Archive for December, 2009

31
Dec

LATE-BREAKING PINE RIDGE UPDATE: Benefit concert Jan. 1

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Raymond Janis walks down a road plowed to a single lane in Pine Ridge on Wednesday. (Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal)

Raymond Janis walks down a road plowed to a single lane in Pine Ridge on Wednesday. (Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal)



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This information just posted on the Facebook “Friends Helping Friends Winter in Pine Ridge SD” group:

A online benefit concert to help the people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is set for New Year’s Day, from 7-9 p.m. Many of them live far from the main roads, and have yet to dig out from a Christmas Day storm. People are running out of fuel and other necessities.

To tune in, click here.

The Facebook page describes it this way:

    Windwalker and Edoal Spirit Buffalo of Wind Spirit Drum; Karla R. LaRive of Studio West Management; Michael Bucher; and quillwork artist Virgil Redcloud-Goode will be calling us from Fall River county, the neighboring county to Pine Ridge Reservation (Shannon County) to talk about the relief efforts; Blue Sky Charity group and the free benefit concert for the children and family give away-including warm coats.

    Please tune in…call in your New year’s hopes, greetings and offers of assistance!!!!

    For more information on particpants, click here, here and here.

    For the RED Alert/State of emergency for Pine Ridge Reservation, click here.

    For more information, please feel free to contact Loretta Afraid of Bear-Cook, Oglala Sioux Tribe Public Relations @ (605)441-5692 or (308)207-5732. E-mail: Loretta@oglala.org

Gwen Florio

31
Dec

Celebrate New Year’s Eve by “Goin’ Native”

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The special showcasing Native American stand-up comics will play on Showtime tonight.

“Goin’ Native: The American Indian Comedy Slam” brings together the work of Charlie Hill, Howie Miller, JR Redwater, Vaughn Eaglebear Jim Ruel, Larry Omaha and Marc Yaffee.

The Showtime site has the details, here.

Gwen Florio

31
Dec

A call for greater self-governance for indigenous people

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A Surinamese shaman pours herbal water to bless a boy during the Tamusji ceremony performed at sunrise on Independence Square in Paramaribo, to celebrate the U.N.'s International Day of the World's Indigenous People on Aug 9, 2009. (Reuters Photo)

A Surinamese shaman pours herbal water to bless a boy during the Tamusji ceremony performed at sunrise on Independence Square in Paramaribo, to celebrate the U.N.'s International Day of the World's Indigenous People on Aug 9, 2009. (Reuters Photo)


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Indian Country Today finishes out the year – and the decade – with this piece that recounts the efforts by indigenous communities around the world for greater autonomy.

    Most indigenous peoples are happy to join nation-states as citizens, but also want to enjoy the rights and privileges of indigenous peoples and nations. They prefer to live on their land, maintain considerable capability to make political, economic, and cultural decisions about issues that affect their interests, and future. Whenever indigenous communities are ignored by the central government authorities, they tend to maintain their cultures, social and political organization in an underground way that is hidden from the state system.

No group should have to operate underground. Not only does greater autonomy strengthen the groups in question, it also benefits the communities and governments that surround them by making for far stronger, healthier and better-informed, and ultimately – we have to believe this – more respectful societies. Let’s hope we see more of it in the next decade.

Happy New Year.

Gwen Florio



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David Brown and Dana Chatwell. (National Post photo)

David Brown and Dana Chatwell. (National Post photo)

A couple who sued the Ontario Provincial Police and the province for $7 million for allegedly failing to protect them from a First Nations land occupation next door has settled out of court, the CBC reports here.

Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell were four weeks into their trial, and scheduled to resume next week, when the settlement – the terms of which are confidential – was reached. The couple contends they were virtually under siege during the years-long occupation and protests, and that authorities essentially turned their backs on them. (The video above, from a year ago, gives the idea of the intensity surrounding the issues.)

As the network reports:

    Six Nations demonstrators occupied the site across from Brown and Chatwell’s home in February 2006 to prevent construction of a housing development, called Douglas Creek Estates, on what the protesters maintain is traditional First Nations land.

    Hundreds have joined the action in the nearly four years since. The occupation has seen clashes with OPP officers and sharp criticism of the force.

    Chatwell and Brown alleged the OPP did little or nothing when the couple brought up complaint after complaint about incidents at their house. The couple’s statement of claim said they experienced trespassing, spotlights being shined into their windows for hours at night, threats against them and their property, a break-in and disruptive noise.

