Archive for November, 2009

From left: Alex Meraz as Paul, Chaske Spencer as Sam Uley, Bronson Pelletier as Jared and Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call. Members of "New Moon's" Wolfpack are from the Quileute Nation, and Native actors were hired for hte roles. (Summit Entertainment photo)

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The Quileute Nation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula has found itself in the spotlight with the runaway success of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twlight” series and the subsequent release of movies based on the series. “New Moon,” the second film, came out earlier this month. “New Moon’s” Wolfpack features members of the Quileute Nation, and Native actors play their roles. (In Summit Entertainment photo above, from left, Alex Meraz as Paul, Chaske Spencer as Sam Uley, Bronson Pelletier as Jared and Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call.)

The tribe is taking the attention as what you might call a teachable moment, according to this story by Paige Dickerson of the Peninsula Daily News.

“The Twilight phenomenon gives the Quileutes the opportunity to educate those about who we are by way of sharing our own stories, food, song and dance passed down from generation to generation,” says said tribal councilwoman Anna Rose Counsell.

Chris Morganroth III tells the legend of the Quileute people. (/Peninsula Daily News photo)

Chris Morganroth III tells the legend of the Quileute people. (/Peninsula Daily News photo)

Chris Morganroth III, who is Quileute, tells young people the tribe’s legends, which include Spirit beings whoa re able to transform themselves in to people or animals.

“Twlight” focuses on teenage Bella who is in love with a vampire. In “New Moon,” her best friend, Jacob Black a Quileute teen, and his Quileute friends turn into werewolves when angered. That’s definitely not part of Quileute lore.

But, he tells Dickerson, “if Ms. Meyer wanted to make up a story about werewolves, that is her thing — it helped make the characters more interesting.”

Visitors to the Quileute Nation – there have been 70,000 so far this year, the tribe estimates – can hear traditional storytelling on special fan weekends. The tribe also hosts weekly healing drum circles on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Center where fans can learn more about its culture, Dickerson reports.

Meanwhile, she writes here, the tribe isn’t about to translate a Quileute phrase that Jacob Black whispers when he kisses Bella in “New Moon.”

“Please know we would love to translate the phrase for you, but out of respect for Jacob and his feelings for Bella, we are going to keep that private for now,” says tribal publicist Jackie Jacobs.

Gwen Florio

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In this March 8, 2009 picture, Caleb Her Many Horses, 17, of the Wyoming Indian High School basketball team, puts up a shot during the team's victory over Niobrara County in the Wyoming 2A state championship in Casper, Wyo. High school basketball is king on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. (AP photo)

In this March 8, 2009 picture, Caleb Her Many Horses, 17, of the Wyoming Indian High School basketball team, puts up a shot during the team's victory over Niobrara County in the Wyoming 2A state championship. (AP photo)

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Last week, we posted (here) the video of the documentary “Chiefs,” about the legendary basketball teams at Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River reservation. Now comes this Associated Press story by Matt Joyce about the Chiefs. The more stories about the Chiefs, the merrier, as far as we’re concerned.

ETHETE, Wyo. (AP) — The gym is adorned with championship banners, expectations are high, and the players gasp and burn their way through sprints during the first days of basketball practice at Wyoming Indian High School.

The afternoon is growing late and the sun casts long shadows across the snowcapped Wind River mountains. Inside the brick gym, the Chiefs — winners of the 2A state championship in March — run more drills, more sprints. Theirs is an up-tempo, run-and-gun game, and stamina is critical to their chances for a repeat.

Basketball is king on the Wind River Indian Reservation — a 3,440-square-mile expanse of mountains, valleys and rivers that’s home to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes. And the Chiefs, who have built one of Wyoming’s most successful high school basketball teams, are the pride of a community beset by poverty, alcoholism and related social ills.

Hundreds of raucous Wyoming Indian fans made the 130-mile drive to Casper to see the 155-student school take its seventh state title. At the final buzzer, the players, some of them with their hair in long pony tails, were mobbed by friends and family, young and old, seeking autographs and pictures.

The community celebrated the championship with a potluck dinner at the high school gym, said head coach Craig Ferris. They watched a video of the title game, and the players donned war bonnets and were honored with a victory dance.

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Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment here.

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

The month of December promises to be full of drama: Will the Senate pass health care reform? Is there enough time to debate the hundreds of expected amendments before Christmas? And at the top of the wish list, are there really 60 votes to pass a bill?

