasek Band ultimately was able to show that 58 percent of its members lived within Vermont’s borders. The St. Francis-Sokoki were helped by the 1973 discovery of a burial site dating back at least two millennia and another discovered in 2000 that contained the remains of 27 Abenaki, with artifacts from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Other issues include proving kinship ties because Indians and mixed-race people were often listed in the 1700s and 1800s as “pagan” or “colored,” not “Indian.” Hale writes that “Vermont’s eugenics movement in the 1920s and 1930s further damaged record keeping.”

Federal recognition was denied the St. Francis-Sokoki in the 1990s, and that was an issue for some committee members at the February hearing. But an expert witness explained that obtaining federal recognition is an expensive process requiring between $5 million and $12 million “to get the political clout in Washington to be able to get recognition.”

Willard said one of his reasons for joining the commission was to “nullify federal recognition. Why do we need federal recognition if we have a state government that is willing to work with the tribes and is willing to enact state policy and legislation that will successfully meet the needs and empower the native people of the state? I just don’t see the sense in spending millions of dollars just so you can get a thumbs-up from people who are hundreds and hundreds of miles away.”

-Meteor Blades

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Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters Over Use of Tribal Trademark

Authentic Navajo cuffs, like

this one, are legally sold under the

Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Months after the Navajo Nation had sent a cease-and-desist order to Urban Outfitters to stop selling their line of clothing using the designation term Navajo in the style’s name, the Navajo Nation has sued the company and its subsidiaries. The suit alleges they have violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (IACA) and for trademark infringement. The Navajo Nation has 12 trademarks registered under the label Navajo. The suit was filed in New Mexico where part of the Navajo Nation reservation is and where Urban Outfitters has a number of stores.

The truth-in-advertising IACA “prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.”

Urban Outfitters’ Fall 2011 collection had many style names that included the term Navajo. Two of the most offensive were a Navajo flask and Navajo Hipster Panties, which can been seen (if you must) at the Native Appropriations blog. Urban Outfitters was widely criticized for its stupidity in following their fashion directors’ prompts of what the latest trend is. Having once been a buyer in the fashion business, I can just imagine the boardroom excitement of naming the season’s trend, “OMG … Navajo is so hot right now!”

American designers, like sports team owners, love to “pay tribute” to this unique American icon, the “noble Indian.” But it’s not a tribute. It’s a rip-off and an insult.

Ralph Lauren, Pendleton, Dolce & Gabbana and others have been producing American Indian-themed clothing for decades with little public outcry. But now, with the power of the Internet, young Native bloggers are turning the spotlight on this long line of expropriations of land, resources, spiritualism and whatever else can be grabbed from Indians and twisted to benefit greed.

It was Sasha Houston Brown, 24, (Dakota/Santee Sioux), an academic advisor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College where she works with the American Indian Success Program, who sent a letter on Columbus Day last year to Urban Outfitters’ CEO Glen T. Senk after she visited one of their stores in Minneapolis.

…she was offended by “plastic dreamcatchers wrapped in pleather hung next to an indistinguishable mass of artificial feather jewelry and hyper sexualized clothing featuring an abundance of suede, fringe and inauthentic tribal patterns.”

Brown told […] Senk that the collection was “cheap, vulgar and culturally offensive.”

Another Indian blogger, Adrienne K. at Native Appropriations, wrote:

First of all, these products represent a stereotype of “southwest” Native cultures. The designs are loosely based on Navajo rug designs […] or Pendleton designs, but aren’t representations that are chosen by the tribe or truly representative of Navajo culture. Associating a sovereign Nation of hundreds of thousands of people wit[h] a flask or women’s underwear isn’t exactly honoring.

Additionally, it’s more than likely that Urban [Outfitters] chose “Navajo” for the international recognition–to most of the world Navajo (and Cherokee)= American Indian […] This conflation of Navajo with “generic Indian” contributes to the further erasure of the distinct tribes and cultures in the US and solidifies the idea that there is only one “Native” culture, represented by plains feathers and southwest designs.

Urban Outfitters immediately removed the Navajo designation from its site last fall. You would think the board members had learned their lesson.

Apparently not.

One of the company’s upscale subsidiaries, Free People, recently ran a distinct collection of styles, attaching labels identifying the products as vintage Navajo. Note the jewelry pieces, a definite “no no” on the rez and according to federal law … in the entire United States! Fashion faux pas? Mais oui, C’est une grande wtf.

Screenshot Free People Navajo Appropriations

The Navajo Nation included this screenshot in their legal filing. Of course, if you search for the Navajo descriptor now, nothing comes up.

But look at what is still up at Free People:

Free People Screenshot Lakota Bag

And it’s in stock for a mere $498!

-navajo with a h/t to Lauren Chief Elk

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“Fighting Sioux” Fight in North Dakota Gets Hotter Still

The conflict over the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo at the University of North Dakota that we have been reporting on for a few weeks not cooled. On the contrary. Here is the latest news:

• The NCAA has told university officials not to allow its sports teams to bring the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo of a Lakota Indian head to any playoffs. The university was in the process of buying new uniforms without the logo as a result of the NCAA’s 2006 rule against such nicknames. But state legislators and supporters of a referendum to keep the name have complicated the situation.

• The University of Iowa has gone a step farther and denied UND an invitation to a track meet. UI’s policy “prohibits the athletics department from scheduling competition with schools or attending tournaments hosted by schools using American Indian mascots unless those mascots have been approved by the NCAA and their respective American Indian tribes.” Previously, officials at the Iowa school had continued competing with UND, but the delay in removing the name finally spurred those officials to begin enforcing university policy.

• Students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth have been warned they will be ejected from any future games if they again behave as they did during a recent hockey game with UND. Several students taunted the North Dakota team with war-whoops as well as chants of “Smallpox Blankets!” and “Hi, HOW are you?” The UMD athletic department stated in the letter that students would be ejected at any future games and have their season tickets voided if they engage in such racist behavior in the future.

• Meanwhile, some supporters of a statewide initiative to keep the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo are threatening to start a second initiative that would get rid of the state’s Board of Education and replace it with a single elected higher education commissioner. That move comes in response to the board’s decision to seek a ruling from the state supreme court about the legality of a law the initiative backers want to reinstate. The law requires that the “Fighting Sioux” nickname be kept. It was passed in February last year and repealed in November and then reinstated again until the initiative is decided by the voters.

The board of education majority says the legislature overstepped its authority in the matter, but its members said they are not trying to subvert the legislature’s authority in general. “With the current board, there is no accountability,” Sean Johnson, of Bismarck, told a legislative higher education oversight committee on Friday. “We need to have accountability, and we don’t have it.”

Opponents of the idea say they think it is a bad idea to replace a board with a single commissioner. Some elected officials say it would be better to have a commissioner appointed by the governor.

-Meteor Blades with a h/t to betson08

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Oklahoma Taking Steps to Bring Jim Thorpe’s Body Home: Olympian Jim Thorpe (Sac & Fox) was buried in Pennsylvania in a town he never visited while alive. His last wife took away his body during his funeral to spite the governor of Oklahoma who refused to fund a memorial. Thorpe’s family is suing under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to have his body returned to the reservation.


Mariah Watchman competes on America’s Next Top Model: ANTM features the 20-year-old Watchman (Ojibwe/Modoc/Mandan) as the Pocahontas stereotype. The 20-year-old model from the Umatilla reservation in Oregon turns their racism into an opportunity to give back to Indian Country.


Minnesota Redistricting Could Boost Indian Voting Clout: The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered a new redistricting plan that could lead to the election of a Red Lake or Leech Lake band member to the Minnesota Legislature because it will include entire entire reservations within legislative districts. And that would be good for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party since Indians in the state cast their ballots preponderantly for the DFL.

-Meteor Blades

Adopted Cherokee Baby Returned to Father Under the Indian Child Welfare Act: Dustin Brown (Cheyenne) won full custody of his daughter Veronica under a federal law designed to keep Indian children and their families together. Brown said he was tricked into signing papers to give her up. The adoptive family is upset.

-navajo with a h/t to Land of Enchantment


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: Clash over ancient burials; the first Native newspaper, language app

Welcome to the sixth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find an article on the fight over repatriation of ancient burial remains between the Kumeyaay Indians and the University of California at San Diego, a look at the year 1828 in American Indian history, five news briefs and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Kumeyaay Indians, University Scientists Spar Over Burial Remains

Beginning in the 1920s, 29 ancient burials have been uncovered on land currently owned by the University of California at San Diego in an area the Kumeyaay Indians call Skeleton Hill. It was commonplace for universities and museums to make remains of this nature part of their collections, either for exhibit or study until the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted in 1990. That law sets forth standards for repatriation of bones and other remains.

But most of the remains found in the last 80 years at the UCSD property have not been returned to the Kumeyaay, including the approximately 9,500 year old double burials found in 1976. And despite university scientists’ claim that these ancient bones have been kept solely for study purposes, they have been shared with numerous institutions. When they were returned from the Smithsonian, they had not been packaged in a curatorial manner, and showed signs of being treated carelessly and disrespectfully.

View from University House at UCSD, View from University House at UCSD, La Jolla
Exquisite view from University House at UCSD

The Kumeyaay, who have occupied the lush area for thousands of years, were forced into the back country by the Spanish in 1769. But not without resistance. They were the only so-called “Mission Indians” to rise violently in large numbers against the invaders. After the United States pried California out of Mexican hands, it confined the Kumeyaay to small reservations in the 1850s. The Kumeyaay lost control of the land where their ancestors were buried, including the La Jolla property.

Front entrance to University House at UCSD, Front entrance to University House at UCSD
Courtyard entrance to UCSD University House

in La Jolla Farms

The Kumeyaay have gained one victory over UCSD. They permanently blocked the university’s plans to replace its 63-year-old adobe University House with a much larger modern structure. Construction was opposed because it would have required massive excavations further disturbing the ancient burial grounds. These are now legally protected as a sanctified cemetery through the work of the State Native American Heritage Commission. The La Jolla Historical Society got the property placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural, archaeological and tribal values. In place of its original plans, UCSD has approved a refurbishing of University House, which was long used by university chancellors as a venue for public gatherings.

But the dispute over repatriating the excavated skeletons remains unresolved.

The Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee (KCRC) was formed in 1997, with one member from each of the 12 federally recognized Kumeyaay bands in California. Its purpose is to repatriate human remains, artifacts and objects of cultural patrimony to the Kumeyaay tribe. Following the NAGPRA guidelines, KCRC has made repeated requests for repatriation of the remains found at UCSD. The law is clear:

This act safeguards Indian gravesites from disruption and creates a process by which Indian exhumations can be identified and returned to the tribes. The procedure couples Indian testimony and archaeological evidence to establish a tribe’s “cultural affiliation” to the remains. Cultural affiliation is established, according to the NAGPRA website, “when the preponderance of the evidence-based on geographical, kinship, biological, archeological, linguistic, folklore, oral tradition, historical evidence, or other information or expert opinion-reasonably leads to such a conclusion.” Once cultural affiliation between a group and a collection of bones or artifacts is set, the tribe has a right to those resources, whenever they were dug up and no matter how old they are.

During their efforts to resolve the situation, the KCRC has produced numerous maps and oral history connecting them over thousands of years to this land. The Kumeyaay believe they have proved that the double burials show a strong cultural connection to them. University scientists disagreed. The Kumeyaay reversed their traditional stance of not examining skeletal remains by requesting that a noninvasive investigation of the burials be carried out by a bioarchaeologist at San Diego State University and a Kumeyaay graduate student.

UCSD handled the original request by forming an internal NAGPRA review committee, which was biased by not appointing a single American Indian to serve alongside members that include people from the original dig team, as well as a spouse of a person on that team.

The committee’s majority report concluded that the remains are too old to be culturally connected to the Kumeyaay. There was, however, a dissenting opinion from Ross Frank, a UCSD professor and chair of the ethnic studies department. He said there was evidence supports cultural affiliation.

In addition, according to Science magazine, members of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists as well as Margaret Schoeninger-a UCSD anthropology professor who heads the review committee and is also married to Jeffrey Bada, an original member of the dig team-sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior making the claim that the bones are too important to be reburied.

In April 2009 at the annual meeting of the AAPA, Schoeninger made a presentation on the bones’ scientific importance.

Thus, a small group of scientists at UCSD are challenging the repatriation efforts of the UCSD chancellor and president who seek to return the bones.

Recently, NAGPRA was amended to allow all remains classed as culturally unidentifiable to be returned to any uncontested tribe who claims them. In December 2011, UCSD filed to return the remains under this new condition with Jan. 4, 2012, as the deadline for other tribes to make a claim. None stepped forward.

This is the second time UCSD has offered to return the remains as not culturally identifiable. The first time in 2009, UCSD removed the request when they learned the tribe was offended by an offer to return the remains with the designation of their not being culturally identifiable.

It is unclear if the Kumeyaay will receive the remains this time under this new condition.

Another development that should help the Kumeyaay in this matter is the finding of Arion T. Mayes (Cherokee), an associate professor of Biological Anthropology at San Diego State University, which shows that the remains have a shovel-tooth dental trait common among American Indians.

The UCSD opinion of this common dental trait has not been reported.

Courtney Coyle, a La Jolla attorney for the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians, one of the 12 bands, knows the history of this area well having been an advocate for American Indian rights for decades, and she is watching for the outcome with great interest. She says there are at least three questions to be answered.

Will the Kumeyaay accept UCSD’s new filing as being “culturally unidentifiable” remains that they feel they have shown to be “culturally affiliated”?

Will the UCSD scientists try to sue the administration to stop the repatriation, even though they have already had 45 years to study the remains and do not have standing under the new NAGPRA revision?

Will UCSD bow to the requests of a small handful of scientists or follow what its faculty senate and the local tribes want them to do?


Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

Cherokee Phoenix, June 18, 1828. (Library of Congress)

On Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), Elias Boudinot published the first edition of the Cherokee Phoenix in English and Cherokee, using the famous 86-character syllabary invented by Sequoyah. In Cherokee, the name is Tsalagi Tsulehisanvhi. After changing its name a year later to the Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate, the paper survived in its original form until 1834 when the Cherokee government ran out of money to keep it going.

Over the years, several short-lived attempts were made to revive it. In 1975, when the Cherokee government came back into being, the paper was resurrected under the name The Cherokee Advocate. In 2000, the name was again changed to Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate. And, finally, in 2007, completing a 179-year circle, the tribal government changed it again to Cherokee Phoenix, adding an on-line version: Cherokee Advocate.org.

Children of an elite Cherokee family, Boudinot (born Gallegina Watie), and his brother, Stand Watie, were educated at the Foreign Mission School in Connecticut. The missionaries’ idea was to “civilize” young Indians who were seen as worthy. Boudinot-who took his English name from the president of the Second Continental Congress after meeting him-readily took to this. So much so that he and his brother both married white Connecticut women, creating quite the stir in both New England and, when they returned with their wives, in New Echota, where they raised their children as Cherokees.

The newspaper provided a forum for Boudinot, his partner and friend Samuel Worcester, and Cherokees of like mind. They encouraged tribal members to adopt white ways, including owning black slaves, while explaining the Cherokee way of life to whites sympathetic to the tribe’s continuing struggle for autonomy. The tribal council viewed the paper more as a way to get its point of view across to other Cherokees.

Problems soon arose because pressure for Indian removal to the west of the Mississippi River was reaching a fever pitch. The Phoenix became Boudinot’s platform to oppose removal. Among other things, he editorialized against the violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws by Georgia officials eager to get every Cherokee out of the state and take over tribal and individually owned land, which had the added allure of gold deposits.

After the Supreme Court ruled in 1832 in favor of Cherokee sovereignty, but President Andrew Jackson and the Georgians kept pressing for removal anyway, Boudinot reluctantly joined those in the tribal leadership seeking the best removal treaty they could get from Washington. However, other tribal leaders, including Chief John Ross, continued to reject removal and opposed the “Treaty Indians” as sell-outs. Boudinot was forced to resign the editorship. This was taken by Elijah Hicks, Ross’s brother-in-law. When the money ran out in 1834, Ross sought to move the press across the state line into Tennessee, but the Georgia Guard, which had been brutally harassing the Cherokee for years, destroyed the press and burned the Phoenix‘s offices. They were helped by Boudinot’s brother Stand Watie, who had joined the “Treaty Indians.”

The split over removal continued for years. In 1839, by which time all Cherokee had either voluntarily or at gunpoint arrived in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Boudinot was murdered. Some said but never proved this was done at the instigation of Ross.  During the Civil War, Stand Watie, who had become a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, got revenge for that murder by burning Ross’s house.

Here is an excerpt from the Phoenix dated March 17, 1830:

The Indian Committees in both houses of Congress have reported, recommending as we anticipated, the removal of the Indians to the west of the Mississippi. The question is therefore now open for discussion, and soon we shall hear what is to become of us. The crisis is at hand. Will justice prevail? Will honor and plighted faith be regarded, and the poor Indians be shielded from oppression?  These are momentous questions which must in a very short time receive a practical answer.   If justice prevails, the Indians will assuredly be protected. But if treaties are disregarded and declared of no validity, as many high in office have already done, then indeed shall we be delivered over to our enemies-it matters not whether we hide ourselves in the western prairies-our enemies will have no difficulty in finding us there. If therefore we are to be sacrificed, let the bloody tragedy be accomplished here on our own native soil around the graves of our fathers & in the view of the people of these United States. The good people of this boasting republic may stand and gaze on the oppressive acts of Georgia, consenting or not, as they please, to our destruction. It will not require their aid to destroy us-they need only stand still-Georgia can accomplish her design easily–But there will be a reckoning hereafter.

It is said, however, that the general Government and the state of Georgia, do not contemplate using force. We have never intimated that open force will be resorted to–this would be too barefaced. But measures are in operation whose effects upon us are the same as those of compulsion. The object is our removal, and if it is ever accomplished, it must be done contrary to our wishes and inclinations, by means which honor and justice must forever reprobate. It makes no difference whether we are ousted at the point of the bayonet, or by indirect and oppressive measures–it is the same thing with us, and we wish the public to know it. People of the U. S. our appeal is to you—will you, with a relentless hand, extinguish all our rising expectations? […]

Cherokee Phoenix translators are, from left, Dennis Sixkiller, Anna Sixkiller, David Pettit, Durbin Feeling,

John Ross and Phyllis Edwards. (Click here for articles on their work.)

-Meteor Blades

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

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

Presidents Day Resonates Differently Among American Indians

Depiction of mass hanging of 38 Sioux at Mankato, Minn., on Dec. 26, 1862

Throughout Indian Country, the annual commemoration of two of the nation’s most honored presidents generates more than a few sighs and eye-rolls. What? The revered “Father of His Country” and “The Great Emancipator” have naysayers (outside the neo-Confederate revisionists who view Abraham Lincoln as a dictator)? Yes.

If you ask American Indians who they think the worst president was, the most common response is likely to be Andrew Jackson. The guy who peers out at us after every visit to an ATM was the president who enforced Indian removal to what is now Oklahoma, fought three wars against Indians and ordered another and whose impact can still be felt in the ethnically cleansed South and most western of the states east of the Mississippi.

After that, it becomes tougher. So what of the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?

During the Revolutionary War, Washington instructed his subordinates to attack Iroquois stating, “lay waste all the settlements around … that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed” and do not “listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected.” Four years later, he compared Indians with wolves: “Both being beast of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.” During the destruction of 28 of the 30 Seneca towns, his troops skinned dead Indians’ bodies “from the hips downward to make boot tops or leggings.” Survivors called Washington “Town Destroyer.”  (From David E. Stannard’s American Holocaust).

Lincoln had been a railroad lawyer before he became president, and he felt that the eventual success of the “Iron Horse” in the West would depend upon resolving the Indian “situation.” That was code for removing, exterminating and corralling Indians onto reservations. In Minnesota, where the Sioux had long clamored for the 1.4 million acres they had been promised in exchange for giving up 23 million acres, tensions bubbled over in 1862 and white settlers came under attack. Lincoln’s advisors and the president himself thought this was perhaps an uprising engineered by the South, speculation that was soon known to be false. So bad was the “situation” that Lincoln contemplated sending up to 10,000 Rebel POWs under Union command so that his generals could “Attend to the Indians.” When it was over some 500 whites and more than a 1000 Sioux were dead. Lincoln ordered the public hanging of 39 Santee Sioux (one was reprieved). This took place on Dec. 26, 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. See The Other Civil War: Lincoln and the Indians by David A. Nichols.

Further West, in 1863-64, Lincoln ordered attacks on the Navajo by Brig. Gen. James H. Carlton and his subordinate, Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson. They invaded and burned crops, raped, murdered and otherwise reigned terror on the Navajo and Mescalero Apache. Carleton had added incentive for his action, believing there was gold in the area. In his “General Order Number 15,” he told Carson to tell the Navajo: “This war will be pursued against you if it takes years until you cease to exist or move.” Subsequently, the Navajo were force-marched 300 miles to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. More than 200 Navajos died on this march, the eventual toll of the evacuation and ensuring captivity ending in death for some 2,000.

