Archive for April, 2011

Photo by Kurt Wilson, of the Missoulian

Salish elder Felicite McDonald peels the gathering’s first root to give a blessing for the dig to start. Missoulian photographer Kurt Wilson and I spent the morning with the Salish- Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee on the tribes’ season opening bitterroot dig on the Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana.
See more of Kurt’s photos and read my full story here.


$760 million Keepseagle suit given final approval

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Keepseagle v. Vilsack

From left, Marilyn Keepseagle, Claryca Mandan, and Porter Holder, plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit by American Indian farmers, celebrate outside the federal courthouse in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. The lawsuit filed in 1999 contends Indian farmers and ranchers lost about $500 million because they were denied USDA loans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The historic Keepseagle settlement was granted final approval by a judge in Washington, D.C., this week.

The suit, brought against the USDA by George and Marilyn Keepseagle 11 years ago, held that Native farmers seeking loans through the federal department had long faced discrimination on many fronts. It was settled for a record $760 million dollars; $680 million will be paid in damages $80 million will be used to forgive outstanding farm loan debt, according to the ICTMN.

    According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the settlement’s $760 million in monetary relief represents about 98 percent of what the plaintiffs could possibly have won at trial.

    Of note, all funds for the settlement will be paid from the federal Judgment Fund, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice, and will not have to be approved by Congress. In contrast, last year’s infamous Cobell settlement was set up in such a way that required congressional approval—thus causing multiple delays.

    Native American farmers and ranchers now have until Dec. 24, 2011 to file claims for damages and debt relief.

Jenna Cederberg

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According to Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson, the spray-painting of a swastika on both sides of the sign for the Native American Church two miles south of Lyndon Station is most likely a hate crime. (Courtesy of

By Jeremiah Tucker, Capital Newspapers in Wisconsin:

When Kimberly Lane saw an online story about the sign for the Native American Church in the town of Lyndon being defaced with swastikas, she felt so disgusted she posted a link to the story on her Facebook page.

Not only did her friends share her outrage over the racially-charged vandalism, but they wanted to do something to help. This week they plan to present the church with a new sign to replace the one ruined by defacement earlier this month.

“I’m not really looking for recognition,” said Gretchen Pointon, owner of Absolute Imprints in Baraboo. “I just thought it was a horrible thing someone did and wanted to do something.”

Pointon contacted Lane after seeing the story on her Facebook page and told her she wanted to replace the sign. Together they made a corrugated plastic sign using materials from Pointon’s business.

Lane’s friends made a frame from treated plywood and they plan to enclose the sign in tempered glass donated from Pete’s Glass in Baraboo. That way, Lane said, if it is spray painted again, the church can wipe the paint off.

Lane said she contacted a member of the church, and he told her the congregation only required a simple sign.

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A day among bitterroots, family and tradition

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Uncategorized

Junior Green picks through a clump of roots Wednesday, separating the bitterroot from the grasses, during the first digging of the one of the most important traditional food sources for the Salish and Pend d’Oreille tribes. Dozens of tribal members gathered at the dig site near Hot Springs for the annual opening of the gathering season. (Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian)

By Jenna Cederberg, of the Missoulian:

HOT SPRINGS – Family and tradition came together in the rolling hills of greening prairie near Hot Springs on Wednesday, where the first tribal bitterroot dig of the season yielded plentiful bounty.

Led by members of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, the outing opened the gathering season for tribes.

“Not only do we honor the bitterroot, but we also honor our parents, grandparents and ancestors who have passed this on,” committee director Tony Incashola told the crowd waiting to dig.

Considered the “first visitor” by the Salish and Pend d’Oreille, the bitterroots sprout in large numbers throughout the Flathead Reservation. The roots growing under short green tufts – which sprout before the plant’s signature pink flower blooms later in the spring – are one of the most important traditional food sources for area tribes.

Before the dig could begin en masse, a single bitterroot was dug and blessed.

