Archive for October, 2009

Then-candidate Barack Obama, appearing here in Crow Agency, Mont., received overwhelming support from Indian Country. (AP photo)

Then-candidate Barack Obama, appearing here in Crow Agency, Mont., received overwhelming support from Indian Country. (AP photo)

This issue is fresh on our mind because of this week’s refusal by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant federal recognition to the Little Shell Band of Chippewa – even though the state of Montana recognized the tribe nearly a decade ago, and the state’s congressional delegation is pushing legislatively for recognition.

The Little Shell, of course, are not alone. They’ve got plenty of company in the Lumbee in North Carolina, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape in New Jersey – the list goes on and on. Tribal people all – but they won’t be able to voice their concerns about Indian Country to President Barack Obama at Thursday’s meeting. That’s despite the fact that Obama received overwhelming support from Indian tribes – federally recognized and others – during his presidential bid.

“I don’t begrudge our federal brothers and sisters one iota. I know they deal with different issues in some respects and I think having an audience to deal with those types of issues is appropriate,” the Rev. John Norwood who heads the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tells Indian Country Today. “But to be snubbed and not to be told that there will be a meeting for us state recognized down the road is surprising.”

The president’s invitation to the first-ever Tribal Nations Conference came during the National Congress of American Indians’ annual meeting in Palm Springs.

“This organization is the National Congress of American Indians. It’s not the National Congress of the Federally Recognized American Indians,” says Larry Townsend, the tribal veterans service officer for the Lumbee Tribe.

Norwood tells Indian Country Today that the state-recognized tribes are thinking about coordinating their efforts to deal with their collective issues. Sounds like a good idea – even if it won’t happen in time for Thursday’s meeting.

Gwen Florio

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Clover Anaquod was shopping for Halloween with her son this week when he gasped and pointed to a display.

Headdresses. Tomahawks. Peace pipes.

Anaquod, who is Assiniboine Sioux from the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, tells the Missoulian that she was taken aback.

“Native American regalia is not a costume,” said Anaquod. “I took it personal.”

As for 10-year-old Matthew, “he was shocked. It hurt his feelings to see these.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai elder Tony Incashola says Indian costumes on Halloween make people view Native Americans “more as a display than humans.”

On the plus side, said Incashola, it seems as though fewer people these days tend to sashay out on Halloween in feathers and paint.

“They feel it’s time to move on, that those days are gone,” he said. “Gradually, more and more people are starting to understand the feeling.”

Gwen Florio

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Douglas White
Yesterday, we featured this post (with video) on imprisoned Oglala Lakota spiritual leader Douglas White, 88, who seeks to be released from prison now that his two grandsons have recanted their child molestation accusations against him.

That story referenced a documentary film that’s being made on White’s 16-year ordeal.

Today, the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal has this story on documentary filmmaker Simon Joseph, who’s making the movie “Holy Man,” which is narrated by actor Martin Sheen.

Filmmaker Simon Joseph (Ryan Soderlin/Rapid City Journal)

Filmmaker Simon Joseph (Ryan Soderlin/Rapid City Journal)

The Journal reports that White – from South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – is dying of lung cancer at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. His attorney says he’ll file an expedited motion next week to have White released immediately pending the appeals court’s deliberation.

“This is a case that cries out for justice,” says Terry Pechota, a Rapid City (S.D.) lawyer who has been working to free White since 2007, when he learned the grandsons, now grown, had recanted their testimony and said they lied at his trial – something they also say in the film. “I can only hope we can get Doug back to his people prior to the time he dies.”

Joseph, along with Jennifer Jessum, the director of “Holy Man,” will host a Free Douglas White rally at the Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge on Monday at 4 p.m. It will be filmed as part of their documentary.

Gwen Florio

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Brittany in faux-Indian garb for the photo shoot (Tyra Banks/Pottle Productions Inc.)

Brittany in faux-Indian garb for the photo shoot (Tyra Banks/Pottle Productions Inc.)

