Archive for November, 2010


Mark Trahant: Cobell is insoluable no more

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Cobell vs. Salazar, Elouise Cobell

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

Also, here is a link to the Cobell settlement website and the Native American Law blog roundup of department heads/White House statements.

I remember the first time I learned of the Cobell case. It was several newspaper-lives ago. Over the years I collected lots of paper, listened to lawyers explanations and written a bit about the litigation.

The original complaint, filed in 1996, said at least 300,000 individual American Indians were victims of a gross breach of trust because of the way the Interior Department mismanaged Individual Indian Money accounts. IIM accounts hold money for individuals from land or natural resource payments as well as other transfers.

I remember thinking at the time about first-hand encounters with such record keeping. One Bureau of Indian Affairs agency superintendent told me that short-term interest from IIM accounts could even be used as a “secret slush fund” for urgent and unbudgeted expenses.

Elouise Cobell’s fourteen-year litigation was both complex and simple. The sheer volume of paper filed with the courts was extraordinary: Thousands of pages of documents, several trials, appeals, and plenty of contempt of court sanctions along the way. The case was also simple, based on this question: Can the government, acting as trustee, account for how it managed individual Indians’ money?

The U.S. District Court in D.C. answered that question this way: “No real accounting, historical or otherwise, has ever been done of the IIM Trust.” Indeed, as late as 1995 the Interior Department testified it was destroying records that could be used for reconciliation of these account.

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Cobell suit passed by House

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Uncategorized

Here’s the brief rundown/latest from the AP:
House clears Indian, black farmer settlements
By BEN EVANS, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed landmark legislation to pay for some $4.6 billion in settlements with American Indians and black farmers who say they faced discrimination and mistreatment from the government.

Lawmakers voted 256-152 to send the measure to President Barack Obama, whose administration brokered the settlements over the past year.

The package would award some $3.4 billion to American Indians over claims they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for resources like oil, gas and timber. Another $1.2 billion would go to African-Americans who claim they were unfairly denied loans and other assistance from the Agriculture Department.

The Indian case is known as Cobell after its lead plaintiff, Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Browning.

The settlements have broad bipartisan support but had stalled on Capitol Hill over costs until the Senate broke a stalemate earlier this month.

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Louisa Pilurtuut with her newborn son William. William was born on an Air Inuit medevac to Kuujjuaq Nov. 16. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

Louisa Pilurtuut with her newborn son William. William was born on an Air Inuit medevac to Kuujjuaq Nov. 16. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

Nunavik mom gives birth at high altitudes
Somewhere between Kangiqsujuaq and Kuujjuaq and more than a month early, Nunatsiaq Online reports, Louisa Pilurtuut brought into the world baby William.

First time mother Louisa Pilurtuut (Kangiqsujuaq) was surprised by labour pains last week and an Air Inuit Twin Otter medevac flight from Kuujjuaq arrived at the community to bring her to a hospital.

But baby didn’t wait and Pilurtuut gave birth on the plane. They were monitored at the hospital and later release.

Here’s the best part, Nunatsiaq reports:

    And although he’s too young to know it, little William can look forward to free flights on Air Inuit for the rest of the life.

    Air Inuit offers a free pass to infants born on its flights — although this offer hasn’t been extended often.

Cheyenne River tribal leader opposes $3.4 billion Cobell settlement
It was a big week for Elouise Cobell – as the lawsuit she’s fought 14 years to win finally garnered Senate approval (it now needs to pass the House and be signed by the president).

But Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty says the $3.4 billion agreed on in the settlement is not enough, the Rapid City Journal reports.

Based on the number of people who could get claims under the settlement, it just isn’t enough, he said. Brings Plenty (who is the outgoing chairman) rejects the financial argument that says “something is better than nothing,” the RCJ reported.

    “It’s not really fair, as far as the settlement is concerned, if you calculate what they should be getting paid,” Brings Plenty said. “It’s dangling some funds in front of individuals who are living in a poverty-stricken area. Of course it’s going to be appealing.”

$3.6 million broadband project will benefit Hopi, Navajo communities
Indian Country Today reports that thanks to a loan/grant 61 miles of fiber-optics between the communities of Jeddito and Holbrook, Ariz., bettering the Internet access in the Hopi and Navajo communities.

The $3.6 million loan-grant for a broadband project is funded by federal stimulus dollars.

    (Hopi Telecommunitcations Inc.) reports several entities will directly benefit from this fiber connection including the Hopi Cultural Center, the Hopi Health Care Center, Hopi Police and courts, area schools and tribal offices. HTI also plans to construct facilities and install equipment to provide broadband services to subscribers that are currently not being served around the communities of Jeddito and Spider Mound. Approximately 400 residences in the Jeddito and Spider Mound communities do not have access to telephone or broadband services.

