Custer’s Pipeline Rides Again

“Wonderful U.S. and Canada!”

Tommywommy's Friend

Obama supports TransCanada’s bid to push ahead with part of oil pipeline

(Edited from an earlier version in 2008. Since it’s original publishing, the US signed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, that was just smoke and mirrors, so I left the original intact)

A Canadian company has the legal right to condemn land for a crude-oil pipeline through the eastern part of the state (South Dakota in this case) –

Custer’s method of attack was a four front attack at dawn on sleeping villages. It seems an extreme comparison to make, even irresponsible. Is it however, since George W. Bush and the Neoconservative forces in the U.S. and in Canada who de-affirmed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are going to finish what Custer started in the sacred Black Hills? Custer discovered gold there and that brought the railroad along with cultural destruction in the very least. Today, uranium has been being drilled for, and more cultural destruction will probably tragically come about as the result of the TransCanada Keystone Project. But wait, that’s not the only problem.

Considering the degrees of difference between the mid – 1860’s and now in regards to Native Population, language loss, cultural loss (many ceremonies were lost, for example), and that Custer was responsible for a great deal of the loss – I consider this to be Custer’s Pipeline.

“Judge denies Stay”

“Drilling to continue”

Powertech, a Canadian mining company, began drilling uranium exploratory wells in the Dewey Burdock area northwest of Edgemont a few weeks despite the approval of their permit being appealed in court.

Black Hills Announces Additional Texas Pipeline Acquisition

Rapid City, SD – Black Hills Energy, Inc., the integrated energy subsidiary of Black Hills Corporation today announced the purchase of the assets of the Kilgore to Houston Pipeline System from Equilon Pipeline Company, LLC. The pipeline will be operated by the Company’s Houston-based oil pipeline and transportation company, Black Hills Operating Company, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Black Hills Energy Resources, Inc.

The Kilgore pipeline transports crude oil from the Kilgore, TX region south to Houston, TX, which is the transfer point to connecting carriers via the Oiltanking Houston terminal facilities. The 10-inch pipeline is approximately 190 miles long and has a capacity of approximately 35,000 barrels per day for sweet and 23,000 barrels per day for sour type crude oil. In addition, the Kilgore system has approximately 400,000 barrels of crude oil storage at Kilgore and 375,000 barrels of storage at the Texoma Tank Farm located in Longview, TX. These storage facilities will eventually be interchangeable between the two tank farms.

I’ve mentioned before that Custer was a rapist, the pipeline will be yet more rape of the Earth Mother.


The Keystone Oil Pipeline (Keystone) is a proposed 2,969 kilometre (1,845 mile) pipeline with an initial nominal capacity to transport approximately 435,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to U.S. Midwest markets at Wood River and Patoka, Illinois.

– snip –

The commercial commitments support the expansion of the Keystone Pipeline to a nominal capacity of approximately 590,000 barrels per day and will involve the construction of a 473-kilometre (294-mile) extension of the U.S. portion of the pipeline from the Nebraska/Kansas border to a hub near Cushing, Oklahoma. The expansion and extension target in-service date is fourth quarter 2010.

The total length of the proposed Keystone Pipeline is 1,845 miles (2,969 kilometres).

o Approximately 1,078 miles (1,735 kilometres) of new pipeline will be constructed in the U.S.

o The Canadian portion of the proposed project includes the construction of approximately 230 miles (370 kilometres) of new pipeline and the conversion of approximately 537 miles (864 kilometres) of existing TransCanada pipeline from natural gas to crude oil transmission.


To conclude, Custer’s dawn attacks upon sleeping villages were for the element of surprise. I think it’s fair to say that stealing land and attempts at steal land is now expected; however, the “element of surprise” has been replaced by historical trauma,

Native Americans suffer from ‘historical trauma,’ researcher says

REDLANDS, Calif. (UMNS) – The treatment given to American Indians as the United States pushed its boundaries westward has resulted in an ongoing emotional condition that a Native American social worker-researcher calls “historical trauma.”

The “element of surprise” has also been replaced by violence and rape on reservations. How can all of or even most of the people who remain defend their way of life and their culture effectively, while being in the grips of historical trauma, rape, violence and teen suicides?

Domestic violence a problem on Montana reservations

Women’s advocates in Montana say violence against Native women is an everyday occurrence on the state’s reservations.

Nonetheless, they continue to strive on.


(Custer, South Dakota) – While some South Dakota whites will always be bitter about the Wounded Knee standoff over three decades ago, a Native American national newspaper reporter says a recent benefit concert was a step toward healing race relations while raising money to fight an alarming increase in domestic violence and teen suicide on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation.


Teen suicide is two to three times higher among American Indian and Native Alaskan youths than among other ethnic groups and the general population. People in Indian Country recognize the numbers, Flatt said.

Very last of all, is that genocide denial helps to keep the help so desperately needed away in the appropriate forms that have been requested time and time again by leaders of the tribes. George W. Bush and the Neoconservative forces in the U.S. and in Canada who de-affirmed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have now all but said that these American Indians aren’t human beings.

Genocide denial is much more common than realized.

Reject the Lie of White “Genocide” Against Native Americans

Funny thing, all my life I thought I was a human being in the eyes of everyone –

Pilgrims Pilloried in streets of Plymouth

Hitler wasn’t stopped by the Apaches but by the armies of that country whose conception the Plymouth protesters mourn.

The activists were outraged by my description of the Indians as primitives with a Stone Age culture that had neither a written language, metallurgy nor the wheel.

Reality is awfully insensitive. Still, it’s important to recall that Native Americans did not build great canoes and cross the Big Water to discover Europe.

Theodore Roosevelt spent several years ranching in the Dakotas while there was still a frontier. In “The Winning of the West,” Roosevelt wrote: “Not only were the Indians very terrible in battle, but they were cruel beyond all belief in victory; and the gloomy annals of border warfare are stained with their darkest hues because it was a war in which helpless women and children suffered the same hideous fate that so often befell their husbands and fathers.”

Apparently not.

But then again, genocide denial is part of the steel that drills the oil in “Custer’s Pipeline.”

John (Fire) Lame Deer And Richard Erdoes. “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions.” p.96.

There’s a little Custer in all those sightseers, souvenir hunters, rock hounds, tourist scalpers, sharps and Deadwood hookers which cover these hills (Black Hills) like so many ants.

I couldn’t agree more with theNative American Rights Fund, “The Indian Wars never ended.”

Custer and his 7th Calvary may not be on horseback approaching unsuspecting villages, but it could be said that they’ve gone from horseback to the modern day “Battlefield,” the courtroom. The urgent thing to know is, Custer is winning, metaphorically speaking.

Historic meeting ends on pessimistic note

Determining the pipeline’s effects on cultural places appeared to have been a cursory and simplistic process.

Longtime efforts by preservation professionals to protect the more ineffable indigenous sites – vision quest places, pilgrimage trails, natural resources critical to a craft, habitats of culturally important animals and even places with no material manifestations at all – were disregarded.

At one point, an Entrix consultant offered to give Native people $400 per day to walk alongside the machinery during construction; however, the job came without authority to stop work if a site was struck.

In addition to what I’ve already cited:

The Northern Cheyenne have serious concerns about land encroachment

Cattle has been stolen off of Indian land as recent as 2002.

In February of this year (2007), “representative Joseph J. Suhrada (R) simply stated that “They [the county] want to get rid of the Indians”.

(Emphasis mine)

FRONTLINE #1705 Air Date: October 6, 1998

ARCHIE HOFFMAN: I guess he did check into the Fort Reno property and found out about all that gas and oil under Fort Reno. So he seen money there, about $50 million. He wanted us to sign a contract giving him 10 percent of that, and he’d get that property back for us. And he said, but if we didn’t do that, he said he’d make sure we never got that property back, you know?

BILL MOYERS: “They want the land given back to them on a platter,” Landow told FRONTLINE when he refused an on-camera interview. “They brought in innocent people like me. They’re a bunch of goddamn uneducated Indians.”

I could go on and on, but isn’t this the basic deplorable negative attitude beneath all this?

‘Oz’ author called for genocide of the Lakota

Six days after the massacre, while the frozen bodies of the Lakota men, women and children were being dumped into a mass grave, L. Frank Baum, the editor of a weekly newspaper in Aberdeen, SD, wrote an editorial calling for the annihilation of any Lakota still alive.

His editorial read in part, “Having wronged them once perhaps we should wrong them again and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

I’ll reiterate and finish this.

Genocide denial is part of the steel that drills the oil in “Custer’s Pipeline,” is part of what moves the pens making lying papers that are stealing and have stolen the promised sovereignty of American Indians, and what makes the modern day Custers feel joy when they succeed and rage when they fail.

Professor of Philosophy Henry Theriault Discusses Comparative Dimension of Genocide Denial

Nevertheless, denial of the genocide of Native Americans is still very strong. It works primarily through omission; people just refuse to talk about the issue. There was a strong backlash to newspaper editorials urging free discussion of this topic, which were published in 1992, the fifth centenary of the European discovery of the Americas. That denial has continued in the past decade, and deniers try to explain the extermination of the Native Americans as just an unfortunate event.

Even when Native Americans sue the government to reclaim their lands on violated treaty grounds, the courts usually throw these cases out. Moreover, when uranium was discovered in the 20th century in Native American reservations, the US claimed the uranium in the name of national security, without proper compensation.

Historic meeting ends on pessimistic note

Determining the pipeline’s effects on cultural places appeared to have been a cursory and simplistic process. Longtime efforts by preservation professionals to protect the more ineffable indigenous sites – vision quest places, pilgrimage trails, natural resources critical to a craft, habitats of culturally important animals and even places with no material manifestations at all – were disregarded. At one point, an Entrix consultant offered to give Native people $400 per day to walk alongside the machinery during construction; however, the job came without authority to stop work if a site was struck.

Tommywommy's Friend

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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

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

NAN Line Separater

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.


NAN Line Separater

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

NAN Line Separater

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

Guitarist Link Wray – and his legacy

( – promoted by navajo)

A look at the guitarist Link Wray – with 1/2 Shawnee ancestry – who is a pivotal figure in rock-n-roll and still influential six years after his death.

If you try to draw a line from the first bluesman who cranked up his guitar amp to create a distorted sound …. all the way to the Hendrix/Page/Townshend rock guitarists …. that line must pass thru Link Wray who – if he never recorded another song than Rumble fifty years ago – would have a place in music history. And while he never scaled those heights again: he had a career worth noting.

Frederick Lincoln Wray (who had part Shawnee ancestry) was born in Dunn, North Carolina in 1929, with his family eventually settling in Maryland. Link served in the Korean War where he suffered from tuberculosis (eventually losing a lung). He concentrated on his guitar work and formed Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands, a western-swing band in the mid-1950’s.

This later evolved into the Ray Men when they became the house band on a Washington, D.C. TV show. Backing others (such as Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson) they became a more instrumental band (as Link’s vocal abilities were limited due to the loss of that lung).

Then while backing-up The Diamonds in 1958, Link Wray improvised a 12-bar blues instrumental titled “Oddball” which had a distorted sound when Wray poked holes in his amplifier’s speakers (much as Ike Turner’s dropped-and-damaged amp delivered a sound on Rocket 88 he came to believe was advantageous). It was an audience hit, yet Cadence Records producer Archie Bleyer was unimpressed.

But his daughter loved it, telling Bleyer it reminded her of the rumble scenes in “West Side Story” and the song was renamed Rumble – which, while primitive: doesn’t sound dated over fifty years later, and guitarists from Jimmy Page to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix all cited the song as an influence. The Who’s Pete Townshend went further: stating in liner notes (for a 1970 Link Wray album) that, but for that tune: “I would never have picked up a guitar”. Some radio stations banned it (as ‘encouraging teen violence’) .. which only increased record sales.

Link and the Ray Men followed it up over the next few years with “Rawhide” and “Jack the Ripper” but then settled into an on-again-off-again remainder of his career. One reason is that record companies thought that – if they could dress him up and not be a juvenile delinquent poster child – he’d sell more records. Yet Link Wray was not cut out for playing “Claire de Lune”(!) as he did in 1960, and eventually Swan Records gave him room to stretch out. There were also periods of retirement, as well.

I recall him teaming up with rockabilly singer Robert Gordon throughout the 1970’s and he eventually married and relocated to Denmark, as his audience as a solo performer increasingly shifted across the Atlantic. One band-member for a time in the 1980’s was Anton Fig, who later joined Paul Shaffer’s “Late Show” band. His last album was Barbed Wire from 2000 and his music was featured on such films as “Pulp Fiction”, “Breathless” and John Waters’ “Pink Flamingos”.

Link Wray died in Copenhagen, Denmark in November, 2005 at the age of 76. Former Maryland Governor Erlich declared January 15, 2006 as Link Wray Day, and he was voted #45 on the Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone.

Wray has also been inducted into two Halls of Fame: those for Native American Music … and for Rockabilly after his death. Rhino has a compilation album of note, and as long as guitarists want a sound that is anything-but-clean: the music of Link Wray will have a place.


If you haven’t had a listen to Rumble in some time: then below you can see why this song made his career.

For a song with lyrics and even vocals by Link Wray: here is his 1979 version of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – which below you can listen to.

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last

But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast

Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,

Crying like a fire in the sun

Look out the saints are comin’ through

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense

Take what you have gathered from coincidence

The empty-handed painter from your streets

Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets

This sky, too, is folding under you

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

Pueblo Weaving

For more than a thousand years, American Indian agriculturalists have been living in villages in what is now Arizona and New Mexico. When the Spanish first encountered these villages, many of which had multi-story apartment complexes built from stone, they referred to them as “pueblos,” the Spanish word for village.  

Europeans have grouped these diverse people together under the designation Pueblo Indians based on a few common traits: they are agriculturalists who grow corn, beans, and squash; they built permanent villages with a central plaza; and most have kivas (underground ceremonial centers). They are not, however, a single people, tribe, nation, or group: the peoples grouped together as Pueblos speak six mutually unintelligible languages and occupy more than 30 villages in a rough crescent more than 400 miles in length.

NM Pueblo Map

The map above shows the current Pueblos in New Mexico. Not shown are the Hopi Pueblos which are in Arizona.

The Pueblos are generally divided into two major groups: (1) eastern (Tanoan and Keresan speakers) with a permanent water source which enables them to practice irrigated agriculture, and (2) western (Hopi, Hopi-Tewa, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna) who rely on dry-land agricul¬ture.


Acoma Pueblo is shown above.

Zuni Pueblo 1850

An 1850 sketch of Zuni is shown above.

The Pueblos have a long tradition of weaving. For many centuries prior to the European invasion of North America, Pueblo weavers were making cloth which was traded over long distances. Fabrics were woven from a variety of different plant materials-both domestic and wild-and it was not uncommon for human hair, dog hair, and wild animal hair to be incorporated into fabrics. The important plant materials used for weaving textiles included milkweed, hemp, mesquite, cliff rose, willow, yucca, agave, stool, and bear grass. In addition, both feathers and fur were also used in weaving. Bird feathers were used in making warm blankets.

One of the plant fibers used for weaving was, and sometimes still is, yucca which can be processed to produce a linen-like fabric. Among the Zuni, the central leaves of the yucca plant were gathered and each leaf was folded into a piece that was about 10 centimeters (3.5 inches) long. These pieces were then placed in a pot of boiling water together with some wood ash. The skin would then be removed from the leaves and chewed (generally by the children). After this, the fibers could be separated and straightened. After the fibers had dried-usually by hanging them in a storage room-they would be soaked in cold water and then rubbed between the hands to soften them. The softened fibers would then be pulled into a fluffy mass which would allow them to be spun and woven like cotton.  