Oh dear, oh dear. We’re going to expand upon this theme in a later post regarding Halloween, but as a member of the Fort Peck Reservation’s Assiniboine tribe told us yesterday, “Indians aren’t a costume.”

Now, could someone please tell Tyra Banks? She thought it was a good idea for the contestants on “America’s Next Top Model” to go all biracial even though they, you know, aren’t.

In this E! Online interview, Brittany – the model who posed in a faux war bonnet – shrugs off any notion that people might be offended. “I hope that the Native American culture doesn’t take it to be offensive.” She also calls it “one of the best shoots of the cycle.”

Apparently trying to get Brittany into the right cultural mindset, Banks told Brittany to think of an eagle during the shoot, according to The Celebrity Cafe. What, Indian people never think about, say, lattes?

Brittany didn’t make it to the show’s next level. Gotta watch that karma stuff. Ya know?

Gwen Florio

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An 88-year-old convicted sex offender has asked a court to vacate his 1993 conviction because the two men he was accused of molesting as children recanted their testimony.
Douglas White, an Oglala Sioux spiritual leader from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has asked the a federal appeals court overturn his conviction 16 years ago on sexual abuse charges.

Douglas White was accused of molesting two young boys, and the appeals court later upheld his conviction and sentence of more than 24 years in federal prison, according to this Associated Press story in the Rapid City Journal.

Douglas White

Douglas White

Now the two people he’s accused of molesting have recanted those charges.

White, who oversaw religious ceremonies for fellow Oglala Sioux Tribe members, is the subject of a documentary, “Holy Man,” that is narrated by Martin Sheen and scheduled for release later this year, the Journal reports.

An online petition urges White’s release. There’s also a Facebook page.

Gwen Florio

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Rick Wheeler, owner of The Club on the Flathead Reservation, says he would lose most of his customers if he enforced the state’s smoking ban in his bar. (Vince Devlin/Missoulian)

Rick Wheeler, owner of The Club on the Flathead Reservation, says he would lose most of his customers if he enforced the state’s smoking ban in his bar. (Vince Devlin/Missoulian)

Montana’s newly enacted smoking ban for bars has proved a boon to the state’s reservations, whose casinos and other businesses are exempt from the ban.

That’s raised the ire of non-tribal bar owners on the Flathead Reservation, who say the competition is killing them.

Rick Wheeler owns The Club in Ronan, on the western Montana reservation. His bar is just a block away from the Pheasant Lounge. That’s owned by Lori Peterson, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

People can still smoke in The Club. But not, technically, in the Pheasant Lounge. Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin explains that technicality here.

Basically, Wheeler is allowing his patrons to light up in defiance of the law.

Otherwise, Wheeler says, he’ll lose the estimated 90 percent of his customers who smoke and “that’s not right. This bar is my retirement – do they want to take that away form me, too? It’s racial discrimination.”

Both Wheeler and Peterson tell Devlin that bar owners on the reservation who enforce the smoke ban have seen their businesses drop by as much as $1,000.

Gwen Florio

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Cowichan Tribes win Olympic victory!

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Cowichan

Genuine Cowichan sweater with jumping salmon design (Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Center photo)

Genuine Cowichan sweater with jumping salmon design (Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Center photo)

A few weeks ago, we bemoaned the news that the Canada had chosen a Cowichan Tribes-style design for its Olympics sweaters – but that even though Cowichan knitters had bid for the highly lucrative contract, the work instead was going to a non-tribal company.

The Vancouver Island tribes expressed their extreme disappointment verbally at first, and then threatened to protest the Olympic torch relay by lining the route while wearing their iconic, hand-knit sweaters.

Now comes the good news that tribes’ knitters will be included in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after all. The CBC reports here that an Olympics licensing deal would allow the tribes to sell their original designs in the First Nations Pavilion and at the Bay’s flagship store in Vancouver.