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Above: Alfred Metallic, centre, defending his dissertation (Courtesy of YFile)

Above: Alfred Metallic, centre, defending his dissertation (Courtesy of YFile)

From Sandra McLean, YFile writer (York University, Canada):

While researching the historical rights of his First Nation’s community of Listuguj in the Gespe’gewa’gig district of the Mi’gmaw on the southwest shore of the Gaspé peninsula for his doctoral thesis, York PhD candidate Alfred Metallic came to believe there was something missing in what he was doing – an integral piece of a larger picture.

Not much had been written about that part of the Gaspé Peninsula and northern New Brunswick, the seventh district of the Mi’gmaw Grand Council, until Metallic turned his eye to it, but that didn’t explain the feeling he had.

It wasn’t until after he had written his comprehensive exams and was back in his community that he realized what was missing was the Mi’gmaw language – its connection to the spirit of the people, their ways of life and the land – and the way stories are presented back to the people, his people. Metallic’s dissertation was his story, and he needed to tell it using the oral traditions of his people in the Mi’gmaw language of his community and district, to share the knowledge and learning he’d accumulated, but also to help preserve his native language, which is at risk of disappearing.

“Our language, it’s how we maintain our relations and how we understand where we come from. It gives you access to your place in the world,” says Metallic. In the Mi’gmaw language, the action comes first, then the person. It’s the opposite with the English language.

York environmental studies Professor Anders Sandberg, Metallic’s PhD supervisor, helped put the process in place with the support of Professor Barbara Rahder, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) and FES Professors Robin Cavanagh, Mora Campbell, Stefan Kipfer and Peter Cole, among others. York became the first Canadian postsecondary institution to officially sanction the use of a language other than English or French in graduate work, and Metallic the first PhD candidate at York to defend his thesis in an Aboriginal language – it was written and spoken in the Mi’gmaw language.

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President Barack Obama will meet with tribal leaders for a second annual tribal summit on Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C.

Indian Country Today reports that the summit will allow direct interaction with the president and his representatives. It’s a part of the administrations “commitment to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian country,” a White House representative said.

The first summit a year ago was well received and generated positive feedback from many Native American leaders.

This year’s White House Tribal Nations Conference is again anticipated to continue to strengthen lines of communication and clearly define paths to progress on tough issues facing Indian Country.

    “With the announcement of the second Tribal Nations Summit today, the Obama administration reaffirmed that tribal governments are equal members in the family of American governments,” said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “The federal trust relationship between the U.S. government and tribal nations is a non-partisan relationship. Our meetings with the executive branch have a long term focus of creating healthier and stronger tribal nations, to strengthen the entire nation.”

But added Kimberly Teehee, senior policy adviser for Native American Affairs:

    “To bring real change to tribal nations, we must continue to work together, on a nation-to-nation basis, in order to realize a future where Native people live long and healthy lives in safe communities, where they are able to pursue economic self-sufficiency, and where their children and grandchildren can have an equal opportunity at pursuing the American dream. We will continue to look to the wisdom and experience of tribal leaders to inform our policy agenda.”

Jenna Cederberg

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Greg Brown emerged from the sweat lodge to handshakes from John Peterson (nearest), Bob Klanderud, Jesse Gulbransen, Dakota Wolf and Keith Murphy. (By David Joles, Star Tribune )

Greg Brown emerged from the sweat lodge to handshakes from John Peterson (nearest), Bob Klanderud, Jesse Gulbransen, Dakota Wolf and Keith Murphy. (By David Joles, Star Tribune )

Alternative ceremonies of thanksgiving
From powwows and sweat lodge ceremonies to church services, American Indians recognize Thanksgiving holiday in different ways, the Star Tribune reported.

Twin Cities American Indians celebrated a day of thanksgiving with a sweat lodge ceremony in the frigid Minnesota cold. For some it bridges cultures on a day that can be filled with tension, the Star Tribune story said.

    “Many Indian people celebrate Thanksgiving with a meal and simply a prayer, a blessing over the food and general thanksgiving of the blessings they’ve received over the previous year,” said Lee Antell, president and CEO of the nonprofit American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center in Minneapolis. “It’s really an extension of what American Indians have done for centuries. Indians have always celebrated thanksgiving for the blessing of the harvest. They would thank the creator.

    “But with the arrival of the pilgrims, you got a different kind of viewpoint,” he added. “There are groups of native people who will not even recognize Thanksgiving Day.”

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Some thoughts from Native Sun News publisher Tim Giago, as posted on Huggington Post, for this Thanksgiving Day:

By now I believe most Americans understand that the creative stories surrounding the first Thanksgiving are, for the most part, a myth.

There are few Native Americans who believe this day meant that peace and harmony had become a reality between the Indians and the Pilgrims. Most Natives know that this was just the beginning of an onslaught that would reduce the number of Indians from more than one million to about 200,000 by the beginning of the 20th century.