Pueblo weavers used two basic types of looms. The back strap loom was used to make sashes and belts. The vertical loom was used for producing larger fabrics, including blanks, ponchos, and cloth for making dresses and shirts. The vertical loom can be anchored on a ceiling beam on the top and then on four floor anchors on the bottom.

The backstrap loom is attached to an interior wall and then tension is maintained by a backstrap which allows the weaver to change the tension in the loom by changing the position of the body. The cloth produced using the backstrap loom is narrower than that produced with the vertical loom.  

Pueblo Sash

Shown above is a sash.

The development of loom weaving in the Southwest coincided with the introduction of domesticated cotton. By 425 BCE, the Hohokam in Arizona were raising cotton and trading it widely. By 700 CE, the Ancestral Puebloan people (sometimes called Anasazi by archaeologists) were growing cotton in New Mexico. Upright looms appear shortly after this.

By 1260 CE, the Hopi village of Homol’ovi was the center of cotton trade between the Hopi and other tribes in the Southwest. Homol’ovi had 200 rooms and had an estimated population of about 200 people.

At Zuni Pueblo, men traditionally spun and wove cotton. The cotton they used, however, they did not grow themselves, but obtained from the Hopi.

Among the Hopi, weaving was a traditional male activity. Hopi cotton cloth was a highly valued trade item among Indian people in the region. Hopi textiles, including the coarse white cotton lengths used for kilts, sashes, and shawls, was traded throughout the Southwest and south into Mexico.  

According to the Hopi oral tradition, it was Spider Woman who taught the Hopi how to weave cotton in the ancient time. The efforts of the weaver are therefore viewed as a manifestation of the creative power of spirituality. Weaving is not seen as an act in which one creates something by oneself; it is seen as an act in which one uncovers a pattern that was already there.

After sheep were introduced to the area by the Spanish, wool began to replace cotton in Pueblo textiles.  

The Fort Marion Prisoners

Following the so-called Red River wars in Oklahoma and Texas in 1875, the army had intended to try Indian leaders and warriors before a military commission, but the attorney general ruled that a military trial would be illegal as a state of war cannot exist between a nation and its wards. Thus the Indians were simply imprisoned without a trial. In order to facilitate these prisoners, the army reconditioned Fort Marion, Florida as a prison and placed Lieutenant Richard Pratt in command.  

The army transported 72 Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and Caddo Indian prisoners from the Red River War to Fort Marion in Florida. In addition to arresting known leaders, army officers had arbitrarily singled out young men from the line of surrendering Indians, labeled them ring leaders, and arrested them. In one instance on the Cheyenne Reservation, a drunken army officer simply lined up the Indians and counted out eighteen from the right of the line. All of these eighteen Cheyenne men were sent to prison with no review of their cases, nor any concern for any possible crime they might have committed. For many of the young men their primary crime was that they were Indians who had led a traditional Plains Indian life. From an Indian perspective, no crimes had been committed.

From an Indian viewpoint, imprisonment was a form of humiliation. The families of the prisoners assumed that their loved ones had been taken away to be executed. In fact, most of the prisoners believed that the army intended to hang them.

While most of the prisoners were men, the group included one Cheyenne woman prisoner-Buffalo Calf Woman, the wife of Medicine Water-who had killed a non-Indian farmer. Also included in the group were a number of wives and children who had refused to be separated from their families.

Eleven of the Comanche and Kiowa prisoners were actually Mexican captives who had been raised as tribal members.

When the Indian captives arrived at Fort Marion, Lieutenant (later Captain) Richard Pratt had the prisoners’ hair cut and issued them European-style clothing. The Indian response to the clothing was to cut off the legs of the pants, discard the upper portion, and wear the legs as leggings in the Indian fashion. For many Plains Indian men, the crotches of pants were binding, confining, and uncomfortable.

Prat and Prisoners

Captain Pratt and some of the prisoners at Fort Marion are shown above.


A group of prisoners in 1877 is shown above. They have been issued military-style uniforms.

Howling Wolf

Cheyenne prisoner Howling Wolf is shown above.

Fort Marion Courtyard

The courtyard at Fort Marion is shown above.

By using rigorous military discipline, Pratt intended to force the Indians to assimilate totally into American culture. He also provided them with English lessons. From time to time, Indian dances were staged for important visitors.

Pratt also encouraged the prisoners to produce works of art for sale and allowed them to visit the nearby beaches. The Indian artists used ledger books and their drawings sold for approximately $2 per book. The art in the books was often given concise, simple captions. The artists were also encouraged to sign their works as this made them more valuable to a public which was accustomed to European art.

Ledger Art

An example of Kiowa ledger art is shown above.

Making Medicine

Ledger art by Cheyenne leader Making Medicine is shown above.

In general, the art books produced by the prisoners at Fort Marion were a continuation of traditional Plains Indian art in which the artists drew images of their battle exploits. Traditionally, this art was done on skins and tipi covers. The artists had to have earned the right to make these images through their individual bravery in battle. The ledger art from Fort Marion is viewed by art historians today as a continuation of the rich pictorial Plains Indian traditions.

Not all of the images created by the Indian artists at Fort Marion were traditional Plains Indian images: the artists also drew scenes of their journey to Florida and the new surroundings in which they found themselves.

In 1877, Captain Richard Pratt sent a lengthy letter to the War Department reminding the government that the Indian prisoners at Fort Marion had now been held for two years. He included petitions from Making Medicine and from Minimic. Pratt recommended that the Indians be set free.

In 1878, Indian prisoners of war held at Fort Marion were released to the custody of the Indian Office (now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs). While most “returned to the blanket” in spite of the intense efforts to assimilate them to non-Indian ways, seventeen went to Virginia to attend the Hampton School for Negroes.

Instead of returning home, Cheyenne leader Making Medicine decided to remain in the east and to take training in the Christian ministry. He changed his name to David Pendleton Oakerhater. Similarly, Cheyenne leader Zotom remained in the east and changed his name to Paul Caryl Zotom. In 1881 both men were ordained as Episcopal deacons in a joint ceremony. They returned to the Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma to spread the faith among their people.


Shown above is Oakerhater in 1881. In 1985, the Episcopal Church declared Oakerhater a saint.


Zotom is shown above. By 1889, Zotom had returned to his native spiritual traditions and had abandoned Christianity.  

The 19th Century Red River Rebellion

In 1670, Prince Rupert, a duke, three earls, and other nobles subscribed to the Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson’s Bay and were granted a royal charter from the English Crown. This was the birth of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). The grant consisted of all lands which drain into Hudson’s Bay and HBC was given all of the powers of a sovereign nation to govern this territory which was called Rupert’s Land.

The European fur traders-mostly French and Scots with a few Englishmen-quickly understood that trade with Indian nations depended upon relationships and that one of the best ways to establish relationships with the First Nations was to marry a native woman. One of the consequences of these marriages was children who were often raised in two cultures. By the nineteenth century the Métis were recognized as a distinct people. The Métis are generally seen as an ethnic group of mixed Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, French Canadian, Scots, and English.  

In the nineteenth century the Métis established a community along the Red River in what is now Manitoba, Canada. Inspired by the seigneurial system of New France, the Métis used a riverlot system in which there were parallel lots along the river which were 6 to 12 chains in width (1 chain = 66 feet) and which then stretched back from the river as far as two miles. This provided each family with a variety of natural resources which they could use.

While the Métis were mainly French or Michif-speaking, there were also some Anglo-Métis (often the descendents of the Scots traders associated with the North West Company). Most of the Métis were Catholics.

In 1867 the Constitution Act officially proclaimed the Canadian Confederation which was initially made up of four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The expansion of Canada was blocked by Rupert’s Land which was controlled by HBC. Two years later HBC relinquished Rupert’s Land to Canada. Canada appointed an English-speaking governor for the new territory, an appointment which was opposed by the French-speaking Métis.  The new governor was well-known for his anti-French sentiments.

Canada 1869

The transfer of jurisdiction from HBC to Canada was not seen as favorable by the Métis who feared that Canada would not recognize their land rights and their riverlot system. In 1869, the Métis established a regulatory council and seized the HBC’s Fort Garry without bloodshed. The Council, under the leadership of Louis Riel, drafted a List of Rights and established a provisional government. Their flag was a fleur-de-lys with a four-leaf clover and bison on a white background.

Metis government

The Métis provisional government is shown above.

The List of Rights was composed of fourteen points, which included a bilingual legislature and chief justice, and a recognition of Métis land claims. Most of the English-speaking people in the region viewed these rights as reasonable.

The Métis provisional government met with some opposition from a pro-Canadian faction. An Orangeman (i.e. Protestant) named Thomas Scott threatened to kill Louis Riel, was arrested, tried, and then executed.

Shooting Thomas Scott

An artist’s depiction of the shooting of Thomas Scott is shown above.

In 1870, the Métis provisional government, with Louis Riel as its president, negotiated with the Canadian government concerning the Manitoba Act which provided provincial status. The Act also gave the French language and Roman Catholic confessional schools official status. The Act recognized the Métis riverlot system, their hay privileges, and their common grazing rights.  Riel declared:

“no matter what happens now, the rights of the métis are assured by the Manitoba bill: it is what I wanted-my mission is finished.”

Louis Riel

Louis Riel is shown above.

Following the formation of the province of Manitoba, a military expedition known as the Wolseley Expedition composed of Canadian militia and British regular soldiers under the leadership of Colonel Garrnet Wolseley was sent to Manitoba to enforce federal authority. Easterners demanded that Wolseley’s expedition be used to arrest Louis Riel and end what they considered a Métis rebellion. The Canadian militia had expressed a desire to lynch Riel. Riel, fearing for his life, fled to the United States.

In 1875, Louis Riel was formally exiled from Canada for five years. In spite of being exiled, Riel is often called the “Father of Manitoba” and was elected to the Canadian House of Commons three times even though he never assumed his seat.

Riel Statue

A statue of Riel in Manitoba.

Canada tody

Present day Canada is shown above.

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

( – promoted by Meteor Blades)

Welcome to the fifth edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Last week’s edition is here. In this edition you will find Aji‘s essay on the brazen and lucrative slap in the face the “Twilight” series delivers to Indians, a look at the year 1599 in American Indian history, five news briefs and some linkable bulleted briefs. Click on any of the headlines below to take you directly to that section of News & Views or to any of our earlier editions.

‘Twilight’ Series Fakes Authenticity, Rips Off Quileute Nation

There’s nothing “Indian” about Twilight.

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

Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of American Museum

of Natural History Library)

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of the Smithsonian)

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

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

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

– Aji

Santa Domingo Shell Piece, Divider

This Week in American Indian History in 1599

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Meteor Blades

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

– Meteor Blades

(First Nations News & Views continued below)

FNNVs News Briefs Divider, San Serif

New Federal Rule Would Speed Approval of Indian Solar and Wind Projects

A string of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines spin in the

January fog on a ridge of the Kumeyaay

reservation in southern California.

(Photo by navajo)

For 125 years, American Indian lands have been exploited for their energy resources. Oil, coal, natural gas and uranium have all fed the nation’s appetite for fuel and electricity. Corruption at the Bureau of Indians Affairs, which has included everything from putting non-Indians on tribal rolls to sweetheart arrangements with corporations, transferred much of the wealth derived from these resources away from the tribes. Even when corruption was not at issue, BIA deals with non-Indians for tribal resources often amounted to rip-offs, and the process for royalty payments was more like embezzling than accounting.

There are still ample conventional resources being mined and drilled on tribal land. But the tribes have an abundance of some other resources for which there is a steadily growing demand: wind and sun. While Indian lands constitute only about 5 percent of U.S. territory, they contain 10 percent of its renewable energy resources. About 15 percent of the nation’s estimated wind resources can be found on reservations. And the Department of Energy estimates the solar energy potential of tribal lands equivalent to four-and-a-half times the nation’s electricity production.

That’s a good thing because tribal lands are subject to many of the worst effects from climate change: drought, water scarcity, flooding and extreme weather, such as record-breaking snowstorms and warmer winter temperatures. Not only can the tribes help provide themselves and others with renewably generated electricity, doing so could over time reduce the impact of climate change. A modern version of trying to live in harmony with nature.

The problem has been turning tribal renewable resources into electricity. Standing in the way has been a morass of bureaucratic rules that are far more cumbersome than what non-tribal developers face. President Obama promised in December 2010 to streamline those rules.

A year ago, reporter Justin Gerdes interviewed Jose Aguto, policy adviser with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). He described the bureaucratic obstacles slowing tribal renewable energy projects.

“As [former U.S.] Senator [Byron] Dorgan was wont to say, ’49 steps and two to three years in Indian Country, seven steps, two to three weeks, just outside Indian Country for similarly situated land’ – that’s the broad-brush inequity that we’re talking about,” he said. “In Indian Country, only the Department of Interior can do appraisal and approval, and they often don’t have expertise on the ground. Why not let tribes, or a third party, do the appraisal? And then have a 30-day window to approve?” he asked.

While a medium-sized wind farm can be spinning its turbines within 12-18 months after the permits are signed, for Indian lands it can, as Dorgan said, take years to get those permits. Or they can disapproved by a BIA official who is untrained in assessing such projects.

Monique LaChappa (Kumeyaay), chairwoman of the Kumeyaay tribe near Campo in southern California, had a similar story to tell:

“We need equal access to financing, a seat at the planning table, and streamlined processes for leasing, rights of way and environmental review to seize the opportunity before us,” she said.

Together with an outside partner that is the majority owner, the Kumeyaays have built a 50-megawatt wind farm atop the ridges of their reservation deep in southern California east of San Diego. It wasn’t easy navigating the regulatory barriers.

Indian tribes have been trying to get changes adopted since the Clinton Administration, according to John Dossett, general counsel at the National Congress of American Indians. For once the BIA and its parent, the Department of Interior, have been listening. In November, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 60-day comment period for a proposed new rule that would revamp 50-year-old surface leasing regulations on the 56 million acres Interior holds in trust for the tribes.

The short version: Simplified processes for green-lighting wind and solar projects; BIA agreement to the tribe’s negotiated value of tribal land without additional appraisals; 30- and 60-day deadlines for BIA approvals. If the deadline isn’t met, the project is automatically approved. More detail can be found here and here.

The comment period ended late last month, and the final rule is expected to be announced by the end of 2012.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Hate Crime on Navajo/Apache Woman Downgraded by Fresno D.A.

On June 14, 2011 around 2:30 in the afternoon, Patty Dawson (Navajo/San Carlos Apache) was waiting at a stop sign when the car behind tapped her bumper. In the rear-view mirror she saw three people and decided not to get out since she was in Clovis, Calif., which has a reputation for hostility to Indians and other minorities. After the light turned green and Dawson began driving, the car that had bumped her began an aggressive pursuit, driving onto the shoulder and speeding along side her.

Fearful, she drove into an ARCO station parking lot where she thought she could be safe. Instead, the trio pulled Dawson out of her car and began to pound on her.

Witnesses told police they saw a white woman and two men with swastika tattoos and shaved heads kick and beat Dawson, leaving her unconscious and bleeding in the parking lot.

Dawson, a mother of a young family, said all she remembers is a woman covered in tattoos spitting on her, then hitting her so hard she blacked out. Two men – one with a swastika tattoo on his face and the other with a shaved head – joined in the beating, but it was mainly the woman attacking her, according to witness statements to the local police.

Dawson woke up in a Fresno emergency room having suffered a concussion and not being able to remember her name. Her nose was broken and she was severely bruised all over her body. A nurse, she was unable to work for a long time.

Patty Dawson

Patty Dawson shows the site where she was attacked last June.

(Photo courtesy of Indian Country Today Media Network

When the three attackers fled the scene, they were followed by eyewitnesses who wrote down their license plate number. Consequently, Jennifer Davette Fraser was finally arrested three months later and was released on bail. Her two accomplices were not picked up.