Salish Kootenai College Salish language instructor Alec Quequesah gave the opening prayer in the language of his ancestors. His granddaughter, Joanie Quequesah, 6, dug the first bitterroot.

Surrounded by more than 100 diggers, Joanie retrieved the tuft and dirty roots from a cracked mound of dirt, then presented it to the oldest woman at the dig, Salish elder Felicite McDonald, 88, for peeling.

“The first one that usually gets dug out of the ground, we talk to that bitterroot just like it’s a human being because it’s our first visitor and we thank that bitterroot for being here again for us,” said Charlie Quequesah, Joanie’s dad.

Thus continued the connection between nature and generations of Indian people.

“I hope that our young people who are here will continue to participate and learn from our elders and carry on the tradition for years to come,” Incashola said.

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Great read by Bernie Azure of the Char-Koosta:

Alice Smallsalmon, Clara Bourdon, Sophie Haynes, Janie Wabaunsee and Felicite McDonald got various levels of a kick out of Salish Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee Director Tony Incashola's working-the-crowd humor prior to the invocations at the Medicine Tree. (B.L. Azure photo)

MEDICINE TREE — To the naked eye, all that is left of the Medicine Tree is a 15-foot tall dead Ponderosa pine snag located precariously close to U.S. Highway 93 as it snakes through the narrow Bitterroot River Valley a few miles north of the Idaho border. To those whizzing to and fro in vehicles it is probably only noticed a couple times a year, in the spring and fall when vehicle-loads of Salish people return to their ancestral homelands in the Bitterroot Valley to pay homage to their Bitterroot Salish forebears.

In the tribal heart of the traditional Salish people the Medicine Tree is a vibrant living testament to a way of life gone but not forgotten. A way of life remembered in modern times and practiced and passed on through actions and stories. The Medicine Tree is the heart of the Bitterroot Salish creation story – it beats in all those who make the semi-annual treks and it will continue to beat into the future as long as it has beaten since time immemorial.

There is no way for those who make the trek to not stand in the footprints of long gone on Bitterroot Salish. There is no way to avoid sitting on the earth that once cradled the old Indians whose skin even the eldest of the Salish of today never touched. But there is touching nevertheless: the entwining of the spirit of old with the spirit of today that forges the living monument to the perseverance of the Bitterroot Salish.

A large group of people made the more than 200-mile round trip from the Flathead Indian Reservation to the Medicine Tree last Thursday. The weather – warm and sunny – fit the mood of the more than 150 people of all ages who took the time to spiritually connect with the old times and the old Indians.

Halfway up the sun soaked ridge a herd of 40 or so mule tail deer chomped away at the newly green grasses sticking up through the brown remnants of last year’s greenery. They continued to peacefully munch with an occasional eye cast down the hillside at the ever-growing crowd below. Not a tail was raised in fright as attention shifted back to eating as the attention of those below shifted to the Medicine Tree.

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Take a listen to this Marketplace Tech Report on the incredibly low availability of broadband access on reservations.

While the majority of the nation enjoys a 65 percent access rate, it can be as low as 5 percent on reservations.

John Moe tells listeners of several pushes to improve those dismal numbers:

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 recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

A few weeks ago Bloomberg News reported that Saudia Arabia is investing $100 billion in renewable energy sources. In other words the country with the largest known reserves of oil is spending its profits building power plants fueled by nuclear energy, wind, geothermal and solar power.

What does Saudia Arabia know that the rest of us don’t? Simply this: It’s far better to save every drop of oil for export (especially with prices exceeding $110 per barrel) and build a less expensive alternative at home. Why not? Saudia Arabia, like any desert nation, is an ideal spot for solar production.

The high cost of that oil impacts Indian Country in a number of ways.