Teddy Roosevelt gets a thumbs down. He would have been an “Indian fighter” on the frontier had he moved West earlier, but his attitude was clear. America’s extermination of the Indians  “was ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable,” he once said. “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth”

Dwight Eisenhower gets a “Fail” for his support of laws that eventually led to the termination of more than 100 Indian tribes.

So if these were bad presidents, who among Indians is most admired? At Indian Country Today Media Network, Rob Capriccioso presents a list that includes a few names that may surprise some people:

Richard M. Nixon: Guided by his Indian affairs advisor Louis R. Bruce (Mohawk), Nixon endorsed a plan for “Self-determination … without the threat of eventual termination.” Several laws emerged from that over-reaching policy, including the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act that gave the tribes more control of their own economies.

Barack Obama: The “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land” (his adopted Crow name) has pushed the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act and the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement. He’s institutionalized an annual White House Tribal Nations summit and hired several Indians to posts throughout his administration.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: As part of the New Deal, there was an Indian New Deal that included the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. That effectively repealed several laws, including the infamous Dawes Act of 1887, and restored ownership of unallocated lands to the tribes. Congress eventually overrode some of the original intent of the law by weakening tribal governance and allowing the Bureau of Indians Affairs to continue its “supervision.

Bill Clinton: He hired many Indians to work in his administration. He issued an executive order requiring tribal consultation that strengthened Indian sovereignty via government-to-government relationship between Washington and the tribes. He apologized to Native Hawaiians for the coup that overthrew their government.

George H.W. Bush: He signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act into law in 1990 and proclaimed 1992 the “Year of the American Indian.”

Jimmy Carter: He signed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act into law in 1979, saying, “It is a fundamental right of every American, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, to worship as he or she pleases.”

-Meteor Blades

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The Last Speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni Helps Launch Talking Dictionaries

Bud Lane, Bud Lane, last speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni
Bud Lane, the last speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni

(Photo courtesy of Ecotrust)

Alfred “Bud” Lane is the last fluent speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni. The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, a federally recognized confederation of 27 bands, originally living ranging from northern California to southern Washington.  In 1855, they were confined on a small reservation on the central Oregon coast. The Siletz, like most other American Indian cultures, suffers from the impact of the government’s assimilation orders that forced the tribe’s youth in the late 1800s and early 1900s into boarding schools and forbade them from speaking their native language. Those generations endured the resulting ethnic shame and chose not to teach their language to their offspring in order for them to survive in the dominant culture and avoid at least some aspects of discrimination. The generations that followed them spoke only English. A rare few carried on their native tongues.

The Athabaskan-based Siletz Dee-Ni is one of many American Indian languages that faces extinction, a moribund language, according to linguists. Siletz Dee-Ni has been designated one of 20 endangered language hotspots in the world by Greg Anderson and David Harrison at the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and rated in the most severe category. “Language Hotspots are areas that are urgently in need of action and should be the areas of highest priority in planning future research projects and channeling funding streams.”

Bud Lane, Dr. Greg Anderson with Bud Lane, last speaker of Siletz Dee-Ni
Greg Anderson with “Bud” Lane,

recording Siletz Dee-Ni for the Talking Dictionary Project

(Photo courtesy of the Living Tongues Institute

for Endangered Languages)

An interactive world map of these hotspots is featured at National Geographic‘s Disappearing Languages and Enduring Voices page.

As language defines a culture, measures are now being taken to keep native tongues alive to preserve our rich and precious identities. The Talking Dictionary project has produced eight audible banks of vocabulary worldwide, the Siltez Dee-Ni 12,000-word version is here. You can enter an English word and the Siltez Dee-Ni equivalent is produced, along with usage examples. “Bud” Lane’s voice is used in the recordings.

In 2005 language classes were set up in the Siletz Valley School classrooms for all tribal members. The goal is a reversal of the moribund language label by extending the language to new generations of Siletz Dee-Ni. This is one more element in the effort to recruit elders into our reservation schools to resuscitate our dying languages. See the Feb. 12 edition of FNN&V for an article titled “American Indian Elders Incorporated into Learning Curriculum at Schools.”

Arrowhead Bullet PointAnother new development on the language front is a new app that hit the iTunes store Jan.  20. The app features translations of words for animals in four American Indian languages-Diné (Navajo), Lakota (Sioux), Mvskoke (Muscogee Creek) and Ponca.

The app has been criticized by some for being too elementary. But the developers at Native American Public Telecommunications have responded by saying it’s merely a beginning. They plan to add to the number of words featured and also open the coding to tribes so the app can be expanded to other languages.

The app is free and can be found by searching “Native Language App” in the iTunes store.

Arrowhead Bullet PointThe Cherokee Phoenix reports that the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair will be held April 2-3. ‘The fair is an annual competition held for Native students from throughout the state. In 2011, more than 600 students spoke 32 Native American languages during the fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.’ Participants from preschool to high school demonstrate their skills through spoken language, songs, poster art, films, essays and presentations. The theme for poster art is “Language in My Heart.”

CO state Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora,
Colorado state Sen. Suzanne Williams

(Photo courtesy of The Aurora Sentinel)

Arrowhead Bullet PointIn Colorado, state Sen. Suzanne Williams, (Comanche) (D-Aurora), is sponsoring Senate Bill 57 that would allow schools to hire teachers without licenses-tribal elders, for example-to instruct students in Native languages, including Comanche, Ute and Navajo. “The proposal is still at the beginning stages of the lawmaking process and was heard on the Senate floor on Feb. 22 after being passed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee. The bill hadn’t been heard on the Senate floor by FNN&V press time. There was no opposition testimony at the committee hearing.”

Some Colorado school districts have as many as 250 American Indian students, enough, it is believed, to help revitalize the different tribes’ cultures if they receive the right assistance through such hiring.

All these developments in revitalizing our languages is encouraging.


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Federal 2013 Budget Holds Steady for Indian Affairs

Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk

The Obama administration proposes to spend $2.5 billion in the next fiscal year to meet the government’s responsibilities to the 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. This is a drop of only $4.6 million over 2012. But there has been considerable shuffling of budget items.

Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk (Pawnee) said:

“The budget request maintains President Obama’s commitment to strengthening tribal nations by making targeted increases in Indian Affairs programs that support tribal self-determination in managing BIA-funded programs, increase public safety in tribal communities by strengthening police capabilities, improve the administration of tribal land, mineral, timber and other trust resources and advance Indian education. Indian Affairs is sensitive to the need for achieving greater results at a lower cost, and the proposed budget reflects the tough choices that will make us more cost efficient in carrying out our missions.”

A key concern is violent crime on some reservations, and the president has pledged to push various initiatives to deal with it. In that regard, the budget includes $353.9 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement with a targeted boost of $11 million to enable the BIA to improve its recruitment and hiring of law enforcement officers and detention center staff.

Included within that line item is $24.6 million for tribal courts to support the enhanced capabilities given to them in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 and an expansion of the two-year-old program to reduce crime on the four reservations with the highest violent crime rates. Overall, that program, which put more police officers and better equipment on the chosen reservations brought about a 35 percent combined reduction in violent crime. Two additional reservations will be added to the program.

Also in the proposed budget:

• $43.8 million in “nation-to-nation relationships” (up $12.3 million)

• $3.5 million in increased funding for land and water claim settlements

• $15.4 million for Rights Protection Implementation to support implementation of federal court orders resulting from decisions in off-reservation treaty rights litigation with additional funding for: the Tribal Management Development Program for management of on-reservation fish and game programs; participation of the BIA and tribes in landscape conservation cooperatives; the control of invasive species; various tribal forestry programs

• Trust Services (up $5.5 million) to support the BIA’s responsibilities of trust services, probate and land titles and records, and an additional $1.5 million to assist tribes in protecting trust resources.

• $796.1 million for Bureau of Indian Education schools (an increase of $653,000 above the 2012 level), which includes specific increases for tribal colleges and universities, for teaching workplace skills, and scholarships for adult education and post-secondary schools

• $36.3 million for BIA Land and Water Claim Settlements to fund pacts that help deliver clean drinking water to Indian communities and provide certainty to water users across the West.

Increases in the budget of some items are covered by decreases in others, particularly management, informational technology, building new schools and the Indian Student Equalization Program (reflecting a decline in student population and the Indian Guaranteed Loan Program.

-Meteor Blades

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Energy Department OKs $6.5 Million for Tribal Clean Energy Projects

(Photo by Randy Montoya, Sandia Labs)

Since 2002, the Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program has provided $36 million to 159 tribal energy projects. The DOE has now added $6.5 million for 19 more projects.

In a press release, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said:

“As President Obama highlighted in the State of the Union, the administration is committed to building an American economy that lasts and leverages our nation’s clean energy resources,” said Secretary Chu. “The awards announced will help tribes across the country advance a sustainable energy future for their local communities, spur economic development, and advance innovative clean energy technologies.”

Consistent with the administration’s approach of consulting with Indians rather than handing down ready-made solutions with little or no tribal input, in the past year the DOE has set up the Indian Country Energy Infrastructure Working Group and begun programs that provide technical assistance and give Indian youth a chance to learn skills in energy development, financing and construction.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the new money goes to feasibility studies instead of actual projects. They are:

• 13 projects funded at $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing generate utility-scale power from renewable sources or study the feasibility of installing renewable energy systems on buildings to reduce energy use by 30 percent.

• $1.7 million for pre-construction development of four renewable energy projects activities. Three of these would each provide a generating capacity of 250 megawatts. The fourth would reduce by 80 percent the need for diesel fuel used in heating, about or 9600 gallons annually.

• $1.3 million for two renewable energy projects that will convert waste and other biomass capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity from municipal solid waste and using cordwood for heating, thus saving between 2,500 and 3,200 gallons of propane

-Meteor Blades

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Indian Reservations See More Violence But Fewer Federal Prosecutions: Violent crime rates on the 310 Indian reservations in the United States have violent crime rates of more than two and a half times the national average. But the Justice Department files charges in only about half of reservation murder investigations and turns down nearly two-thirds of sexual assault cases. American Indian women are 10 times more like to be murdered than other Americans.