According to law enforcement officials, Fraser’s charges will likely be upgraded to federal hate crime charges based on eyewitness accounts and the extensive injuries to Dawson. Under federal law, a hate crime is one “in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim … because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation of any person…”

However, Fraser’s court appointed attorney stated in a preliminary hearing that she should not be charged with a hate crime because Fraser recently found out she has Native American blood. A continuance was granted so she could provide proper documention for the court. Proceedings were further delayed when Fraser was granted another continuance because of pregnancy. Fraser never provided proper documentation of her alleged Indian heritage.

Fraser is now charged with felonious assault, defined under California law as “an attack on another individual in which the attacker uses a dangerous weapon and seeks to cause serious harm but stops short of an attempt to kill the victim.”

Fraser requested a plea bargain. But Dawson’s family and other members of the American Indian community have complained that the incident was not thoroughly investigated. Numerous businesses at the scene have security surveillance cameras but investigators never asked for the footage, they claimed. Officers were more interested in what Dawson had done to provoke the attack. Nothing, she said. The family was also disturbed that while all participants were waiting in line for the court metal detectors Fraser was given court protection and the fact that in a mid-January meeting with Fresno District Attorney’s supervisor, Blake Gunderson refused to meet with Dawson’s assembled group of eight relatives and advocates. Gunderson only allowed four people to sit in his office when a nearby conference room could have easily accommodated all.  

In the meeting, Gunderson allegedly told Dawson that he “didn’t see a hate crime here.” He told her that since she couldn’t remember the exact words her assailants were yelling when they chased her and spat on her, it was hard for him to prove it was race-related. “He said that if I was able to write down exactly what they said, it might help my case. So what I’m hearing is that I’m supposed to remember every detail after being beaten unconscious, write it all down for them, then do my own investigation to get evidence of a hate crime,” said Dawson, in tears. “I just want them to do their jobs. No matter how much I repeat myself about what happened that day, I’m not being heard. I’ve talked to detectives three times now, and I even saw my other attacker in court with Jennifer Fraser. I remember him from that day. They are still walking around free after tearing my life apart.”

This on-going case has gathered the attention of numerous American Indian groups, such as AIM [American Indian Movement]-West . The last few hearings have been attended by drumming groups plus individuals interested in showing their support for Dawson. The next scheduled hearing is on March 5 and groups are already planning their support. The Justice for Patty Dawson Committee has been formed and there is an online petition demanding that the Fresno County District Attorney and the US Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division bring justice to Patty Dawson.

-navajo with a h/t to dopper0189

NAN Line Separater

‘Fighting Sioux’ Fight Continues, Rick Santorum Takes Sides

As we reported in the Feb. 12 edition of FNN&V, the NCAA’s ban on what it calls “abusive and hostile” nicknames has not ended in North Dakota. There, the use of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname for University of North Dakota athletic teams is now in its sixth year. Last week, the State Board of Education (SBHE) dragged the courts into the dispute, and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum joined in at a rally in Fargo.

Santorum was at a Feb. 15 campaign stop promoting his candidacy for the March 6 state caucus that will choose 28 delegates for the Republican National Convention. When a man handed him a “Fighting Sioux” hockey jersey, Santorum held it up and said to some cheers, “I sort of like that logo. What do you think?” Had the forum been larger, that question might have drawn a round of boos as well.

The real news came Feb. 13 when the SBHE decided to go to the state supreme court to block a statewide vote in support of a North Dakota law that requires the university to call all its teams the “Fighting Sioux.” The board initiated the lawsuit in a 7-1 vote after consultation with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. He thinks the law violates the state constitution. While board members see themselves defending constitutional prerogatives, however, nickname supporters who gathered signatures to force the referendum see the board’s move as an attempt to silence voters. To overturn the law, four of the five supreme court members must rule it is unconstitutional. Which would render the referendum moot.

Reed Soderstrom, a leader of the referendum forces, issued a statement:

“It is clear to us they fear an overwhelming mandate would be given by those voters to keep the name. It is also clear to us that with this decision, the board has lost their way, and should no longer be entrusted with the responsibility of oversight of the university system.”

The board decision is just the latest official action in a long string stemming from the NCCA’s 2005 rule against insulting American Indian nicknames and mascots. Exceptions were allowed for schools that got direct permission from the tribes whose names their teams used. Three teams did so. But UND was only able to get one of North Dakota’s two Sioux (Lakota) tribes to agree. That wasn’t good enough for the NCAA. Rather than lose valuable revenue, the university acquiesced.

But shortly after UND announced in November 2010 that it would start removing the name and logo from its team’s uniforms, souvenir tee-shirts and other items, the state legislature passed a law requiring it to keep the name. The transition was put on hold. After a meeting in August 2011 at which the NCAA said it would not budge on the issue, the legislature repealed the law. Again, the university started removing the logo and ordering new uniforms. The cost of the transition? $750,000.

But then citizens, including some Indians from both North Dakota tribes, began circulating a petition to hold a voter referendum in support of the law. They turned in 3000 more names than needed to get the matter on the state’s June ballot. Consequently, because of the way referendums work in North Dakota, the repealed law is now back on the books until the matter is settled. That fact forced the UND president to reinstate the Fighting Sioux nickname. And that brought about the SBHE’s lawsuit.

Whatever the outcome of the court battle and the referendum, however, there are three interrelated problems for UND that could deeply wound the university’s athletic programs if the nickname and logo are retained. One, of course, is the certainty of NCAA sanctions. Another is that more and more rival teams are saying they won’t play against UND if it keeps the nickname. And then there is UND’s new membership in the Big Sky Conference.

UND Athletic director Brian Faison has warned that “The tone has gotten more serious. […] How patient, ultimately, the presidents will be with where we find ourselves? I can’t say,” he said. “It’s absolutely frightening to think what would happen if we lost our Big Sky membership.” And, on Friday, Tim O’Keefe, chief of the UND Alumni Association, said the university’s future, “athletically, academically, in stature and in reputation,” is at stake if nickname supporters prevail and force UND to keep the name and logo despite NCAA sanctions.

In all the meetings during the past years involving the NCAA, the legislature, the UND board and the SBHE board, nobody has thought to include at the table anyone from the Spirit Lake Tribe (Sisseton Wahpeton), which favors keeping the nickname, or the Standing Rock Tribe (Lakota, Yanktonai, Dakota), which opposes it. So we have invisible real Indians even when the issue is a highly visible representation of an idealized Indian.

-Meteor Blades

NAN Line Separater

Student Challenges NYT Stereotypes About Wind River Reservation

The original story made page one of The New York Times on Feb. 3. It documented what almost seemed to be a reign of terror: brutal homicides, sexual assaults, chaotic law enforcement, broken homes, gangs, drunkenness and drug abuse, shockingly high unemployment even by reservation standards and the poverty to go with it, child abuse, Indian-white tension, an expected life span more than 20 years below the national average, soaring teen pregnancies and a sky-high school drop-out rate.

Willow Pingree

The place? Wind River Indian Reservation in central-west Wyoming, home to some 7500 Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone and 17,000 non-Indians located in some of the nation’s most beautiful country. Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who traveled with the Lewis and Clark expedition is buried there. A portion of the reservation was sold off to non-Indians under the 1906 Burke Act. That provided the land for the largest town within Wind River’s boundaries, Riverton, with about 10,000 residents, 90 percent of them non-Indian.

A two-year federal effort begun in 2009 on five of the nation’s most crime-plagued reservations reduced violent crimes on four of them. However, even though the effort temporarily increased the number of police officers from six to 37 at Wind River, the crime rate there increased.

For students at Fort Washakie Charter High School, reading that NYT story was disturbing, to say the least. English teacher Michael L. Read told the Times in an email, “These students know that there are problems in their community, but they also love it and are fully committed to honoring their ancestors and the future.” Student Willow Pingree (Shoshone/Arapahoe) wrote a comment on the Times web site. Out of this came a conference call and a request for Pingree to write a lengthier reply. He did. It didn’t make the front page. It didn’t make the print edition at all. But Pingree had his say. Here is an excerpt:

During the time of our ancestors, the Shoshone and Arapaho people once were enemies who constantly fought each other for land and food. After the reservation was established in 1876, the federal government moved the Northern Arapaho people to a temporary home on the Shoshone reservation in Wyoming. Washakie, chief of the Eastern Band of Shoshones, allowed the Arapaho tribe to stay on the reservation while the government sought a different home for them. The Northern Arapaho tribe was never relocated to a different reservation, nor were they ever asked to leave by the Shoshones, and so they remained on the Shoshone reservation, now called the Wind River Reservation. […]

The people of both tribes still have their languages, their traditional beliefs and values. Involvement in tribal government allows people the opportunity to learn more about the history of the tribes and the reservation. Powwows, Sun Dances, picnics, memorial events such as walks, runs and feasts: These are just a few of the things that the people of the Wind River Reservation do to keep people, especially the young ones, away from drugs, alcohol and violence and help the communities and cultures become stronger.

The reservation sells no alcohol. However, most people buy their alcohol off-reservation. Alcoholism is often a contributing factor in the fatalities that have occurred on the reservation. That is not to say that the Shoshone or Arapaho tribes are not doing something to deal with these issues. …

After the Plains Indian Wars were over, and all tribes were confined to reservations, the Native children were forced to go to boarding schools to learn the Christian way of education. Their long hair, which was a symbol of pride and honor, was cut off and they were prohibited from speaking in the language of their people.

However, as time passed, the Native people of America began to renew the pride that they had in their cultures and languages, and began standing up for their rights as nations. Soon, schools began accepting the traditional values of Native people and even began teaching Native languages in schools. As Chief Washakie said: “I fought to keep our land, our water and our hunting grounds. Today, education is the weapon my people will need to protect them.” …

No matter what negative things we face every day, nothing can break our spirit. We will not give up the war to save our culture or our languages, the war that all Native people in America have been fighting for since 1492. I will fight to ensure the survival of our cultures and languages for the rest of my days on this Earth.

You can see and hear Pingree performing a drum chant here.

-Meteor Blades

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Navajo Eco-Justice Group Opposes McCain/Kyl Water Settlement

Navajos protest Peabody to protect homelands

in Navajo capital of Window Rock, Ariz.

(Photo by Sierra Club)

It sounds like a reasonable idea at first glance. Federal legislation would put $315 million to work building three delivery systems that would supply groundwater drinking supplies to thousands of Hopi and Navajo who still must haul water to meet their needs. It will also make available to the Navajo some 6400 acre-feet of water out of Arizona’s allocation from the Colorado River. The arrangement was mostly put together behind closed doors. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, backed by fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, introduced it to an nearly empty Senate chamber Thursday, Feb. 16.

All the tribes must do is surrender their claims on Little Colorado River system water,

something they have so far refused to do. The Navajo would also be required to ensure continued operation of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page. That electricity-generating plant on leased tribal land, powered by coal tribal mines, must undergo extensive upgrades by 2016 or it will be shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency under its new toxic emissions rule. For towns and other water users along the Little Colorado, the settlement’s elimination of Navajo and Hopi claims to that water would offer freedom from the insecurity caused by the threat of tribal lawsuits.

Said Kyl: “[This settlement] brings us one step closer to addressing the significant water needs of impoverished areas on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, while also providing certainty for non-Indian communities trying to plan for their water future,” he said.  Flagstaff, Ariz., Mayor Sara Presler said: “If the tribes are going to achieve that next level of success, it’s necessary to have a secure water supply. In more urban areas of Arizona, we’re excited to see a new business open up, but we’re not asking the very basic questions of, ‘Do we have enough water to deliver to that business?'”

Dine’ CARE-Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, a Navajo advocacy organization, doesn’t see things that way. The group said in a statement Thursday:

Dine’ CARE strongly condemns the Big Business Salt River Project, Navajo Generating Station and Central Arizona Project bill portrayed as providing water to the Navajo Nation and Hopi to make life better.

In reality this is a death sentence where the Indigenous Peoples will be forever giving up their water rights to Lower Colorado River. […]

The 1970s Salt River Project lawyer, Senator Jon Kyl, is still carrying out SRP and CAP’s priorities to take the water rights from aboriginal water owners in northern Arizona.”

To add insult to injury, not only has the Navajo Tribe suffered from receiving discounted value for water but suffer from consequences of pollution from Navajo Generating Station, who provides power for SRP and ensuring that Navajo Nation provide cheap electricity. A fair value is needed in this deal to not steal Navajo water and condemn the people to poor health from Navajo Generating Station’s pollution.

The Navajo Nation is already an energy and water colony for Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and southern California. If passed, signed, and enacted, the Kyl bill would guarantee 34,000 plus acre-feet a year to Navajo Generating Station for the proposed extended life of the power plant. It also favors Peabody Coal Company since its Kayenta Mine fuels NGS. […]

In sum, the KYL bill must be KILLED before it KILLS us.


Dine’ CARE president Adella Begaye said: “It is important for native communities to unite and oppose this legislation. We cannot afford to be idle as our future generations are robbed of their heritage and lifeline.”

A key worry is that the Kyl/McCain legislation would set a precedent that could extinguish Hopi and Navajo water rights under the so-called Winters Doctrine. That stems from an 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Winters v. United States) in 1908 stating that tribes did not have to reserve rights to water on their land if they already had established by treaty or other agreements the right to use their lands for agriculture.

Broader previous agreements to settle water rights claims among the tribes, federal, state and local governments and other users have failed to gain Hopi and Navajo approval. The most recent didn’t make the grade in 2004.

-Meteor Blades

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Concern Expressed that Johnny Depp is cast as Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger: New Mexico State Rep. Sandra Jeff (Navajo) (D-Crownpoint.) said that an actor from one of the tribes of New Mexico should have been hired for the Tonto role. Depp is rumored to have taken a 20 percent  pay cut to bring the film in line with its budget.

-navajo with a h/t to Bill in MD

Pala Band of Mission Indians Removes 154 From Its Membership: Blood quantum is the likely reason. Members must have one-sixteenth Pala ancestry to receive payments from the band’s business ventures. Several other tribes in California, including the Chukchansi, United Auburn and San Pasqual, have also recently kicked members off their tribal rolls. These disenrolled Indians have been cut off from their tribal per capita payments from casino revenues, collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars.


Napa Valley Museum Damages Loaned Pomo Artifacts, Complaint Settled: Coleen McCloud (Kashia Band of Pomo Indians) and her husband Chester McCloud (Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians) sued when their 7-foot-tall, old-growth bark house was lost and several artifacts were mishandled.

– navajo

Ngobe-Bugle Indians Block Road to Protest Dams and Mining: For the second time in two weeks, the Panamanian tribe used stones and branches to blockade roads in Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui in western Panama. Tribal members are angry that the government has lifted a mining moratorium on Indian lands.

-Meteor Blades

President of Indigenous Language Institute: ‘Racisim is Alive and Well in Wisconsin’: Jerry L. Hill (Oneida Nation) wrote that the Washinawatok incident in which a girl was suspended for speaking her Native language (see FNN&V of Feb. 5) has served to refocus Indian attention on the issue of boarding schools. Indian children forced into such schools from the 1870s through the 1960s were not allowed to speak their own tongues, and the issue remains a sore point today.


University of Southern Mississippi Plans Community Housing Option for Indian Students: The new option will house American Indian students on one floor of dormitory so they can provide support for one another. USM student Cody Roth (Choctaw) grew up just off of the Choctaw Indian Reservation. “Native American students, when they come here, they come from tight-knit communities where everybody knows everybody,” Roth said. The dorm arrangement could provide a substitute for that at-home community.

-Meteor Blades

New on DVD: Indian School, A Survivors Story: The documentary interviews students of the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School established in 1893 by an act of Congress. Indian children were forcefully removed from their families into the mid 1950s to be assimilated. The result was multi-generational trauma in effect today.

