Archive for May, 2010

Still catching up on stories after the long holiday weekend, including this one from the Navajo Times on historic action by the Navajo Nation’s high court:

    Navajo Supreme Court Justice Herb Yazzie announces a ruling Friday, May 28, 2010 in Window Rock, Ariz. Yazzie, along with two other high court justices, ruled on two high-profile cases involving the tribal president. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

    Navajo Supreme Court Justice Herb Yazzie announces a ruling Friday, May 28, 2010 in Window Rock, Ariz. Yazzie, along with two other high court justices, ruled on two high-profile cases involving the tribal president. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

    The Navajo Nation Supreme Court, in its most wide-ranging decisions in its history, on Friday changed the course of Navajo history forever.

    In the most anticipated announcement in recent times, the court upheld the special election that reduced the Navajo Nation Council to 24 members, took away the power of the council to put the president on administrative leave and threw out council-approved law that prohibited the courts from using Navajo Fundamental law in making its decisions.

The ruling means invalidated last year’s Council action putting President Joe Shirley Jr. on administrative leave. And it means that an initiative or referendum can only pass with a majority vote of all Navajos. And, it says the council that will be sworn in next January will consist of 24 members, not 88. The court also ordered a new reapportionment plan to be presented by June 11 and approved by June 18.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

bookThat’s the name of a book by photojournalist Steven Clevenger, who in 2006 began documenting the warrior tradition of Native soldiers serving in Iraq.

A National Public Radio report, here, has a slideshow of his work.

Clevenger, who is Osage, writes that “A warrior is the protector of his people.” As NPR’s Sarah Handel writes, the qualities that make a great warrior – loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage – also are key to a successful career in the U.S. military:

    Clevenger spent time embedded with Native American military members in Iraq in both 2007 and 2009. He took photographs and interviewed Apache, Navajo, Osage, Pueblo and other Native military members, capturing how their culture affected and informed their wartime service.

    He also attended traditional ceremonies in the U.S., such as the War Mothers’ Dance and the Welcoming Home/Cleansing Ceremony. He spoke with the soldiers’ families about the Native traditions meant to protect, honor and provide solace to the warriors.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Crow Tribe's aging Little Big Horn casino. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

The Crow Tribe's aging Little Big Horn casino. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

The Crow Tribe looks a little closer to getting the loan it needs to build a new Little Big Horn Casino.

Yesterday the Crow Legislature approved the resolution needed to obtain a $3 million loan from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe of Minnesota – meaning approval could come as early as next week.

Yesterday was the tribe’s deadline to get funding lined up and approved to build the new casino. Otherwise, the old one would close. As Susan Olp of the Billings Gazette reports here, that deadline was imposed by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Gwen Florio

PS – With this post, Buffalo Post goes off the airwaves, as it were, for most of the holiday weekend. Have fun and stay safe.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Arthur Jewett’s family has waited a long time to properly bury the Cheyenne River Sioux soldier who was killed during the Korean War, but whose remains were only recently returned. (See previous post, here.) Today, the Associated Press has this update. Here’s the story in its entirety:

Arthur Jewett

Arthur Jewett

WHITE HORSE, S.D. (AP) — Memorial Day will be different this year for family members of Arthur Jewett who finally will have a grave site to decorate.

Jewett, an Army sergeant from White Horse, was killed during the Korean War in 1950 but was listed as missing in action until his remains were recovered in 2002 from a mass grave in North Korea. The remains were returned to South Dakota last September and buried.

“It’s great when everything turned out real nice. I mean, (we) brought him home, buried him right alongside his brother, twin brother,” said Louie Jewett, another brother.

Jewett said that in past years when family members gathered around Memorial Day to decorate graves, Arthur’s decoration always went around a memorial plaque beneath a flag pole.

He said when it comes time to decorate the stone that now sits above his brother’s grave, he expects there to be some mixed emotions.

“I’m glad that everything turned out the way it did and my family is glad,” he said. “Yet at the same time, it’s going to be sad, but that’s the way it goes.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso is following today’s fast-moving developments in the historic Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust case, here. His latest report:

    Elouise Cobell (AP photo)

    Elouise Cobell (AP photo)

    WASHINGTON – Faced with the prospect of a derailed $3.4 billion settlement in the long-running Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit, Indian plaintiffs agreed Friday to another deadline extension in an effort to secure congressional approval.

    May 28 had been set by the plaintiffs and the Obama administration as the final date for congressional action, but a deadline extension was agreed to after it became clear Congress could not get it done.

    The new deadline, chosen by the plaintiffs, is June 15. It is the fifth deadline involving the deal, and the fourth extension.

    Dennis Gingold, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, previously said that if Congress did not meet the May 28 deadline, he would proceed anew with litigation.

The settlement, announced with great fanfare in December, has been a source of controversy ever since. Some tribal people say the amount of money – meant to compensate them for years of Interior Department mismanagement of trust money from royalties on Indian lands – is too small. Some Republicans say too much money is going to attorneys’ fees.

Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Browning, Mont., says she feels it’s important to get money to the hundreds of thousands of people affected, many of whom are elderly and who have been waiting years for resolution.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Native American students on the University of California-San Diego campus say they were mocked when they objected to the Indian costumes worn by some non-Native students during a recent “Sun God Festival” attended by some 20,000 people.

