Archive for May, 2012

By Talli Nauman, Native Sun News health and environment editor:

The hospital at the former Cheyenne River Agency, prior to the purposeful flooding of prime reservation land by the U.S. government, beginning in 1948. (PHOTO COURTESY/SOUTH DAKOTA ORAL HISTORY CENTER, via Native Sun News)

RAPID CITY – Lost land and possessions were far from the only issues raised by the relocation of Native American communities under the 1944 Flood Control Act, according to the book “Dammed Indians Revisited: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux,” which is this year’s recommended reading by the South Dakota Humanities Council.

“Relocation disorganized the social, economic, political and religious life of well-integrated tribal communities and had a serious effect on the entire reservation population,” author and historian Michael Lawson said during the book’s presentation at a Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee meeting in Rapid City on May 8.

“The disruption, chaos and uncertainty generated by this experience made it a most painful one for all tribal members involved,” he said.

So shortsighted was the Army Corps of Engineers’ planning on the Crow Creek Reservation, according to Lawson, that families forced to move by the construction of the Fort Randall Dam were relocated within the projected area of the Big Bend Reservoir.
“Consequently, when time came to open the second dam, these unfortunate tribal families were compelled to move once again,” he noted.

Removal of churches, community centers, cemeteries and shrines on all but the Rosebud and Santee Sioux reservations impaired social and religious life.

Loss not only of primary fuel, food and water resources but also of prime grazing land effectively destroyed the economic base of the five tribes that lost the most land.

“The thought of having to give up their ancestral land, to which they were so closely wedded, caused severe psychological stress. The result was extreme confusion and hardship for tribal members,” said Lawson.

What was called Cheyenne Agency, the main population center on the Cheyenne River Reservation, was relocated 60 miles inland to the prairie town of Eagle Butte. The new high school constructed there consolidated the Eagle Butte public school district with the old Cheyenne Agency boarding school.

The school opened in September 1959, but the dormitories had not yet been completed. Thus, many tribal students were required to stay in the dorms at the old Cheyenne Agency site and were bused from one location to the other.

Each school day, more than 500 Sioux children received sack lunches in the morning at the old agency, then rode the 120-mile round trip to Eagle Butte and back.

“The Sioux Falls Argus Leader called this ‘the biggest sack-lunch program in South Dakota,’ but it might very well also have been one of the earliest and longest public school busing programs in America,” Lawson said.

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Children bring joy to prison powwows in Washington

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For the first time in many years, the yearly powwows at Washington state penitentiaries included children.

Powwow visitors — including children for the first time in years — enter the state penitentiary in Walla Walla last Tuesday. (Photo by MATTHEW ZIMMERMAN BANDERAS / WALLA WALLA UNION-BULLETIN)

As Seattle Times reporter Sara Jean Green reports, the addition of kids – or “shorties” – to the celebrations provided a time of great reflection for Native inmates like Herbert Rice, who watched the kids dance during last week’s powwow at the Washington State Penitentiary.

    “If I would’ve paid more attention to that, I wouldn’t be here,” said Rice, 41, who is serving two life sentences for the slayings of an elderly Yakima County couple during a 1988 robbery when he was 17.

. . .

    Until recently, such a scene would have been impossible inside the walls of the state’s prisons. In Washington, an estimated 750 Native Americans are incarcerated — though Minty LongEarth, a prison program director for the Seattle-based United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, believes the number is much higher, possibly double, given that many inmates don’t identify themselves as Native to prison officials. After months of discussions between tribal leaders and the Department of Corrections, Native-American inmates now can request that children be allowed to participate in significant, yearly religious or cultural events such as powwows.

    Powwows — usually three-day events held during summer months — generally are loud, joyous social gatherings where song, dance and food reunite family members and old friends. Dancers often compete in various categories, such as traditional or fancy, each with a distinct style and dress. Dancers are accompanied by drum groups, and drummers take turns singing and beating out songs usually handed down through families or clans.

As Green reports, several inmates’ rights groups have worked in the past years to secure different religious rights for the Native population in jail in Washington.

    “It’s taken us two years, through a lot of diplomatic effort and patience, to get everything back,” (attorny Gabe) Galanda said. The one thing still missing, however, was the inclusion of children — often referred to as “shorties” — at powwows.

    Rice started writing and calling Galanda early last year, galvanizing the effort to bring children back to powwow. Originally from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Rice said his exposure to traditional spiritual practices inside prison changed his life.

    “It brought the good person out of me,” Rice said. In turn, he has become a teacher to other incarcerated young men who, like him, grew up on the reservation amid dysfunction and alcoholism and then lost themselves to drugs, booze and crime. “Our culture changed me; it helped me face my scars in life.”