-navajo with a h/t to Bill in MD

The Berenstain Bears have been translated into Lakota: Matȟó Waúŋšila Thiwáhe-The Compassionate Bear Family is the title of the Lakota version. In an effort to keep the language alive the cartoon series helps adults learn along with their children. All 20 episode video links are available in the headline. If you’ve not heard Lakota, here is your chance.

– navajo

American Small Business League Complains Too Many Contracts Going to Alaska Natives: The league reviewed the top 100 contractors in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and found 33 were Alaska Native Corporations that exceeded small business size standards the SBA normally requires. These 33 corporations won $2.6 billion of the $6.9 billion awarded to the top 100 small business firms. ANCs can take advantage of several regulatory and legislative privileges that allow them to exist as large businesses in the program, which is designed to benefit small businesses.

-Meteor Blades


Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither navajo nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.

Working that Skirt: A $500 Challenge for Okiciyap

“What skirt,” you say?

Yesterday, volunteers for Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel Community, put the skirt on the trailer.

AND…we have a $500 challenge grant, good to tomorrow at midnight,

This donor is asking all the small donors to get together now….can you pitch in $5, $10, $15? It adds up quickly, believe me.

Right now, by my estimates we only have about $120 toward that challenge (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). We have until midnight on Monday to qualify for the match. Can we do it drop by drop?

And when that challenge is up, another Kossack stepped forward with another challenge for next week…..

Here’s a photo update so you can see what your money is doing. Yesterday volunteers installed the skirt on the trailer.

Here they are:

Yes, everyone wants to help!


Cutting the wood to size:


There they go, working that skirt:



Okiciyap is truly on the brink of success!

Won’t you help us get over this last hump, or forward this diary to someone who can?

(If you are financially pinched right now – which was me until a month ago –  please don’t feel guilty for not being able to send funds. You can help us by spreading the word and posting this story on your Facebook pages etc. We greatly appreciate ALL help here!)

We’re almost there. There is SUCH need on this reservation – 90% unemployment in winter, high youth suicide rates, and federal cuts in food stamps have further pinched the population.  A grassroots community group has come together to confront these issues – lets help them help themselves.


If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair


PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633

So, here’s what YOU have helped Okiciyap do so far:

1. Host a Christmas dinner, where the members provided a healthy dinner and a safe and sober place to gather and open presents they had bought for the children, who otherwise had none. They even bought a Christmas tree with the funds:





2. Move the trailer 30 miles to Isabel. Here’s moving day:




3. And JUST YESTERDAY, the community CAME TOGETHER to help get the building into place. While they had to pay a professional plumber to install new pipes and hook them to the sewer line and an electrician to install electric boxes and get it going, the community came out to build the stairs and install new doors. So, this isn’t just a group of determined women, they have gotten the community involved. SUCCESS!!!

Group of volunteers


The stairs



Electric box


Supplies for outside work


Volunteer Ted installing the door


Missing toilet in the bathroom


Lights are on!


Kitchen Faucet installed


Look at all the room in there:


These kids thank you


P.S. Georgia is working through  severe, and chronic, back pain right now, exacerbated by abhorrent IHS health care. I figure if she can do all that in such pain, I can write this little diary and help this project succeed.

Georgia at Netroots Nation Austin


Help Take AZ Back From Corporations: Wenona Benally Baldenegro for CD-1

Wenona Avatar  It’s time for us to take another seat in the circle.

Wenona Benally Baldenegro, a member of the Navajo Nation and a Kossack, is running for Congress in Arizona’s CD-1, encompassing much of northern, eastern, and central Arizona, and a huge percentage of the state’s tribal lands.  That seat is currently held by Republican Paul Gosar, teabagger, tool of corporate interests, and [predictably] exploiter of tribal nations and lands.  Gosar is leaving CD-1 to run in a different district, and thus far, no Republican candidate has mounted a credible campaign.  However, Benally Baldenegro has a tough primary fight on her hands:  Former CD-1 Rep Ann Kirkpatrick wants her old seat back.  

Those of you who read my diaries on Apache Leap back in 2010 may remember that I called explicitly for an Indian candidate to primary Ann, who sold her soul to transnational mining interests while she sold out the tribes and the environment.  Well, now’s our chance.  Over the jump, learn why Ann Kirkpatrick must be defeated, and why Wenona needs our help to win first the primary, and then the general election.

Diarist’s Note:  This diary is not sanctioned by Wenona Benally Baldenegro’s campaign in any way.  I’m writing this because I feel so strongly about the need 1) to have Indian representation at all levels of government; 2) to keep anti-environmental and anti-Indian Blue Dogs away from the levers of power; and 3) to have a truly liberal, “progressive” representative from Arizona with the potential to do tremendous good for the entire state, including its underserved and underrepresented populations.


Meet Wenona, at a farm outside Leupp, wenonaatleuppfarm1

From Kayenta, Arizona, Wenona is the daughter of a Navajo schoolteacher.  She was salutatorian of her high school graduating class, and the first Indian graduate of Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College.  From college, she went on to Harvard, where she earned both a Master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and her law degree.  She returned home to work for the InterTribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), focusing on public policy issues for a consortium of more than 20 Arizona tribes.  Since then, she has worked as an attorney in private practice, in both Arizona and Washington, D.C., focusing on public interest issues and helping underserved populations.

If elected Wenona would be the first American Indian member of Congress from Arizona, and the first Indian woman ever elected to Congress.  That alone is inspiring.  But to have the opportunity to send to Congress its first American Indian woman member – and to have her be a true liberal Democrat?  This is an opportunity we can’t let slip by us, folks.  Take a look at a few of the policy positions she supports:

On Jobs and the Economy:

  • Sustainable Job Creation

    Transportation and Infrastructure

    Small Business Development

    Fair Tax Reform

    Fair Trade

    Fair Wages and Workers’ Rights
  • On Education:

  • Early Childhood and K-12 Education

    Higher Education

    The DREAM Act
  • On Healthcare and Retirement:

  • Quality, Affordable Healthcare

    Social Security Protection

    Medicare Expansion

  • On Energy and the Environment:

  • Environmental Protection

    Clean Energy Investment
  • On Equal Rights and Civil Liberties:

  • Immigration Reform

    Women’s Rights

    LGBT Equality


    Tribal Sovereignty
  • You can follow Wenona for Arizona here at Daily Kos.  Get to know Wenona and her vision for Arizona, and for the country, at her campaign Web site.  And give to Wenona via ActBlue here.

    The last – giving – is especially important.

    Why?  Because she has a primary opponent:  former Blue Dog and corporate shill Ann Kirkpatrick.  And Ann is way out in front in the money race, having reported a war chest of just under $700,000 as of December 21, 2011, compared with only $51,400 for Wenona in the same period.  

    And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

    Meet Ann Kirkpatrick, and you’ll see why.

    As noted above, a year and a half ago, I wrote at length about three transnational mining corporations – BHP Billiton, the Rio Tinto Group, and Resolution Copper – and the threat they posed to Arizona’s fragile environment and the sacred lands of numerous Indian nations in that state.  You can read here about the plans BHP Billiton and the Rio Tinto Group have for Arizona’s ecosystem – and about their brutal records of damage inflicted on indigenous populations the world over.  Today, I want to focus on some passages from my diary about Resolution Copper’s plans – and Ann Kirkpatrick’s role in aiding and abetting them.


    Here’s what I wrote at the time about the lands in question:


    The land after which Resolution Copper lusts so greedily includes three major areas:  Apache Leap, Devil’s Canyon, and Oak Flat.  All three include areas that are sacred to area tribes, but perhaps the most affecting bit of history surrounds Apache Leap.  As I noted last week:

    Apache Leap.

    The elders tell of a time when invading U.S. soldiers sought to abduct the Apache people, herd them onto reservations, and steal their land.  The people fought valiantly, but were woefully outnumbered.  When the end came, the Apache warriors chose to retain their honor rather than surrender to thieves and thugs:  They leapt off the peak to their deaths below, joining the spirits of their ancestors and depriving the Army of prize captives.  

    At the base of the formation, a nearly-translucent brown-black obsidian is found.  The stones are called Apache tears, and as the story goes, when the surviving women found the bodies of their men at the base of the leap, they mourned so deeply and bitterly that Spirit turned their tears to beautifully, lethally sharp stone, so that no one would forget the crime against the people that had happened in that place.

    Devil's Canyon Devil’s Canyon includes similarly sacred lands, home to specific spirits, and also home to an array of ecologically important plant and animal species.  Among those animal species are fish – sections of Devil’s Canyon include a protected watershed and a riparian habitat found nowhere else in Arizona.  

    Oak Flat is a federally protected area that includes a public campground.  First placed under federal protection by then-President Dwight Eisenhower, the land again received special protection – specifically from mining interests – from Richard M. Nixon during his presidency.  For half a century, Oak Flat has occupied a special niche in Arizona’s outdoor culture.  Oak Flat.

    The lands that Resolution Copper assumes it will get – lands that are under federal protection – include Apache Leap, Devil’s Canyon, and Oak Flat.  These lands are sacred to a number of area tribes, particularly the Apache; they include areas where, since time immemorial, the people have gone to commune with the mountain spirits and those of their ancestors.  These lands also include of some of the most unique, delicately-balanced ecosystems in the Southwest, including a riparian area that is home to a number of distinct animal and bird species, migratory and otherwise.  And these are lands that sit atop what may be the largest copper deposit in North America – and perhaps anywhere on the planet.  

    The Hill reported the measure as follows:

    The measure would see the federal government give Resolution Copper 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in exchange for 5,500 acres of ecologically valuable property across Arizona.

    Which is flatly wrong – but you’ll never see a correction.

    You can get a look at images of the lands in question here.  The land that Resolution Copper proposes to give in exchange is not “ecologically valuable” – it’s the barren, overgrazed desert scrub of abandoned cattle ranches that were given artificial labels like “[Insert Name Here] Creek,” which make it sound as though they may include riparian habitats.  They don’t.  

    It’s not a land swap; it’s a swindle.


    The current incarnation of the land swap bill is HR 2509/S 409.  HR 2509 was introduced on May 20, 2009, by alleged Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (S 409 was introduced simultaneously by John McCain).  More about Kirkpatrick later.

    Anyone remember Rick Renzi?  The “Quiverfull Congressman” from Arizona who left Congress in disgrace in 2008?  

    The Resolution Project was the catalyst (along with numerous other ethical and legal problems) of his downfall.

    You see, Resolution Copper has no objection to shaking down lobbying members of Congress and state pols for valuable resources, but it gets a little testy when a Congressman tries to shake it down.  In exchange for introducing the land swap bill and shepherding it through to Bush’s desk, Renzi tried to force Resolution Copper to include – and thereby purchase – his friend’s land, which would have given his friend a hefty addition to his bank account.  Unfortunately for poor Rick Renzi, Resolution Copper not only got mad, but got even – and Renzi not only lost his cushy congressional sinecure, but is currently under indictment on numerous corruption charges, including fraud, embezzlement, and extortion.  Oh, and the name of one of the firms from which he allegedly embezzled?  “Spirit Mountain.”  That’s a really sick sacrilegious touch, Rick.

    But all was not lost for Resolution Copper – not by a long shot.  Enter John McCain.  Of course.

    McCain is infamous for engineering land swaps, to the detriment of the environment, the tribes, the public – to anyone but himself and his wealthy corporate pals.  Of course, Indians who’ve followed McCain’s career have always known that his “friend of the Indian” persona is a load of crap, but the rest of the population seems to take it at face value . . . completely missing his other face.  Two-headed snake, forked tongue – all those old spaghetti Western metaphors fit McCain to the proverbial T.

    So McCain very happily picked up where Renzi left off, reintroducing the land swap bill in the Senate.  And while Kirkpatrick faces open opposition from Congressman Grijalva, who is reportedly crafting a different bill, McCain is by all accounts “frustrated” with Grijalva:

    In an interview with The Hill earlier this year, McCain expressed frustration with Grijalva and indicated the bill is a priority for him.


    I think, based on what we learned of John McCain throughout and after the 2008 election, that it’s safe to say that “frustrated” is a euphemism for “enraged.”


    If you’ve spent any time at all among Indians, you know that there are few cultural taboos that are pretty universal.  One of those is the taboo against pointing directly at another person.  Granted, with the assimilation of modern American culture, including its penchant for general rudeness, that’s one stricture that’s increasingly falling by the wayside, but if you go into Indian Country, you’ll still see a lot of us gesture directionally with a nod of the head or a pursing of the lips.  You don’t point directly at someone, you don’t pull a Jan Brewer and stick your finger in a person’s face, and you don’t lean into someones personal space.

    Someone should tell Ann Kirkpatrick:

    But the person who truly infuriates me here is Ann Kirkpatrick.  I expect disrespect and dismissal from McCain and his ilk, but Kirkpatrick has cast herself as a friend in the past – and has certainly been eager enough to take both votes and fundraising dollars from Indians.

    Since 2009, though, corporate support has trumped Native rights.  Wendell Nosie, then tribal chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe, formerly arranged a fundraiser and GOTV efforts for Kirkpatrick.  That all changed in February:

    “Back in Arizona I’m hearing you’re supporting Resolution Copper,” Nosie recalled saying.

    He asked her directly whether she supported the bill. Kirkpatrick responded that she did. They talked about the tribe’s environmental concerns, and the conversation quickly became tense, according to several accounts.

    “Ann, the reason why I’m here is because you had told me that you would definitely hear both sides of the story,” Nosie said.

    Kirkpatrick leaned forward in her chair.

    “Chairman, tell me, how is your religion going to put food on the table?” she said. “Tell me how your religion is going to help the children getting abused by their parents. How is your religion going to turn the bed sheets of your elders?”

    The chairman stopped her. “Ann, don’t even go there,” he said.

    The meeting broke up minutes later. The chairman and Kirkpatrick haven’t spoken directly since.

    Now, if you’re not an Indian who’s been on the receiving end of this kind of disrespect, you likely won’t get what just happened there.  I can see it all too clearly.  Ann’s nailed and she knows it, and her first reaction is to get angry, so she goes on the attack, body language and all.  I can just imagine her “leaning forward”:  I’ll bet her hand started to come up, too, before she caught herself.  Nonetheless, I guarantee you that Chairman Nosie got “the point,” in both senses of the term:  Whether she literally stuck her finger in his face is irrelevant; she did so metaphorically when she leaned into his space and presumed to lecture him about whether he cared sufficiently about his own people.  All while, of course, she was busily selling those same people out for personal gain.

    Again, as I said then:

    So much for ethnic and cultural sensitivity.  Kirkpatrick should be ashamed that such words ever came out of her mouth.  She owes the members of every tribe in Arizona an apology.  Sadly, I think Resolution Copper’s dollar signs are worth more than our people’s traditions.  Certainly, she’s made abundantly clear that mining is worth more:

    Kirkpatrick does not directly answer a question on whether she’s made the calculation that jobs are more important than the religious practices of the Apache. She talks about finding a balance between the two, but also points to the traditions of Superior and the surrounding mining towns.

    “This region has been a mining region for a hundred years. I talk with miners who are third-, fourth-generation miners in this area. It’s not only their livelihood, it’s also their life,” she said.

    Sorry, Ann.  I’ll see your “hundred years” and raise you a thousand or so.  Wanna talk about tradition?  How about the much older tradition that respects the Earth, that lives in harmony with her, rather than ripping open her womb to extract what is not yours to take in order to make the rich even richer?

