Archive for August, 2012

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

RAPID CITY — An Aug. 25 public sale of land at the Pe’ Sla Native American prayer site in the Black Hills of South Dakota was canceled after the top Oglala Lakota traditional and elected officials requested federal intervention.

Lying in the heart of the Black Hills, the majestic Pe Sla is one of the few ceremonial sites of the Lakota virtually untouched by commercial expansion. Next month, however, the land “owned” by the Reynolds family goes up for sale to the highest bidders. (PHOTO COURTESY/RIVEREARTH.COM, via Native Sun News)

Brock Auction Co. Inc. announced the cancellation at the direction of the owners’ representative the day after the intervention request and just two days before the scheduled offering of Reynolds Prairie, or Pe’ Sla, advertised as “1,942 Acres of Prime Beautiful Black Hills Ranchland.”

In signing the written request on Aug. 22, Chief Oliver Red Cloud and Oglala Sioux Tribal Council President John Yellow Bird Steele said, “Due to the extremely short timeframe we have in addressing the auction of Pe’ Sla, we are under duress and have no alternative but to make this special request of you.”

Addressing a letter to Donald “Del” Laverdure, acting assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., through Robert Ecoffey, superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Pine Ridge Agency, the Lakota leaders stated:

“We are writing to you, as trustee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and protector of the tribe’s rights under its treaties, Article 8 of the 1877 Act and under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We need you to intervene in the auction of Pe’ Sla, that is scheduled for Aug. 25, 2012, by providing funds to the Oglala and other Sioux tribes to purchase the 1,900 acres of land that make up Pe’ Sla.”

Like all areas of the Black Hills, Pe’ Sla is very important to the Sioux Nations, the Oglala Sioux tribal president’s office noted in a public statement Aug. 26, explaining the request to the federal government.

“It is a ceremonial site for all seven bands of the Great Sioux Nation. It is located in the heart of the sacred Black Hills within the aboriginal territory of the Teton Sioux. Since time immemorial, the seven Teton Sioux bands, including the Oglala Sioux, have jointly used and occupied the 60-million-acre territory described in Article 5 of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty (11 Stat. 749), and including what is now known as the Black Hills of South Dakota,” the statement explains.

Sectioned into five 400-acre tracts for auction, the land takes its sale name from titleholders Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, whose address is in Hill City. Their predecessor, Joseph Reynolds, claimed the land under the Homestead Act of 1876 and passed it along through the Reynolds family, according to the tribe’s research.

However, the statement from the tribal president’s office stresses that the Great Sioux Nation has never ceded the Black Hills and maintains its claim on the area, based on treaty rights interpretation.

While signing the Aug. 22 letter, Steele noted: “The United States is a signatory of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights and bound to the provisions of that declaration. Not only that, they are bound to the Constitution of the United States, which states that treaties are the law of the land.

Read the rest of this entry »

As the wicked wildland fire season continues across the western U.S., the residents of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana are slowly, cautiously starting to rebuild.

Dean Braine and Ross Parker, left to right, build entry stairs on Thursday for Twilla Speelman’s newly acquired FEMA trailer in Ashland. (Photo by Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

Some of living in FEMA trailers, others off the generosity of neighbors after an early season wildfire ripped through the area in June, destroying dozens of homes and countless acres of farmland.

Billings Gazette reporter Susan Olp spent some time with families who lost everything in the Ash Creek fire as they readjust to life after the flames.

    ASHLAND — On the 20-mile drive between Lame Deer and Ashland, vivid, green blades of grass poke through charred ground.

    At the end of that drive, a white trailer sits on a lot where on June 26 the Ash Creek fire destroyed one family’s home and all of their belongings. The crumpled frame of that house sits behind its replacement.

    Both stand as symbols of resilience in the face of loss, and both also show the lingering effects of such a devastating event.

    In June, the nearly 325,000-acre Ash Creek fire destroyed 19 homes on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. The 171,444-acre Rosebud complex burned another two houses and two outbuildings; both of those houses are off the reservation.

    That toll doesn’t include the livestock destroyed in the rapidly moving fires or the rangeland scorched by the blazes.

    The focus of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Housing Authority has been to care for the families who survived the fire with not much more than the clothes on their backs.

    Of the 19 houses, 11 were primary residences, and the others are called summer homes because they are not for everyday use. Only three were insured.

    All of the homeless fire victims are at least in short-term housing, said Lafe Haugen, executive director of the tribal agency.

    “Every single family that lost everything, including their homes, has been temporarily relocated to a unit that is under the care of the Housing Authority,” Haugen said.

Read the rest of the story.