Jenna Cederberg


For Native women, scourge of rape, rare justice

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The statics are horrifying. The stories are not new. And perhaps worst of all, as Timothy Williams of the New York Times reports, the perpetrators are almost never prosecuted.

    One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape, according to the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average.

Williams recently spent time in Emmonak, Alaska, to report on the severe toll rape is taking on women in Indian Country.

    EMMONAK, Alaska — She was 19, a young Alaska Native woman in this icebound fishing village of 800 in the Yukon River delta, when an intruder broke into her home and raped her. The man left. Shaking, the woman called the tribal police, a force of three. It was late at night. No one answered. She left a message on the department’s voice mail system. Her call was never returned. She was left to recover on her own.

    “I drank a lot,” she said this spring, three years later. “You get to a certain point, it hits a wall.”

    One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape, according to the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average. And no place, women’s advocates say, is more dangerous than Alaska’s isolated villages, where there are no roads in or out, and where people are further cut off by undependable telephone, electrical and Internet service.

    The issue of sexual assaults on American Indian women has become one of the major sources of discord in the current debate between the White House and the House of Representatives over the latest reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

    A Senate version, passed with broad bipartisan support, would grant new powers to tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians suspected of sexually assaulting their Indian spouses or domestic partners. But House Republicans, and some Senate Republicans, oppose the provision as a dangerous expansion of the tribal courts’ authority, and it was excluded from the version that the House passed last Wednesday. The House and Senate are seeking to negotiate a compromise.

    Here in Emmonak, the overmatched police have failed to keep statistics related to rape. A national study mandated by Congress in 2004 to examine the extent of sexual violence on tribal lands remains unfinished because, the Justice Department says, the $2 million allocation is insufficient.

Read the rest of the story.

Jenna Cederberg


Cobell settlement upheld after objection dismissed

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The Cobell land trust settlement has been upheld in the courts once again. The panel of appellate judges decision announced Tuesday means settlement checks for the landmark $3.4 billion lawsuit could be sent out within weeks:

Here’s Associated Press report Matt Volz’s story:

    A panel of appellate judges on Tuesday upheld a $3.4 billion settlement between the U.S. government and hundreds of thousands of Native American plaintiffs whose land trust royalties were mismanaged by the Interior Department.

    The ruling means that settlement checks could be mailed to members of the class-action lawsuit within weeks, said plaintiffs’ attorney Dennis Gingold. Further appeals would delay that disbursement, and the attorney for the challenger, Kimberly Craven of Boulder, Colo., said they are considering their options.

    The three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the challenge by Craven, who had objected that the settlement did not include an actual accounting for how much money the government lost and said that the deal would overcompensate a select few beneficiaries.

    But the judges said in their ruling that the government would be unable to perform an accurate accounting, the deal is fair and it is the best that can be hoped for to avoid years of additional litigation.

    Craven’s characterization of the settlement as taking shortcuts “is to ignore the history of this hard-fought litigation and the obstacles to producing an historical accounting,” the judges said in their ruling.

    The settlement is the result of a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 by Blackfeet tribal member Elouise Cobell, who died of cancer in October. The lawsuit had originally sought to find out how much money had been mismanaged, squandered or lost by the Department of the Interior, which held the trust money for land allotted to Native Americans under the Dawes Act of 1887.

    “Our deepest regret is that Ms Cobell did not live long enough to see this victory,” Gingold said in a statement
    The lack of records created a problem in creating an accurate accounting of who was owed what, and the cost of creating such a record for each beneficiary would have cost more than what they were actually owed. After more than 13 years of litigation, the government and Cobell made a deal.

    The agreement would pay out $1.5 billion to two classes of beneficiaries whose numbers have been estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000. Each member of the first class would be paid $1,000. Each member of the second class would be paid $800 plus a share of the balance of the settlement funds as calculated by a formula.

    Another $1.9 billion would be used by the government to purchase fractionated land allotments from willing individuals and turn those consolidated allotments over to the tribe. An education scholarship for young Indians also would be established under the agreement.

    Congress approved the deal in December 2010 and U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan approved it after a June 2011 hearing. Hogan said that while the settlement may not be as much as some wished, the deal provides a way out of a legal morass and provides some certainty for the beneficiaries.

    As part of the deal, Cobell was awarded $2 million and the three other named plaintiffs were awarded between $150,000 and $200,000.

    Craven and others objected and appealed the settlement, claiming the deal creates a conflict between the beneficiaries as some would be overpaid while others would be undercompensated for their claims. Creating a lump-sum award without an accounting creates an arbitrary payout system without knowing who is actually owed what, she argued.

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The IGA in the small Montana town of Lodge Grass closed last week after shoplifting there became overwhelming.