-Meteor Blades with h/t Bill in MD

Headline Writers Still Go for the Offensive: In a story about the Seneca Nation of New York’s objections to the state’s new gambling initiatives on the grounds that violate a 2002 compact with the tribe, the New York Post headline writer apparently fell back on movie Westerns for inspiration: Seneca Nation on warpath.

-Meteor Blades

Alaskan Natives Cast in Movie Now Playing in Major Theaters: Ahmaogak Sweeney, (Inupiat) age 10 and John Pingayak (Chup’ik) are featured as grandson and grandfather in Big Miracle, a true story about a dramatic rescue to save a family of majestic gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.


Appeals Court Rules Against Wyoming’s Attempt to Dilute Indian Votes: The court upheld a lower court decision saying that Fremont County’s “hybrid” voting districts had been “devised solely for the purpose of segregating citizens into separate voting districts on the basis of race without sufficient justification.”

-Meteor Blades

Hearing Set in S.D. for Convicted Killer of Anna Mae Aquash: On March 19, the South Dakota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on John Graham’s appeal of his 2010 conviction for the 1975 murder of American Indian Movement activist Annie Mae Aquash. Grahan (Southern Tutchone) was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison last year.  

-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.
Posted in Uncategorized

First Nations News & Views: Okiciyap, the Dawes Act & Elders Get Heard from K-12 to College

Welcome to the fourth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find an update on the Cheyenne River Reservation Okiciyap project , this week in American Indian history, five news briefs and some bullet links. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community

It has been 182 years since the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. With tribes then and for decades afterward being forced onto reservations, and no Marshall Plan to help them rebuild after the Indian Wars, Native people are still struggling to stay alive. Many don’t make it. Fighting against all odds-of poverty, 80 percent unemployment, hunger, government bureaucracy, societal indifference-a few people stand as warriors to help their communities of limited means even when they themselves often don’t have enough means, living as they do on fixed incomes of $260 to $460 a month.

One of those warriors is Georgia Little Shield (Lakota). She was the director of Pretty Bird Woman House, a women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, from 2005 until 2010 when health problems forced her to quit. In 2007, the Daily Kos community helped raise more than $30,000 to keep Pretty Bird Woman House running.

In 2011, Little Shield’s health improved. On the Cheyenne River Reservation in north-central South Dakota due south of Standing Rock, she saw an important need for a community-strengthening program to fight poverty, hunger and the epidemic of teen suicide.

Okiciyap logo

So she founded Okiciyap, the Lakota word for we help, in Isabel, a reservation town of about 250 people. Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community‘s (501c3) first project is a food pantry “trying to keep families alive for one more winter.” The group has plans to build a youth center with a GED program “to keep our young people’s souls and spirits alive, too.”

Last summer, Okiciyap set up a temporary office in a small trailer. Later, a modular 40-foot by 60-foot building was donated. But it was located 30 miles from Isabel. Ten thousand dollars were needed to transport it, set foundation forms and skirt them. Another $10,000 is needed to set up utilities for one year until Okiciyap can obtain grants to keep the facility running on its own. Under the auspices of AndyT and betson08, netroots fundraising began in late October to pull together the needed $20,000. By the end of December enough money had been raised to transport the building to Isabel. The trek was completed Jan. 30.

Okiciyap Building move
The building being transported

Okiciyap Building move
The building arrives

Within Lakota culture everything is shared. There is great pride and pleasure in giving away any abundance of food, clothing and other possessions. There is traditionally no social hierarchy of haves and the have-nots. So even though Little Shield doesn’t always have much to share, she shares it anyway.

After Thanksgiving last November, betson08 discovered that Little Shield didn’t have enough money to buy a turkey for her own family, but she still cooked what she had and invited people who needed food. The week before Christmas betson08 learned the same thing was going to happen. The Daily Kos community rallied again and raised enough for Little Shield to provide a holiday banquet for the community plus provide toys for the kids.

The Okiciyap fund-raising widget has now been stuck at $10,580 for a month. That $9420 still needed will allow Okiciyap to tie into the city’s water and sewer system plus cover the cost of electricity and provide basic office equipment and supplies.

Little Shield’s appearance below is one of satisfaction in watching the new building arrive. She’s embarking on an ambitious new project that she hopes will help her community tremendously. The Daily Kos community has a stake in helping her succeed.

Georgia Little Shield, watching as her new building is being placed
Georgia Little Shield watches as the new building arrives

– navajo

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1887

Sen. Henry Dawes of Massachusetts

(Library of Congress)

February 8th marked the 125th anniversary of President Grover Cleveland’s signing of the Dawes Act. That single piece of legislation had a more devastating impact on Native Americans than anything other than the century-long Indian Wars themselves. And it was initiated by people who actually believed they had Indians’ best interests at heart. Before it and follow-up acts were effectively repealed 47 years later by the Indian Reorganization Act, 90 million acres had been wrenched from communally owned Indian land, leaving just a third of what the tribes had held in 1886, the year Geronimo, the last organized warrior, surrendered and was shipped off to prison. What land wasn’t directly taken was “allotted” to individuals. Taking and dividing the land coincided with a stepped-up effort to destroy Native culture, religion and governance, in effect, “Indianness.”

Named after Sen. Henry L. Dawes, who headed the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the law was the culmination of practices toward Indians that had begun within a decade of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth. Boiled down to their essence, those policies said to Indians: Get out of our way, or else. Even getting out of the way often wasn’t enough to prevent the “or else.” The Dawes Act itself arose at least partly out of the influence of a book written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1881, A Century of Dishonor. It was the Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee of the 19th Century, documenting the bloodthirsty avarice and corruption that had suffused Indian-U.S. relations all those decades since the first war in 1788. Jackson didn’t live to see the Dawes Act passed, but she would no doubt have approved.

(This Week in American Indian History continued below)

The intent was assimilation, “killing the Indian to save the man,” turning Indians into farmers of acreage they held individually, altering gender roles, shattering kinship connections, breaking up communal land and tribal government, and, ultimately, wiping out reservations altogether. Officials thought this would be better for everyone as Indians adopted norms of the dominant culture. It would certainly be good for transferring some prime real estate.

Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1881 exposé

What the new law did was allot 160 acres to each head of household and 80 acres to each single adult over 18. This land would be held in federal trust for 25 years, after which ownership and citizenship would go to Indians still working their allotment. To take full possession of any land a woman had to be officially married. All inherited land passed through the male head of household. This broke the tradition of tribes with matrilineal heritages.

“Surplus” land, that is, what was left after allotments, was flung open to white settlement and ownership. That was the provision’s most likeable quality for congressmen and businessmen who would just have soon have slaughtered or starved every Indian still alive. Half the Great Sioux Reservation was sold to outsiders after Indian allotments were distributed.

As Youngstown University Asst. Prof. G. Mehera Gerardo has noted, even before the ink was dry on the act, speculators were making deals to trade or buy Indian lands. But they mostly postponed development for fear the government would confiscate what they’d shadily acquired before the trust period expired. Thus were many Indians able to keep to their traditional ways of life for another decade, treating the land as if it were still held communally, even though they’d already bargained their allotments away. State and local governments soon found ways around the law to permit outsiders to buy allotments. Hemmed in by fences, cut off by private ownership of forests and riverine areas, Indians now found themselves no longer able to subsist on hunting and fishing.

Meanwhile, funds from the sale of reservation land, which were supposed to benefit the tribes, were mismanaged, often not paid for decades, sometimes outright embezzled. Money that did make it to the proper federal accounts was often used for things Indians did not find worthwhile. The late historian Melissa L. Meyer wrote, “Facile generalizations about Anishinaabe dependence on welfare gratuities mask the fact that they essentially financed their own ‘assimilation.'”

Thanks to the lobbying of those for whom no amount of freed-up Indian land was enough, new federal legislation was passed in 1906 to allow Indians to sell their allotments well before the end of the trust period. Many, hating farming or broke from trying, sold at rock-bottom prices. Those who had actually received land suitable for farming, and much of it was not, couldn’t afford the tools, seed, animals and other supplies required. Small government grants were insufficient and most could obtain no credit. They had received no training. Even if parents knew how to farm, children coerced into boarding schools came home years later without the necessary skills. Inherited land was often divided among too many heirs to be large enough to farm.

The dispossession was wildly successful. Partly as a consequence of the act, by 1900 the American Indian population had fallen to its lowest point in U.S. history, about 237,000.

– Meteor Blades

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

North Dakotans Still Fighting Over ‘Fighting Sioux’ Name

Petitioners for a statewide referendum to keep the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname have exceeded by several thousand the 13,452 signatures they needed to get the issue on the June 12 ballot, according to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. He now has a month to ensure that the signatures are valid.

The fight over the nickname and an accompanying logo of an Indian in feathers has been going on for decades. In 2006, the NCAA instituted a policy requiring schools to abandon nicknames, logos and mascots considered “hostile and abusive” to American Indians. Any school that chose to ignore the policy would be sanctioned by not being allowed to host championship games nor wear its team logo at postseason games. Exceptions were made for schools that got consent from relevant tribes to keep using their nicknames. Tribal permission was obtained for the University of Utah Utes, Central Michigan University Chippewas and Florida State University Seminoles. FSU even got to keep its Appaloosa-riding “Chief Osceola” mascot.

UND took a different approach. It sued. But it lost. In the settlement it agreed that if it could not gain consent from the two Sioux tribes in North Dakota by the end of November 2010, it would begin retiring the nickname and logo. But the university could only get one of the two tribes to agree. A vote by the 6700-member Spirit Lake Tribe (Sisseton Wahpeton), which has long been active in support of keeping the name, approved UND’s request by a 2-1 margin. Tribal member Frank Black Cloud told Time magazine in December: “Why should the NCAA come in and tell us that we should be offended?”

However, the tribal council of the 8900-member Standing Rock Tribe (Lakota, Yanktonai, Dakota) rejected the name. It refused to hold a tribal vote, however, and would not accept petitions seeking a vote of the whole tribe. Councils of other Sioux and non-Sioux tribes, like North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, have passed resolutions against keeping the name.

The North Dakota legislature responded by passing a law in April 2011 requiring UND to keep the “Fighting Sioux” name and threatening an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA if it imposed sanctions. With the law in hand at a meeting last August in Indianapolis, top UND officials, North Dakota legislators and the governor met with the NCAA to get it to change its decision. In a completely unsurprising move, Spirit Lake was not asked to participate. “How can we not have a seat at the table?” Black Cloud complained.

After the NCCA refused to budge, the legislature backed off, repealing the pro-nickname law in November. UND immediately began removing the logo and name from its web sites, ordering new uniforms with a simple “ND” in a circle on them and making other changes that officials estimate will cost $750,000. Under the law, no new name can be chosen until the end of a 36-month “cooling-off period.”

