Archive for the ‘Assiniboine’ Category

Congressman Steve Daines joins Crow Tribe representatives at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Code Talkers in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Steve Daines joins Crow Tribe representatives at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Code Talkers in Washington, D.C.

Congress on Wednesday bestowed its highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, on 33 Indian tribes for the wartime contributions of code talkers – Native Americans who used their native languages as a means of secret communications during world wars.

The ceremony, at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, honored tribes that were not included when Congress initially awarded the Gold Medal to code talkers in 2008.

Among them were the Crow, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes from Montana. U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was among the dozens of congressmen who attended.

Daines called the Gold Medal “long-overdue and well-deserved recognition for their critical role as code talkers during World Wars I and II.”

House Speaker John Boehner, the Associated Press reported, credited the Native Americans with saving thousands of lives during the wars using “the simplest weapon – their language.”

Congressman Steve Daines joins representatives from the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes and Crow Tribe at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Code Talkers in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Steve Daines joins representatives from the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes and Crow Tribe at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Code Talkers in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed a 200-page report for the community ravaged by suicides in the past years, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Tribal leaders on the Fort Peck Reservation declared a state of emergency after a rash of suicides and suicide attempts by young people there within the last year. Five youths died and 20 more tried to take their own lives last year.

Groups of the HHS employees spent time on the reservation to complete the “road map” report to help stop the suicides. It does not list a specific cause for the string of suicides, but does give a list of 12 recommendations, such as hiring a suicide prevention coordinator.

    The report does not list a reason for the cluster of suicides but does point out that socio-economic factors played a major role, with abuse of alcohol and drugs and the lack of parenting skills in particular.

    “Either due to a lack of effective parenting skills, lack of appropriate role models, or just the imitating of the examples set by others, many adults and children in the community have not developed effective problem-solving skills to deal with the stresses they experience. Unfortunately, it appears that many troubled youth are passing maladaptive behaviors to succeeding generations,” the report stated in its summary.

We in the news business are being deluged these days by reports of the imminent death of “paper” newspapers and the concurrent rush go digital in every format possible.

In the midst of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is the Native Sun News in Rapid City, S.D., which debuted a year and a half ago as a defiantly paper newspaper and has stayed that way ever since. As publisher Tim Giago wrote about that decision:

nativesun

    You won’t find us on the Internet. So many of my Indian readers do not have computers or do not even have access to them. Native Sun News will go back to the traditional way of providing news for Indian country. The paper will have serious news, but we will never abandon that Indian sense of humor that so many non-Indians accuse us of not having. You will be able to hold our newspaper in your hands, sip on a hot cup of coffee, and read the news you used to love to read in The Lakota Times and Indian Country Today.

The paper is especially tough on cases of alleged corruption.

Native Sun News is often the only news outlet to publicize cases like the one involving Donita King, whose story was featured in the July 21 issue. King, an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, says that she and her family have been fighting for years for the money due from her oil-rich allotments.

People are widely familiar with the issue of Native Americans being cheated out of royalties on their land allotments, thanks to the massive Cobell v. Salazar class-action suit against the Interior Department.

But as King tells Native Sun News managing editor Randall Howell, it’s not the U.S. government, but tribal officials, who have been cheating her family. King, who is legally blind, says the money due her family has instead been directed to fake accounts set up by powerful people in the tribe.

As Howell reports, “What started out as a ‘simple probate search’ more than two decades ago, after King’s father had died, has resulted in nearly 50 grand-jury indictments over allotment fraud.”

King, who is a descendant of Hunkpapa Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and who says the long fight has resulted in death threats to her and her family, calls the whole mess a “path of shame.”

And the only place you can read about it is the Native Sun News “The only Indian newspaper that cowboys can read, too!”). You can look at a reproduction of each week’s front page and read a column by Giago online every week at www.nsweekly.com/. And, even though reading the entire newspaper defiantly remains a tactile experience, you can follow Native Sun News, and discussions about its stories, on both Facebook and Twitter.

Gwen Florio



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Tetona Dunlap is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Montana. She is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Tetona Dunlap

Tetona Dunlap

If well-behaved women seldom make history, this explains why two influential women who passed away this past week will never be forgotten.

On April 6, Wilma Mankiller died after battling pancreatic cancer. Three days later Minnie Two Shoes died after her own struggle with cancer. I had the chance to meet both of these inspiring Native American women through journalism.