Jenna Cederberg

The newest national park in Canada is powerful for both is majestic beauty and sacred power.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve (Courtesy of Parks Canada, via ICTMN)

The Naats’ihch’oh National Park Reserve was designated as Canada’s 44th national park last week and First Nation’s representatives there are heralding the space as a very special place, according to Hans Tammemagi of ICTMN.

Frank Andrew, grand chief of the Sahtu Dene, explains:

    “Our ancestors travelled all the traditional trails,” Andrew said in a speech at the announcement, according to The Star, “over the mountains, with mothers, with grandmothers carrying babies and toddlers on their back.”

    A park reserve is the same as a national park except that it is subject to an aboriginal land claim, in this case by the Sahtu Dene and Métis of the Tulita District. In a reserve, traditional hunting, fishing, trapping and spiritual activities are allowed and local aboriginals play a role in the co-management of the park.

    Located in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories (NWT), the park’s 1,800-square-mile (4,850 square kilometers) will, together with the adjacent Nahanni National Park Reserve to the south, protect approximately 86 percent of the watershed of the South Nahanni River, one of the country’s prime wilderness rivers and a designated Canadian Heritage River.

. . .

    Located in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories (NWT), the park’s 1,800-square-mile (4,850 square kilometers) will, together with the adjacent Nahanni National Park Reserve to the south, protect approximately 86 percent of the watershed of the South Nahanni River, one of the country’s prime wilderness rivers and a designated Canadian Heritage River.

    The South Nahanni River, with its deep gorges and whitewater rapids, has been called the most visually diverse river on the planet. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, canoing down the river in 1972, dubbed it the “greatest river trip in the world.”

    The park is named after a mountain at the river’s headwaters that has strong spiritual significance for local Natives and means “stands like a porcupine” in the language of the Dene, who have lived and hunted in this area for thousands of years. Grizzly bears, mountain woodland caribou, mountain goats and other wildlife inhabit this spectacular northern wildernes area.

Jenna Cederberg

Taylor Bremner, left, of Browning and Shanae Gilham of Bozeman join with other new Native American students in a team-building exercise at the University of Montana on Wednesday. American Indian Student Services hosted the orientation to help incoming Indian students transition into college at UM. (Photo by Tom Bauer, of the Missoulian)

The University of Montana welcomed nealry 250 new Native students to campus this week with a “Moving Camp” – a day to help make the transition to college an easier one.

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston has the story:

    When the starry-eyed freshmen and older nontraditional students gathered Wednesday at the Payne Family Native American Center for orientation, they may as well have been strangers on the street.

    By the end of the morning, however, the University of Montana’s newest group of Native American students had made new friends and settled some frazzled nerves, just in time for the start of fall classes next week.

    Carmaleta Bird In Ground, a Crow elder who sat among them, signed up for writing and several classes in Native American studies. Not only is she a grandmother twice over who started but never completed college, she also speaks Crow, the language of her people, and she’s happy to demonstrate her skills.

    “My parents spoke Crow, my grandparents, my siblings,” she said. “I’ve been talking Crow to my daughter’s kids. I’m hoping they would at least understand it and keep it.”

    Bird In Ground gave a traditional prayer in Crow on Wednesday to kick off the fourth annual “Moving Camp” orientation for this year’s incoming class of Native American students.

    The class has grown in size over the years, making UM a far different place than when Steward Schildt first arrived at campus from Browning several years ago.

    “When I got here, only me and a handful of other Indian kids from Browning came to school here,” he said. “I come back and see this new building and these new services. It makes it so much easier for these kids to transition into college.”

    Schildt said it may be cliché, but it’s not easy leaving the reservation. Yet in the past few years, he said, it’s become more common to hear other Native Americans discuss the possibility of attending college and following through with their goals.

    He sees it as a positive trend and one that continues growing each year. He’s pleased with the ongoing changes taking place at UM, from the new Payne Family Native American Center to the school’s growing American Indian Student Services.

    “I can’t believe how many kids just from Browning are going to school now,” said Schildt. “When I graduated, it was a totally different kind of climate. Now, at least in Browning, Indian kids have accepted that other Indian kids are going to go to college.”

Read the rest of the story.

Jenna Cederberg

“All over Montana, you can walk into a bar, a café or even a school or a courthouse and just listen for a while as people talk to each other, and you will hear somebody, before very long, say something outrageously racist about the people who have lived in Montana for 10,000 years. So I decided I can’t turn the heart of a 45-year-old redneck. But if we start early enough. If we start with a tender child—so we passed Indian Education for All.”
-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer

The above remarks were made by Schweitzer at the Ohio Democratic Convention in July. ICTMN took a look at the speech in an article, finding that some appreciated the remarks as a stand against racism, some thought it unfairly characterized Montanans as racist:

    An editorial at doesn’t feel that Montana is as racist as Schweitzer says and that the governor didn’t do a good job in promoting the state as he should. “There is no denying there are racists in Montana, as there are in every other state,” it says. “But Schweitzer misrepresented the state as a place that is swarming with rednecks that are spewing outrageously racist remarks everywhere. That’s just not the case.”