Faced with the imminent switchover, citizen petitioners, including a few Indians from both Spirit Lake and Standing Rock, began gathering signatures. Because of the way referendums work in North Dakota, the repeal of the pro-nickname law is now held in abeyance until the balloting takes place. To comply with the law, the UND president has reinstated the “Fighting Sioux” name. Meanwhile, another group of is circulating a separate petition that advocates a pro-nickname amendment to the North Dakota Constitution. They need 26,904 signatures to get the issue on the ballot for November.

Even if one or both referendums pass, however, there is another sticking point. More and more schools are saying they will refuse to compete with UND if it continues the “Fighting Sioux” nickname. Here is a comprehensive timeline of the Fighting Sioux controversy.

-Meteor Blades

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Interior Dept. Set to Clean Up Dawes Act Mess

Elouise Cobell

The Interior Department announced Feb. 2 that it plans to spend $1.9 million to buy fractionated American Indian lands and restore them to the tribes. The program stems from the historic $3.4 billion settlement in Cobell v. Salazar, a class-action lawsuit filed over a century’s worth of gross mismanagement of royalties for Indian trust lands. The suit was brought by the late Elouise Cobell (Niitsítapi [Blackfoot]), also known as Yellow Bird Woman.

The proposal is open for public comment until March 15. Nothing will move forward on it until four appeals of the Cobell settlement are dealt with. A key issue in those suits is that the settlement failed to uncover even a close approximation of how much money got “lost” from the federal land trust accounts.

The fractionation emerged out the tribe-smashing Dawes Act of 1887 that allotted lands to individual Indians and opened the “surplus” to non-Indians. Over several generations, the heirs of these allotments found themselves owning smaller and smaller plots unsuitable for farming or any other commercial uses and unsalable because of the logistics of getting all owners to agree. Original allotments ranged from 80 to 320 acres, depending on the status of the individual Indian and the location of the land. Some allotments now have as many as 1000 owners, many of whom are unaware they even own their small piece. The Associated Press says the Interior Department has identified 88,638 fractionated land tracts owned by nearly 2.8 million people.

Over 10 years, the program will work first on tracts with the most owners, targeting land that will take the least preparatory effort to gain a controlling interest. No individuals will be forced to sell their allotments. Once a buy is completed, the land will be returned to communal ownership by the tribe, the very thing the Dawes Act tried to destroy.

John Dossett, the general counsel for the Native Congress of American Indians, said the draft proposal appears to address most of the tribes’ major concerns. Of particular importance was that the tribes be involved in implementing and administering the land consolidation program through cooperative agreements, which are addressed in the draft plan.

“It’s a problem that has been sitting around for a hundred years or more,” he said. “I think tribes are really interested in doing this right. You don’t get a do-over on $1.9 billion.”

Cobell died in October a few months after the settlement was approved by a federal judge.

-Meteor Blades

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GOP Exploits Navajo Division Over EPA Toxic Rule

Wahleah Johns

House Republicans were at it again last week, seeking to justify their opposition to the imposition of stricter guidelines for mercury emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. At a hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, they used a ploy that has a long history in Indian-U.S. relations, finding an Indian who will go along with whatever it is particular politicians want while excluding Indians who don’t.

In this case, the Indian on the GOP witness list was Navajo Attorney General Harrison Tsosie. Like Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley, Tsosie opposes the EPA’s four-year time-line for complying with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which imposes national limits on lead, arsenic, mercury and acid gases emitted from power plants that burn coal and oil. Tsosie said power plants in and around the Navajo Nation would need 20 to 25 years to upgrade. Those plants include Navajo, Cholla, Four Corners, San Juan and Escalante. He said the toxic rule would also force the shut down of coal mines on the Navajo Nation.

“Indian nations are often cited as being pockets of poverty … and the one common denominator is pervasive federal control,” Tsosie [testified]. “The United States EPA MACT rule is no exception and adds yet another regulatory burden tribes are left to contend with.” […] “Revenue and job losses of that magnitude would be cataclysmic for the Navajo Nation and its people, and would certainly impugn the very solvency of the Navajo Nation government,” his written testimony said.

Tsosie’s wife, Gerilyn (Navajo), works in an administrative job with BHP Billiton, the Australia-based mineral and energy giant with worldwide coal operations, including in the United States. Tsosie’s view is not shared by all Navajos, especially those who live near the generating stations. Waheah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition is one of those. She was born atop Black Mesa, land sacred to the Navajo and Hopi. The mesa, which rises suddenly from the dry, red plains around it, was the centerpiece of a bitter three-decade battle over strip-mining and water use, which pitted the Bureau of Indians Affairs and Peabody Coal against the tribes and the tribes against each other. Not only does Johns support the EPA standards, she “doesn’t buy the job loss argument”:

“[W]e’re very happy the EPA stood their ground on behalf of our children. Just think how many Navajos are going to be employed installing the new equipment,” she said. “This rule is going to create jobs, not destroy them. […] It opens the door wide for alternative energy.”

The EPA toxic release inventory says the five big power plants around the Navajo Nation collectively have released 14.6 million pounds of mercury, chromium, lead, nickel and hydrochloric acid into the air in the past 10 years.

-Meteor Blades with a h/t to Aji and John Walke

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Nation’s First Tribally Owned Wind Farm Planned for Maine

Passamaquoddy Chief Clayton Cleaves

(Photo by Joyce Scott)

Joining a growing number of tribes installing renewable energy operations on their land, the Passamaquoddys of Maine hope to have between 18 and 50 wind turbines generating electricity for up to 21,000 homes by 2013. To get there requires passing through a few bureaucratic hoops, including the purchase of surplus government land. The remote location of the proposed wind farm is now home to blueberry barrens and cranberry bogs and an abandoned Air Force radar site. Because all the land involved is held for the tribe in federal trust, only federal permits will be required to install the wind turbines.

The $120 million wind farm is a joint project of the tribe and the Boise, Idaho-based Exergy Development Group. It will be called Peskotmuhkati Wind LLC (after the Indians’ own word for Passamaquoddy). Clayton Cleaves (Passamaquoddy), chief of the Pleasant Point reservation. said his tribe own 51 percent of the project and will invest profits in other local projects. additional projects. “This can be a key economic driver for the Passamaquoddy Tribe,” he said.

Tribal ownership of the wind farm is unique. That arrangement took place on the advice of John Richardson, a consultant the tribe hired for the project. Richardson, formerly Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and at one time Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Maine legislature, is a principal in Native Power LLC. The firm’s goal is to ensure majority ownership by tribes of project relying on wind, solar and other renewable resources. Peskotmuhkati Wind is its first effort. No U.S. tribe currently has such ownership of any large-scale energy projects on tribal lands.

Richardson said that seeing the project succeed was very important to him because of the struggling economy in Washington County. “What is most significant is that because the wind project will be owned by the tribe, the majority of revenues created by the wind farm and other businesses will remain in Washington County,” he said. “This could be a game changer for the county.” […]

“We became interested in this project because it is a first-of-its-kind development of a commercial-scale wind power project that is uniquely owned with Native Americans,” James Carkulis, president and CEO of Exergy said Tuesday. “We have also been highly encouraged by the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Indian Affairs analyses that we are a national model of how to navigate development and financing of renewable energy projects on tribal lands.”

-Meteor Blades

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American Indian Elders Incorporated into Learning Curriculum at Schools

As a result of the modern battle over over fishing and treaty rights in the 1980s, Act 31 was passed  into Wisconsin law in 1991 to require K-12 schools to learn about federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands in the state. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay established The First Nations Center in 2009 to help teachers better understand this requirement. In recent years UW-Green Bay has enhanced this program by including one-on-one training with tribal elders to further help future educators have a more accurate knowledge of American Indian culture and in particular, a better understanding of nearby tribes.

This good news comes on the heels of last week’s report of a 7th grader being punished instead of praised for speaking her Native language in class at Sacred Heart Catholic School, also in Wisconsin. This boarding school-like incident is the very situation Act 31 was designed to try to prevent. UW-Green Bay also recognizes that weak stabs, such as making paper head-dresses for elementary programs or dance performances for older students, is not a true fulfillment of the legal requirement for which there are no enforcement provisions.

David Turney Sr. Menominee
Elder David Turney Sr. (Menominee)

Elder David Turney Sr. (Menominee), who also goes by the name Napos, teaches Menominee Ethnohistory and Introduction to First Nations Studies as an adjunct lecturer at UW-Green Bay. For example, he uses his tribal religion to teach the seven principles of the Menominee Nation. Turney teaches the one-word Menominee guidelines translated into English phrases meaning to have love and goodness, search for knowledge, have strength to help others, build wisdom to teach one day as an elder, respect everything, and to be humble and be truthful. He says, each these should be a factor in how you make your decisions to control the way you live on this earth.

UW-Green Bay’s program is a work in progress to address continuing stereotypes and help students to gain an appreciation of the various tribal cultures.

Wilson De Vore
Wilson De Vore (Navajo)

At Northwest High School in Shiprock, N.M., Wilson De Vore (Navajo) is the first traditional counselor in the district to use Navajo culture to help students. De Vore helps his Native students with their identity issues and feels he can relate to them because he also was a problem student. He uses the Hero Twins, deities in Navajo religion, to tie students to their culture, not for conversion but to reinforce their pride.

The twins, as legend has it, visited Spider Woman to learn the identity of their father. After learning he was the Sun, the boys traveled to him, seeking weapons that would allow them to defend their people against the monsters and create harmony.

One of the twins, Monsterslayer, confronts the negativity in life […] and his brother follows to generate resolution.

Students are encouraged to use the story to find resolution to modern struggles.

“I feel students have monsters today, life struggles that cause imbalance,” he said. “I tell the students that in each of them lies the Hero Twins. You have a choice. You can go about using aggression or you can go about creating balance and harmony.”

De Vore plans to build a sweat lodge on campus and bring appropriate Navajo ceremony experiences to the students and faculty. He says traditional teachings can be incorporated into every academic subject.

Alyce Spotted Bear
Dr. Alyce Spotted Bear

(Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara)

Dr. Alyce Spotted Bear (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), a former tribal chairwoman of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota and recently appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Indian Education, is now part of the Native American Center’s Elder-in-Residence program at Fort Lewis College in Colorado.

The Elder-in-Residence program brings prominent individuals from the American Indian community to meet with staff and students in an effort to increase knowledge and understanding of First Nations Cultures at the college.

