Archive for December, 2012


Graffiti from Native occupation restored at Alcatraz

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Calling it an important part of Alcatraz’s history, the federal government had helped restore a graffiti-laden water tower on the famous island.

The newly rebuilt water tower with the restored graffiti. Native Americans were invited to participate in tracing over the final block letters. (Photo by Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times)

The graffiti, as New York Times reporter Malia Wollan writes, was left on the tower during 1969 Native occupation of Alcatraz.

    (The) National Park Service unveiled a rebuilt water tower with bold red letters reading, “Peace and Freedom. Welcome. Home of the Free Indian Land.” The freshly painted inscription is an exact replica of graffiti left during the 19 months when Native American activists commandeered the wind-scoured island four decades ago and claimed it as their own.

The restoration work cost around $1.5 million. The parks service invited tribal members to help retrace the letters. Wollan reported that officials believe it is the only “example of restored, modern-day graffiti.”

    In the early morning of Nov. 20, 1969, some 80 Native Americans sailed to Alcatraz and set up camp. They would stay on the craggy outcropping until federal marshals removed them on June 11, 1971. The group’s demands included establishing a Native American university and cultural center.

    “We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for $24 in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago,” read their proclamation. That other island was, of course, Manhattan, bought from Native Americans by the Dutch in 1626.

    Soon after their arrival, the group found buckets of terra-cotta-colored paint, believed to be left over from the nearby Golden Gate Bridge. Some took to spelling out declarations of native sovereignty and painting raised red fists on the island’s dilapidated prison buildings, including the water tower.

Eloy Martinez, 72, (Southern Ute) was an occupier and still visits the island often.

    Every year, Native Americans from across the country — including many of the original occupiers — still gather on Alcatraz for sunrise ceremonies on Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. But Mr. Martinez likes to be on the island on ordinary days too, when thousands of tourists disembark with iPhones aloft and cameras slung across their chests.

    Mostly, he talks about history. But sometimes, he cannot help but tell passers-by that many Native Americans still face crippling poverty, high unemployment and a lack of resources and opportunities, just as they did in 1969.

    “Truthfully,” said Mr. Martinez. “I thought more would have changed by now.”

Jenna Cederberg

Members of several local groups took a stand on the Pablo bridge in Pablo, Mont., last week to show their support for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.

Members of the Save the Wiyabi Project and Seventh Generation hold up signs to the Pablo Bridge overpass. (Photo by Lailani Upham, Char-Koosta News)

As the Char-Koosta’s Lailani Upham reports, Violence Against Women Act is in jeopardy of never being renewed as Congress fights over certain provisions.

    The VAWA Native provision will allow tribes to take on the cases that fall below the federal radar. Tribes would then be granted authority to arrest offenders and prosecute the crimes through tribal courts, adding to their current jurisdiction over tribal members and other Native Americans.

That’s what brought roughly 35 people to the Pablo bridge last week.

    Amy Stiffarm, a member of the native Youth Leadership Alliance, stated the reason for the groups to come together and make a literal stand on a freezing winter day on the Pablo overpass. “We want to promote independence and help reverse historical trauma for Indian women. Recently propaganda and media trying to hyper sexualize Indian women has spun out of control. Empowering Native women and restoring the traditional balance of power could have a great effect on current social issues in Indian country. Creating awareness about these issues, supporting victims of violence, and protecting our women is a great place to start.”

    Lauren Chief Elk, cofounder of Save Wiyabi Project said, “The realities of reservation violence are horrifying.”

    Stiffarm stated, “This event was organized to send a message to leaders in Congress to demand that the Violence Against Women Act either be passed with the tribal criminal jurisdiction provisions or not passed at all. Organizers also hoped to raise awareness to the local community about these issues and also show support for victims of crimes associated with violence against women.”

    Stiffarm’s sign, which read “Rez Out VAWA,” was to contribute to what she had learned from Salish Kootenai College that emphasized the sacredness of women and how they are the center of the family, she said.

    “There is a 1 in 3 chance that I will be a victim of domestic violence in my lifetime. That’s a heavy burden to carry and it’s causing Native women to feel scared, not sacred. The statistics are against us but that doesn’t mean our lawmakers need to be too. They should be fighting harder to protect us. I want congress to pass a VAWA that will keep Native women living on the reservation safe.”

Jenna Cederberg

Here’s a noticed the “Cobell/Indian Trust Settlement Fund” sent out Thursday via Bill McAllister:

The $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar settlement is approved and payments to Class Members have begun.The Settlement resolves a class action lawsuit that claims that the federal government violated its duties by mismanaging trust accounts and individual Indian trust lands.

Payments of $1,000 to the Historical Accounting Class are underway.The Historical Accounting Class includes individual Indians who were alive on September 30, 2009, and who had an open IIM account anytime between October 25, 1994, and September 30, 2009, with at least one cash transaction in it.The process of considering claims for the Trust Administration Class is ongoing.

The final deadline for Class Members to file a claim form for the Trust Administration Class is March 1, 2013.

The Trust Administration Class includes individual Indians alive on September 30, 2009, who either had an IIM account recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems anytime from January 1, 1985 to September 30, 2009, orcan demonstrate ownership in land held in trust or restricted status as of September 30, 2009.