Lodge Grass residents, including IGA manager Abe Garcia, gathered Monday to look for solutions to a crime wave that has left the town's only grocery store at the brink of closure. (Photo by CASEY PAGE/Bilings Gazette)

The first closure was in protest. But, store owners say, if law enforcement doesn’t step up to help stop the thefts, the store will close for good forcing residents to drive at least 50 minutes to another store.

Billings Gazette reporter Tom Lutey covered the town meeting addressing the issue:

    Lodge Grass, a town of 600 people on the Crow Reservation, is not what it used to be, the attendees said. The Crow Reservation community that once had a clothing shop, hardware store and mechanics shops in addition to the local grocery — and a local police force — is now down to a convenience store and the IGA.

    Law enforcement has become scarce.

. . .

    Store manager Abe Garcia said he is looking for any help the community can give him to keep the grocery operating. The store has been in town for 60 years. He said he was welcome to extra watchful eyes at the grocery and even starting child activities programs such as a midnight basketball league to keep kids busy. Something has to change, though, he said.

    Mayor Henry Speelman suggested the elders in the community confront the children involved and their parents. Some in the community, unquestioned, don’t think the thefts are a big deal.

    “Maybe its only a candy bar, maybe its only a Power Aid, but after two months, it adds up,” Speelman said. “If we want this store here, we have to do our part, too.”

Jenna Cederberg

Salish, Kootenai tribes win national conservation award
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have won a Connnie.

Trumpeter swans take flight from a pond near the Ninepipe Reservoir early Wednesday morning. Thanks to conservation efforts by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the trumpeters are making a comeback in the Mission Valley with 33 cygnets successfully fledged this season. (Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian)

As Vince Devlin of the Missoulian explains, a Connie is the conservation vision of an Academy Award, and CSKT, in northwestern Montana was presented the conservation award.

    The National Wildlife Federation will present CSKT with its 2012 Conservation Achievement Award in Government at an awards banquet.
    . . .

    The tribes are being honored for their “commitment to protecting, enhancing and conserving their homeland for future generations,” according to National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Larry Schweiger.

A tribal council member and CSKT’s wildland manager were in Washington, D.C., last week to accept the award.

    “The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are respected among tribes in Montana and across the nation as conservation and wildlife management leaders,” Alexis Bonogofsky, tribal lands manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said. “In giving this governmental award to the CSKT, NWF is expressing its respect for them and other tribes, and the profound role they have played as sovereign nations in protecting wildlife for generations.”

Oregon Board of Education votes to ban Native American mascots

The state of Oregon finally voted Thursday on a long-debated ban on Native mascots use in the state’s public schools.

The ban, as Ryan Kost of the Oregonian reports, the 15 schools effected must make the change by 2017 or risk losing state funding.

    The change has been years in the making. Back in 2006, Che Butler, a former Taft High School student, brought the issue before the school board. He told The Oregonian at the time that he was motivated to push the issues after his school played the Molalla High Indians. During the game he saw a student dressed in buckskin and fake feathers performing Native American moves.

    That sort of conduct no longer happens at the games, according to Molalla administrators. But the Indian mascot is present throughout the school.

    The Indian head is spray painted on lockers, displayed on the gym floor and rendered in metal in the courtyard. Arrows help guide visitors through the hallways. And a totem poll and teepee are displayed on the school’s soccer field.

Native parents encouraged to look to past for strength

By Kate Saltzstein. Native Sun News correspondent

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Finding strength in tribal traditions helps Native Americans face their problems, said Pamela Iron, who is Cherokee and Laguna, director of the National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center in Tahlequah, Okla.

One of the keynote speakers at the Parent Involvement Training V, Look Across the Mountain: “Voices from the Native Community” conference held in Albuquerque April 30-May1, Iron urged people to connect with their tribal past.

The conference was sponsored by Sundance Educational Consulting Inc.

People should learn about and value the favorite places in their homeland, Iron said.

“Look to the sacred places where we have ceremonies to find our voice. Seeing these places helps us face health problems, find wellness and continue the journey toward harmony and balance.”
Learning traditions helps teach the next generation values, she added.

“Young people have the burden to do rituals; many have never been told the reasons behind them. We must take the time to do so.”

Women are powerful in many tribes considered matrilineal – with property inherited through the female.

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Montana tribes edge closer to role at Bison Range

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The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are forging on – once again – in their effort to be a part of the management operations at the National Bison Range in northwestern Montana.

A newborn bison is seen at the National Bison Range in early May. (Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian)

As Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will go ahead with an environmental assessment for a funding agreement recently filed by CSKT that would allow the tribe to be involved in certain operations and programs at the range.