Native American consumers are hit especially hard because so many reservations and Alaska villages are geographically isolated. Gas is always expensive – and when it creeps up across the country – well, the cost goes beyond reach. One Minnesota study reports that even in good times (when gas is pegged $1.50 a gallon) it costs nearly 44 cents per mile to operate a pickup truck. “Extremely rough roads” (what we would call “rez roads”) increase that price by another 5.5 cents per miles. And all those numbers total before $4 a gallon. Or worse, $5 or $6 a gallon.

The family math is daunting. When it costs $50, $100 or $150 to fill up a tank … then there is not enough money for everything else including food and other must-buy purchases. (Indeed: If four in ten Americans say the price of fuel is causing a serious economic hardship, what is that number in Indian Country?) The economic impact of soaring fuel will affect everything from the price of hay to the cost of working away from home.

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Approaching the end of a 835-mile hike on the historic Trail of Tears, Ron Cooper walks down U.S. 62 near Tahlequah last week. (CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World)

From Tennessee to Tahlequah, hiker retraces historic Trail of Tears

Tulsa World reporter Michael Overall shares the story of Ron Cooper (Comanche Nation), who recently finished walking the entire 835 miles of the Trail of Tears.

Cooper trekked from Tennessee to Oklahoma and found much inspiration along the way.

    “The more I learned about the history,” (Cooper) says, “the more I discovered how much all the tribes have in common.

    “It may have happened at different times and under different circumstances, but all the tribes have faced hardship and adversity.”

NCAA says no go on North Dakota Fighting Sioux law
As if this story couldn’t get more convaluted, the Bismarck Tribune reported this week that despite a new state law that will force the University of North Dakota to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname, the NCAA will punish the college if it does.

Doesn’t make sense to us either, but here’s more from the BT:

    In a letter to UND President Robert Kelley, (said Bernard Franklin, an NCAA executive vice president) the university must follow an agreement it made in October 2007 to discontinue using the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011, unless it received approval from North Dakota’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.

    . . .

    The letter means UND will be subject to NCAA sanctions after the new law takes effect in August. According to NCAA policy, the school will be barred from hosting NCAA postseason games and its teams will not be able to wear the nickname and logo on its uniforms in postseason contests.

Protesters hold interfaith gathering at sacred site in Vallejo

Protesting continued in Vallejo, Calif., as groups there attempt to prevent a former Native village site from development, the Times-Herald reported.

The Greater Vallejo Recreation District plans to construct bathrooms, a parking lot, benches and trails on the land.

Groups have be granted camping access to the park while the negotiations on its fate continue and held a “Indigenous Peoples Earth Day and Interfaith Gathering” on Saturday

The protesters began their camp out more than a week ago.

Jenna Cederberg


Buffalo Post pic of the week: Joba coming at ya

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Native sports

Courtesy of ICTMN

Relief pitcher for the New York Yankees Joba Chamberlain is one of just three Indians playing in the big leagues. Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury, (Navajo) and St. Louis’s Kyle Lohse (Nomlaki) are the others, ICTMN reports.

You can read Joba’s full story on the ICTMN website.

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Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski says a bill seeking to end certain advantages given to Alaska Native Corporations seeking federal small business loans isn’t likely to pass the through Congress.

Murkowski told the Alaska Associated Press this week she doesn’t think the bill has enough support.

    The Alaska Republican told the AP that new, tighter oversight rules governing a Small Business Administration program should be allowed to work, rather than target the corporations, as the bill sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, seeks to do.

    Murkowski acknowledged there was need for such reforms to the program, which has been blamed for creating a system ripe for abuse that led to federal audits and the overhaul of the rules.

    “Let’s see if these regulations that have been promulgated, how they provide for that level of accountability that we’re all looking for,” Murkowski said.

    McCaskill’s bill, among other changes, would strip Alaska Nati ve corporations of contracts with no monetary caps under the SBA’s 8(a) program, which is designed to help small disadvantaged firms, including those run by American Indian tribes and Hawaii Natives. The same legislation also has been introduced as an amendment in a bill dealing with small-business innovation.

Jenna Cederberg

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