    There comes a point when I want to ask these pols – not the company, because I already know what they’re hoping – but politicians like Ann Kirkpatrick:  How stupid do you think we are?  Overgrazed cattle ranch land and bone-dry areas labeled “[Something] Creek” in exchange for sacred tribal lands with fragile escarpments and unique riparian habitats?  Insulting tribal leaders and insinuating you know better than they how to care for their children and elders?  Elevating three- and four-generation “traditions” of non-Native corporate mining as a way of life over thousands of years’ worth of Native traditions than were firmly established long before the first European ever thought these shores might exist?  I mean, really, Ann:  How stupid do you think we are?


    Apparently, pretty stupid.  She wants her cushy sinecure back, and she expects Arizona’s Indians to forget that less than two short years, she was prepared to sell them out as thoroughly as any Republican, all while displaying the kind of paternalistic rudeness I’d expect from her counterparts across the partisan aisle.  But Indians have long memories – it’s a survival mechanism.  As I noted then:

    I was disappointed, last week, to see on my Twitter feed a tweet from INDN’s List, referencing a RezNewsNet article on support for “endangered Dem” Ann Kirkpatrick.  Her actions are openly opposed by Arizona’s Inter-Tribal Council and the leadership of every single Arizona tribe.  INDN’s List should know that.  And while she will undoubtedly be better – at least marginally – on issues important to our peoples than whatever teabagging Republican opposes her, INDN’s List and all Native voters need to send a message to Ann, loud and clear:  Our votes, our money, our support are not to be taken for granted, and they do not come free.  If you get them, we will expect you to do right by us on this issue.  And since you need our votes – 20% of your district’s population – to have any hope of winning, rest assured that if you do not do right by us, we will ensure that you do not return to Congress.


    Sadly, INDN’s List is no more.  However, we’re fortunate to have a real Democrat to support in this race:  A liberal, progressive, Democratic Indian woman who strongly supports tribal sovereignty; clean energy and environmental protection; full access to health care and education; marriage equality and full LGBT rights; the DREAM Act and humane immigration reform; sustainable job creation and fair trade; and a host of other hallmarks of Democratic, liberal, progressive policy.

    We’ve been invisible for far too long.  You can help us change that.

    Help send the first American Indian woman to Congress.

    Help elect Wenona for Arizona.

    President Reagan and the Indians

    There have been relatively few American Presidents-most Indians would say no American Presidents-who have had any empathy for or understanding of American Indians. In their ignorance of American Indians and their history, many Presidents simply ignored them, while others have actively discriminated against them, seeking to transfer Indian resources to corporate interests. President Ronald Reagan, the darling of today’s conservatives, was not a particularly good President from an Indian viewpoint. His understanding of history, and particularly American Indian history, appears to have been based more on popular movies than on any real academic research.  


    The Reagan administration called for a drastic reduction in federal assistance to Indian tribes. This included an 82% cut in economic development funds. Indians represented 0.6 percent of the country’s population and, under Reagan, they absorbed 2.5 percent of the budget cuts. The cuts seem to be intended to hinder their ability for economic development on the reservations.


    Congress passed House Joint Resolution 444 which asked the President to recognize National Navajo Code Talkers Day. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day in recognition of all Native Americans who gave their special talents and lives so that others might live.

    In Washington, D.C., a play called Night of the First Americans was performed at Kennedy Center as a benefit performance to provide scholarships for Indian college students. The Reagan administration objected to the segments in the script which looked at the treaty violations in the Black Hills and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. The script was censored heavily before the work was allowed to be performed.

    Congress passed the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act which would have provided the Tohono O’odham with 76,000 acre-feet of water. The bill also set up a $15 million trust fund to help the tribe develop an efficient water use system. The tribe was to drop its lawsuit against the City of Tucson and other water users in the area in exchange for the passage of the bill. The bill was, however, vetoed by President Ronald Reagan. Secretary of Interior James Watt urged the veto feeling that there should be no new reservations and that Indians should be assimilated so that all existing reservations can be shut down.

    In Minnesota, the Reagan administration was very uncomfortable with the findings of the Chippewa researchers working on the “2415 Land Claims Project” which showed that many of the titles to the reservation land are questionable. As a consequence, the Secretary of the Interior canceled the project before completion. The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe submitted 1,198 White Earth land claims.

    The “2415” designation is from the law-Title VIII of the U.S. Code, section 2415-passed in 1961 mandating a federal investigation into land and trespass issues on 40 reservations. The “2415” investigation started on the White Earth Reservation in 1978. With less than a third of its research completed, the investigation published a preliminary list of several hundred land parcels with questionable land titles. They wrote:

    “The title to such parcels was ‘clouded’ and thus could not be legally sold or transferred until the title was cleared. This meant that thousands of acres of Minnesota’s land, much of which was owned by farmers, could not be used by their erstwhile owners as collateral to secure mortgages or other sorts of loans.”

    Since this would have a negative impact on non-Indian land owners, and particularly on corporations, Secretary of the Interior James Watt could not let the study continue.


    President Ronald Reagan unveiled new Indian policies designed to reduce federal funding and bureaucratic structures. According to the White House:

    “Excessive regulations and self-perpetuated bureaucracy have stifled Tribal decision-making, thwarted Indian control of reservation resources, and promoted dependency rather than self-sufficiency.”

    The new emphasis is on “free market forces” and private sector development. Some view the new policies as another attempt to return to the failed Termination policies of the 1950s.

    The Secretary of the Interior suggested that Indians be “freed” from their reservations and assimilated into American society. Secretary James Watt said:

    “Every social problem is exaggerated because of socialistic government politics on the Indian reservations.”

    He went on to describe Indians as “incompetent wards of the government” and described reservations as hotbeds of unemployment, alcoholism, adultery, divorce, drug abuse, and venereal disease. Many Indian leaders were infuriated at the comments and called for his resignation.  Watt’s words seem to echo the sentiments of the 1940s anti-communistic Hoover Commission.

    President Ronald Reagan vetoed the Mashantucket Pequot recognition act. Reagan’s position on this matter had been shaped by his interior secretary, James Watt, who had informed him that Indian reservations were examples of ‘failed socialism’ and that the reservations should be phased out of existence. Therefore, federal recognition of Indian tribes was inappropriate.

    A second recognition bill quickly passed Congress again and was signed by Reagan. In the second bill, the state of Connecticut agreed to put up more money and the tribes agreed to submit a petition for recognition to the Department of the Interior.


    President Ronald Reagan was given another opportunity to display his ignorance and insensitivity when the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee held a reunion at Red Clay, Tennessee. This was the first meeting of these two groups since the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma in 1838. The two-day event was attended by about 35,000 people. President Ronald Reagan sent a personal message in which he managed to offend many Indians by calling the reunion a “powwow”.


    The Secretary of the Interior held a private meeting with representatives of Peabody Coal. The company was negotiating with the Navajo over the royalty rate which they paid on their mining operations in Arizona. Following the meeting, the Secretary of the Interior blocked a decision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase the royalty rate from 2% to 20%. He ordered the tribe to go back into negotiations with Peabody Coal. The tribe eventually settled for a 12.5% rate.


    The Report of the Task Force on Indian Economic Development noted that

    “Indians living on many reservations have suffered from relatively low incomes, high poverty rates, and other adverse socioeconomic circumstances.”

    The report indicated that

    “the most important long run actions that the Federal government can take to promote Indian economic development may well involve improve-ments in Indian education.”

    The report also suggested tax advantages as a way of attracting businesses, preferential contracting, and Federal assistance to Indians in obtaining loans and capital. The Reagan administration tends to ignore the recommendations, particularly with regard to Indian education.


    In Washington, D.C., the Strategic Minerals Task Force urged President Ronald Reagan to declare Indian Country a “national sacrifice zone.” The Task Force reasoned that reservation Indians could be forcibly relocated to urban centers: in other words, a return to the Termination and Relocation policies of the 1950s which helped created hardship and poverty among many Indians.

    Industry concerns stemmed from uranium exploration which has left thousands of test holes venting radon into Indian homes and schools. They argued that it would be cheaper to move the Indians than to clean up the messes left behind by the mining companies.

    The Strategic Minerals Task Force was made up of representatives from the resource extraction industry (oil, mining, timber) and conservative think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. Indians were not included. The government neither filled the test holes nor moved the Indians.

    In Washington State, the Yakama individuals who had been caught and convicted in the 1981-1982 Salmonscam operation asked for and received a symbolic retrial before the Yakama Nation Tribal Court. The trial was an assertion of tribal rights to enforce its own fishing regulations. In the trial, David Sohappy, Sr. claimed that his actions were governed by traditional religious practices. The jury concluded that the defendants had been entrapped by federal agents and that Indian religious values take precedence over federal law. The tribal council asked President Ronald Reagan to pardon the men for the federal charges. There was no response from the President and all of the men were returned to federal prisons.


    When quizzed by Russian college students about American Indian policy, President Ronald Reagan suggested that the United States had humored Indians by giving them millions of acres of land and appeared to be unaware that American Indians are citizens. In response to these comments, Colorado Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Cheyenne) told the media:

    “It’s incredible he knows so little. …He must have been learning [his history] from those old celluloid Westerns he used to act in.”

    In the state of Washington, Quinault President Joe de la Cruz responded:

    “The president is like a lot of Americans who do not understand the United States’ own Constitution and the reason for treaties, which are part of the law of the land. That is because American history does not teach the part that the Indians played in the formation of the U.S. Constitution.”

    In response to the President’s ignorance and insensitivity regarding American Indians, their current status, and their histories, tribal leaders requested a face-to-face meeting at the White House.

    In the final days of his administration, President Reagan met with tribal leaders for twenty minutes. During the meeting President Reagan apologized for his earlier inaccurate statements. He praised the achievements and contributions of Indian people, and explained that his remarks did not reflect the thrust of his administration’s Indian policy.

    Justice Denied in the 1870s

    Equal protection under the law is a legal and social concept which has often not been viewed as applicable to American Indians.  During much of the nineteenth century Indians were not citizens and often state and territorial laws prohibited from testifying in courts of law. A number of instances during the 1870s illustrate how justice was denied to American Indians.  

    Murdering Indians:

    In 1875, an American began putting a fence around Eagle Robe’s garden in Idaho, claiming it as his own. When the Nez Perce objected, he was shot dead. The American was never brought to justice. The dying man told his people:

    “Do not go to war. You will lose your country by it, and above all the loss of life will be greater.”

    In 1875, four men were accused of murdering a Haida man in Washington. They filed a writ of habeas corpus which stated that

    “the petitioners are white men, and no evidence was given … implicating these petitioners as the guilty persons, except by witnesses who are North American Indians.”

    It was commonly felt that Indians should not be allowed to be witnesses in any case involving a non-Indian. In the hearing, the defendants’ lawyer argued that Indian testimony was not valid in cases with non-Indian defendants unless it involved the liquor laws. The judge denied the petition. The grand jury, however, did not return an indictment and the four men went free.

    In 1876, some American settlers murdered a Nez Perce man, Blowing Wind, in Oregon. He was known as a quiet, peaceful man and his killers had a reputation as trouble-makers. The Nez Perce viewed this murder with a call for justice, not war. However, after several months, the American government failed to arrest the murderers and bring them to trial. Finally, the Nez Perce under the leadership of Chief Joseph issued an ultimatum: if the men were not arrested the Nez Perce warriors would burn down all American homes in the Wallowa Valley. In response to the Nez Perce threat, many Americans left the area and the army sent in a small force of soldiers to meet with Chief Joseph. The murderers were arrested, tried, and set free. Since there were no Indian witnesses who were willing to swear an oath to the Christian God, the men were able to plead self-defense.

    In Oregon’s Wallowa valley, an American killed Wilhautyah, a member of Joseph’s Nez Perce band. Joseph spoke with the Indian agent and agreed to let the civil authorities deal with the matter. The agent informed the army that the killing was willful and deliberate murder. After considerable delay, the two Americans turned themselves in and were set free after the judge ruled that the shooting was in self-defense.


    In 1875, charges of corruption were made against the Office of Indian Affairs (Bureau of Indian Affairs) regarding the administration of the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. According to the charges, the Indians had been given inferior beef and flour; the pork issued to them was not fit for human consumption; and the freight contractor was paid for 212 miles while the actual distance is only 145 miles. The complaint was investigated by the government and the allegations were found to be groundless. The commissioners who investigated the charges either played down or failed to see the implications of much of the testimony they heard.

    In 1876, a prominent Montana businessman was charged with attempting to defraud the government and the Crow. His alleged scheme involved double sacking flour so that each flour sack would be counted twice, providing the Crow with shoddy goods, and branding Indian cattle as his own. The grand jury refused to bring an indictment.

    Theft and Trespass:

    In 1874, a Nebraska district court ruled that local courts had no jurisdiction over crimes committed on reservations. While non-Indians had rarely been brought to justice for committing crimes on reservations, this decision gave them a virtual license to steal.

    In 1877, the Oklahoma Cherokee attempted to collect a levy on cattle which were grazed on their lands by non-Indians. The case was tried in an American court in Fort Smith, Arkansas where the judge told the jury:

    “The fact of a man being in the Indian country without a permit is no excuse for seizing his property. Neither the Indian Sheriff nor any other officers of the Indian country can seize or remove him or his property. If a citizen of the United States is in the Indian country without permission, as intruder, the authorities can report the fact to President Grant, who is backed by all the military power of the United States, and he can send soldiers to put him out.”

    The jury found against the Cherokee Nation.

    Trials Not Needed:

    In 1875, the United States Army simply sent 72 Cheyenne, Commanche, Arapaho, and Caddo prisoners to a military prison in Florida. Originally, the army had intended to try the prisoners before a military commission, but the attorney general ruled that a military trial would be illegal as a state of war could not exist between a nation and its wards. Thus, the Indians were imprisoned without a trial. Many of the young men selected to be imprisoned had simply been selected at random from a lineup of Indians. There were no concerns as to whether or not they had actually committed any crime: they were Indians and therefore deserved to be in prison.

    Indians Are People:

    In 1879, a U.S. District Court ruled in the case of Standing Bear versus Crook that an Indian is a person under United States law and therefore has a right to sue for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The U.S. Attorney had argued that Indians were not persons under the law and therefore were not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. The Court found that if Indians must obey the laws of the land, then they must be afforded the protection of these laws. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs responded to the judge’s ruling by noting that it

    “is regarded by the Government as a heavy blow to the present Indian system, that, if sustained, will prove extremely dangerous alike to whites and Indians.”

    The ruling was generally ignored in both state and federal courts.

    Chaco Culture National Historic Park

    More than a thousand years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans constructed a number of larges pueblos in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The ruins of these ancient pueblos came to the attention of the Americans shortly after the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1848 which gave the United States governmental jurisdiction over much of what is now the Southwest. While the United States claimed that it was acquiring this territory in order to bring peace and stability to the region, the intrusion of the Americans into the region actually increased the cycles of violence with the Navajo.  In 1849, Lieutenant Colonel John M. Washington led a putative expedition against the Navajo. On a detached reconnaissance, topographical engineer Lieutenant James H. Simpson entered Chaco Canyon and located ten ancient Ancestral Puebloan pueblos.  

    Chaco Map

    The map of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park is shown above.  

    The Initial Discovery:

    As Lieutenant Simpson led his reconnaissance expedition through Chaco Canyon, he noted the characteristics of the pueblos and, with the help of his Navajo and Mexican guides, he gave them names. Lieutenant Simpson was actually the first to designate the canyon as “Chaco” which appears to be from the Spanish transliteration of the Navajo name for Chacra Mesa which was Tzak aih meaning “white string of rocks.”  

    Pueblo Pintado (Spanish for “painted village) was named by their Mexican guide Carravahal. Others in the party suggested naming it Montezuma’s Pueblo, Red Pueblo, Great Pueblo, and Pueblo of the Rats. Lieutenant Simpson counted 54 “apartments” on the ground floor and estimated that it must have originally been three stories high.  Archaeologists would later find that the L-shaped pueblo had 135 rooms, 19 kivas ceremonial underground structures), and 1 great kiva.