Over the years I have heard many stories about the psychological impact of Thanksgiving celebrations at schools where a few Native Americans attended classes with predominantly white students. Recalling her school days in Kansas, one Caddo Indian lady said, “All of the kids, except me and two other Native Americans, showed up in class wearing cardboard feathers with their faces painted in various colors. The white kids put their hands over their mouths and whooped and ran around the classroom making these awful sounds. We Indian kids were mortified and embarrassed by all of this.”

She continued, “What if on Black History Day or on Martin Luther King’s birthday all of the white kids came to school with their faces colored black? Wouldn’t that be an insult to the African American students?”

But the day known as Thanksgiving has been accepted as a legal holiday by most Native Americans because the idea of a day to give thanks is such a strong part of their traditions and culture.

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Front view of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, a 358,000-square-foot, 72-bed. (AFP/HO)

Front view of the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, a 358,000-square-foot, 72-bed. (AFP/HO)

The largest Native American hospital in the United States is making a point to accommodate its patients’ every need. Included in its high-tech medical treatment facilities is the essence of traditional healing beliefs.

reports that the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, recently opened in Oklahoma, is making a point to blend sacred Native American healing traditions with cutting-edge medicine.

    “Although we rely on conventional medicine, there are still folks who believe that healing is not just for your physical body… it’s for your spirit as well,” said Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw nation that numbers more than 49,000 citizens.

    Chickasaw traditions include deep ties to nature and family, so the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center was designed to provide a peaceful environment with space for healing ceremonies and plenty of visitors.

    Large windows eliminate the need for artificial lighting on sunny days and provide patients with soothing views of the prairie sky and 230 acres (93 hectares) of green fields and woodlands from their spacious rooms.

    “It cheers you up — you don’t feel trapped in this box,” said Larry Speck, lead architect on the project with Austin, Texas-based PageSoutherlandPage.

    Trails of crushed granite lead from the back of the hospital to a seating area in a “dry-creek” motif that will be used for healing ceremonies.

    Jenna Cederberg

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Final votes on Election Day were cast almost 25 days ago, but election commissioners only just finished wading Tuesday through the controversy to finally certified general election results on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

John Yellowbird-Steele will be new OST president. He defeated incumbent Theresa Two Bulls and her administration. The delay of official results not only stirred up controversy, but cost the tribe $160,000. Along with filing complaints about election mismanagement, Two Bulls has called for the removal of several of the OST Election Commission members.

    Last week, the outgoing Two Bull administration comprised of President Teresa Two Bulls, Vice President Shorty Brewer, Treasurer Dean Patton, Secretary Rhonda Two Eagle and Fifth Member Myron Pourier, filed the complaint citing: the Election Committee leaked information to the media prejudicing voters prior to elections; the chairman of the election commission is not old enough to serve on the election commission; and election results were released to the media without affording the candidates time to request recounts.

Here’s the full story from Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Staff:

    Board certifies election results
    PINE RIDGE – Despite of formal complaints filed by the outgoing Two Bulls administration, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Election Commission has certified the 2010 General Election results, including certification of John Yellowbird-Steele as president.

    Amid ongoing controversy, Francis Pumpkin Seed, OST Election Commission Chairman said the commission is moving ahead with election protocol.

    Letters have been sent out to winning candidates notifying them of their certification and the newly elected tribal officials will be sworn into office on Dec. 7, 2010.

    “The Election Commission will continue to move forward in a respectful manner until such time the Commission is allowed due process or the new Yellowbird-Steele/Poor Bear Administration is sworn in. The OST Election Commission wishes each winning candidate good luck with their future endeavors and thanks to each and every person involved with this successful election and smooth transition to electronic voting,” the commission released in a statement.

    In a last ditch effort to regain control of the Oglala Sioux Nation, Theresa Two Bulls and the Executive Committee filed a formal complaint alleging violations of election guidelines.

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Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit, uses this week’s Ask Elouise letter to discuss the passage of legislation in the Senate authorizing the suit’s settlement. She also discusses the fight ahead, as the legislation still needs a nod from the House and the president’s signature to be finally approved.

Cobell writes:

    Dear Indian Country

    This is the fifteenth letter in a series of open letters that I’m sending to Indian Country. The purpose of this letter is to update you about the settlement.

    Since my last Ask Elouise letter (September 30, 2010), I and our representatives have been frequently meeting with both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress and their staffs. We have been advocating on behalf of our settlement legislation and its importance to more than 500,000 individual Indians. The Senate has been a particularly difficult hurdle, having stripped us off of numerous pieces of legislation on multiple occasions for unrelated political reasons.

    However, after almost 12 months of working with the Senate, it is with great pleasure that I can share good news with you – on Friday, November 19, the Senate unanimously passed legislation authorizing our settlement. The settlement was revised by the Senate to increase the distribution fund by $100 million and ensure that the neediest members of the class are treated fairly. One hundred Senators voiced their support and voted to pass legislation that will approve this landmark settlement. It is not possible to overstate this unprecedented vote of approval in the Senate.

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