E. B. Eiselein
E.B. Eiselein,

Speaks Lightning


Here at Daily Kos we have another example of utilizing traditional experts in education.  Dr. E. B. Eiselein (Anishinaabe), who writes here and at Native American Netroots as Ojibwa, has been teaching Native American Studies at Flathead Valley Community College for the past 30 years. He says, one of the challenges in teaching in a college environment is that it is not appropriate to teach some things, particularly regarding ceremonial traditions, in this context. As a traditional ceremonial leader he does invite students to participate in open ceremonies. His course description on Native American Spirituality is here.

– navajo

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Oglala Restores Wounded Knee Mass Grave Site: Volunteering his time, masonry materials and his all-Native employee labor to renovate the 121-year-old cemetery, Julian Brown Eyes (Oglala Sioux Tribe) honors the men, women and children who were murdered by the 7th Cavalry in December 1890.

– navajo

UPDATE:  S.D. House Panel Rejects Flag with Medicine Wheel Motif: The traditional state flag touting the Mount Rushmore monument will not change to a design honoring indigenous tribes. But if tradition had been honored in the first place the sacred Black Hills would not have been carved with the faces of its conquerors. (See brief in Feb. 5 News & Views.)

– navajo

Navajo Nation Wins One Uranium Waste Cleanup Fight : Tribal experts proved the Highway 160 waste-dumping site should have been part of the federal cleanup program that ended in 1997. The cleanup is now completed. The tribe has other waste sites it wants the government to remediate.

– navajo

California Tribes Strive to Keep Pomo Language Alive: Only a handful of fluent speakers of Southern Pomo are still live and they’re over 90. But, using a full array of modern technology, linguistics teacher Alex Walker is trying to revive the Northern California Indian language by teaching some 20 Pomos the idiom that their parents and grandparents were punished for speaking.

– Meteor Blades with a h/t to maggiejean

Ski Resort Wins Case to Make Wastewater Snow on Peaks Sacred to Tribes: The Save the Peaks Coalition and individual members of the Navajo Nation have been fighting a legal battle to prevent a ski resort from further desecrating the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff since 2005. The latest ruling allows Snowbowl to use 100% reclaimed sewer water to make snow, something not done anywhere else in the world.

– navajo

Oglala Sioux Sues Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and Liquor Stores in White Clay: The tribe blames the huge beer makers for knowingly exploiting alcohol sales to liquor stores in White Clay, Neb., which has a dozen residents but sold nearly 5 million cans of beer in 2010. Nearby Pine Ridge reservation has struggled with alcohol abuse as a result of pervasive poverty since the 1800s.

– 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 Meteor Blades 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: Weaving a Stronger Future

Welcome to First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by Meteor Blades and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. 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.


Cross Posted at Daily Kos
Potter Valley Pomo Mural Project
Potter Valley Pomo Mural

There are many things you must learn. Reading, working hard, these are the important things.

Edna Campbell Guerrero, Northern Pomo Elder, 1907-1995

Design: Carrie Mayfield

Guided by their art teacher and the input of local Indians, students at Potter Valley Schools, K-12 in Northern California have created a stunning mural that portrays the culture of the Pomo Potter Valley Tribe. The tribe is descended from the first-known inhabitants of the valley, which the Pomo called Ba-lo Kai. Europeans first settled there, at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River, in 1852.

Carrie Mayfield, the art teacher, and Sam Phillips (Round Valley Indians-Concow/Wailaciki), the utility maintenance man at the school, collaborated on a means to recognize the Pomos and came up with the mural concept. The idea was to accurately reflect the tribe’s culture and also educate Potter Valley students.

Phillips, who leads the school’s multicultural club, organized a project team of staff members, Indian and non-Indian students and their families to give input and vote on all aspects making up the final design. The team decided that the tribe’s various woven basket styles would offer the best representation of Pomo culture.

Mayfield began researching basket designs indigenous to the area. Phillips has a close relationship with the Pomos, and he introduced her to Salvador Rosales, the tribal chairman. Mayfield learned the tribe’s history and viewed old photos and artifacts belonging to the tribe.

In an email to News & Views, she wrote:

The history of European settlers in Potter Valley mirrors that of other Northern California communities. Before they arrived, there was a strong and thriving Native community in the valley. The oak trees provided the people with acorns, a staple in their diet used to make various food including mash and the river provided the people with fish. The valley was a richly productive area which supported the Pomo people for many generations. […]

The arrival of the Europeans and their views of the local Indian population caused many local Pomo people to leave Potter Valley to seek work in other parts of Mendocino County in order to survive. The Pomo people who remained were forced onto reservations and “educated” at the first Potter Valley School, a quarter mile away from the present school site where I now teach.

Like many other California Indians, the Pomo are known for their petroglyphs. But, since the 1960s, the current land-owners, descendants of those first European settlers, have not permitted the tribe to document or photograph the rock carvings, preventing it from recording its own history.

Tarweed GathererMayfield’s research led her to the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, 18 miles down the road. Hudson, one of the first European settlers, collected the baskets of the Northern Pomo. During her lifetime, the nationally known Hudson painted 684 portraits of Pomos.

Once the mural’s purpose was explained, the museum was extremely cooperative and removed the baskets from their cases, allowing Mayfield to photograph them. The intricate basket designs took a long time to sketch. From her photos of the baskets, she reproduced accurate colors of the weavers’ craftsmanship.

The local school board granted the prominent location Mayfield originally wanted. Phillips raised money through the multicultural club to buy materials. Finally, with preparatory work completed, student volunteers set to work painting the mural.

An Indian 5th-grader suggested Weaving a Stronger Future as the original mural text. “But,” Mayfield said, “Sam had discovered in talking with the elders that this simple, yet powerful statement could not be translated into Pomo since there is no direct translation for the word or even the concept of future in Pomo language.” Phillips then found the Northern Pomo elder’s quotation by Edna Campbell Guerrero and the mural committee approved it. The mural incorporates Mayfield’s idea of including Pomo translated into English. A hundred invitations featuring the mural design were sent to local schools, multicultural clubs and to Pomo tribespeople. The two-year project was unveiled on Nov. 18, 2011.

Mayfield currently is at work helping to put together a presentation for elementary classes so pupils can gain an early understanding of the mural’s significance and that of the original inhabitants of the land they occupy.

Pomo Mural Project

Photographer: Carrie Mayfield

Mayfield’s purpose is strong:

To me, this mural was just the first step in a long process this community must make to begin to right the wrongs of the past. The earliest inhabitants of this valley must be recognized and honored so that their descendants, including my students, may feel pride in their heritage, their culture, and themselves. The Potter Valley tribe is currently working to buy back the lands taken from them and regain sacred sites, weaving a stronger future for tribal youth in Potter Valley.

-News & Views h/t to elfling

Navajo Wedding Basket divider, Navajo Wedding Basket divider
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Osceola by George Catlin (1837)

This Week in American Indian History in 1838

They called him a “renegade.” That was the label attached to Indians who refused to go where and do what they were told as well as give up the land they lived on. Osceola was his name, “Black Drink,” and he and his small band of Seminoles, had by late 1837 been engaged in highly effective guerrilla warfare for two years in what became known as the Second Seminole War, the most expensive unresolved U.S. conflict with Indians in history. Like many Seminoles, then and today, he was a mix of Creek, Scottish, English and African American blood, and he sometimes went by the name Billy Powell, after the Englishman presumed to be his father, William Powell. In October 1837, after many victorious battles, Osceola agreed to meet for negotiations under a flag of truce at Fort Payton, Fla. It was a trick. He was disarmed and arrested, held at Fort Marion in St. Augustine and later moved to Fort Moultrie, in Charleston, S.C.

The deception generated a national outcry, and many people came to visit him, including the famous artist George Catlin, who persuaded him to pose for a painting. So many painters wanted to capture Osceola’s likeness, in fact, that he sat for more than one at a time. But Catlin was his favorite and they often talked late into the night. A little more than a month after his arrival in South Carolina, on Jan. 30, 1838, he was found dead in his prison cell, the official verdict being malaria, although others say he died of a broken heart. He was buried with full military honors. But his head was later removed and embalmed, its whereabouts being today unknown. Osceola’s death produced an outpouring of engravings and paintings, many of them bogus. Catlin’s was by far the best, catching the warrior with a finely detailed elegant gracefulness. Among the lesser works were widely circulated portraits showing Osceola dressed in Plains Indian-style buckskins with tipis in the background, a form of shelter Southeastern Indians would not recognize. You can see a small collection of these portraits and descriptions of them at this excellent web site. – Meteor Blades

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New & Views Briefs by Meteor Blades

Jefferson Keel

NCAI President Asks Feds for More Flexibility

Two days after President Obama’s State of the Union address, Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw) gave a speech in Washington, D.C., on the State of Indian Nations. Keel, lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation, is president of the National Congress of American Indians. Obama, he said, should give Indians greater attention.

“He’s kept his word,” Keel said. “He has placed people in strategic and important places in his administration and they’re doing a tremendous job, but it’s limited. Again, access is limited and we need to expand that and we need broader support.” Many of the areas where broader support is needed are familiar – better health services, and enhanced sovereignty on Indian lands. Other are less known outside the American Indian community. Keel urged reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act re-authorization and passage of the Save Native Women Act, “both of which would take critical steps to address the horrific rates of violence being perpetrated against” Indian women.

Another concern is education and the digital divide. Keel pointed out that only one out of every 10 people living on tribal land have access to broadband Internet service. He urged passage of a bill introduced last year. “The Native CLASS Act [Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools] offers the chance to provide the education our young people need to succeed today and build economies that Indian country needs for tomorrow. Our young people must not be left behind anymore.”

Keel focused considerable time on resource development on tribal lands. “Tribal governments have proven their capacities to grow our economies, educate our people and manage our resources. We need our federal government to put the decisions back in the hands of people who live in Indian country, the people who know best because these are our homelands, these are our people.

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Obama Calls His Administration ‘Turning Point’ for Indians

At an election fund-raiser with the Native American Leadership Council in Washington, D.C., Friday, President Barack Obama said times have changed in the federal government’s relationship with American Indians.

I believe that one day we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say this was a turning point in nation-to-nation relations; that this was turning point when the nations all across the country recognized that they were full partners, treated with dignity and respect and consultation; that this wasn’t just a side note on a White House agenda, but this was part and parcel of our broader agenda to make sure that everybody has opportunity. […] As long as Native Americans face unemployment rates that are far higher than the national average, we’ve got more work to do. We want new businesses and new opportunities to take root on the reservation. We want to stop repeating the mistakes of the past.