    Pintado map

    Pintado 2

    The name Montezuma’s Pueblo reflected the idea that these large structures must have somehow been built by the Aztecs under the leadership of Montezuma. The mistaken idea that Aztecs under Montezuma built many of the ancient villages in the southwest continues to persist, even though the archaeological findings show that these villages were built long before Montezuma.

    Wijiiji (named Weje-gi by Carravahal which means “Greasewood House” from the Navajo word for the greasewood plant) which measured nearly 700 feet in circumference.

    Wijiiji 2

    Wiiji 1

    Wijiiji is shown above.

    Pueblo Una Vida (Spanish for “One Life”) measured 994 feet in circumference. Archaeologists would later determine that the pueblo had about 160 rooms and that construction began sometime in the 800s. The pueblo also has four kivas and two great kivas.

    Una Vida

    Una Vida is shown above.

    Hungo Pavi (the meaning of this name is unknown) measured 872 feet in circumference.

    Hungo Pavi

    Hungo Pavi is shown above.

    Chetro Ketl, a name which Carravahal said means Rain Pueblo. The pueblo measured 1,300 feet in circumference and Lieutenant Simpson felt that it was once four stories high.

    Chetro Ketl

    The large kiva at Chetro Ketl is shown above.

    Pueblo Bonito (Spanish for “Beautiful Village”) which was 1,300 feet in circumference and was once four stories high. Archaeologists would later determine that this pueblo was inhabited from the 850s through the early twelfth century. Over a million sandstone blocks were carved for its construction.

    Pueblo Bonito 1

    Pueblo Bonito Doorway

    Pueblo Bonito is shown above.

    Pueblo Bonito has over 350 ground rooms, 32 kivas, and 3 great kivas.

    Pueblo del Arroyo (Spanish for “Village by the Wash”) which Lieutenant Simpson estimated at 1,000 feet in circumference. It differs from the other great houses in Chaco Canyon in that it was not built near the northern cliff face and is oriented to the east rather than to the south. The building was originally four stories high and had 125 ground floor rooms and 17 kivas. Archaeologists would later determine that initial construction began about 1060.

    Pueblo de Peñasco Blanco (Spanish for “Rocky White”) which was 1,700 feet in circumference. According to Lieutenant Simpson:

    “there is a regular alternation of large and small stones, the effect of which is both unique and beautiful.”

    This is the westernmost great house in Chaco Canyon. Archaeologists would later identify irrigation canals and a system of fields associated with this site. The oval ground plan is unlike the D-shape of many of the other great houses in the canyon. Peñasco Blanco has four great kivas. Construction of this pueblo began in the early tenth century.

    Penasco Blaco

    Penasco Blanco Map

    Peñasco Blanco is shown above.


    The ruins in Chaco Canyon were seen by some non-Indians was a resource would could be mined for ancient artifacts which could be sold to collectors. In 1877, the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories noted that holes had been poked through the exterior walls of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon by vandals searching for artifacts.

    Hyde Exploring Expedition:

    The next major American group to explore Chaco Canyon came in 1896. At this time the Hyde Exploring Expedition began what would be four summers of archaeological excavations at the ruins.  The Expedition was under the auspices of Frederick Putnam of the American Museum of Natural History. Rancher-turned-archaeologist Richard Wetherill and George Pepper, a student with no experience outside of the classroom, led the expedition. A number of Navajo men were hired to do the digging.

    During the next four seasons, the Hyde Exploring Expedition excavated 190 rooms at Pueblo Bonito and sent thousands of artifacts to the American Museum of Natural History. At the end of their first season, they shipped an entire freight car filled with artifacts back to New York.

    Edger Hewett, the president of New Mexico Normal University, became concerned that the artifacts from Chaco Canyon were being transferred to New York. He accused the Hyde Exploring Expedition of selling artifacts and vandalizing the Chaco sites. While the charges were found to have no merit, the Department of the Interior ordered the Hyde Exploring Expedition to stop excavations in 1901.

    National Geographic Society:

    In 1921, the National Geographic Society sponsored an archaeological excavation at Chaco Canyon under the leadership of Neil M. Judd. According to the National Geographic announcement of the expedition:

    “This expedition hopes to discover the historic secrets of a region which was one of the most densely populated areas in North America before Columbus came, a region where prehistoric peoples lived in vast communal dwellings whose ruins are ranked second to none of ancient times in point of architecture.”

    The National Geographic Society directed Judd to completely excavate a promising great house in Chaco Canyon. Judd and his team selected Pueblo Bonito and spent three years excavating the pueblo. Judd published his research in 1927.

    University of New Mexico:

    From 1935 through 1970 the University of New Mexico excavated at Chaco Canyon. The work was directed by Edger Hewett and focused primarily on education students in archaeology. Very little of this work has ever been published.

    Chaco Canyon National Monument:

    In 1907 Congress created the Chaco Canyon National Monument to preserve the numerous Ancestral Puebloan (“Anasazi”) ruins in the area. In 1980 the National Monument was re-designated as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. At this time an additional 13,000 acres was added to the park. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.


    The Navajo and Oil in the 1920s

    Traditionally the United States has assumed that any mineral and energy resources found on Indian reservations should be developed by non-Indian private enterprise and that Indians should benefit as little as possible from these resources. The role of the federal government in developing these resources has been to help private enterprise obtain mineral and energy resources from Indian nations. One example of this can be seen in corporate attempts to develop oil resources on the Navajo Reservation in the 1920s.  

    First, some background: the administration of Indian reservations in the United States comes under the Department of the Interior. The Bureau of Indian Affairs-which was called the Indian Office in the 1920s-is a part of the Department of the Interior. Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are political appointments.

    In 1921, Albert Fall, the former Senator from New Mexico, was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Warren Harding. Fall was hostile to Indian rights and felt that large tracts of Indian land inhibit progress. Fall would later become involved with the Teapot Dome scandal and would be jailed for his misconduct in oil leasing.

    In 1921, prospectors combed the Navajo reservation looking for promising places for oil. However, the San Juan Navajo council did not wish to consider any oil and gas leases. In an effort to force the Navajo to issue the oil leases, the assistant commissioner of Indian affairs ordered the Indian agent to call the council together again, but once again they refused all petitions for leases. The oil companies refused to accept the Navajo decision to deny them access to the potential oil reserves. Once again the oil companies appealed to the Indian Office to look out for their interests and in response the Indian Office ordered another meeting with the San Juan Navajo. This time the oil company promised to hire Navajo for all unskilled work. Reluctantly, the Navajo agreed to a lease.

    The following year, the Indian Office ordered the agent for the San Juan Navajo district to summon a council to consider more oil leases. The Navajo unanimously said “no” to any more leases, but the oil companies immediately submitted new applications with the Indian Office. The Indian Office then informed the agent that they wanted the leases approved and recommended that the agent ask the Navajo to delegate to him the authority to negotiate the leases. Again the Navajo were assembled and great pressure put on them to agree to the oil leases. The Navajo agreed to grant one lease for Tocito, but refused all others.  

    In response to the discovery of oil on the Navajo Reservation and the refusal of the Navajo to agree to leases with oil companies, in 1922 Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall ruled that Indian reservations which were created by Presidential Executive Order (as opposed to those created by treaty) were open to oil exploration. This removed Indians from any control over the leasing of these lands and deprived them of all but one-third of the royalties from oil leases. The ruling also made Indian title to these lands uncertain with the presumption that these reservations were “merely public lands temporarily withdrawn by Executive Order for use by Indians.”

    Concerned about the need for oil companies to develop wells on Navajo land and the opposition of the Navajo to these oil wells, in 1923 the federal government unilaterally replaced the traditional Navajo council of elders with a Grand Council composed of government-selected individuals. While the new council was to be composed of delegates elected by each of the six jurisdictions on the reservation, delegates could be appointed if there was no election. The Indian Office could also remove or replace any delegates, particularly if these delegates opposed any proposals by the federal government.

    All members of the Council were Navajo who had been educated off of the reservation. The Council could meet only in the presence of the Indian agent for the Navajo Tribe. With regard to this new form of government, former Navajo chairman Peter MacDonald noted:

    “For the first time in the history of the Navajo Nation, the idea of a single leader was created. A twelve-member tribal council was established whose representa¬tives were to replace the traditional extended family leaders.”

    The new Council, the only Navajo government recognized by the U.S. government, quickly signed leasing permits with non-Indian companies. It was clear that the United States did not want a self-governing Navajo Nation, but wanted a puppet government which could be called at its behest to negotiate on behalf of the tribe in matters of property. The new council had been established to serve the interests of the oil companies and thus did not respond to the needs and problems of local communities.

    Chee Dodge, a wealthy stockman, was elected as Chairman. A split soon developed in the council. Dodge, a Catholic, felt that the royalties belonged to all of the Navajo and should be used to buy land for the impoverished Navajo stockmen. Another group, under the leadership of Jacob C. Morgan, a fundamentalist Protestant missionary, felt that traditionalists such as Dodge were not qualified to lead. Under Dodge’s leadership the council gave the Indian agent the power of attorney to negotiate and sign all leases on behalf of the tribe.

    The oil leases did generate some money for the Navajo, but this money was collected by the federal government and supposedly held for them in the Treasury Department. In 1926, the Navajo found out that money from their oil leases had been earmarked to build a bridge across the San Juan River at Lee’s Ferry. The bridge was not intended for Navajo use, but it would open up a convenient automobile route to the Grand Canyon for tourists and would thus greatly benefit the Fred Harvey Company which owned the concessions in the national park.

    The Navajo also found out that they had been charged for several off-reservation bridges, for bridge repairs, and for building a road from Gallup, New Mexico to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

    In 1926, the Navajo Tribal Council voted to set aside 20% of its oil revenues to purchase land. The following year, Chee Dodge, the Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for $1 million to buy land. The money was to come from the royalties paid for Navajo oil and mineral leases. This was not taxpayer money, but money generated from private corporations. However, Congress, who controlled all tribal funds including royalties, balked at releasing the money.

    In 1928, Congress authorized $1.2 million for Navajo land purchases. This action had strong opposition from the New Mexico Congressional delegation.

    In 1929, the Navajo requested information on their oil royalty figures. They found that the government had failed to monitor production or obtain accurate royalty figures. Part of the problem stemmed from keeping oil records in two different offices: production and royalty reports were kept in the San Juan area superintendent’s office while operations registers were at the Bureau of Mines office in Shiprock. Furthermore, the oil companies set up sophisticated internal operations to allow them to buy and sell crude oil to themselves and thus to juggle figures at will. While it was obvious that the government was not protecting Navajo interests and that oil companies were openly defrauding the tribe, no steps were taken to correct the problem and the same system of record-keeping would continue for the next century or so.

    In what seems to have been a response to Navajo requests for information, the oil companies laid off more Navajo workers than non-Indian workers. When the Navajo complained to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he told them that all the oil companies had to do was to pay their royalties. The Navajo, however, insisted that their lease agreement called for the companies to employ Navajo workers. In addition, the companies were failing to protect the land, especially from pipeline leaks. The Indian Office and the Department of the Interior continued to support the oil companies.

    While the administration of Indian affairs changed dramatically when Franklin Roosevelt became President, the conflicts between the Navajo and the oil companies were not resolved. While Roosevelt’s policies seemed to emphasize tribal self-government, the Navajo have continued to be skeptical of the government’s motivations.


    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

    NAN Line Separater

    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

    NAN Line Separater

    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

    NAN Line Separater

    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

    NAN Line Separater

    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

    NAN Line Separater

    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.

    Taking Indian Land Without Compensation

    The United States bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867. The Russians had never attempted to force the Alaska natives to recognize Russian ownership, nor had they made any treaties with the natives, nor had they purchased any land from the natives. The Russians had never had any effective control over the natives and the total Russian population in Alaska was less than 800, living in four very heavily fortified towns. In the transaction, the natives were barely mentioned and there was more concern for the protection of those Russians who might want to remain.  

    The Tlingit watched the ceremonial transfer from Russia to the United States at New Archangel (present-day Sitka) with great interest. Since Indians were not allowed in town, the Tlingit watched from their canoes in the harbor.

    Under an international law known as the Discovery Doctrine, the Indian nations of Alaska had no say in this transfer. The Discovery Doctrine, which currently forms the basis of American Indian law, says that Christian nations, such as the United States, have a right to govern all non-Christian nations. Thus, the United States ignored not only the sovereignty of Indian nations, but also the rights of these nations to access the resources on the lands and seas which they had traditionally used.

    At the time the United States took over Alaska there were an estimated 31,000 Natives in the territory and about 300 non-Indians, most of whom lived in what would become Sitka. The Americans were more concerned with the rights of the non-Indians than with those of the Indians.

    In 1884, Congress passed the Alaska Organic Act which specified that native use of the land would not be disturbed, but it did not give them title to the land. It was the feeling of Congress that this Act was needed for the development of Alaska’s extensive resources, including mineral rights and timber.

    Following World War II, the United States entered into a period in which a great deal of timber was needed to provide the lumber for the houses which were being built. To provide timber for the housing boom, the United States Department of Agriculture authorized timber harvest on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. There was neither concern nor acknowledgement that the timber which was harvested was on lands which were traditionally claimed by the Tee-Hit-Ton, a subgroup of the Tlingit.

    The Tee-Hit-Ton brought action in the Court of Claims for compensation under the Fifth Amendment for timber taken from tribal lands. The tribe argued that it had full proprietary ownership of the timber. The federal government, on the other hand, asserted that if the Tee-Hit-Ton had any rights at all, they were to use the land at the government’s will.

    The Court of Claims found that the Tee-Hit-Ton were an identifiable group residing in Alaska and that its interests in lands prior to the purchase of Alaska by the United States were “original Indian title.” Since Congress didn’t recognize the tribe’s legal rights regarding property ownership, the Court dismissed the case.  

    In 1954, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the Tee-Hit-Ton case. 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, the United States government not only cited the nineteenth century case of Johnson v M’Intosh, but also the Papal bulls of the fifteenth century and the Old Testament from the Bible.

    In 1955, the Supreme Court announced its decision which denied the Tee-Hit-Ton any compensation for the taking of the timber. 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 Supreme Court denied compensation and asserted:

    “No case in this Court has ever held that taking of Indian title or use by Congress required compensation.”

    In order to be compensated under the Fifth Amendment, the tribe would have needed some prior acknowledgement of land ownership through a treaty, a statute, or an executive order. The Alaska Organic Act did not recognize aboriginal land ownership.

    In its finding, the Court views the Indians as nomads who have not developed the land:

    “The Tee-Hit-Tom were in a hunting and fishing stage of civilization, with shelters fitted to their environment, and claims to rights to use identified territory for these activities as well as the gathering of wild products of the earth.”

    The Tee-Hit-Ton case reaffirmed the Discovery Doctrine as the basis for U.S. law with regard to Indian nations. It reaffirmed this Christian doctrine as the principle to be used in judging American Indians and discounted American Indian history and religious traditions. While denying that Indians have any legal rights as pagan nations, the Court also stated:

    The American people have compassion for the descendants of those Indians who were deprived of their homes and hunting grounds by the drive of civilization. They seek to have the Indians share the benefits of our society as citizens of this Nation. Generous provision has been willingly made to allow tribes to recover for wrongs, as a matter of grace, not because of legal liability.

    Mount Taylor and the Pueblos

    The Pueblo Indians, who have lived in the American Southwest for thousands of years, do not draw a distinction between the secular and the sacred: everything is spiritual. This spirituality permeates all aspects of their lives, including their interaction with the land, with other peoples, and with the supernaturals. All life is interrelated, balanced, and interdependent. Human beings, therefore, must maintain harmony with the rest of the universe. One of the places that is important for the maintenance of harmony and the spiritual health of the people is the mountain which the Americans call Mount Taylor.