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Native American Times’ Jessica Kinzer reports on new documentary set to be released in January.

Sousa on the Rez: Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum,” is documentary aiming to break down stereotypes.

Kinzer explains:

“Sousa on the Rez” is a American Public Television film. (Photo courtesy of Native American Public Telecommunications)

    LINCOLN, Neb. – The phrase “Native American music” may not invoke tubas, trumpets, and Sousa marches, but marching-band music has been a part of Native culture for more than a century. Vision Maker Media is proud to announce the release of the “Sousa on the Rez: Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum,” a film by PBS-veteran filmmaker Cathleen O’Connell. Combining portraits of contemporary bands and archival material, the half-hour documentary offers an unexpected view into this little-known musical scene.

    The film profiles two contemporary Indian community marching bands—the Iroquois Indian Band of upstate New York, and the Fort Mojave Tribal Band of Needles, California. The documentary traces the origins of these groups to their respective foundings over a century ago and uncovers a secret history of the 20th century, when “all-Indian bands” toured the U.S. and abroad.

    “I was working for the Fort Mojave Tribe in the summer of 2001 collecting oral histories of its Tribal members. The first story I was asked to record was that of the Fort Mojave Band. I had never heard of Native bands playing Western-style music and I immediately knew there was a great untold story here,” recounts O’Connell.

    Music is one arena where even today, Native Americans continue to face stereotypes within American culture. One common assumption is that Native people only play limited types of music and instruments such as drums or flutes.

    The Fort Mojave Tribal Band sees it as their mission to combat these stereotypes. Recently, they celebrated their centennial and are still pursuing the same goals as their founders did—to break down prejudice and discrimination using music as a vehicle.

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Evo Morales (Courtesy of Indian Country Today Media Network)

Dec. 21, 2013, has been the topic of much conversation during the past years, as popular culture has identified it as the end of the world.

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has another take on the meaning of the day, according to Indian Country Today Media Network’s Sara Shahriari.

Morales spoke in September at the United Nations, saying Dec. 21 is the “end of the non-time and the beginning of time. It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha, the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood, it is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism – 21 of December this year.”

It is a new time to “vivir bien” or for people to begin living well, Shahriari wrote.

    ‘Vivir bien’ is often defined by the Andean nation’s leaders as pursuing the collective good in balance with the Earth, and contrasted with ‘living better,’ which is seeking to amass wealth at the expense of the planet or other people.

Morales invited countries to use Dec. 13 as virtual discussion day to talk about topics such as the global crisis of capitalism, the mold of civilization, world government, capitalism, socialism, community,
 culture of life and the climate crisis, relationship of the human being with nature.

    “It is the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness, it is the end of division and the beginning of unity, and this is a theme to be developed. That is why we invite all of you, those of you who bet on mankind, we invite those who want to share their experiences for the benefit of mankind,” Morales said in his address.

Jenna Cederberg


Federal memorandum aims to protect sacred Native sites

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Four federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding in early December pledging to help protect and increase access to sacred sites on federal land.

The Washington Post, via the Associated Press, reported on the memorandum signing on Dec. 6.

    The memo signed by the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Interior also calls for improving tribal access to sites that are on federal land.
    . . .
    The agencies plan to work during the next five years to raise awareness about sacred sites. That includes developing a website, a training program for federal employees and guidance for managing sacred sites.

But, as the AP reports, nothing can be done for the sacred set of rock carvings in California’s Sierra Nevada.

    The agreement comes just weeks after thieves made off with rock carvings from a sacred site in California’s Sierra Nevada. The site on the Volcanic Tableland north of Bishop, Calif., was what land managers called one of the most significant rock art sites in the region. The local Paiute tribe uses the site for ceremonies.

    Tribal leaders have said they’re appalled at what happened to the petroglyphs, and the Bureau of Land Management is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

    Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service also announced Thursday the findings of a report on sacred sites. It includes a list of recommendations for working more closely with tribes in the protection, interpretation and access to such sites.

    “American Indian and Alaska Native values and culture have made our nation rich in spirit and deserve to be honored and respected,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

Jenna Cederberg


Rosebud Sioux buy 44 acres in Paha Sapa near Pe’ Sla

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From Native Sun News:

RAPID CITY — Just a few days after finalizing the sale of Pe’ Sla, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe purchased 44 acres of Pennington County land west of Deerfield Road at auction Dec. 4.

A spokeswoman for the tribe on Dec. 7 confirmed the 44-acre land purchase.

The purchase was made via telephone by tribal Treasurer Wayne Boyd for $3,600 per acre, according to news reports. The tribe will pay an additional $14,400 for the 10 percent auction fee and a $10 filing fee, for a total of $158,410.

The 44-acre purchase has limited access and is about 6,850 feet in elevation. Pennington County owned the land for about 100 years, but did not know that until recently and decided to auction it to get it off the books.

The tribe outbid a Rapid City dentist for the land.
The 44-acre parcel will be used for a small home or cabin for the person who will be the caretaker of the sacred Pe’ Sla land, which is also situated within Pennington County.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott was reached via telephone in Washington, D.C., but declined comment, instead referring Native Sun News to Boyd for comment.

