Archive for May, 2009

That’s how Kevin Howlett, director of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Health and Human Services Department, characterizes the national health care proposals put forward by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.

Baucus staffers have traveled Montana this week, seeking input on the proposals – and boy, have they been getting an earful. Mostly, it’s from people who favor the so-called single-payer system, similar to what the Veterans Administration has. Opponents like to deride this as “socialized medicine.” Baucus says it’s off the table as a solution to the nation’s health care crisis.

In addition to the howls of outrage at that position, at yesterday’s meeting held on the Flathead reservation, Baucus staffers heard from tribal members who said the plan is woefully inadequate for Indian Country.

“We’re only given 40 percent of what it would take to bring health care for Native Americans up to the level we provide federal prisoners,” Howlett said.


Read the story here. It contains a poll so that you can make your feelings known.

Gwen Florio

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(From left, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Roger Boyd. Photo by Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

That comment came from Chippewa Cree Chairman Raymond Parker during yesterday’s announcement of $250 million in federal stimulus funds for housing in Indian Country.

You can read a more complete version of yesterday’s event with federal Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan here, as well as a description by tribal leaders of housing conditions on reservations here.

It’s good to see Sen. Jon Tester’s call for accountability. But it’s a little disheartening to see Donovan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan describe yesterday’s meeting as eye-opening.

I wrote about this problem a good decade ago, and it had been going on a lot longer than that. These agencies are charged with knowing about these things. And – maybe I’m being naïve here (you think?) – it’s their responsibility to fix them, or at least try.

At least, for the next four years, or as long as Donovan and Duncan are in charge of their agencies, they can no longer plead ignorance of the problem.

Gwen Florio

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Good news – $250 million worth of it – came in the form of Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan’s announcement yesterday of stimulus money for reservation housing.

Donovan called it “a great shame” that 40 percent of Indian people live in substandard conditions.

Well, yes. But Salish Kootenai College president Joe McDonald – who was at the roundtable discussion between Donovan and tribal leaders – reminded the housing secretary of another shame. That’s the fact that reservations have still more urgent construction needs, including new buildings for tribal colleges.

“We were left out,” McDonald said.

There’s hope, though. As recounted here, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says another $500 million of stimulus money will go to schools, roads and other projects on reservations.

As we said, it’s a start.

Gwen Florio

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Former Native View host injured

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Indian news, Media

Shawn White Wolf of the Native View show reports today that Jenna Spotted Wolf Swank – a former host on the show – was injured over the weekend in an ATV accident.
Swank, an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was raised in Polson and hosted Native View from July 2007 to August 2008. See her Web site here.
White Wolf says she broke her collarbone and jaw in the accident. She was initially treated at the Browning hospital, and has now returned to Helena, although more surgery awaits, he says. Contact information for White Wolf, who is collecting donations, can be found here.

Gwen Florio

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Ann Whiting

Ann Whiting

Ann Whiting of Big Arm is starring in “Western Skies,” a 30-minute debut film directed and produced by Skye Ogilvie that premieres next week in South Dakota, where it was filmed.

Whiting’s grandmother, Gladys “Jo” Lozar Fouty, and mother, Jane Fouty Whiting (now deceased), are both enrolled tribal members and Whiting is a first-generation descendant of the Salish and Kootenai tribes.

“Western Skies” is billed as the story of a Eastern girl who goes West after her fiancée is killed in World War II, and heals her broken heart on a South Dakota ranch. You can read more about the film, and see photos and a video, here.

The premiere of ”Western Skies” will also feature the music of By Michael Bucher, who performed at the American Indian Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., and whose work has been repeatedly nominated for the Native American Music Awards.

The video for his song “Don’t Forget About Me,” was filmed at a petroglyph site in the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, S.D. You can watch the video, which focuses on the desecration of sacred sites, here. “Don’t Forget About Me” and the video for Bucher’s song “Dirty Water” will precede the showing of “Western Skies.”

The song won the Best Political Song award at the Native E-Music Awards in Albuquerque last year.

“Western Skies” will be presented free June 1 at the Hot Springs, S.D., Theater at 7 p.m. Later this summer, it will be screened on the Flathead Reservation – watch Buffalo Post for times and locations.

Gwen Florio

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Remembering veterans on Memorial Day

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Community caring, Health, Indian Veterans

This story about Northern Cheyenne warrior and his struggles to recover from his experiences in Vietnam is a good reminder on Memorial Day about the battles our veterans fight within, as well as on foreign soil.

It’s been nearly 40 years since Thomas Rockroads Jr. served in Vietnam, yet his time there still haunts him. Only the support of his family – his wife, his parents, his children, his grandchildren – and his community, through traditional healing ceremonies, has helped him.

“Sometimes, I don’t know how I made it this far,” says Rockroads. Despite everything – even now, Rockroads is considered 60 percent disabled – he says, “I’m very, very fortunate.”

Today especially, and every single day, we thank Rockroads and his brothers and sisters in the military. And, we urge those responsible for their well-being to make sure they get the help they need.

Gwen Florio

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Catching up after a week of vacation, so this post lags behind the news a bit. Still, I’m curious as to what people think of the competing claims here. A Department of Corrections report – undertaken after complaints – finds that Native American prisoners were strip-searched before and after sweat lodge visits and that guards made inappropriate comments about the ceremonies. But DOC says that doesn’t indicate discrimination. The ACLU, however, says the practices alleged in the complaints – including strip searches in front of female guards, and retaliation against prisoners who objected – indicate “serious problems” at the Crossroads Correctional Center, which is a private prison.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Gwen Florio

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The University of Montana’s new Native American Center is going to be a showplace and gathering place and honoring place for Montana’s Native tribes.

Consider the latest news from the construction site, reported in today’s Missoulian.

Builders are using 12 old-growth ponderosa pine trees pulled from the Blackfoot River following the removal of Milltown Dam to provide the supports in the building’s rotunda – one for each of Montana’s tribes.

And rather than treating the trees, which suffered some decay during their nearly century’s stay at the bottom of the river, with a chemical, a Hamilton firm rejuvenated the wood by blasting it this week with pulverized corn cobs – a sandblasting technique.

The result: A dozen incredibly beautiful supports that all will see upon entering the building, testament to the incredible attention to detail and care for the natural environment that is going into the Native American Center.

Just imagine if those old trees could tell the stories of the uncounted decades they presided first over a forest in the Blackfoot Valley, then filled the riverbed of the Big Blackfoot and now will watch a new, proud generation of university students embark upon life’s journeys.

- Sherry Devlin


More congratulations

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Education, Honorings, Tribal leaders, Uncategorized

This time, to Caleb Shields, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Saturday’s University of Montana commencement ceremonies.

Shields, a former Fort Peck tribal chairman, is coordinating a comprehensive book, “The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000.” You can read about his many accomplishments here.

Gwen Florio

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From the it’s-about-time file comes word today that the North Dakota Board of Higher Education has agreed to drop the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname, long considered offensive and demeaning to the state’s Native tribes.

The moniker will be retained only if the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes agree by Oct. 1 to give the university permission to use the nickname and its attendant Indian head logo for at least 30 years.

Already, tribal officials have said that probably won’t happen. Here’s a link to the story.

Let’s hope UND officials make the transition to a new mascot in a spirit that promotes racial tolerance and diversity, celebrating and honoring the contributions of the Native peoples who have made that ground their home for thousands of years.

Any suggestions?

– Sherry Devlin

Click to vote or add a new answer!

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