A similar funding agreement was thrown out be a judge several years ago, as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has continually fought against tribal involvement efforts.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which filed

    the lawsuit that got the last agreement thrown out and has long fought any tribal involvement at the Bison Range, indicated it would again oppose a funding agreement.

    “When people have a chance to evaluate the funding agreement on their own, they’ll be hard-pressed to figure out how PEER came to some of the allegations they make,” said CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald.

    McDonald noted that an investigation by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Interior last year found, on virtually a point-by-point basis, no merit in PEER’s longstanding charges of wrongdoing by CSKT employees who worked at the Bison Range under two previous funding agreements.

    PEER has also previously claimed previous funding agreements “ceded control” of the Bison Range to the tribes, which was never the case.

Jenna Cederberg

A ranch owner in Oregon wants to help restore hope in Texas, where a highly revered rare white buffalo calf was found dead.

This undated handout photo provided by Cynthia Hart-Button shows Chief Hiawatha, a white buffalo bull. (Photo courtesy of AP, via the Great Falls Tribune)

Apparently slaughtered, the loss of the Lightning Medicine Cloud at the Lakota Ranch near the North Texas town of Greenville shocked the people there.

Cynthia Hart-Button has offered up white bull bison, Chief Hiawatha, to ease the pain, according to Linda Stewart Bull, for the Associated Press.

    “It’s a sad tragedy,” she said of the calf’s death. “So, instead of them thinking that they lost their hope, we’re bringing their hope back in a different way.”

    Hart-Button said she hopes the bull, named Chief Hiawatha, will produce another white calf for the Lakota Ranch. The bull will turn 7 on May 16.

    She said Hiawatha has been like a guard dog, growling when someone comes near who “is not good in spirit.”

Lightning Medicine Cloud’s arrival last year was heavily celebrated.

    According to Lakota Sioux lore, the goddess of peace once appeared in the form of a white buffalo calf.

    As a non-albino white buffalo, Lightning Medicine Cloud was revered by Native Americans. Thousands of people of all races attended a naming ceremony for the unusual calf last year, and Little Soldier called it the “hope of all nations.”

    Little Soldier said he found the calf dead and skinned, a few feet away from where it was born a year ago. Little Soldier said the calf’s mother, which was found dead and skinned the next day, was poisoned. The calf’s father was struck and killed by lightning in April.

An inspiring graduation story from Missoulian reporter Chelsi Moy:

Frank Big Man holds his daughter Mahala on the University of Montana campus, where he will graduate Saturday with a bachelor’s degree in community health. (Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian)

During the five years that Frank Big Man attended the University of Montana, the 27-year-old guesses he failed 10 college classes.

The highest grade he received in physics after his third try was a D.

Big Man didn’t have an easy college career.

It wasn’t easy leaving his home on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and his Crow family. It wasn’t easy when his baby daughter was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket, at 2 months old. As a patient with type 1 diabetes, it wasn’t always easy maintaining his blood sugar. Finances were never easy.

Countless times, Big Man thought about giving up. One time, he even tried. But with the support of university faculty and Big Man’s resilience and perseverance, he will accept his college diploma on Saturday.

Big Man is the first in his family to earn a college degree.
With one final left earlier this week, he watched as his 4-year-old daughter Mahala ran around the Payne Family Native American Center, happy and full of life.

The sight brought tears to his eyes.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the little ones. I want to give them the tools that I never had.”

Big Man wants his daughters to see him in a cap and gown, accepting his diploma on Saturday. As they begin school in the coming years, he wants that memory to stick.

“I thought about giving up so many times,” he said. “I’m glad I stuck with it for them. So they can look up to me.”

Big Man took five years to earn a bachelor’s degree in community health at UM, after having fulfilled his general education requirements at Chief Dull Knife College, a two-year community college on his home reservation.

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Are you registered? Are you ready to vote?

Chaske Spencer. Courtesy of

Nonprofit Native Vote has teamed up with movie star Chaske Spencer to make sure that answer is yes all across Indian Country.

Spencer is the star of a new video produced to convey the important role Native people can play by casting their votes this election season. Don’t be left out, he says in the short public service announcement video released this week by nonprofit group, Native Vote.

Native Vote is a non-partisan initiative of the National Congress of American Indians. NCAI sent a press release promoting the video Thursday.

    Recent data suggests that over one million eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives were not registered to vote during the last election cycle; 34 percent of the total Native population is over 18 and eligible to vote.

Election day is only six months away. Here’s five things NCAI says can change that statistic.

Spencer is known for his year-round work to help improve the lives of Natives.

    Spencer is actively involved in raising a national awareness of Native issues, especially through his organization, United Global Shift. United Global Shift empowers people from around the world to create sustainable, lasting change in their communities and countries.

Jenna Cederberg