At one point, Brown told CanWest News Service, here, he kept watch in his house with a shotgun against people carrying bats, axes and hockey sticks.

The couple say they bear no ill will to their Native neighbors.

Gwen Florio

31
Dec

Christmas storm aftermath: Help for Pine Ridge Reservation

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Shaun Higgins, a driver with Lakota Plains Propane, brings a propane hose back to the truck after filling up a tank outside of Manderson yesterday. (Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal)

Shaun Higgins, a driver with Lakota Plains Propane, brings a propane hose back to the truck after filling up a tank outside of Manderson yesterday. (Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal)


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A sawyer with the Bear Mountain Hand Crew of the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression cuts firewood from a large slash pile north of Hot Springs. (Brett Nachtigall/Hot Springs Star)

A sawyer with the Bear Mountain Hand Crew of the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression cuts firewood from a large slash pile north of Hot Springs. (Brett Nachtigall/Hot Springs Star)


We’ve been posting about the dire conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where so many people are stranded or otherwise suffering as a result of the Christmas snowstorm that Oglala Sioux tribal President Theresa Two Bulls has declared a state of emergency.

Yesterday, Two Bulls announced that with $1.6 million in Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) funds nearly gone, the tribe has turned to its housing authority for funds and transportation to get fuel to stranded residents, the Rapid City Journal reports here

“Propane deliveries are going slow. We’re not completely plowed out yet,” Two Bulls tells the Journal’s Mary Garrigan. “We’re trying to deliver propane to everybody that doesn’t have it, and we’re delivering firewood as we have it.”

Brett Nachtigall reports here in the Hot Springs Star that wildland firefighters are cutting slash and loading firewood for people on Pine Ridge and other reservations who are running short of fuel. Yesterday, members from the Bear Mountain and Black Hat hand crews cut the wood and prepared it for National Guard crews, who took it to the reservations.

We also sought suggestions of how other people can help. Here are a couple, with the caveat that we have no direct experience with either group:

Facebook friend Dian Barreras recommends the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation site.

Friends of Pine Ridge provides information so that donors can send donations directly to schools and social service organizations on the reservation. Beware – the site warns of a recent phone scam soliciting donations on behalf of Pine Ridge, and specifies that it never makes telephone solicitations.

Meanwhile, we also found a suggestion from Richard Boyden, founder of Operation Morning Star that distributes aid on Pine Ridge.

His organization is launching projects to provide heat and emergency shelter. Details can be found on the group’s Web site. In this piece in Black Hills Today, Boyden also recommends contacting the tribe directly and provides the contact information.

Finally, Pine Ridge is not alone in being affected by the storm. The nearby Rosebud Reservation is experiencing similar problems, as are others around the region.

Gwen Florio

30
Dec

Idaho tribes seek cabinet-level post to smooth relationships with Indian people

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Coeur d'Alene tribal Chairman Chief Allan

Coeur d'Alene tribal Chairman Chief Allan

Saying there’s no trust between local and tribal police, leaders of the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone Paiute tribes have met with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter seeking a cabinet post dedicated to pursuing tribal relations.

Some 34 other states – including neighboring Montana and Washington – have such posts or similar ones, John Miller of the Associated Press reports here.

“Tribal economies in Idaho generate at least a half billion dollars annually, provide thousands of jobs, and pay millions of dollars in Idaho tax revenues that flows into state coffers,” Coeur d’Alene Tribe Chairman Chief Allan tells Miller today. “It only seems fair for tribes to have place within Gov. Otter’s administration.”
Miller writes:

    This past decade, Idaho and its tribes have tussled over water rights, taxes on reservation gasoline, even Depression-era murals depicting an Indian’s lynching in the Boise building that housed the Legislature for two years.

    Those were resolved, but other concerns remain, including cross-deputization of tribal and county authorities. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has such an agreement with Kootenai County in northern Idaho that lets tribal authorities arrest non-tribal members, but a similar pact with Benewah County collapsed in 2007. That’s contributed to law-enforcement disputes on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s southern waters.

But Marc Stewart, a Coeur d’Alene Tribe spokesman, said such issues could be handled more efficiently if Otter had a cabinet member devoted to them full time.

“This is long overdue,” Stewart says.