    Mt taylor

    In 1849, shortly after the United States acquired New Mexico from Mexico the Americans, ignoring any possible Native American names for the mountain, renamed it after President Zachary Taylor. The mountain is called Dwankwi Kyabachu Yalanne by the Zuni; Kaweshtima by the Acoma; Tsibina by the Laguna; and Tsiipiya by the Hopi.

    Zachery Taylor

    Zachery Taylor, shown above, gained fame as a military officer in his campaigns in the Black Hawk War and the Seminole Wars.

    With regard to the Zuni and Mount Taylor, Zuni Governor Cooeyate has said:

    “The Zuni relationship to Mount Taylor, as an important place on the landscape and as a marker of the extent of the Zuni homelands, has been documented through historic records for more than 300 years. First by the early Spanish representatives in the eighteenth century, later by American military personnel and early anthropologists throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and more recently in land claims cases in the latter half of the twentieth century. While the importance of Zuni’s relationship to Mount Taylor can be found in writings that are very old, our relationship to the mountain exceeds the historic record by many centuries.”

    In addition to being a sacred area for these Pueblos, the mountain is also a sacred area for a number of non-Pueblo tribes including the Navajo. The Navajo name for the mountain is Sootdzit. From this mountain, the people gather soil, tobacco, minerals, medicines, and other resources which are used to create the Mountain Soil Bundle which is used in the Blessing Way Ceremony.

    With regard to its physical geography, Mount Taylor is a stratovolcano located midway between Albuquerque and Gallup in the southwestern corner of the San Mateo Mountains. It rises to an elevation of 12,000 feet and is the highest point in the Cibola National Forest. The mountain is largely forested and rises like a blue cone above the desert. The forest on its slopes was an important source of timber for the Pueblos.

    In 1905, without consulting the tribes or taking into consideration the sacred nature of Mount Taylor, the United States incorporated the land into a national forest to be administered by the Secretary of Agriculture. Since the primary focus of the Forest Service is on resource development, over the past century the cultural resources on Mount Taylor including pilgrimage trails, shrines, and archeological sites have been threatened by increased development.

    In 1978, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) which was designed to pro¬tect and preserve traditional religious practices, including access to sacred sites, the use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through traditional ceremonies. The Act directed federal agencies to survey their rules and regulations and to try to accommodate the practice of Indian religions. The Act directs federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, to adopt land management policies which will be sensitive toward tribal religious needs concerning federal public lands. As a result of this Act, federal agencies began to formally consult with American Indian tribes about how proposed federal developments might harm sacred places. The law, however, did notinclude an administrative mechanism for Indian tribes to contest agency decisions.  

    In 2009, Mount Taylor was designated as a Traditional Cultural Property. According to Acoma Pueblo Governor Sanchez:

    “This designation highlights the rich historic and cultural connections that each tribe maintains with the mountain, especially for the Pueblo of Acoma.”

    The designation serves as guidance for any future development of the area and calls for tribal consultation on any proposed development.


    Acoma Pueblo is shown above.

    First Nations News & Views: This Week – Code Talkers, Slurs and Silencing Native Tongues

    Welcome to the third edition of First Nations News & Views. This weekly series is one element in the “Invisible Indians” project put together by navajo and me, with assistance from the Native American Netroots Group. Each Sunday’s edition is published at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, includes a short, original feature article, a look at some date relevant to American Indian history, and some briefs chosen to show the diversity of modern Indians living both on and off reservations in the United States and Canada. Last week’s edition is here.


    Cross Posted at Daily Kos

    70 Years Ago This Month the Navajo ‘Code Talkers’ Were Born

    Joe Morris Sr. walked away from us on July 17. Keith Little walked away from us on Jan. 3. Jimmy Begay walked away from us Feb. 1. They were Navajo “Code Talkers,” three of the tribe’s 421 warriors who enlisted in the U.S. Marines to learn how to give Japanese intelligence headaches. Only a handful of those who joined up in the early months of 1942 remain and will soon also “walk away from us,” a common Navajo expression for dying. On Jan. 29, the last surviving member of the original 29 enlistees, Chester Nez, celebrated his 92nd birthday. Without them, their commanders and other officers have said, American casualties in battles for Japanese-held islands would have been far more ghastly than they were.

    Those 29 and all the other Code Talkers were sworn to secrecy in case the code had to be used again. It was, in Korea and Vietnam. It was never broken. In 1968, the code and the story of its crucial role were declassified, freeing those who invented and used it to tell their experiences. Since then, more than 500 books have been written, several documentaries have been produced, Hollywood made a version called Windtalkers, a film that spends more of its time following Nick Cage around than it does Adam Beach (Saulteaux), who for his role spent six months learning Diné, the Navajo language. Famed sculptor Oreland Joe (Navajo-Ute) created the Navajo Code Talker Memorial at the Navajo Tribal Park & Veterans Memorial at Window Rock, Ariz. Oral histories were taken.

    The original 29 Navajo “code talkers” at Camp Pendleton in 1942.

    Yet, although President Ronald Reagan declared Aug. 14, 1982, National Navajo Code Talkers Day, it wasn’t until Dec. 21, 2000, 56 years after they first saw action, that the five surviving original Code Talkers and relatives of the other 24 received Congressional Gold Medals for their innovativeness and heroism. The other Code Talkers were awarded Congressional Silver Medals. The belated awards contained a deep irony. Many of these men who had saved untold numbers of American lives by using their native language had been punished for speaking that same language as children in boarding schools.  

    It may come as a surprise to many who are acquainted with the story of the Code Talkers that the Navajos weren’t the only Indians used for code work during World War II. And they weren’t the first. The Army even used eight Chocktaw speakers to confuse German troops in 1918. In the the next war, the Army in both the Pacific and Europe used Lakota speakers, Oneidas, Chippewas, Pimas, Hopis,Choctaws, Sac and Fox and Comanches. But those Indians simply talked to each other in their Native language. The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers developed a real code. They could not even be understood by other speakers of Navajo.

    The Marines had never used Indians for this purpose. But Philip Johnston, a white man who had grown up on the lands of the Navajo Nation, approached the Corps in mid-February with an idea. Why not use Navajos and members of other large tribes for military communications? Show us, the Marines said. So Johnston brought four Navajos with him to Camp Elliott, Calif., for a demonstration. They were given some military messages. They substituted some Navajo words and then, in pairs, went into separate rooms and communicated by radio. Gen. Clayton Vogel witnessed the success, the decoded messages were accurate renditions of their English originals. He recommended to his superiors that 200 Navajos be recruited.

    It took some high-level meetings before a decision was made. But, in April, a pilot program was initiated and in May 29 of the 30 Navajos recruited showed up at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., for seven weeks of basic training. They came from places named Chinle, Kayenta, Blue Canyon and Kaibeto. Many had never before been off the reservation.

    Haida Whale Divider

    They developed a dictionary with words for military terms and then they memorized them. The Navajos could encode, transmit and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the era took 30 minutes to do the same thing. Before the code, the fluent-in-English Japanese intercepted and deciphered codes easily. The Americans developed complex code, but these took a long time to decode, which could cost lives.

    Initially, the Navajo code comprised about 200 assigned words, but by the end of the war, there were 800. Here is a small  sample from the many to be found at Official Website of the Navajo Codetalkers:

    Dive Bomber  –  Gini – Sparrow Hawk

    Torpedo Plane – Tas-chizzie – Swallow

    Observation Plane – ine-ahs-jah – Owl

    Fighter Plane  – Da-he-tih-hi  – Hummingbird

    Bomber Plane – Jav-sho – Buzzard

    Patrol Plane – Ga- gih – Crow

    Transport Plane – Astah – Eagle

    The code was more complicated than mere word substitutions. The fear was that some sharp Japanese linguist might catch on to that soon enough. So words also could be spelled out using Navajo words representing individual letters of the alphabet. The Navajo words “wol-la-chee” (ant), “be-la-sana” (apple) and “tse-nill” (axe) all stood for the letter “a.” To say “Navy” in Navajo Code, they could say “tsah (needle)  wol-la-chee (ant)  ah-keh-di- glini (victor)  tsah-ah-dzoh (yucca).” Thus, using assigned words or the alphabet code, they could encrypt anything. By not repeating the same word all the time for the same letter, they made it next to impossible to crack the code. In fact, it never was.

    Navajo Code Talkers stand and salute as the colors are posted during Code Talkers Day event in Window Rock, Ariz., Aug. 14, 2008. Photo courtesy of Morris Bitsie

    Navajo code talkers were on the ground with their fellow Marines in every major action in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They proved their value at Guadalcanal, at Tarawa and at the 36-day siege on Iwo Jima. After that immensely bloody battle, Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, said: “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” He had commanded six Navajo code talkers during the first two days of the battle. They sent more than 800 messages, all without error.

    Their participation went unsung for decades because of the secrecy. The world they returned to was not unlike the one they left. Federal policies which had improved somewhat during the New Deal era again focused on assimilation and terminating reservations. Many returning veterans were denied the right to vote even though they had supposedly been made full citizens by the Snyder Act in 1924.

    Like other veterans of World War II, most of these men, many of them teenagers when they enlisted, have already walked away from us. The death of Keith Little leaves a big hole because, as a long-time leader of the Navajo Code Talkers Organization, he was the powerhouse behind the National Navajo Code Talkers Museum & Veterans Center project:

    The museum is dedicated to the overarching purpose of providing historical clarity, accuracy and context in preserving the extraordinary contribution of the Navajo Code Talkers for future generations. Their story will be told in compelling detail through an immersive learning environment, powerful interactive exhibits and activities, living demonstrations of the Navajo code and culture in the larger perspective of modern history. The museum and integrated education programs will serve as the national repository for the once-secret military voice code and the legendary skill, endurance, courage and ingenuity of the Navajo Code Talkers.

    The project also will include a veterans center for all Armed Forces veterans and active-duty personnel.

    New Mexico State Sen. John Pinto has introduced a bill in the legislature there to appropriate $175,000 for the project. In October, just two months before he died, Little testified in Santa Fe before the Senate’s Military & Veterans Affairs Committee seeking to revive the bill, which was languishing. The bill received a unanimious “DO PASS” from the Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee on the last day of January and has been  forwarded to the Finance Committee.

    Donations to support the Museum & Veterans project that Mr. Little envisioned and was very much committed to can be made through the website: or by contacting Wynette Arviso at 505-870-9167 or via email

    The Code Talker Emblem

    Code Talker Emblem

    The emblem of the Code Talker represents a communication device used by two young Navajo boys called the Hero Twins. The device allowed them to secretly communicate with each other. The legendary Hero Twins were sent to the Sun to seek a weapon that would kill the monsters attacked the Navajo. The Sun gave them the Thunderbolt.

    The Code Talker emblem and is also pictured on the reverse side of the Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.

    This Week in American Indian History in 1890

    The Indians must conform to the “white man’s ways” peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantially to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible but it is the best the Indians can get.

    -(Bureau of Indian Affairs Report, 1889)

    On February 11, 1890, half of the land on the five reservations making up the remnants of the Great Sioux Reservation was opened up to the public, continuing what was by then already a 40-year-old process that would continue to shrink Lakota tribal lands well into the 1960s. Both the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and later Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 reduced the area in which the Lakotas (and other tribes) were allowed to live. But, everything to what is now the boundary between Wyoming and South Dakota lying west of the Missouri River, including the sacred Black Hills, was to be theirs forever. Years of government pressure had failed to persuade many Lakota to stay within the reservation boundaries. This was especially true of the Oglala and Hunkpapa, whose chief and holy man, Tathanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull), had refused to sign the 1868 Treaty or live on the designated lands.

    The shrinking of the Lakota Nation

    for a larger version of this map.

    When a thousand soldiers under George A. Custer confirmed the presence of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, a deluge of miners staked claims on reservation land, which led to repeated clashes. Those clashes and refusal of thousands of Lakota to keep to the reservation ended in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn River) in June 1876, a Pyrrhic victory for the Lakota. Just four months after Custer and his men died in Medicine Tail Coulee, Washington imposed the Treaty with the Sioux Nation of 1876. Under the provisions of the 1868 treaty, terms could only be changed with approval of three-fourths of Lakota adult men. Nowhere near that number signed in 1876. But the treaty was imposed anyway, stripping away a 50-mile-wide swath of land in what is now western South Dakota, including the Black Hills.

    Preparing for statehood, Dakotans lobbied Washington for a cutting up of what was left of the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller reservations, grabbing nine million acres and opening land to homesteaders. In 1888, a federal commission sought to collect signatures from three-fourths of Lakota adult males. They were unsuccessful. The next year, they stepped up the pressure but still the Lakota refused to assent. Spokesmen John Grass, Gall, and Mad Bear opposed it, and though not chosen by his people to speak, Sitting Bull did speak and urged everyone to not be intimidated into signing away the land.

    But enough signatures were obtained and, in 1889, Congress passed the Sioux Bill, opening the reservation to non-Indians and making acreage allotments to individual Indians with the intent of breaking up tribal land held in common and ending reservations entirely. Non-violent resistance continued after the law took effect in February 1890. Consequently, Sitting Bull was murdered during an arrest in mid-December and the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee came two weeks later. After that, resistance ended. More land was taken in 1910.

    Many non-Lakota homesteads were abandoned in the 1930s, but instead of restoring these lands to the tribes, Washington turned them over to the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Even more land was taken for the Badlands Bombing Range during World War II. When the Air Force declared it was unneeded in the 1960s, it was transferred to the NPS instead of being returned to communal tribal ownership.

    -Meteor Blades

    NAN Line Separater

    South Dakota May Adopt Flag with Medicine Wheel Motif

    Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, one of the 24 Democrats in the 105-member South Dakota legislature, is sponsoring a bill to choose a new flag that is different from the state seal. The one he has in mind was designed Dick Termes in 1989 for the 100th anniversary of South Dakota’s admission to the Union. It’s flashy and contains a stylized medicine wheel inside a sunburst. Medicine wheels are also known as sacred hoops. As described in a June 2007 article in Indian Country written by Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa, Santee Dakota, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo)

    The hoop is symbolic of “the never-ending cycle of life.” It has no beginning and no end. Tribal healers and holy men have regarded the hoop as sacred and have always used it in their ceremonies. Its significance enhanced the embodiment of healing ceremonies.

    The best known medicine wheel is the 300-400-year-old, Indian-constructed 80-foot stone circle in the Bighorn Range in Wyoming.

    Possible choice for new South Dakota flag

    Termes’s creation was forgotten 23 years ago. But he recently posted it on his Facebook page. And, in yet another example of how social media can turn obscurity into fame overnight, his design could soon be flying over public buildings everywhere in South Dakota. So, in a state known for the rapacity of the Indian wars fought on its soil, in the land of the Black Hills whose ownership is still in dispute, a place where ferocious anti-Indian racism still thrives in voter suppression and a hundred other ways, a new flag may soon incorporate a Native design as an expression of what Hunhoff calls a symbol of unity.

    Bison rancher Ed Iron Cloud, III (Oglala), one of three Indian representatives in the legislature, said such a flag might show unity and coexistence.

    – Meteor Blades

    NAN Line Separater

    Miranda Washinawatok
    Miranda Washinawatok

    Menominee 7th Grader Suspended for Speaking Her Native Language

    The student body at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisc., is more than 60 percent American Indian and the Menominee reservation is just six miles away. Twelve-year-old Miranda Washinawatok (Menominee) was having a casual conversation with her Menominee friends, as were many other groups in their home room class while the teacher, Julie Gurta, worked on progress reports. Washinawatok, who is fluent in her native language, translated “hello” into “posoh” and “I love you” into “Ketapanen” for her friends. Gurta abruptly walked up to the group, slammed her hand onto Washinawatok’s desk and said: “You are not to be speaking like that. How do I know you’re not saying something bad and how would you like it if I spoke Polish and you didn’t understand.”