Mankiller came to speak to my class when I participated in the American Indian Journalism Institute in South Dakota in 2003. Mankiller was the first woman to serve the Cherokee people as principal chief. She was an advocate for Native American and women’s rights. She has also written two books. One is an autobiography titled, “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People” and “Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women.” As a result of her activism, she was received several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. She was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in New York City in 1994.

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Here’s the initial story from the Associated Press:

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (AP/Louis Lanzano)

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (AP/Louis Lanzano)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana tribal leaders, fed up with growing gang violence, have invited the Guardian Angels to open its first chapter on an American Indian reservation.

Curtis Sliwa founded the citizens’ crime watch group, whose members are known by their red berets. He arrives at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation this weekend to help kick off the chapter.

Sliwa calls it a breakthrough that traditionally insular leaders from the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes invited the Guardian Angels to the reservation.

Chauncy Whitewright III, vice chairman of the Wolf Point Community, helped organize the chapter. He says teens on reservations across Montana are at risk and vulnerable to gang recruitment, and the Guardian Angels should help give them an alternative.

Read the expanded version, here.

In it, Whitewright tells Matt Volz of the AP that “there are all kinds of gangs roaming around up here. Our kids are in danger, they’re being influenced, they’re being targeted. It’s going on every day of the week … and they’re busy recruiting.”

And, he adds, “”It’s not just an Indian problem, it’s all our problem, and we’ve got to deal with it before it gets out of control.”

A banner with feathers from the Veteran Warrior Society of the Flathead Nation is draped over the flag and cremains during the burial ceremony at Fort Harrison last summer in Helena, Mont. (Clare Becker/Helena Indpendent Record)

A banner with feathers from the Veteran Warrior Society of the Flathead Nation is draped over the flag and cremains during a burial ceremony at Fort Harrison last summer in Helena, Mont. (Clare Becker/Helena Indpendent Record)

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Here‘s the entire story from the Associated Press:

HELENA (AP) – The Montana Historical Society is scheduling the Smithsonian Institution’s “Native Words, Native Warriors” exhibit to tour the state’s American Indian reservations.

“This is a rare opportunity to honor Montana’s Indian veterans, and all veterans, as well as to honor the important work of retaining native languages,” said Society Director Richard Sims.

The Smithsonian created the exhibit to tell the story of Indian Marines and soldiers who used their coded native languages as a weapon against U.S. enemies.

The Navajo code talkers during World War II have received the most recognition, but the exhibit shows that Native Americans were first enlisted to relay messages in their own languages during World War I.

Marines and soldiers from 16 tribal nations served as code talkers, including the Assiniboine, Sioux, Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee, Chippewa and Cree.

The exhibit also addresses the irony the Indians faced as they transitioned from Indian boarding schools, where they were punished for speaking their native languages, to being honored for using that language as a vital secret weapon in combat.

Montana has the opportunity to bring the exhibit to the state because the historical society is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees member George Horse Capture of Great Falls initiated the exhibit when he was a Smithsonian curator, and will serve as guest curator of the Montana exhibit.

The historical society plans to launch the exhibit in Helena in April and then take it to the state’s reservations. The society is also working with tribal veterans’ representatives and tribal councils who want to contribute in their own way in honoring and celebrating their warriors during each four-day event.

The society is seeking sponsors to help cover the $35,000 to $40,000 cost for creating and presenting the traveling exhibit.

Red Bottom Tipi Quilt (Walter Larrimore / NMAI photo)

Red Bottom Tipi Quilt (Walter Larrimore / NMAI photo)


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The January issue of Smithsonian magazine features this story on what it calls a “breathtaking” collection of 88 quilts stitched by members of Northern Plains tribes.

The National Museum of the American Indian is home to one of the largest such collections, and the article focuses on those acquired from a collector named Florence Pulford.

    Pulford, a San Francisco Bay area homemaker, first got interested in quilts of the Plains tribes in the 1960s. According to NMAI curator Ann McMullen, these quilts—many bearing a central octagonal star—functioned as both ritual and practical replacements for Plains Indians buffalo robes. Bison hides had grown scarce as herds were hunted nearly to extinction in a campaign to subdue the Plains tribes during the late 1800s. Missionary wives taught quilting techniques to Indian women, who soon made the medium their own. Many of the patterns and motifs, McMullen says, “have a look very similar to [designs painted on] buffalo robes.”

Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson n 1994. (Michael Crummett photo)

Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson n 1994. (Michael Crummett photo)

The collection began with an invitation to the Pulford family from Frank Arrow, a Gros Ventre man who worked for them, to visit him on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. There, according to the story by Owen Edwards, Pulford was given a quilt as a gift. She was so struck by the work – and the way the quilts were made from scraps – that she began supplying quilting materials to women on the reservation.
Pulford would then sell the quilts, and return profits to the women.

More than a quarter of the quilts in the collection are by Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson, a member of the Red Bottom band of Assiniboine on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. Jackson died in 2004 at age 87.

Gwen Florio



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Chaske Spencer

Chaske Spencer

Chaske Spencer may be best known now for role as Sam Uley, the alpha wolf in “New Moon,” the second movie in the insanely popular “Twilight” series.

But in Montana, folks remember him for his roots on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Spencer lived on the reservation town of Poplar from from 1987 to 1991, Elizabeth Harrison of the Great Falls Tribune reports here.

There, his mom Jan Spencer tells Harrison, he sang in a Christmas play with his school and went to a theater arts program in Helena during the summer of 1987.

“He wanted to audition and had a real interest in acting, movies, arts, music — down that line,” she says.

A significant part of the “Twilight” series centers on the Quileute Nation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and the movies feature many Native actors.

Spencer is an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux tribe on his mother’s side and the Nez Perce tribe on his father’s side – yet says “I’ve lost roles because I wasn’t Indian enough. I can’t figure it out, and I don’t want to waste time trying to figure it out.”

After a stint at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho, Spender took off for New York with $100 in his pocket and a one-way ticket, Harrison reports.

He looks back on the move as “Pure stupidity. I don’t think I actually thought about it. So, would I do it again? I probably would. I always liked taking risks like that. I don’t recommend it to everybody.”

Clearly, the risk was worth it!

Gwen Florio

Two bulls butt heads outside Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner. (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)

Two bulls butt heads outside Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner. (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)

The Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes who live on Montana’s Fort Belknap Reservation, and the Northern Arapaho and Shoshone tribes on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming have long sought the several dozen bison corralled in holding pens for nearly four years now after straying beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park.

Ranchers fear the park’s bison carry brucellosis, a disease that causes stillborn calves. For years now, when bison go outside in the park in search of winter forage, they’ve been slaughtered to prevent the spread of the disease.

But some bison, after being declared disease-free, were spared. They’re the ones in the holding pens, and the idea is to use them to repopulate public and tribal lands across the West with free-roaming bison, writes the AP’s Matthew Brown, here.

However, those animals apparently will be relocated to a Montana ranch owned by billionaire Ted Turner, under a recommendation made by state and federal officials.

Turner already owns about 50,000 bison, and his restaurant chain Ted’s Montana Grill serves buffalo burgers. But Turner Enterprises general manager Russell Miller says the Yellowstone bison won’t be served up on a bun, and that the genetically pure Yellowstone bison will be kept separate from the others on his ranch.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks administrator Ken McDonald tells Brown that giving up bison to Turner’s ranch was not his preferred choice, and that his agency already is getting “a lot of backlash over the whole privatization thing.”

The tribes’ applications were judged insufficient, but officials say they’ll be given first choice the next time bison are available.

Gwen Florio

This swift fox made the trip from Montana’s Hi-Line to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation this fall.  (Ryan Rauscher/Fish, Wildlife and Parks photo)

This swift fox made the trip from Montana’s Hi-Line to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation this fall. (Ryan Rauscher/Fish, Wildlife and Parks photo)

The 30 swift foxes released a month ago on northeastern Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation appear to be thriving, according to this Billings Gazette story.

The reservation’s Assiniboine and Sioux tribes have collaborated with state agencies in re-establishing the foxes, who play a role in the tribes’ creation stories. The idea is that releasing the foxes on the reservation will eventually create continuity between populations of the animals in Canada, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming, according to the Gazette’s Brett French.

Leonard Bighorn, a wildlife technician for the reservation who has been tracking the collared animals since their release, says biologists will be keeping a close eye on the animals, which wear radio collars.

So far, predators have killed two of the foxes and a vehicle struck and killed a third.

“The biggest challenge with them is survival,” says Kyran Kunkel, a biologist with the World Wildlife Fund. “Coyotes are their main predator. Keeping their survival above 50 percent is difficult.”

The foxes join 10 that were transplanted to the reservation three years ago.

Gwen Florio