Archive for November, 2012

By Vince Devlin, of the Missoulian:

“Belief” is a one-woman play featuring Salish actress Julie Cajune. (Poster courtesy of KwKwusm Theater Project)

BIGFORK – Julie Cajune was just 6 years old when a great-uncle showed up at the house with another man he’d met at a bar in Ronan.

“The man was crying over this old packhorse he had that he just loved,” Cajune says. “He was moving, he couldn’t take the horse and he couldn’t find anybody to sell it to.”

At first glance, her family was an unlikely candidate to take in the horse.

“We were so poor, we had no bikes, no car, no telephone,” Cajune says. “And here Uncle Benny comes with this guy towing a horse trailer.”

Well, one glance at the animal in the trailer and Cajune was ready to promise her mother she’d do any amount of chores if they could keep it.

“I was 6, and it was love at first sight,” she says. “At that age, I believed the horse was a gift from God. We were poor, we didn’t even have bikes like the other kids, and I thought the horse was God’s way of evening things out.”

Cajune was one of five sisters living with a single mother who often took in other children as well. The girls talked their mother into taking in Star, too, “even though we had no saddle, no tack,” Cajune says.

What a great horse Star was. He would come when called. The girls rode him bareback, and if they fell off, he’d stop and wait patiently until they had climbed back on. Already old when they got him, he lived out his last 10 years with the family.

It’s one of many stories you can hear on Friday, Dec. 7, when Cajune premieres her one-woman play, “Belief,” at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.

“The theme is that of the things you believe in, that which is unseen is the most real,” Cajune says. “It may be your belief in yourself, in others, in life, in love, in the spiritual. Some things may happen along the way that cause us to lose our beliefs, but this is about having belief, losing it, and how to recover it.”


It’s been 20 years since Cajune, a Salish woman, was on the stage. That came in the Victor Charlo/Zan Agzigian-penned “Trickster at Dirty Corner,” a play about Native Americans navigating the world of college education.

“It was great fun,” says Cajune, who adds that they staged the play in St. Ignatius, Missoula, Helena and Spokane.

“But we didn’t have a director,” she says, laughing, “and we really needed one!”

So when Cajune, whose W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded HeartLines Project is researching, developing and publishing tribally specific stories and histories, had the idea of incorporating Native women’s stories into a live performance, the first thing she did was contact a director.

Linda Grinde suggested expanding the scope beyond the stories Cajune had collected, and looking at contemporary and personal stories as well. Grinde brought writer Jennifer Finley on board, and also asked Cajune to do some writing.

“I was not keen on the idea,” Cajune says. “I do a lot of research, where the writing involves finding a document and working from a known place. But I went along with it because I believed.”

She wrote her own stories, comparing her versions of events, such as the day Star arrived, with what her mother remembered.

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First Cobell payments likely to be sent out within month

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The first payments from the landmark Cobell land trust misuse settlement will soon be distributed to an estimated 350,000 Natives around the country.

    Approximately 350,000 beneficiaries could start receiving $1,000 checks by Christmas as the first part of the settlement goes forward, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

    . . .

    The agreement will pay out $1.5 billion to two classes of beneficiaries. 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 based on the activity in their trust accounts.

Nearly 12,000 Alaska Natives are elligible to receive payments, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

    However, payments to most Alaska Natives would not be based on an accounting of such royalties. Rather, most payments in Alaska would be “basic allocations” of $500 each in exchange for dropping any potential claims against the federal government, according to officials who described the settlement to Congress in 2009.

    A Department of the Interior official testified then that 5,365 Alaska Natives were included in the case.

    Attorneys representing the plaintiffs estimated the number could be 12,000 or more. Many Alaska Natives obtained land individually under the 1906 Native Allotment Act, but decisions about the land remained subject to Interior Department approval. The act gave each adult Native head-of-household the right to apply for up to 160 acres of “non-mineral land” until 1971, when Congress ended the program with passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Elouise Cobell fought for 17 years for the settlement before she died of cancer last year.

    The Blackfeet leader observed that those who leased Indian land made money from its natural resources, while the Indians themselves remained in poverty with no accounting of the royalties from that land that were held in trust for them by the government.

    . . .

    “We all are happy that this settlement can finally be implemented,” lead attorney Dennis Gingold said in a statement Monday. “We deeply regret that Ms. Cobell did not live to see this day.”

Jenna Cederberg

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are one of the last reservations in Montana to draw up a water compact to officially define its water rights.

Ulitmately, it must be OK’d by the Montana legislature. The compact has been drafted and is up for public review now, a process that has so far shown that many aren’t happy with the compact draft.

Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin reports on what worries that residents are raising:

    ST. IGNATIUS – You don’t have to go far to find people who aren’t happy with – and some who flat out oppose – the proposed water compact between Montana, the United States and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes that’s up for public review right now.

    Many are people who grow and raise your food.

    A lot of Mission Valley farmers and ranchers fear the water they’ll be allotted if the compact goes through will cripple their operations.

    Some say it will do worse than that.

    “The end is near, no doubt about it,” says Harley Hettick of Dixon, who has grown melons for nearly a quarter of a century on his farm on the Flathead Reservation. “Dixon Melons is just about history.”

    “You’re hanging us out to dry,” rancher Jerry Laskody says.

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Community comes together every week in support of homeless

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Some of the attendees at the weekly Sunday meal for the homeless Nov. 18 included, from left, Rodney Iron Hawk Sr., Thomas Twiss, Jay No Heart, Nelson Perry, Devin Lewis and Sun Bear. (Photo by Evelyn Red Lodge/Native Sun News)

Story and photos by Evelyn Red Lodge, Native Sun News correspondent

RAPID CITY — An entire, dedicated community of all races rethinks the definition of homelessness and much more every Sunday in Rapid City.

A meal for the homeless is served every Sunday at 11 a.m. — rain, snow or shine — across the street from the open field just east of the Prairie Market grocery store, which is located at 11 New York St., in the extreme west end of North Rapid City’s Roosevelt Park.

Between 50 and 75 people including volunteers come at various times during the weekly event until the food is gone.

Native Sun News spoke with several homeless citizens and community volunteers this past Sunday, Nov. 18, at the event.

Several Oglala Lakota College students under associate professor Bryant High Horse attended. One such volunteer student, Lacy Thompson, said, “Earlier, someone said there are 500 students in the Rapid City area schools that are homeless. A lot of times when you say the word ‘homeless’ you think of the person you see on the street that you walk by.

“A lot of families came by last week and pulled up in vehicles. They are staying here and there with various relatives and needed to eat. There were a lot of infants and toddlers looking for jackets, gloves and clothes,” Thompson continued.

“A lot of the clothes we had here were for adults. I felt guilty; I didn’t think of the little ones, and I don’t think most people do. Many students … live with relatives here and there or with five or six families to a house. Many people don’t think about that either.

“I know when I was younger we would go to school just to eat, and we would go to the weekend food programs.”

Thompson is not alone thanks to a retired nurse for Rapid City Area Schools, Nancy Zent, who High Horse said initiated this event years ago.

High Horse, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member, explained this is not an event just to help one race of people, but a community of all races sharing an opportunity to express their values as compassionate beings.

Via telephone, he said, “(Zent has) been doing this many years, and I used to work with her. Some of her friends joined her and then I joined her with my classes.”

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Escorted by the tribal honor guard, pallbearers wheel Octave Finley’s casket from the St. Ignatius Longhouse to the historic Catholic Mission on Monday afternoon followed by family and other mourners for the war dance chief, who died of cancer Thursday. (Photo by Kurt Wilson/of the Missoulian)

By Kim Briggeman of the Missoulian :

ST. IGNATIUS – They revved up their Harleys on a gray, blustery afternoon and gave Octave Finley one last ride Monday.

Born here to a traditional family and raised with Salish as his first language, the war dance chief and cultural guardian was laid to rest in Snyelmn Sntmtmne cemetery after an unusual motorcycle escort from the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission.

Finley, 84, died Thursday of cancer that, in its later stages, kept him off the bikes he loved but never stopped him from his customary place at the head of powwow grand entries and graduation processions at Salish Kootenai College.

“He did so many things,” marveled Finley’s wife Edna, a Choctaw from Alabama who said she met Octave while waitressing at a drive-in in Oklahoma when he was in the Air Force. They were married for 51 years.

The hole that Finley’s death leaves is gaping, said Tony Incashola, director of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.

“We are running out of elders like Octave, who I call the keepers of our cultural treasures – our language, our culture, our history; those people who make sure that we understand the way it was,” said Incashola, who delivered the eulogy to some 175 people.

Even more filed past Finley’s open casket in the Longhouse a block away to pay their respects to him and his survivors, including Edna and five children. The traditional wake closing lasted more than two hours, delaying the start of the funeral Mass by 45 minutes.

The turnout came as no surprise to those who knew Finley and recognized the role he played in his majestic Mission Valley home.

“For 84 years, he was a central figure in all of our lives,” Incashola said.