The notion of requiring a super-majority in the Senate may be one of our nation’s most anti-democratic traditions. The Senate elects two members from each state. California’s 36 million citizens get two votes – exactly the same two votes as Wyoming’s 532,000 people. The super-majority makes matters worse because senators representing less than 40 percent of the population can block the legislation that most Americans favor.

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Absegami Braves logo

Absegami Braves logo

U.S. Rep Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, is pushing a grant program that would give schools with Indian nicknames money to buy new uniforms and repaint walls, according to this story by the Press of Atlantic City.

“There is mixed opinion in the American Indian community nationwide, but regionally, most of the tribes appear to be dead-set against American Indian mascots,” John Norwood, a councilman of the Bridgeton-based Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation, tells the Press. “It’s an awful thing to go to school and see a caricature of your people.”

Pallone is vice chair of the House Native American cacucus. His bill singles out four nicknames as derogatory – Braves, Chiefs, Indians and Redskins. South Jersey has the Absegami Braves and Buena Chiefs.

Steve Fortis, Absegami’s athletic director, tells the Press he doesn’t recall any groups criticizing the school’s team name and says, “We try to promote the culture in the Lenape tribe that we’re named after.”

Norwood counters that argument, saying, “The excuse that the schools have typically given is that not only are they honoring us – which is ridiculous if we’re asking them to stop – but that they can’t afford to make the change. This takes away the second excuse.”

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

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The controversial Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (AP photo)

The controversial Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (AP photo)



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Three decades after founder’s death, quick progress on Crazy Horse Memorial
This story in the Rapid City, S.D., Journal makes clear that the Crazy Horse Memorial is proceeding toward completing, despite the death of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski 27 years ago. The story gives a nod to the doubts among some Indian people about the memorial, given its location in the Black Hills and the fact that Crazy Horse would not allow himself to be photographed or sketched.

Senate bill takes aim at mail-order tribal tobacco trade
Indian Country Today reports here that the bill would prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and certain other tobacco products. That would effectively putting Indian-owned mail order tobacco businesses out of operation. Needless to say, it has drawn an outcry from the Seneca Nation, which has a flourishing tobacco trade. “This holiday’s Grinch,” Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder calls the bill.

Native American Heritage Month celebrated in Baghdad
Yep, you read that right. Native soldiers at Camp Liberty Morale, Welfare & Recreation in Baghdad presented a program of songs, prayer and poetry, according to this report. The event featured, among other things, Sgt. Lauri Kindness, with 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Kindness, from Lodgegrass, Mont., sang a Crow protection song.

Forcibly adopted Indian children feel effects decades later
This Denver Post story by Monte Whaley details the agonizing fallout from the Indian Adoption Project, part of a national social experiment conducted from 1958 through 1967. Susan Devan Harness, a Colorado State University cultural anthropologist, was one of those children and has written a book about it, “Mixing Cultural Identities Through Transracial Adoption.”

Opponents of California tribe’s casino plans turn to Congress
The fight over the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians’ effort to put a casino on San Francisco Bay has moved to Washington, according to this story in Inside Bay Area. Some members of Congress have written a letter urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to scrutinize tribes seeking off-reservation casinos.

Gwen Florio

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Scientist and artist Josh Marceau creates jewelry in his basement. (Linda Thompson/Missoulian)

Scientist and artist Josh Marceau creates jewelry in his basement. (Linda Thompson/Missoulian)


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Here’s a young man whose accomplishments, at such an early age, make us feel both impressed and …exhausted!

Only 25, Josh Marceau is a University of Montana doctoral student whose photo already hangs on the wall of fame at the Native American Research Laboratory in UM. Marceau, who is Salish, got his bachelor’s degree at Penn Sate and then came home to Montana – after turning down prestigious graduate programs.

“Turning down Dartmouth and Washington was hard, but it was the right choice,” Marceau tells the Missoulian’s Betsy Cohen. “I want to end up back here, I want to teach at the tribal college.”

Oh, and did we mention his jewelry business? Check it out here, on etsy.com. And read Cohen’s entire story here, or below:

One of Marceau's pendants.

One of Marceau's pendants.

With steady practiced hands, Josh Marceau waves a blowtorch under a small crucible filled with silver and waits for the bright metal to become liquid.

The flame burns hot, and within a few moments, the magical transformation takes place.

“I think it’s my favorite part about jewelry making,” said Marceau, grinning. “I never get tired of watching the melting part.”

This alchemy takes place most evenings in a basement apartment where Marceau lives with his wife, Ellen. Here, the 25-year-old artist creates pendants, earrings, rings and other lovely items which he sells on the artisan Web site, www.etsy.com.