Schweitzer answered some critics with a statement to Fox News, as ICTMN reports:

    “There are cultural dynamics that exist in many parts of our state and there are stereotypes that are perpetuated about our first Montanans that are unfair and untrue. Governor Schweitzer believes that we all have a lot to gain from learning about each other’s cultures, traditions and histories. History has shown this time-and-time again.”

ICTMN also posted a video of Schweitzer’s speech.

What do you think?

Jenna Cederberg


Crow Fair delights with dancing, tradition

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Uncategorized

Here’s a little powwow eye candy to start your Monday. Billings Gazette photographer Lloyd Blunk took these beautiful shots of dancers at last weekend’s 94th annual Crow Fair.

Willy Grey Bull, left, dances during the opening parade for the evening powwow at Crow Fair. (Photo by Lloyd Blunk/Billings Gazette)

Dancers circle the arena during the opening parade for Saturday evening’s powwow. (Photo by Lloyd Blunk/Billings Gazette)

Click here for a video of the Crow Fair. Here’s a story on the traditions of the event, that takes place each year in Crow Agency in southwestern Montana.

Jenna Cederberg


GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan’s American Indian outlook

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Uncategorized

Indian Country Today Media Network’s Rob Capriccioso has dug up a lot of history on Paul Ryan, who has been selected as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate.

It’s been highly publicized that Ryan’s wife may have Native roots, but as Capriccioso points out, his voting policy hasn’t always been Indian friendly.

    In his home state, Ryan hasn’t done much work on specific Indian issues while serving in Congress since 1999, but he notably asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) during the George W. Bush administration to approve an off-reservation casino for the Menominee Nation. The administration ultimately rejected the plan in January 2009, but the situation showed that Ryan is perhaps a quiet ally of Indian gaming, especially when it comes to the interests of his constituents.

    In recent sessions of Congress, he’s voted against the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; against the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Cobell settlement as part of separate bills; and against some Indian water rights settlements that were part of a relief package for Chile and Haiti earthquake victims. In most cases, his votes against Indian legislation came in instances where such legislation was attached to larger bills that had little or nothing to do with Indian affairs—a growing concern among some tribal advocates who say that Indian issues deserve to be voted on their own merits as stand-alone bills, which would make it easier to understand where legislators truly stand on such issues. This year, he voted in favor of the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act; in favor of the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act; and voted with his party in favor of a Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that failed to include Senate-passed tribal provisions that would increase tribal court jurisdiction authorities, but did allow for a battered Native woman – or a tribe on her behalf – to file in U.S. District Court for a protection order against her alleged abuser, whether Indian or not, who committed the abuse on Indian land.

Some have also questioned whether Ryan’s wife, Janna, really is part Chickasaw. Janna is not an enrolled tribal member.

    If Janna Ryan is indeed Native, the situation would seem reminiscent of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008, whose husband, Todd is Yup’ik and whose children are Alaska Native Corporation shareholders. Evidence currently supports the notion that, like Palin, Ryan has paid attention to his spouse’s heritage, and it seems to inform at least a small part of his outlook.

    What is known for sure is that Janna Ryan’s family has deep roots in Oklahoma’s Democratic and Indian-focused politics, with her first-cousin Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., set to become president of corporate development with the Chickasaw Nation at the end of his current term. While Boren is a Democrat, he has put out a statement supporting his cousin, as well as her husband, in the race against President Barack Obama: “Janna and I grew up together and I couldn’t be more proud of my cousin. Like my late mother after whom she is named, Janna is a wonderful parent to their children and will be Paul’s strongest supporter on the campaign trail. Paul has a firm moral compass and has always approached his job as a congressman with diligence and honesty. Having many friends on both sides of the aisle, he is an effective and talented leader. Although we belong in different political parties, I see Paul as a friend, a fellow hunter, and most importantly a family man.”

Will Paul Ryan’s Native voting history sway how you vote in November?

Jenna Cederberg

Andy Early, Courtney Agenten and Tom Milter sweep the Rosebud Battlefield with metal detectors. (Photo by Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

Lorna Thackeray, of the Billings Gazette, followed along on a recent trip a University of Montana archaeology team took to an important battlefield near the Battle of the Little Bighorn:

A week before the Battle of the Little Bighorn in the summer of 1876, a much larger and longer battle raged in the hilly country on the Rosebud River 40 miles away.

Somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 Sioux and Cheyenne challenged a U.S. Army column of 1,300 soldiers, scouts and civilians in a fight that lasted about six hours. In contrast, Lt. Col. George Custer’s battalion had only about 700 troopers in the June 25, 1876, Little Bighorn battle that probably lasted less than two hours.

Both sides claimed victory. The Sioux and Cheyenne, tired and hungry, eventually decided the fight was over and went back to their village on Reno Creek. Gen. George Crook held the field but left as soon as the dead were buried.

He’d left his supply camp on Goose Creek near Sheridan, Wyo., the day before, expecting a quick trip into Montana. His men brought only three days’ rations, a blanket and 100 rounds of ammunition each. During the fight they had expended 25,000 rounds. Crook decided he needed to go back to Wyoming and resupply.

Change in plans

That took a critical element out of the Army’s plan to form a three-pronged pincer with columns from Wyoming, Fort Ellis near Bozeman and Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck. They planned to rendezvous somewhere between the Powder and Little Bighorn rivers and force the Sioux and Cheyenne onto reservations in the Dakotas. Custer and the 7th Cavalry were in the column marching from North Dakota.

Overshadowed by the disaster at Little Bighorn, the Rosebud fight, one of the biggest battles ever fought on the Northern Plains, slid more or less into obscurity.

Mapping it out

But a clash that big had to leave its mark on the land. A University of Montana archaeology field school, now in its second summer, is scouring the landscape this week looking for clues to how that monumental clash on the Rosebud was fought.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hearing gathers ideas to help better protect sacred sites

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Uncategorized

What, exactly, will it take to protect sacred sites on Native lands across the U.S.?

Many tribal members aren’t satisfied with current methods and policies.

The U.S. Interior Department hold the first of several nationwide meetings on the subject Monday in New Mexico, Associated Press reporter Susan Montoya Bryan reports.

    About four dozen tribal leaders from New Mexico, Arizona and elsewhere packed a meeting room in Albuquerque for the first of a few listening sessions planned by the U.S. Interior Department.

    Pointing to the importance of sacred sites to religious and cultural practices, the department is aiming to develop some kind of uniform policy for addressing the protection of such sites. That could mean a consultation policy specific to sacred sites or changes in law that would allow for greater protections, officials said.

Defining “sacred site” might actually be a detriment to protections, one meeting attendee said.

    As part of gauging Indian Country’s concerns with current protections of sacred sites, the agency has asked tribes to comment on whether it should attempt to define the term “sacred site.”

    Santa Ana Pueblo Gov. Ernest Lujan said that would be near impossible, especially considering future legal ramifications that could come from adopting a narrow definition.

    “We’re not only looking at a hillside or rock feature,” he said. “We’re looking at water, we’re looking at land, we’re looking at plants.”

    Dion Killsback, counselor to the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, acknowledged that developing a policy for addressing sacred sites is made even more difficult given the secrecy surrounding many native religious and cultural practices.

Interior officials have also planned meetings in Montana, Minnesota and Connecticut, the AP reported.

Jenna Cederberg

The hard work of a historian has helped a Pine Ridge family find the remains of a Oglala Lakota man who died in Connecticut 112 years ago and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Albert Afraid of Hawk came to Danbury on June 28, 1900 as part of Buffalo Bill’s touring show. (Courtesy photo via the New-Times)

Donna Christopher, of the News-Times in Danbury, Conn., reports that Robert Young of the Danbury Museum and Historical Society helped identify the remains of Albert Afraid of Hawk, then tracked down his ancestors.

    The Oglala Lakota man, 20-year-old Albert Afraid of Hawk, was one of Buffalo Bill’s Rough Riders on a New England tour that came to Danbury on June 28, 1900. The tour arrived from New Haven for a one-night show. He died of food poisoning on June 30, 1900, according to genealogical research by Robert Young of the Danbury Museum and Historical Society.

Young’s research shows that Afraid of Hawk died after eating bad canned corn.

Afraid of Hawk’s family members will travel to Danbury in late August to perform a spiritual ceremony to remove and retrieve the remains.

    While some of the single graves assigned to indigents at Wooster Cemetery had no markers, a record existed of names to match the numbers and that’s how Young determined which grave belonged to Afraid of Hawk.
    Certain measurements at the grave site confirmed ones associated with Afraid of Hawk’s name on a card on file, Young said. Contractors and others have donated time and expenses toward reuniting Afraid of Hawk with his family, he said. Young also hopes to defray additional costs to the family, including travel expenses and the shipping of Afraid of Hawk’s remains.

Jenna Cederberg