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Actor Noah Watts, who plays Connor in “Assassins Creed III”, is descended from the Crow and Blackfeet nations. (Photo courtesy of Muse Management, via NPR)

Connor Kenway is the half-Mohawk and half-English hero who sets out to avenge his lost village in the “Assassins Creed III” video game.

As NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates explains, it’s a rare occasion to find a Native hero in video games. It’s the first time “Assassins Creed” creators have depicted one.

When they set out to bring Connor Kenway to life, they enlisted native actor Noah Watts to help.

    By placing the action in Colonial America during the Revolutionary War, (Alex Hutchinson, the creative director of Assassin’s Creed III,) and his colleagues at Ubisoft, the Canadian company that produces “Assassin’s Creed,” were give the chance to develop a Native American as the game’s central character. They christened him Connor Kenway.

    Then, Hutchinson says, they ran into one problem they hadn’t anticipated.

    “You realized that every Native American actor in America has been in Twilight,” Hutchinson said. “So you had to really search for someone who was a unique, strong voice who people wouldn’t be familiar with.”

    Enter Noah Watts, a Native American actor who wasn’t part of the Twilight cast. In the studio, soft-spoken Watts became one with Connor.

    “His native name, his Mohawk name, is Ratohnhake:ton, which means Life Scratcher,” Watts says of the character he plays.

    Connor is half-Mohawk and half-English.

    “I have known a world of peace and remarkable spirit, a world which was taken from me,” Watts says in the soft tenor he gives the Connor character in the game.

    After his people were slaughtered and his village burned, Connor began a yearslong quest for justice

Watts is from Montana and as the Missoula Independent reports, spent time during his childhood on the Crow Reservation.

As Bates’ story explains, Watt had to learn Mohawk to convincingly play Kenway.

    “It was very difficult, the language is very beautiful,” Watts says. “But honestly, that was one of the most difficult days.”

    A Mohawk consultant, Thomas Deer, was hired to coach Watts on the Mohawk language. He also made sure the onscreen details of Connor’s Mohawk life were correct, from how the village looked to what customs villagers observed.

    Making sure to correctly portray Mohawk life during the Colonial period was exhausting, but Watts and the Assassin’s Creed creators believe it was worth the effort to depict the authentic culture of a specific nation.

Jenna Cederberg


Colville Tribes managing wolves in its own way

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Nc’icn wolf pack male. (Courtesy of the Colville Tribe, via ICTMN)

Washington state officials have one way of dealing with wolves. Meanwhile, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, as ICTMN’s Jack McNeel reports, have another.

    Off the reservation the issue is whether killing the wolves was warranted, even after they became accustomed to feeding on livestock instead of hunting game. This was the logic behind the annihilation of the Wedge pack earlier this fall.

    On the Colville reservation the underlying issue is whether there are too many wolves to be a danger to game such as elk, deer and moose, which tribal members hunt for subsistence. Colville methods include soliciting tribal members’ input, closely monitoring the wolves’ development and using killing as an absolute last resort. If it has to be done at all, it would be accompanied by the appropriate cultural ceremonies.

    Two wolves were captured on the reservation in early June, a male and female, and pups were heard yipping and howling. That pack has been named the Nc’icn, the Okanogan word for wolf. On September 2 another wolf was captured about 25 or 30 miles west. Trail cameras had routinely been photographing two wolves in the area. Tribal biologists Eric Krausz and Donovan Antoine caught one of those, though they are hesitant to assume it’s a new pack.

The biologists heard from more than 200 people when they put out a “wolf reporting form” to help gauge tribal members’ sentiment when it comes to managing wolves. The results, McKeel wrote, were interesting.

    Thirty percent of respondents said that spiritual or cultural importance was very important, while 47 percent said it was of little or no importance. Asked what they would consider to be sound reasons for harvesting a wolf, just 16 percent said for ceremonial or spiritual purposes such as regalia, whereas 40 percent responded that it would be to help promote healthy elk, deer and moose populations.

    Predation on cattle didn’t seem to be a big concern. Only 20 percent listed that as their biggest fear, and in another question asking if the tribe should pay damages for confirmed cattle depredation, nearly 64 percent said no. When it came to wolf management, results showed a high preference for hunting by tribal members and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department biologists. Only 13 percent felt wolves should not be hunted at all. Poisoning was definitely not desired, with only 16 percent saying it was acceptable. These results will all factor into management plans should wolf populations continue to increase.

Balance is crucial in any management plan, the biologists said.