About 70 people paid at least $15,000 for tickets to the event, with the money benefiting the Obama Victory Fund.

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Rosebud Reservation Students Challenge ABC Report with Video

Like many other Americans, students at the Todd County High School on the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota had a visceral reaction to ABC’s “A Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” which aired in October 2011. But theirs was different than the reaction of others. The program, a report about children on the Pine Ridge Reservation by Diane Sawyer, focused a lot of attention on familiar problems: poverty, violence, alcoholism and obesity. The people at Pine Ridge and Rosebud are members of tribes most Americans call the Sioux.

About 50 of the high school students felt they were stereotyped. Led by Feather Colombe, they produced a reply video called “More Than That.” It’s now been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube.

In the view of kaneratiio:

The ABC “special” was more about Diane Sawyer trying to promote herself than telling a truth about Native life. Her “special” was opportunistic, condescending and misleading. The fact of the matter is that the problems on Native lands are not because time forgot us. It is the direct result of state and federal government policies and the clear complicity of the American people. It is this generation that will swing the pendulum back the other way with no help from Diane Sawyer on horseback.

Here’s the video:


News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

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Bermuda Indians Spread the Word About Their Ancestry

Beginning in 1637, and for more than a century, thousands of American Indians were sold into slavery in Caribbean. Today in Bermuda, descendants of these captives and survivors of battles and massacres prosecuted by New England Puritans and other European settlers seek to reconnect with their roots. Their ancestors include the Pequot and Wampanoag, the latter being the tribe whose assistance rescued those Pilgrims who survived the winter of 1620.

One of the groups seeking to teach islanders and others about their past is the St. David’s Islanders and Native Community. Members have attended Indian pow-wows in the United States and held several bi-annual pow-wows of their own in Bermuda. “Our mission is to teach people about our Native American ancestry,” says group secretary Patricia Raynor. “We often speak at schools about it. We give a talk and show them one dance.”

To raise money to further its aims, a trustee of the group, chef and graphic artist Kevin Watson, designed a blanket. Its colors, blue and white, represent the tribes of the northeast and of St. David’s, according to Watson. In the center is the group’s logo, two hands clasping one another, which “represents our reconnection with our relatives in New England after 300 plus years.” The blanket also depicts Bermuda cedar, palmetto, and a longtail bird. In addition there are rockfish, turtles and a marine mollusc called suck-rocks, all of them once used by St. David’s Islanders for food.

From left Kevin Watson, Patricia Raynor and Ronnie Chameau with the newly designed blanket to raise funds

for the St David’s Islanders and Native Community organization. (Photo by Glenn Tucker )
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Wenona Benally Baldenegro

Two Indian Congressional Candidates Praise Giffords

Upon learning that Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is resigning from her 8th District Arizona congressional seat, two American Indian candidates who are seeking the Democratic nomination for Congressional seats in their states strongly praised her. Giffords, who was nearly killed in a shooting a year ago and has resigned to finish her recovery, is widely viewed as a friend of Indians.

Wenona Benally Baldenegro (Navajo) is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Arizona’s 1st District in the July 19 primary. You can read more about her in this Daily Kos diary. She stated:

I thank Congresswoman Giffords for her extraordinary dedication and commitment to serving the great state of Arizona and our nation. Giffords’ courage and strength, in the face of such adversity, has been an inspiration to all of us. Her profound passion for public service has inspired me to answer her call to join together to work for Arizona and this great country.

Derek Bailey

Tribal Chairman Derek Bailey (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), who hopes to obtain his party’s nomination for Michigan’s 1st District in the Aug. 7 primary, stated:

Congress is losing a hero with Representative Gabrielle Giffords taking some time off. Gabby is not just a hero because she has so bravely and successfully fought back from that horrific day a year ago. But she is a hero because she refused to play the partisan, political games in Congress that are so harming our country. Gabby preached bipartisanship, and set an example in working to get things done no matter whose idea it was. We are eternally grateful to her for her service. Gabby and her husband Mark have been and remain in our prayers.

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Washington State Ponders Naming Holiday to Honor Indians

On January 22, 1855, leaders of the Duwamish, Suquamish and other Indians in Puget Sound surrendered their land at gunpoint to the murderous first governor of Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens. Now, the Washington legislature is discussing honoring Indians by making the day after a state holiday, “Native American Heritage Day.” In case that name sounds familiar, it should. The United States first officially commemorated as “Native American Heritage Day” in 2008 and President Obama called on Americans to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” The proposed legislation states:

“America’s journey has been marked by both bright times of progress and dark moments of injustice for Native Americans  …The Native American population was disrupted and nearly destroyed through European colonization. Genocide, slavery, and political and cultural repression were consequential adversities Native Americans had to overcome. In the face of such hardships, Native Americans endured; their cultural beliefs flourished; and today we celebrate their importance to the United States and the state of Washington.”

Because the day after Thanksgiving is already one of 10 paid legal holidays in Washington, the name-change would go unnoticed by most citizens. In the view of Linda Thomas, a Seattle radio host who chose to embrace an insult she was given early in her career by calling herself the “News Chick,” the legislative move is insulting to Indians. She told her audience: “The state is trying to send a message that a day honoring tribes is unique because it’s a legal holiday. If they really wanted to make it special, why not give Native Americans their own holiday instead of plopping the day on a calendar day that was already a holiday for most?”

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Depiction of Kateri Tekakwitha

in Santa Fe, N.M., by Estelle Loretto

Lone Mohawk Challenges Sainthood of One of His Tribe

Kateri Tekakwitha will soon become the first American Indian saint. The 17th Century Mohawk woman will be canonized by the Vatican later this year, and most Mohawks and many other Indians, think that’s wonderful, though they believe she should have been made a saint decades ago. But there is dissent.

For sainthood, the Vatican needed a “certified miracle” and none of those that had been brought forward met the requirements. In 2006, one did. An 11-year-old Indian boy afflicated with a lethal flesh-eating bacteria fully recovered. His parents said they had been praying to Kateri.

Her story, as told by the Church, is a grim one. Nearly killed and blinded by smallpox at age 4 and nearly killed later in a raid on her village by French settlers, she survived but was ostracized by her tribe and fled at age 20 to Kahnawake, a village of Catholic converts where she was baptized and nursed the ill and dying until she herself died at age 24. It is claimed her smallpox-scarred face suddenly cleared at her death. As a consequence of this belief, today there is a shrine to her in a 230-year-old barn in Fonda, N.Y., at one time the Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, where Kateri spent most of her life.

The sainthood talk doesn’t impress 67-year-old Tom Porter (Mohawk), whose traditional name is Sakokwenionkwas, or “He Who Wins.” He says Kateri “was used.” Porter is not a Catholic and has spent years trying to restore the tribe’s old beliefs. His six children and 11 grandchildren follow these traditions.

“Christianity is not a shoe that will ever fit. Not for my feet, or my heart, or my soul,” he said. […]

To him, there is no difference between the spread of Christianity and the cruel policies, including forced assimilation in grim 20th-century government boarding schools, that were used to subjugate Native Americans. […]

He thinks Kateri was probably forced to become a Catholic. “I don’t know if she really was a Christian or not,” he said. “They were in poverty at that time. The Europeans had destroyed everything, people were destitute and starving, and if you wanted to get help of any kind you had to be a Christian.”

Porter conceded that few Mohawk agree with him. He even admitted that some in his extended family are devoted to Kateri.

“It breaks my heart,” he said. […]

The Second Poorest County in America

The 1980 U.S. Census proclaimed Shannon County, the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation, as the single poorest county in America. Thirty years later the 2010 U. S. Census has just announced that Shannon County is the second poorest county in America.

Shannon County Rezidents Sue for Early Voting

By failing to provide the early voting, the plaintiffs claim violations of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

American Indian Gangsters Busted in Minnesota

Two dozen suspected members of Native Mob, a Minneapolis-born, American Indian gang, were indicted last week. The gang has been a problem for tribal, federal and local law enforcement for two decades.

Hopi, Navajo Join to Preserve Petroglyphs

The Hopi call it Tutuveni, meaning “newspaper rock.” It’s a collection of sandstone boulders outside of Tuba City, Ariz., about 80 miles from the Grand Canyon. The site contains some 5,000 petroglyphs of Hopi clan symbols, the largest known collection of such symbols in the American Southwest.

Census Bureau Sees Sharp Rise in Indian Population

Of the 5.2 million people counted as Indians in the 2010 Census, nearly 2.3 million reported being Indian in combination with one or more of six other race categories. Those who added black, white or both as a personal identifier made up 84 percent of the multi-racial group. The Census does not require respondents to show tribal enrollment or other proof that they have Indian heritage to include them in their count.


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 Meteor Blades 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.

The Black Hills Are Not For Sale Time Lapse Video

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.

Background here:

The Black Hills Are Not for Sale: The Mural Is Up in Los Angeles. Here’s How It Got There

The Black Hills Are Not For Sale from sinuhe xavier on Vimeo.

From Sinuhe:

I met Aaron Huey at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival during May of 2011 and was instantly captivated with his work on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and his project, Honor The Treaties. We worked together with Shepard Fairey over the next several months to collaborate and bring something to the streets of Los Angeles. With help from Miguel of La Barracuda this 20×60 wall on Melrose Ave at Fairfax was secured. What you see here is the culmination of the tireless efforts of Aaron Huey and Shepard Fairey that took place November 26, 2011.

The V.O. is from this ted.com/talks/aaron_huey.html Ted Talk.

Please go to honorthetreaties.org to learn more.

More credits below:

Wheat Paster: Nicholas Bowers

Wheat Paster: Shepard Fairey

Scissors: Daryl Hannah

Wheat Paster: Chet Hay

Wheat Paster: Aaron Huey

Wheat Paster: Daniel Salin

Wheat Paster: Sinuhe Xavier

Crowd Control: Miguel

Production: The Department of Scenarios

Camera: Taylor Kent

Editor: Carol Martori







Famed Artist Fairey Shines Light on Invisible Indians with L.A. Mural


photo credit: Aaron Huey

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 26th, 2011, there is an important event will take place at the intersection of Melrose and Fairfax in West Los Angeles.

Harper’s Magazine Contributing Editor and National Geographic photographer, Aaron Huey and prolific street artist of the Obama HOPE campaign image, Shepard Fairey have collaborated and will produce a 20×80-foot mural THE BLACK HILLS ARE NOT FOR SALE installation before your eyes.

Shepard Fairey Aaron Huey Install

The wall usually rents for $15-20,000 and is being donated.