    Gurta had told the group once before that they could not speak Menominee. She did not ask what the girls were saying. Later, another teacher told Washinawatok that she did not appreciate her upsetting Gurta because “she is like a daughter to me.” By the time school ended Washinawatok had been informed by Assistant Coach Billie Joe Duquaine, a preschool teacher at the school, that she was suspended from the next basketball game because of an “attitude issue.” Washinawatok told her mother she had not talked back, argued with Gurta or otherwise behaved badly.

    According to Tanaes Washinawatok, Miranda’s mother: “Miranda knows quite a bit of  Menominee. We speak it. My mother, Karen Washinawatok, is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute. She is a former tribal chair and is strong into our culture.”

    Washinawatok’s mother and Tribal legislators Rebecca Alegria and Orman Waukau Jr. met with Principal Dan Minter and the teachers. A verbal apology was given to Washinawatok and a public apology was promised.

    However, the letter sent home with students was not the agreed-upon apology to Washinawatok, the family and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

    Principal Dan Minter, however, instead sent students home Wednesday with a letter addressed to Sacred Heart’s parents and families. In it, he apologized for allowing a “perception” of cultural discrimination to exist, but denied the reprimand and benching – which are not mentioned specifically – were the “result of any discriminatory action or attitude and did not happen as a negative reaction to the cultural heritage of any of our students.” […] Minter said the incident was the result of “a breakdown of our internal processes designed to offer protection to student, faculty, staff, volunteers and administrators.”

    “I regret if there was any perception by a student or family that this in any way promoted an atmosphere of cultural discrimination,” he said in the letter. “If that perception was allowed to exist, then it is deeply regretted by Sacred Heart School and for that we apologize.”

    Sacred Heart Catholic School was established in November 1881. One hundred thirty-one years later, it is finally creating a awareness program to promote cultural diversity, which will include education for both the students and staff.

    News & Views h/t to Bill in MD

    – navajo

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    Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero

    Lansing Mayor Slurs Indians in Casino Dispute:

    On one side are the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa (Ojibwe) Indians and the city of Lansing, Mich. On the other are the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. The four are in a clash over a proposed $245-million casino in downtown Lansing, the state capital.

    For Lansing, adding a local casino to the more than two dozen now operating in the state means an estimated 1,500 permanent jobs and 700 construction jobs and more tax revenue to help revitalize the city. For the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewas, it gives an off-reservation foothold from which to expand into southern Michigan, adding to the five Kewadin casinos the tribe owns on the state’s Upper Peninsula. For the Saginaws and the Nottawaseppis, it means competition for their casinos in Battle Creek and Mt. Pleasant and, in their view, is a violation of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA). For Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D), avidly in favor of the casino, it has meant getting a remedial lesson regarding racist outbursts.

    At a fund-raising breakfast, Bernero showed up wearing a bulls-eye taped to his back, implying he is the target of arrows. According to people at the fund-raiser, he referred to James Nye (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), a spokesman for casino opponents, as “Chief Chicken Little.” That generated calls for apologies. Bernero obliged with one of those no-apology apologies to “any and all who were offended. […] but none of my remarks were directed toward Native Americans, and nothing I said can fairly be construed as a racial slur, despite our opponents’ attempt to spin it that way.”

    In a statement from the two Tribes, Saginaw Chippewa Chief Dennis Kequom said Bernero’s presentation clearly was racial: “Racial slurs by government officials against Native Americans conjure images of a bygone era of destructive policies that resulted in centuries of genocide and poverty.” Kequom called on other Native American leaders-and particularly those of the Sault Tribe-to condemn Bernero’s actions. He also told the mayor to get some sensitivity training.

    Under the plan, the tribe would buy land from the city to build the casino, which would need approval from the Department of the Interior. The Saginaws and Nottawaseppis issued a statement saying the casino “stands no chance under federal law and administrative rules governing land into trust acquisitions for ‘gaming eligible’ lands.” The statement was accompanied by a letter from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette and Philip N. Hogen, a former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Hogen said the Sault Tribe’s actions were an attempt “to circumvent the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and applicable state laws against illegal gambling. […] The distant sites do not constitute ‘Indian lands,’ as defined by IGRA and therefore Michigan state gambling laws apply.”

    – Meteor Blades

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    David Slagger is the first member of the

    Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to serve

    in the Maine House of Representatives. In

    his hand is the golden eagle feather he held

    when he was sworn in by Gov. Paul LePage

    last month. (Gabor Degre)

    Maliseet Added to Maine’s Unique System of Tribal Representatives in the Legislature

    He can’t vote in the Maine House of Representatives, but David Slagger of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians can make speeches, propose legislation with a co-sponsor and sit on committees. He is the first member of his 800-person band to be chosen as a tribal representative to the legislature since the state approved the position in 2010. The Maliseets were not federally recognized until 1980.

    Slagger joins non-voting representatives from Maine’s two biggest tribes, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot nation. Both have sent representatives to the legislature for years. His cross-borders tribe is part of the larger Maliseet Nation of New Brunswick, Canada, and together with the Passamaquoddy, Penobscots, Abenaki and Mi’kmaq, form the Wabanaki Confederacy, which means people of the “dawn land.” Maine is unique among the states in having tribal representatives in its legislature.

    Slagger told the Bangor Daily News that he has been involved in tribal issues for 25 years. “In public service, it is the people’s voice that matters,” he told a reporter. “But for a long time the Maliseet people have not had a voice. This is a good first step.” He was appointed by Chief Brenda Commander after interviews by the tribal council. For now Slagger has a seat on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and sits in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses to get a good picture of what the issues are in the legislature. He has a couple of ideas for new laws. He would outlaw people from pretending to be Indians so they can sell arts and crafts and other Indian-branded products. He also wants the state to create a repository for bird feathers and allow Indians to use them in their crafts.

    Slagger lives in Kenduskeag with his wife (a Mi’kmaq) and their three children. You can listen to some of his interviews here.

    – Meteor Blades

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    Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter

    Kootenai Get ETC Cards for Easier Border Crossings

    As a consequence of the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was enacted. This requires all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to present passports or other secure documents upon entering the United States. Technology, including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, are now being used to enhance identification documents and speed the processing of cross-border traffic.

    Beginning in 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began working with federally recognized Indian tribes to produce an “Enhanced Tribal Card” showing citizenship and identity that would be acceptable for entry into the United States. Under a memorandum of agreement, a secure photo identification document with embedded RFID verification would be issued to enrolled tribal members whether they were U.S. or Canadian citizens.

    The Idaho Kootenai tribe, whose 142 members live on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, were the first to sign such a memorandum in 2009. The Idaho band is one of seven making up the Kootenai Nation. Their ETC officially became a valid form of I.D. to enter the U.S. on Jan. 31. So far, 11 other tribes have applied for an ETC memorandum of agreement. Besides the Kootenai, CBP has signed an agreement with five others: the Pascua Yaqui of Arizona, the Seneca of New York, the Tohono O’odham of Arizona, the Coquille of Oregon and the Hydaburg of Alaska.

    Kootenai Tribal Chairperson Jennifer Porter said, “The Kootenai ETC allows our tribal citizens to continue to travel within Kootenai Territory on both sides of the United States-Canada boundary to visit family and practice our culture while helping to secure the border for the greater good of all citizens.”

    – Meteor Blades

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    Johnson Holy Rock, Prominent Lakota Language Preservationist Passes: A World War II veteran, Lakota Language Consortium founder and past Oglala Sioux Tribe president who met with John F. Kennedy in the White House has died. His grandfathers traveled with Crazy Horse and his father was 11 years old when Custer attacked the Lakota-Cheyenne encampment at the Little Bighorn. He was featured in A Thunder-Being Nation. In 2005, he recorded the telling his life story in Lakota.

    – navajo

    Frybread Mockumentary Spoofs Importance of Which Tribe Makes the BEST: In the comedy More than Frybread, 22 American Indians, representing all federally recognized tribes in Arizona, convene in Flagstaff to compete for the first-ever Arizona Frybread Championship. The film has been selected to show at the Sedona International Film Festival and the Durango Independent Film Festival in 2012.

    – navajo

    Tribal Identity Film Selected for Sundance: OK BREATHE AURALEE is writer/director Brooke Swaney’s (Blackfeet & Salish) NYU thesis film. It stars Kendra Mylnechuk (Inuit) and Nathaniel Arcand (Cree) with music composed by Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache). A Native identity film about an adopted woman discovering her past was selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2012.

    – navajo

    Daugaard’s Staff Attacks NPR Report on Indian Foster Care Scam: South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who personally profited from placing Lakota children in non-indian foster homes calls the NPR report flawed and useless. But two members of the U.S. House of Representatives thought the NPR report was valid enough to call for an investigation.

    – navajo

    Does Spam Cause Diabetes in Native Populations?: The researchers said that their study could not prove that eating processed meats was to blame for the increased risk of diabetes. I suspect highly refined carbs are also to blame since low income and need for long shelf life products are prevalent on our reservations.

    – navajo

    National Marine Fisheries Service Sued For Not Protecting Our Northwest Coast: A coalition of conservation and American Indian groups filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to mitigate harm to marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

    – navajo


    Indians have often been referred to as the “Vanishing Americans.” But we are still here, entangled each in his or her unique way with modern America, blended into the dominant culture or not, full-blood or not, on the reservation or not, and living lives much like the lives of other Americans, but with differences related to our history on this continent, our diverse cultures and religions, and our special legal status. To most other Americans, we are invisible, or only perceived in the most stereotyped fashion.

    First Nations News & Views is designed to provide a window into our world, each Sunday reporting on a small number of stories, both the good and the not-so-good, and providing a reminder of where we came from, what we are doing now and what matters to us. We wish to make it clear that neither navajo nor I make any claim whatsoever to speak for anyone other than ourselves, as individuals, not for the Navajo people or the Seminole people, the tribes in which we are enrolled as members, nor, of course, the people of any other tribes.

    Bad dream


    a reason why I joined this site is because I had a bad dream.  I also joined this site, because I have a little bit of native american ancestry, supposedly.  Not much, but it’s there.  

    I had a bad dream about a woman who turned into sort of an evil spirit, like the IT-clown from Stephen King.  At the end of the dream I was standing under white, artificial light from a lamp and the spirit couldn’t enter the light.  It said something like “don’t you know that white light is the most holy of all?”

    I would like to know if this dream was caused by bad spirits and what I can do to stop them.  



    Posted in Uncategorized

    Federal Indian Policies in 1890

    Throughout the first century of its existence, the United States had carried out policies intended to decimate the First Nations that had occupied the lands for thousands of years. Having accomplished its manifest destiny of occupying the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, by 1890 American Indian policy was focused on: (1) assimilating American Indians into American society just as other immigrants had assimilated; (2) eradicating Indian cultures, including traditional languages, marriage customs, religions, and ways of dress; and (3) destroying tribal governments and breaking up tribal land holdings. The policies and programs of the American government in 1890 were driven by the viewpoint that American civilization was superior and that the existence of Indian cultures was somehow an impediment to the progress of “civilization.”  


    In 1890, the United States Census formally enumerated all of the Indians of the country. According to the Census, there were a total of 248,253 Indians in the United States: 58,806 were “Indians taxed” and 189,447 were “Indians not taxed.” This distinction between “taxed” and “not taxed” was-and often still is-an important one as many felt that people who were “not taxed” (meaning that they did not own land) should not be allowed to participate in American government and its legal institutions.

    With regard to the difficulties in counting Indians, the Census Bureau reported:

    “Enumeration would be likely to pass by many who had been identified all their lives with the localities where found, and who lived like the adjacent whites without any inquiry as to their race, entering them as native born white.”

    Faced with the twin barriers of racism and denial of Indian heritage, many Indians in the eastern states had become invisible. In places like New England, for example, many Indians were seen as being French Canadian.

    Franchise Day:

    The Commissioner of Indian Affairs announced that the 8th of February was to be celebrated as Franchise Day. It was on this day that the Dawes Act was signed into law, and the Commissioner felt that this

    “is worthy of being observed in all Indian schools as the possible turning point in Indian history, the point at which the Indians may strike out from tribal and reservation life and enter American citizenship and nationality.”

    While the Dawes Act provided the legal mechanism for Indians to become citizens of the United States, its primary purpose was to break up communal land holdings on reservations and to give each Indian family a small plot of land to farm. Americans at this time had an obsession with private property and felt that communally held property was not only a barrier to civilization, but an affront to their god. While the United States at this time had developed commercial agriculture control by corporations, the land allotted to individual Indians was too small to provide an adequate living and thus most sold or leased their allotments to larger corporate interests at a fraction of their actual worth. The Dawes Act was, in reality, a transfer of wealth from American Indians to corporations.

    Indian Education:

    The Commissioner of Indian Affairs published a detailed set of rules for Indian schools which stipulated a uniform course of study and the textbooks which were to be used in the Indian schools. The Commissioner prescribed the celebration of United States national holidays as a way of replacing Indian heroes and assimilating Indians. According to the Commissioner:

    “Education should seek the disintegration of the tribes, and not their segregation. They should be educated, not as Indians, but as Americans.”

    As with other schools in the United States, not only was the Indian heritage of the country not taught, it was actively denied. The purpose of education was to “kill the Indian, save the man.” In other words, the United States sought to destroy all vestiges of American Indian cultures.

    Motivated by the American obsession with private property, schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they became property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Unaware that many tribes were matrilineal-inheritance was through the female line-the schools assumed that patriliniality was universal and thus the father’s line was recognized rather than the mother’s.

    Since most teachers could not pronounce nor memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students. In emphasizing the importance of American heroes, many Indian students were thus named after people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

    Name Changes on the Reservations:

    In addition to the name changes given to the students at the Indian schools, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered Indian names on the reservations to be changed so that each Indian was given an English Christian name and retained the surname. Surnames were to be translated to English and shortened if they are too long. The new names were to be explained to the Indians. Thus Lone Bear became Lon Brown, Night Horse became Henry Lee Tyler, and Yellow Calf became George Caldwell. On some reservations, Indians were given names such as “Cornelius Vanderbilt” and “William Shakespeare.”

    On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the Indian agent reported that:

    “Now every family has a name. Every father, mother; every husband and wife and children bears the last names of these people; now property goes to his descendant.”

    He also reported:

    “During my administration I took a census of over two thousand names and had them all change, though it took over two years to accomplish the task.”


    While the Dawes Act provided citizenship for Indians who took allotments, the Act did not apply to Indian Territory. Thus Congress passed the Indian Territory Naturalization Act which allowed any member of an Indian tribe in Indian Territory to become a United States citizen by applying for such status in federal courts. The act allowed these Indians to maintain dual citizenship by maintaining tribal citizenship. Few Indians, however, actually applied for citizenship.

    At this same time, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act which established a territorial government for the western half of Indian Territory and renamed it Oklahoma Territory. Under the Organic Act, the United States annexed all Indian reservations to the new territory.


    The Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered traders to stop carrying playing cards. This was an effort to discourage gambling on the reservations.

    Reverend Daniel Dorchester, a Protestant minister, writes to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

    “As a race the red men lack self-reliance and self-directing power-the natural effect of the centuries of ignorance, idleness, and hap-hazard lying behind them-and will long need to hold the relation of wards, that they may have the benefit of paternal counsel and advice. We must not expect that a few Indians right out of savagery can acquire such development in civilization as to leaven at once the mass of barbarism.”