According to the Calgary Herald, here, instead of knitting identical team sweaters, the tribal knitters will become licensed suppliers to the Olympics and will be able to use the Olympic logo in retailing. That’s something that the British Columbia firm supplying the knock-off sweaters cannot do.

While this is very good news indeed, it kind of shoots down our excuse to buy a genuine Cowichan sweater as a gesture of support.

Besides, other people beat us to the punch.

“We’ve had a lot of our knitters who have gotten a lot of orders as a result of all the publicity,” the Cowichan Tribes’ general manager Ernie Elliot tells the CBC. “So it’s had that kind of positive effect.”

Gwen Florio

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NCAA INDIAN NICKNAMESFriday was the deadline for a decision on whether the University of North Dakota would have to get rid of its “Fighting Sioux” team nickname. Now, however, it looks as though that decision might be postponed. Here’s the entire story from the Associated Press:

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The chancellor of the North Dakota University System says he’s willing to grant the Standing Rock Sioux tribe 30 more days to consider the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Saturday is the deadline for Standing Rock leaders to weigh in on the debate. Some tribal members want to put the issue to a vote.

Chancellor William Goetz said he talked with tribal Chairman Charles Murphy on Wednesday. He said the Tribal Council is not scheduled to meet until the week of Nov. 9.

The state board has said it will drop the Sioux nickname and logo unless it gets long-term agreements from Sioux tribes.

Murphy told KNOX radio of Grand Forks earlier that he knows some people support a tribal vote on the issue but said it’s not clear if or when that will happen.

Gwen Florio

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ittle Shell Indians Steve Doney and his granddaughter, Jaada Main, 9, of Zortman, Mont. According to the federal government, they're not really tribal members. (AP photo)

Little Shell Indians Steve Doney and his granddaughter, Jaada Main, 9, of Zortman, Mont. According to the federal government, they're not really tribal members. (AP photo)

Here’s the editorial in today’s Missoulian newspaper concerning the rejection of the Little Shell Band of Chippewa’s three-decade pursuit of federal recognition:

The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians waited more than 30 years for the U.S. government to formally recognize them. First, they were flat-out ignored. Later, the Department of the Interior simply delayed its decision time after time.

And then finally, on Tuesday, the Little Shell got their answer – and it was a rejection.

The fact that it took the Interior Department so long to deny the tribe’s claim for federal recognition is not so surprising as their reasons for the rejection. According to John Sinclair, tribal chairman for the Little Shell, the Bureau of Indian affairs felt that the tribe’s community cohesion is insufficient, and that it has not garnered enough recognition from other sources.

Somehow, after all their years of research, the Bureau of Indian Affairs must have missed the fact that the tribe of more than 4,000 members, many of whom live in the Great Falls area, has been pushing for some form of recognition since the 1860s – as a community. Few individuals, let alone groups numbering in the thousands, could have maintained that sort of commitment in the face in bureaucracy for a lifetime, let alone across generations.

That alone is proof enough of community for us.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Busloads of people from the Seneca Nation in New York state traveled to a state Senate committee hearing so that they could testify against the proposed collection of cigarette taxes.

“We will never allow the state to tax our commerce,” says Tribal Councilor J.C. Seneca, according to this story in the Jamestown (N.Y.) Post-Journal. “No other government has the right to interfere. We will fight to uphold these rights now and forever.”

New York law enforcement is well aware that such talk is not empty rhetoric. Previous attempts to collect taxes on cigarette sales at tribal smoke shops to nontribal members led to spirited demonstrations, including disruptions along the New York Thruway. However, the current recession has hit New York hard and there is renewed interest in the millions in revenues that the tax collection would bring the state.

According to the story, Pter Kiernan, Gov. David Paterson’s chief legal counsel, says a New York State Police threat assessment predicted that collecting the taxes could cost $2 million a day, and that such action also might lead to violence that could escalate into a “military problem.”

Seneca urged lawmakers to work with the tribe to find a compromise.

Gwen Florio

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