Here’s the entire story from Dirk Lammers of the Associated Press (and, read more about Dr. Donald Warne here):
Dr. Donald Warne (AIHMP.com photo)
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The largest hospital system in the Dakotas is launching a new effort to reach out to residents of the region’s Native American reservations, hospital officials announced Wednesday.
Leading Sanford Health’s new Office of Native American Health will be Dr. Donald Warne, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from Pine Ridge. He will coordinate activities among the hospital system, the federal Indian Health Service and the 28 tribes within Sanford’s coverage region, which spans South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, said Mark Johnston, a Sanford Health vice president.
“It’s an important step to try to improve the health and welfare of the folks on different reservations in Sanford Health’s service area,” Johnston said Wednesday.
As the Melanie Brandert of the Mitchell, S.D., Daily Republic reports here (click on the story link to see a video from the groundbreaking, and watch the video above for views of the 2010 senior class), even an approaching thunderstorm couldn’t dampen spirits at this week’s groundbreaking for the new $35 million Crow Creek Tribal School and dormitory in Stephan:
Those involved with the project said it marks a renewed sense of spirit for school officials, staff and students that began with the opening of a new gym last year. They wore Tshirts Monday bearing an image of the new school and the text “Build It and They Will Come” and “School of Dreams.” …
The state fire marshal’s office condemned the entire Stephan campus in 2004 after the Bureau of Indian Affairs deemed it unsafe. Then, in April 2005, the school’s dormitory that housed 230 students was destroyed by fire.
After that, then-Superintendent Scott Raue was among those convicted following charges of theft, bribery and money laundering in connection with reconstruction efforts at the school.
As Superintendent Silas Blaine said during the ceremonies, “This weather will not stop the Crow Creek Chieftains from the long-awaited day. If it was not for their persistence, we would not be here celebrating this day today.”
School Superintendent Tim Mitchell is in the midst of a transition from the Chamberlain School District in South Dakota to one in Rapid City.
Each district has a significant population of Native students. So that transition hasn’t been helped by this week’s incident involving six Chamberlain students showing up for classes in homemade “White Pride” T-shirts that they said were a reaction to other students’ “Native Pride” garb.
As Kayla Gahagan of the Rapid City Journal reports here:
Chamberlain students in 'White Pride' T-shirts. (KELO-TV)
Mitchell, who was selected as Rapid City’s new school superintendent in part for his successes in Chamberlain to bridge the gap between the Native and non-native community, scrambled to deal with the incident he described as “polarizing.”
“It really ignited a firestorm,” he said.
The T-shirts said “Cracker,” on the back, which is often used as a derogatory slang term for impoverished white people, and had large handrawn Celtic Crosses, a symbol often used by white supremacists. On the front of the shirts was the word “Peace” and a peace sign.
Mitchell says students and parents in Rapid City will likely view his handling of the Chamberlain incident – the students in the “White Pride” shirts were asked to change their shirts, but two refused and left for the day – as a litmus test. And he called the situation a “defining moment in my legacy here.”
Chamberlain serves serves the Crow Creek Sioux and Lower Brule Indian reservations. Many people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation live and work in Rapid City. During Mitchell’s 15-year tenure at Chamberlain, Native American students’ test scores have improved, and he’s implemented cultural programs and curriculum to support them.
Mike Tyrell, executive director of the private St. Joseph’s Indian School, says that “we do have students offended by the whole situation.” But, he says, “Our idea is to work with kids to see this as a growth opportunity, instead of retaliation.”
Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue (Courtesy photo to Indian Country Today by Waziyatawin)
Crow Creek Tribe Chairman Brian Sazue Jr. spent weeks living in a trailer on contested land, due to an IRS dispute, on the reservation last winter. Now he’s lost last week’s tribal election. Here’s the entire notice from the Associated Press:
PIERRE (AP) — The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux has narrowly lost his bid for re-election.
Election Board Chairwoman Connie Otterrobe says certified results of last Thursday’s election show that Chairman Brandon Sazue Sr. was defeated by former chairman Duane Big Eagle Sr. by 11 votes — 354 votes to 343.
Candidates have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to announce whether they plan to appeal or protest the election results.
Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin display their First Nations blankets as they receive their scores for the compulsory dance during the ice dance figure skating competition Friday at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Will they or won’t they? Olympics viewers find out tonight if Russian ice dancers stick with aboriginal costumes
Domnina and Shabalin in their controversial costumes. (AP photo)
Russian ice dancers Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina made a point – after winning the compulsory portion of their competition – of showing off the red, white and black blankets given them by members of Canada’s Four Host First Nations. The pair met with First Nations representatives who talked to them about cultural sensitivity after a furor arose over their Australian aboriginal-style costumes and music during an earlier competition, the AP’s Nancy Armour writes here. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge even said he might intervene. But, says Shabalin, “Our routine was very fair, and we respect this culture.” He and Domnina remain coy as to whether they’ll wear the costumes – consisting of dark body stockings, white aboriginal-style markings, and large leaves – tonight in the Olympics.
No curse on Norwegian athletes, First Nations leader says
In fact, Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council and secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says cursing has never been part of First Nations tradition. Nonetheless, the Montreal Gazette reports here, there have been suggestions aboriginal people put a curse on the Norwegian Olympic team because of Norwegian-owned fish farms along wild-salmon migration routes.
Native ranchers praise settlement of black farmers’ suit; urge quick action on their own
The Obama Administration announced late last week that it will settle untimely civil rights claims of black farmers for $1.25 billion. Now, those involved in the 12-year-old case of Keepseagle v. Vilsack regarding Native farmers and ranchers urge the administration to follow up on talks it started in the fall with a quick eye toward resolving that suit, too, Farm Forum reports here.
Storage of nuclear waste on Indian reservations “economic racism akin to bribery”
Health News Digest says here that it gets why some impoverished tribes host hazardous waste on their sovereign reservations – which are not subject to the same environmental and health standards as U.S. land – as a way to bring in money. But Bayley Lopez, of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says that “in the quest to dispose of nuclear waste, the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty, and directly engaged in a form of economic racism akin to bribery.”
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe launches telephone system
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe’s lephone system is up and running on the reservation, according to the AP, here. Tribal leaders say the telephone and advanced broadband services provided by Native American Telecom-Crow Creek will pave the way for business, economic, social and educational development on the reservation.
Gary E. LaPointe, Rosebud Sioux, and proprietor of Northwest Tipi Sales & Rentals, in Seattle, is gathering funds to donate a tipi for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chairman’s vigil on seized Sioux land. (Indian Country Today photo courtesy of Gary LaPointe)
As Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue continues his lonely, cold vigil on contested land on his tribe’s reservation, a move is afoot to replace his aging trailer with a tipi.
Since last month, Sazue has camped in the trailer on 7,100 acres sold by the IRS to pay a tax bill. But, as correspondent Stephanie Woodard writes here in Indian Country Today, the tribe contends that it doesn’t owe the money, and that besides, the IRS cannot sell the land of a sovereign nation.
Now, Gary LaPointe, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is trying to raise money to put up a large, lined tipi or two on the property.
The Navy veteran runs Northwest Tipi Sales and Rentals in Seattle.
“Large tipis, like the ones I want to acquire for Crow Creek, can cost somewhat over $3,000. They’re made of heavy canvas, with an outer layer as well as an inner lining that’ll be essential for the tribe’s chairman, Brandon Sazue, who is praying and fasting at the site – ‘forever, if necessary,’ he says. It’s very cold and snowy in the Dakotas now, so Chairman Sazue will need the additional protection from the weather a liner provides.”
Besides, says LaPointe, “what’s happening there affects all of Indian country. If their land can be seized, it can happen to any tribe.”
Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue (Courtesy photo to Indian Country Today by Waziyatawin)
For more than two weeks now, Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue has been camped out in a trailer on 7,100 acres of reservation land recently auctioned off by the Internal Revenue Service to pay a tax bill the tribe says the IRS has no right to collect.
Sazue tells Indian Country Today correspondent Stephanie Woodard, here, that “I’m not going anywhere. This land never was and never will be for sale. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. As chairman, I inherited the tax problem and tried to work with the IRS. They claim they ‘consulted’ with us, but all they did was tell us ‘here’s how it’s going to go.’” Woodard writes:
The IRS action appears to fly in the face of legal precedents as far back as a 1790 law prohibiting the transfer of Indian land without a treaty, according to a legal memorandum drawn up by the tribe’s attorneys, Mario Gonzalez, Oglala Lakota and Terry L. Pechota, Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The document was filed Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court in an effort to stop the sale. That request was denied; however, a trial will take place in March, during which the tribe will attempt to regain the site.
“It’s the Black Hills gold rush all over again,” said historian Waziyatawin, Ph.D., Wahpetowan Dakota from Upper Sioux and a University of Victoria research scholar. “Nowadays, the press is reporting on a green energy land rush and Department of the Interior efforts to free up millions of acres for wind and solar development. Open prairie land, such as that on Indian reservations in the Plains, is suitable for such enterprises. So the U.S. government is going after the poorest of the poor to find the resources it needs.”