Gwen Florio

30
Dec

Native women push past the considerable barriers to justice

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Pine Ridge tribal police officers arrest a teenager for assaulting his girlfriend and public intoxication on the road east of Pine Ridge just after sunrise in May 2004. (Lincoln Journal Star file photo)

Pine Ridge tribal police officers arrest a teenager for assaulting his girlfriend and public intoxication on the road east of Pine Ridge just after sunrise in May 2004. (Lincoln Journal Star file photo)


We never get used to seeing statistics like this one: Native women are 2 ½ times more likely to be sexually assaulted, according to Amnesty International, than women in the general population.

But as Astrid Munn reports here for the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star:

    Yet when a Native woman dials 911, a series of legal obstacles arise. Many stem from laws governing tribes – laws that can amplify the horror of sexual assault on Native reservations.

    Among them is a 1950s federal regulation allowing government agencies, such as Indian Health Service, to avoid testifying in state and tribal courts.

    The perceived benefit: Less courtroom involvement keeps agencies neutral.

    But critics say information being withheld can include forensic evidence that could convict a rapist.

    “So we have serial rapists that stalk our women,” said Charon Asetoyer, whose South Dakota-based group fights for Native women’s reproductive rights.

    “Basically, what is happening is our Native women are not getting equal protection under the law, and that is a violation of our constitutional rights.”

No kidding.

Munn, who is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, wrote the story as part of Native Daughters – a yearlong in-depth reporting class that examined the history of Native women and Native culture.

Munn’s story is long and thorough; disturbing in the violence – and the blind eye to it – that it recounts, and inspiring in the many, many efforts to change things for the better.

Gwen Florio

30
Dec

Crow Creek Sioux chairman maintains standoff on contested land

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Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue (Courtesy photo to Indian Country Today by Waziyatawin)

Crow Creek Sioux tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue (Courtesy photo to Indian Country Today by Waziyatawin)


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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.

See a video about that issue, here.

This petition demands the return of Crow Creek lands.

Gwen Florio


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Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls

Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls

Almost a week after a Christmas blizzard socked South Dakota, nearly 1,000 people are without propane on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Roads remain unplowed, stranding isolated residents. Electrical outages persist. Livestock is going unfed because people can’t get to their animals.

Yesterday, Oglala Sioux tribal President Theresa Two Bulls declared a state of emergency and began coordinating road-clearing and rescue efforts with state and local officials.

Maureen Last Horse, who lives seven miles from Kyle, tells Mary Garrigan of the Rapid City, S.D., Journal (here) that help can’t come soon enough.

    “Our water lines broke because we ran out of propane on the 23rd,” Last Horse said. She and her family, including a 3-year-old grandson, were forced to move into her sister’s home 2 miles away on Christmas Day. The extended family of eight is still miles from a plowed main road and were told by tribal officials that help may still be days away.

Two Bulls was to address the issue on radio station KILI at 9 a.m. Wednesday (listen online here). Main roads in Pine Ridge Village were clear enough to allow 50 horses and riders come into Pine Ridge Village on Tuesday to commemorate the 119th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Gwen Florio

The holiday snow that nearly buried homes in Rapid City, S.D., has left people stranded on the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. (Rapid City Journal photo)

The holiday snow that nearly buried homes in Rapid City, S.D., has left people stranded on the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. (Rapid City Journal photo)

Here’s the entire story from the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal. If we hear of ways to help, we’ll post them:

By the Rapid City Journal

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls has declared a state of emergency for the Pine Ridge Indian Agency Reservation due to severe winter weather.

Two Bulls noted that in addition to the 3 feet of snow the Christmas storm brought, high winds created persistent blizzard conditions throughout the reservation.

Among the hardships facing Pine Ridge residents are, according to the news release:

• Drifting snow that is blocking roads leading up residences that prevents children from getting to school and families from getting to stores to buy food, fuel and other necessities.

• The breakdown of electrical transmission lines that has placed a hardship on families, especially those that heat their home with electricity.

• Reservation residents, including children and elderly, who cannot get to the Indian Health Service Hospital or clinics to receive medical care.

• Livestock owners who cannot get feed to their cattle and horses, or otherwise care for their animals.

Two Bulls said she will notify Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service officials, as well as federal legislators for assistance to reservation residents.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe Emergency Management Team, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe Transportation Department, Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety, Fall River County Road Department, Custer County Road Department and the Two Bulls/ Brewer Administration are currently coordinating efforts.