    Besides the need to manage the animals, there is a ceremonial side to wolf management, if it comes to that, Krausz said.

    “I think there will be a lot of excitement about the opportunity to harvest a gray wolf at some point,” he said. “There’s a cultural side too, dress and dance are involved with that historically and it’s an opportunity for tribal members they haven’t had for almost a century.”

Jenna Cederberg


First Native astronaut aims to inspire college students

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John Herrington, the first Native American to travel to space, tells the audience to never give up and always follow their dreams during a lecture Wednesday evening in the CUB. (Photo by Ed Deocampo/The Daily Evergreen)

The first Native man to enter space was on another mission last week, hoping to students at Washington State University to reach for the stars.

The Daily Evergreen’s Kelly Montgomery covered John Herrington (Chicksaw Nation) speech at WSU.

    In 2002, (Herrington) participated in the 16th shuttle mission to the International Space Station, where he spent 13 days, 18 hours and 47 minutes aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. He was only allowed to bring a few items into space. He brought an eagle feather.

    “After that week goes away, you miss that feeling that you were there, and you want to go back,” Herrington said. “There are certain things about it that will never, ever go away.”

    The WSU Cougar Leadership Program in association with ASWSU Ku-Ah-Mah, the Native American student association, hosted the event in the CUB Senior Ballroom as part of Native American Heritage Month.

Herrington was the first in his family to attended college. The first year was rough.

    Herrington ended up flunking out of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs after his first semester.

    “You change a lot in your first year of college,” he said.

    Following a break from school, Herrington graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in applied mathematics. He would soon discover his love for flying.

    After 22 years as a military pilot, Herrington was selected for NASA in 1996.

    “I would’ve loved to do it for longer,” he said.

    Herrington was diagnosed with osteoporosis, and then made a very hard decision to leave NASA, he said. His biggest accomplishment since then was in 2008 when he decided to bike across the country to promote student interest in the sciences. It took three months and nearly 42,000 miles.

    Shae Gamble, ASWSU Ku-Ah-Mah co-chair, coordinated with the Cougar Leadership Program to promote the event.

    “I’m so thrilled we had this opportunity,” Gamble said. “He’s Native and a powerful, inspirational person.”

    Gamble said the Native American community sometimes lacks positive role models.

    “This was a perfect opportunity to have someone to look up to that has done great things with their lives,” she said.

Jenna Cederberg


Juneau still waiting for race results

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Denise Juneau, Montana state superintendent of public instruction, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

It may be some time before Denise Juneau learns if she’s been re-elected as Montana superintendent of public instruction.

Juneau is the first Native American woman to win a statewide election in U.S. history. She was challenged this year by Republican Sandy Welch.

The race is still too close to call and Yellowstone County is still counting votes. Elections officials hope to have the ballots counted by Thursday night.

Democrat Juneau is a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes.

Welch will call for a recount if the final count is close enough.

Watch for updates in the race.

Jenna Cederberg

Here’s a rundown of some of the key races won last night thanks to what ICTMN calls a crucial Native voter turnout. Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, was among the candidates who was aided, Rob Capriccioso Writes.

    In the days leading up to the November 6 election, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he was relying on the Native American vote to help him defeat challenger GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg.

    Just as in 2006, Tester pulled out a close victory, where the margin of votes from reservations in his state likely put him over the edge, according to Native political observers.

    American Indian organizers, including Tom Rodgers, a Blackfeet citizen and tribal lobbyist with Carlyle Consulting, worked hard to secure Indian votes, canvassing the state and expressing support for Tester’s efforts on behalf of Indians. Several tribal citizens also filed suit in Montana to have satellite-voting offices opened on reservations—a battle that goes on now that the election has concluded.

    “Every vote mattered,” Tester spokeswoman Andrea Telling said when asked whether the Native vote put him over the top.

Heidi Heitkamp,D-ND, defeated Republican Rick Berg in a very close North Dakota Senate race, Capriccioso wrote.

    Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer, believes Native efforts and votes for Heitkamp tipped the scales in her favor. Tex Hall, chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes, hosted a get-out-the-vote rally on her behalf on his reservation the Saturday before the election, and also campaigned for her.

    “Sometimes the good candidates really win,” Stearns said. “Even a Democrat in a Republican state.”

    Joe Valandra, an economic consultant to tribes, said both Tester and Heitkamp owe it to Indians to work hard for positive tribal agendas in Washington. “I think they should be expected to give these issues the full attention and energy of their offices,” he said. “[Their] successes in Montana and North Dakota are directly tied to Indian votes.”

Jenna Cederberg