This is a mockup of the site:

Aaron Huey mockup of install

Melrose and Fairfax is an extremely highly trafficked intersection.

The installation prep work will begin in the morning with gathering elements and erecting the scaffolding. The actual unfolding and pasting of the massive sheets of artwork will likely start at noon. (This is just an estimate.)

I plan to be there about 1 PM and would love to have some fellow Kossacks along side me to watch this important event that raises awareness of American Indians and points to the long history of Broken Promises.

Our message is HONOR THE TREATIES.

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Today is American Indian Heritage Day

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Please share this diary far and wide.

Another installment of our new series:

Invisible Indians

This is the first in a year-long series…
(560+ / 0-)

…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.

by Meteor Blades on Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 03:10:53 PM PDT

Tonight! “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” ABC 20/20 Special

TONIGHT, at 10 PM Eastern, ABC is airing a 20/20 special called “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” featuring Tashina Iron Horse, a 5 year old from Pine Ridge Reservation.

Tashina Iron Horse

       Young Tashina Iron Horse is a competitive pow wow dancer. (credit: Elissa Stohler/ABC News)

Pine Ridge residents live amid poverty that rivals that of the third world. Forty-seven percent of the Pine Ridge population lives below the federal poverty level, 65 percent to 80 percent of the adults are unemployed, and rampant alcoholism and an obesity epidemic combine with underfunded schools to make it a rough place to grow up. Tashina lives in government housing in Manderson, 30 minutes north of downtown Pine Ridge. She lives with her grandmother, parents, siblings and uncles – sometimes up to 19 people live in the three-bedroom house, which has seen better days.

In the decades following President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to fund public housing projects on American Indian reservations, a construction boom began in Pine Ridge. Today, most of these units built in the 1970s and 1980s are in varying degrees of disrepair – a result, critics say, of steep cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget made by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Public housing dollars today are largely spent battling black mold in reservation housing rather than constructing new homes.

Amid the despair, there are youth across the reservation – like Tashina – who are breaking through the hopelessness with huge dreams and powerful stories.

Check out a sneak peek – Tashina teaches Diane Sawyer some of her moves – below.

[Video will not post here. Click at ABC link at top to view video.]

Video Transcript provided by the lovely Cedwyn:

ABC:  At one of the dance competitions, we saw little Tashina Iron Horse, so joyful.  We were intrigued by her life.

(cut to house)

Tashina:  See, mom!  I got that book.

ABC:  Her house has so many people living in it, even her grandmother and uncle find it hard to keep track.

Grandma:  Five in Bobby’s room, two in mine, and the two boys downstairs.  And then Amy and her family, there’s five of them.  Then Amber, her and Baby will be coming back, too, so there’s two, three of them.

ABC:  So in total, it’s about, what, 15?

Aunt:  Yeah.  Gee, 19, I guess.

ABC:  Tashina sleeps in one bed with her mother, her father and two other children.

AJ:  Comb your hair and look into the camera.

ABC:  Tashina’s dad, AJ, is getting ready to apply to be a firefighter.  He gets little Tashina and her sister Shante ready for school.

AJ:  If there was enough housings for us, I think we would get our own house just so me and my little family could have our time.

ABC:  And it’s her uncle Matthew who makes those intricate little costumes Tashina loves to wear for the dances.  This is beautiful.

Tashina, five years old, with a giggling invitation to join her in the dance.

Please watch the special tonight and let us know what you think in the comments.

We at Native American Netroots thought this would be a good time to kick off our winter fuel fundraising efforts.

Here are a few photos of the grateful recipients of the fuel you bought last winter that I haven’t posted before:

These photos were all taken by Sherry Cornelius aka lpggirl of St. Francis Energy who personally delivers the propane. Everyone pictured is saying THANKS to Daily Kos for helping them with heat.




PLEASE Share with family and friends and ask them to share.


My earlier diaries explain in more detail why and how we are helping:

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

Employment Information
  • Recent reports vary but many point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is said to be approximately 83-85% and can be higher during the winter months when travel is difficult or often impossible.

    Note that South Dakota boasts of a 4.5% unemployment rate and ranks #2 in the Nation.
  • According to 2006 resources, about 97% of the population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • There is little industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota is the nearest town of size (population approximately 57,700) for those who can travel to find work.  It is located 120 miles from the Reservation.  The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located some 350 miles away.

We have bypassed the middlemen; the 501c3s, the red-taped strangled Tribal Councils and the pathetic Federal LIHEAP program which runs out three weeks into winter.

We’ve set up relationships with the propane companies that service Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservation. The kind operators/owners know who needs help and can’t get it from their Tribal, State or Federal government.

Help buy propane for Lakota families in South Dakota:

The *fastest* way to help is to pick up the phone and call with your credit card information. A family will get propane delivered either the same day or the next day.


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check:

[make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible



You can also call Sherry’s cell phone: 605.208.8888 if the above line is busy.



Good idea from  Aji in the comments :

…for $230 plus shipping, Kossacks can get them an LPG safety space heater.  We’ve used this model; very effective; stable and low for safety and energy efficiency; multiple heat settings so you don’t waste gas; and a built-in O2 sensor auto-shutoff.

You can order a heater  here  and have it shipped to:

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N Main Street


Mr. Heater Big Buddy™ Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater – 18,000 BTU, Model# MH18B

You also need to include these accessories:

Mr. Heater AC Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heaters – 6 Volt, Model# F276127

Mr. Heater 12-Ft. Hose with Regulator for Item# 173635

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Buddy™ Heaters, Model# F273699

Order Total   $222.84 (includes shipping)


The Lakota Plains Propane Company

at  6 0 5 – 8 6 7 – 5 1 9 9

Monday- Friday only 8-4:30pm MST

Ask for Crystal to contribute to someone from Autumn’s list. $120 minimum delivery. This company serves Pine Ridge Reservation.

NOT tax deductible

If you live out of the country please use our PayPal link at Native American Netroots, the donate button is in the upper right of the page. This process takes about two weeks for the funds to hit the reservations so telephoning the propane companies directly is the fastest way to help.

A special thanks to Miep who recently donated $500 to this season’s effort.

The Flora Sombrero Lind Scholarship Endowment Fund

Flora Sombrero Lind Certificate

In honor of my mother, THE FLORA SOMBRERO LIND NAVAJO ENDOWMENT FUND has been set up to accept your donations.

This scholarship endowment has been established at the American Indian College Fund to honor Flora Sombrero Lind, as an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who was born at Inscription House, Arizona of the Many Goats clan circa 1925. This scholarship endowment is funded by Flora’s family and friends who want to see Navajo students pursue higher education and carry on their great Navajo heritage.

Please leave a comment if you donated. I would love to have a record of whom to thank.

Flora Sombrero Lind Banner  

Pine Ridge Poster Project Up & Running [Photo Heavy]

Aaron Huey‘s awareness campaign bringing attention to the on going struggle of broken treaties with American Indians is surfacing in Seattle and New York City.  

I’ve collected photos from his Honor the Treaties Facebook Page for you to see the progress. If you have a Facebook account please go there and “like” it.

The installations use the following works of art from Shepard Fairey and his assistant Ernesto Yerena, these screen prints are based on Aaron Huey’s photos of Pine Ridge.


The photos of the poster installations are below the fold.


Pine Ridge Poster Project

Capitol Hill, Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

West Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

At the Georgetown Carnival in Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

3rd Ave S & Main, Downtown Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

200 S. Main St., Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

7th Ave S and S Jackson St., Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project


Pine Ridge Poster Project

Oregon & Rainier Ave., Seattle

Pine Ridge Poster Project

12th & First, Seattle



Pine Ridge Poster Project

29th St between 6th and 7th Ave in NYC

Pine Ridge Poster Project

E 33rd and Madison Ave, MANHATTAN

Pine Ridge Poster Project

Mulberry & Houston, Manhattan

Pine Ridge Poster Project

3rd Ave and E 22nd, MANHATTAN

NYC map

Clicking on the map gives you the street addresses. It would be great if we could get more photos of these installations. Send me a PM if you can take photos for us and post them on the Honor the Treaties Facebook Page.

I’m currently putting together a team to do some “wheat pasting” in San Francisco.


Do you have a prominent wall that gets a lot of traffic in your city and could use some wheat pasting?  Tell us in the comments.

Pine Ridge Poster Project

Treaty Holders


Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Treaties, and Federal Statutes as “the supreme law of the land.”   We start from the base assumption that few, if any, treaties between the United States and North American Tribes were honored.  The TED talk above outlines one particular case that stands as a symbol for all tribes:  The United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians.  In this history we see a calculated and systematic destruction of a people.  Although the story is of the Lakota and the treaties they signed at Fort Laramie in 1851 and 1868, it is the story of all indigenous people.  The story of this tribe is far from over and “The Black Hills are (still) not for sale.”  Over time this site will grow to become a more complete database of treaties and the treaty issues facing North America Indian tribes.  For more information on contemporary advocacy for Lakota treaty rights, please visit www.oweakuinternational.org

Honor The Treaties

American Indian Caucus at NN11 and MORE!

Our American Indian Caucus will be held on Saturday morning June 18 at 10:30am (Central) in room L100 D. Meteor Blades and I will be leading the discussion.

My heroes rfall and Oke will be there to stream the caucus proceedings for you like they did last year. I’ll provide a url for this the next time I post this diary as a reminder.  Oke will also be taking email questions at nativeamericannetroots at g mail dot com from viewers during the caucus.

Last year our stats showed that we had about 30 people watching the streaming video including one from Europe.

Ojibwa who unfortunately cannot attend provided a blessing to open our caucus, please read it, it is marvelous.

We will also be selling posters for $10 to benefit the Pine Ridge Billboard Project at the NN11 registration desk location on Saturday and Sunday. These three images will be available:

(I’m hearing that original donors who earned the signed screen prints are so pleased with the product when they arrived in the mail. I received mine today and they are fantastic. There is a vast difference between the signed screen prints and the posters we will be selling.)


I’d like to promote another event I’m involved in. I’ll be on the panel for Promoting People of Color in the Progressive Blogosphere with dopper0189, TexMex, Citizen Orange, Deoliver47 and soothsayer99.

Friday, June 17th 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM

in room L100 AB

This panel will address the needs, successes and obstacles to having greater participation of people of color in the blogosphere. Using the models of Black Kos and Native American Netroots as a beginning point for the discussion, we’ll cover topics such as color-blindness versus representation and how to get historically underrepresented groups and their views heard. The discussion will focus on 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.

I’ll be speaking about Invisible Indians and showing new slides of the Pine Ridge Billboard Project.