By night, he draws inspiration from heartfelt sources: his love for Montana’s natural beauty, Ellen’s love of Celtic designs, his life experiences growing up in Ronan, his Salish heritage.

By day, Marceau is a University of Montana doctoral student who spends most of his time in a chemistry lab, pursuing his degree in biomedical science, and helping to understand and cure human diseases.

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Tepees outside the Red Wing nuclear plant adjoining the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota. (KARE)

Tepees outside the Red Wing nuclear plant adjoining the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota. (KARE)


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The Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota used Native American Heritage Day to stage a protest plans to expand a nearby nuclear plan.

Xcel Energy wants to expand the radioactive storage capacity of its Red Wing plant, which was built on part of the ancient tribal grounds of the Mdewakanton Dakota, according to this story from station KARE.

“We are not complaining about nuclear power,” Posie Johnson tells KARE, “We are complaining about the waste. We need it out of here.”

Johnson’s home is only 600 yards from the plant. The tribe signed an agreement six years ago that allowed Xcel to increase waste storage there, but tribal elders say they thought that arrangement was only temporary.

“Now it looks like they’re putting off dealing with that waste issue indefinitely,” tribal council president Ron Johnson says.

As Johnson spoke two eagles flew over the tribal headquarters where the rally was being held.

“You see our grandfather flying over!” he said.

“When they built this plant archeologists removed our ancestor’s remains with backhoes and bulldozers,” tribal elder Byron White tells KARE, “That isn’t how archeologists are supposed to work. That wound is still open for us.”

Gwen Florio

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The village of Nikolski, on Umnak Island, needed 10 students to stay open. It didn't get them. (Alaska Commerce Department photo)

Nikolski, on Umnak Island, needed 10 students to stay open. It didn't get them. (Alaska Commerce Department photo)



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Schools in Alaska’s Native villages are closing at an unprecedented rate as young people leave for work in cities. The situation is so dire that one school survived only by advertising on Craigslist for families with school-aged children, the New York Times reports here. (To watch a video report and see a slideshow, follow the link.)

Five schools closed this fall and 30 more are at risk, William Yardley reports. Rural population in Alaska is declining – as much as by 19 percent in the Aleutians.

And Yardley writes this:

Students in Nikolski, in more populous days.

Students in Nikolski, in more populous days.

The decline of rural schools is at the heart of a broader debate in Alaska over the treatment of native communities, which dominate the state’s rural population.

Here in the Aleutians, native Unangans, or Aleuts, are linked to people who traveled the Bering land bridge from Asia more than 10,000 years ago. They survived off the sea, making skiffs from seal skin and building houses from sod for shelter against the endless ocean gales. They endured violence and religious conversion by Russian explorers and, during World War II, forced evacuation by the American military.

Now, villages like Nikolski are struggling. It needed 10 students to stay open, but could only find nine. But when a community loses its school, it loses its heart.

“That school,” said Arnold Dushkin, president of the Nikolski village council, “is our major reason for the village to be going.”

Gwen Florio

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Curtis Zunigha, left, and Charles Morris, right shake hands after an exchange of symbolic gifts as Ron Holloway, center, looks on during a healing ceremony involving the Lenape Native Americans and the Collegiate Church. (AP photo)

Curtis Zunigha, left, and Charles Morris, right shake hands after an exchange of symbolic gifts as Ron Holloway, center, looks on during a healing ceremony involving the Lenape Native Americans and the Collegiate Church. (AP photo)


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Here’s a full report on the reconciliation held today in New York:

NEW YORK (AP) – Members of one of America’s oldest Protestant churches officially apologized Friday – for the first time – for massacring and displacing Native Americans 400 years ago.

“We consumed your resources, dehumanized your people and disregarded your culture, along with your dreams, hopes and great love for this land,” the Rev. Robert Chase told descendants from both sides. “With pain, we the Collegiate Church, remember our part in these events.”

The minister spoke at a reconciliation ceremony of the Lenape tribe with the Collegiate Church, started in 1628 in then-New Amsterdam as the Reformed Dutch Church.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama declared Friday the first Native American Heritage Day.

The reconciliation ceremony was held in front of the Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan, where Dutch colonizers had built their fort near an Indian trail now called Broadway, near Wall Street.

The Collegiate Church was considered the “conscience” of the new colony, whose merchants quickly developed commerce with the world in fur and grains – till then the turf of the Natives.
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