Sazue says the tribe has “profound connections” to the land. “Our ancestors are buried here, and tribal members come to collect sage and other traditional medicines.”
Sazue’s standoff is playing out against the backdrop of another crisis on the Crow Creek Reservation. Despite subzero cold this winter, the electric company has been disconnecting power to many people’s home, saying they haven’t paid their bills – something that most power companies aren’t allowed to do in winter.
One of the privileges of doing this blog is the immersion in news from Indian Country. Yes, there is much that is troubling – but there is so much more that is uplifting, inspiring, enjoyable and just plain interesting. Those stories are gifts. On this day, we’ll celebrate some of those gifts we’ve received in the past year, in the forms of stories about people who stood up to power, who enriched our lives with the arts, who simply delighted us – and of course, we’ll honor those who have passed. The list is by no means all-inclusive, but we hope you enjoy recalling these moments along with us as we listen to Jana Mashonee sing “Silent Night” in Arapaho.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Standing up for people’s rights
Elouise Cobell. Elouise Cobell. Elouise Cobell. Because of her, literally hundreds of thousands of people in Indian Country will begin to receive financial redress for the way the U.S. government has cheated them for generations of the royalties due them for the use of their lands for oil, gas, grazing, etc. On Dec. 8, the Interior Department announced it would settle her 13-year-old lawsuit for more than $3 billion. The government had tried to settle the case a year early for $455 million – relative chump change, in this case – but Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Montana, stood firm on behalf of Indian people. The settlement amount exceeds that of all other Indian claims combined over the years. Yes, it still fell far short of the more than $40 billion owed. But, as Cobell points out, “We also face the uncomfortable but unavoidable fact that a large number of individual Indian trust beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable people in this country, existing in sheer poverty.”
The news was nearly overshadowed by the settlement in the Cobell case, coming as it did on the same day, but it looks as though Indian farmers and ranchers who allege they were shortchanged to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars on USDA loans may finally be getting their due. A suit named for George Keepseagle, a Fort Yates, N.D., rancher says that Indian farmers were denied the same types of loans that went to white ranchers with no problem. That suit was filed in 2001; it will be going to settlement talks in February.
It may be the Christmas season, but Brandon Sazue, chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, is maintaining his lonely vigil on tribal land recently auctioned off by the Internal Revenue Service to pay a disputed debt. The tribe maintains the auction is a violation of sovereignty. Even though there are assurances that rights to the land won’t actually be transferred until legal questions surrounding the auction are settled, Sazue has set up camp on the tract in a propane-heated trailer. Anybody checked the weather report for South Dakota yet? It’s been miserable. But, says Sazue, “I will not sit in a warm house … while this is going on.”
In Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union went to bat on behalf of 5-year-old Adriel Arocha. The little boy, who is Lipan Apache, was told he couldn’t attend kindergarten in the public Needville schools unless he complied with a dress code by cutting his braids – even though his parents explained that he wears his hair long for religious reasons.
And, finally, a coalition of indigenous groups is petitioning Pope Benedict XVI to repeal the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, a “papal bull” that basically justified – on religious grounds! – the subjugation and brutalization of Native peoples by foreign invaders. It was for their own good, you know. That loathsome doctrine is more than 500 years old, a fact that makes the pace of our present-day lawsuits look downright speedy.
A sign protests the IRS sale of reservation land. (NDN News photo)
NDN News has a page, here, devoted to updates on the situation on South Dakota’s Crow Creek Sioux reservation, which saw part of its land auctioned off earlier this month to pay a disputed debt to the Internal Revenue Service.
In protest, Crow Creek tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue has been staying in a trailer on the disputed property, despite temperatures that have plunged below zero on some days. (See previous post, here.)
And, as NDN reports:
Cante Tenza, known as The Strong Heart Society, has responded to the call and has been assisting Chairman Sazue in his efforts.
Mo Brings Plenty, a Oglala Lakota activist and member of the Society was at the location all this week. He has been helping the cause and providing a voice in the plight for justice. Duane Martin, a leader of Cante Tenza was also on location this week.
“No Trespassing” signs have been posted around the perimeter of the seized property, warning the IRS and other agencies to keep out.
Signs were prepared with prayer ties in all four colors.
An online petition protesting the sale is addressed to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, President Obama, South Dakota Gov, Mike Rounds, U.S. Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune of South Dakota and the state’s congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.