Boyd, however, did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

“Buy Native” logo by Victor Pascual, via ICTMN.

The six weeks leading up to Christmas can be a big six weeks for Native businesses – if people take seriously a pledge to “buy Native.”

Dr. Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe explained the importance of buying Native in a piece for Indian Country Today Media Network.

    During the holidays we spend billions of dollars on gifts and decor. A lot of that money goes to huge companies (Walmart and Apple come to mind). A lot of these huge companies outsource their jobs, and little of that money actually trickles down to the workers who produce the items. Several companies also use sweatshops (such as Nike, click here for a partial listing of companies down with sweatshoppin’).

The power of purchasing can be huge, Metcalfe writes.

    I’m going to be writing on my blog, Beyond Buckskin, about my personal goal to buy only Native-made gifts, or items bought from Native-owned companies, etc, with the goal of maximizing the amount of money going to Native businesses.

    The first post, which launched on Monday, offered an initial list of our favorite Native-run places to shop (artists’ sites, physical stores, and online sites). You can find that list by clicking here (, where it will remain forever, so you can shop Native-made items anytime of the year even when the holidays are gone. We will be adding to this list in the weeks to come, looking to promote everyone as much as possible. Upcoming posts will be filled with Holiday Gift Guides for tiny tots to grandpas and everyone in between. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to buying Native, and, ultimately, supporting Native communities.

. . .

    Please share this post and join me and countless others in this pledge to BUY NATIVE and to buy at least one Native American-made gift in the weeks to come.

Happy shopping!

Jenna Cederberg

Joe Pablo is a world-record setting weightlifter who has only weeks to live. He shared his story with Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin this week.

Joe Pablo holds a few of the several medals and trophies he has won in competitive weightlifting since turning to the sport in 1998. (Photo by Kurt Wilson/of the Missoulian)

Pablo’s hope is that other tribal members will follow his lead and inspiration to become competitive in the sport.

By Vince Devlin, of the Missoulian:

ARLEE – Joe Pablo’s life has been a series of ups and downs the past few years, often with 300-plus pounds of weights attached to the barbells he was hoisting off his chest.

The ups? Well, for one, on July 30, 2011, Pablo twice broke the world bench press record for his age and weight class at the World Association of Benchers and Dead-Lifters Meet in Las Vegas.

Aiming to better the mark of 331.5 pounds, he did so on his opening lift of 333, then broke the world record again with a second lift of 341.5.

The downs? Four days later he checked into a Missoula hospital, where a scheduled biopsy determined he had lung cancer.

Further tests went on to reveal that – no matter how strong his arms were – his heart wasn’t healthy enough for him to undergo the necessary cancer surgery.

Pablo also had four blocked arteries in his heart.

This, mind you, was on top of the diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis Pablo had already been battling for years.

Surgeons inserted stents in arteries that were 75 and 85 percent blocked, skipped another that was 100 percent closed but where his heart had “reworked” the flows on its own, and used medications to deal with the fourth artery, which was 50 percent blocked.

They sent him home and told him they’d recall him, open his chest and deal with the cancer in a month.

“We’d just got to the top of Evaro Hill after getting out of the cath lab, and Joe just started laughing out loud,” his wife of 23 years, Melinda, says. “I thought, ‘Well, whatever medication they put him on is going to be fun.’ But he kept laughing, and I so I asked him what was so funny.”

“You know what,” her husband told her. “I just set two world records in one day with pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and four blocked arteries. Imagine what I’ll do when I’m well!”

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Inuit welcome jobs Mary River iron mine will bring

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Environmental assessments have cleared the way for a huge iron ore mine on Baffin Island in Nunavut’s Eastern Arctic and Inuits there are, for the most part, encouraged by the economic impact the mine could have.

As CBC News reports, with the mine comes many jobs.

    The Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which owns the land where the mine will be built, is negotiating a benefits agreement for Baffin Inuit and the key priority is jobs.

    “We need to train a lot of people to have the opportunity to have a job in the mine site,” said Solomon Awa, project co-ordinator for the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

    Paul Quassa of Igloolik said he wasn’t surprised by the news of the approval, saying he has known for many years that the Mary River site would eventually be mined.

    He said even the elders in his community support it as a way to get the younger generation into the wage economy.

    “We’re not relying on the land as much,” he said. “Our children don’t rely on it as much.”

Other leaders are waiting to see what, exactly, the impact of the mine will be.

    John Graham, mayor of Iqaluit, said the mine’s potential impact on the city is still not clear. Baffinland has an office in Iqaluit, and work crews heading to the site move in and out of the Iqaluit airport.

    “Are lots of people going to move in here, take up residency in Iqaluit and put a further strain on our already strained municipal infrastructure?” said Graham.

    “I don’t think we really know the answer to that question.”

    When construction is completed, once the permits are in place, the Baffinland mine site will be almost a town of its own, bigger than many Nunavut communities, and with a road, railway and deepwater port of its own.

It will several years before the mine begins produces iron ore.

Jenna Cederberg