The Sun God at the University of California-San Diego (USCD photo)

The Sun God at the University of California-San Diego (USCD photo)


“It’s stereotypes. It’s always stereotypes,” UCSD student Enrique Reynoso tells San Diego’s 10News, here. Watch the video, here.

The UCSD Native American Student Alliance has written to university administrators, saying, “This act is disrespectful and degrading to the traditions and cultures of Natives.”

San Diego 10 news reports:

    UCSD is taking steps to improve the campus climate after a ghetto-themed party mocked Black History Month. The off-campus party was followed by other racially insensitive acts on campus that sparked controversy….

    The Native American Student Alliance said Native Americans represent less than one percent of the student body and there are very few classes taught on Native American issues.

A statement from the UCSD Chancellor’s Office terms the incident “insensitive and hurtful, and goes against all of our work to achieve a more inclusive campus climate.”

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso has this news on the settlement in the $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar Indian trust case, which faced a court-mandated deadline of today for congressional approval:

    Elouise Cobell poses, center, with her legal team in the law offices of Kilpatrick & Stockton in Washington, Tuesday. Left to right are Bill Dorris, Cobell, Keith Harper, Dennis Gingold and Geoffrey Rempel. The Obama administration says it will spend more than $3 billion to settle a long-running and contentious lawsuit over royalties owed to American Indians. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

    Elouise Cobell poses, center, with her legal team in the law offices of Kilpatrick & Stockton in Washington, Tuesday. Left to right are Bill Dorris, Cobell, Keith Harper, Dennis Gingold and Geoffrey Rempel. The Obama administration says it will spend more than $3 billion to settle a long-running and contentious lawsuit over royalties owed to American Indians. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

    WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats said Thursday evening they would not be able to pass an extenders bill with the Cobell v. Salazar settlement attached in time to meet a deadline agreed to by the Indian plaintiffs in the case.

    In recent days, legislators attached the $3.4 billion settlement to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, a measure aimed at extending unemployment benefits, Medicare reimbursements, and several tax credits.

    The White House supported the settlement as part of the legislation, although some Congress members wanted it to be voted on as a standalone measure.

    Unable to come to an agreement on the overall bill due to cost concerns facing members in both chambers, Senate Democrats decided late Thursday to try to pass a short extension of unemployment benefits, rather than agree to a pared-down version of the larger bill the House had been working on.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says work on the larger member will resume when the senators return June 7 from their Memorial Day recess.

Dennis Gingold, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs says today that “[W]e have no present plans to discuss an extension of the settlement agreement.”

The case is named for lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Montana, and includes hundreds of thousands of Native Americans whose mineral and other royalties were mismanaged by the Interior Department.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Kennecott Eagle Minerals employees put a fence across the driveway to the Eagle Rock encampment with state police and mine security looking on. (Greg Peterson for Indian Country Today)

Kennecott Eagle Minerals employees put a fence across the driveway to the Eagle Rock encampment with state police and mine security looking on. (Greg Peterson for Indian Country Today)

Two people who were camping at the sacred Eagle Rock near Big Bay, Mich., to protest development by Kennecott Eagle Minerals were arrested this morning.

Greg Peterson recounts the incident here for Indian Country Today:

    Witnesses say there were about six people at Eagle Rock when police moved in including four campers who had spent the night and two supporters who arrived with a warning the raid was imminent. Armed with high-powered rifles, Michigan State Police and mine security could be seen atop Eagle Rock scanning the vast Yellow Dog Plains with binoculars apparently looking for trespassers.

    Two handcuffed campers, who refused to leave when ordered by police, were taken away by sheriff’s deputies and driven nearly one hour to the Marquette County Jail and were released on bond. Arrested were Keweenaw Bay Indian Community members Chris Chosa, 28, and Charlotte Loonsfoot, 37, both of Baraga, Mich.

    Loonsfoot was one of three women who set up the encampment April 23 protesting the arrest three days earlier of environmentalist Cynthia Pryor and hoping to protect Eagle Rock from the Eagle Project nickel and copper mine. Despite federal treaties that allow Ojibwa to hunt, fish and gather on the Yellow Dog Plains, the state of Michigan leased the land to Kennecott to open a sulfide mine. The mine portal is planned near the front of Eagle Rock and the tunnel will travel underneath the rock.

Catherine Parker, a non-Native camper, say a warning came from two members of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve that the police were on their way. She says the peopel at Eagle Rock cried as they sat in their circle.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Here‘s a great piece from the San Antonio Express-News about comedian Marc Yaffee, rightfully called one of the Kings of Native American comedy.

As reporter Hector Saldana points out, that reputation was cemented with Yaffee’s inclusion in December’s Showtime special, “Goin’ Native: The American Indian Comedy Jam.”

Still, widespread recognition remains elusive.

“The population is so small,” Yaffee tells Saldana. “We’re like a small splash in a big pond, but for Native comics it’s been a huge deal. We get a lot of recognition wherever we go. We’re very excited and proud about that. It’s been a very positive experience.”

Saldana details the life story of Yaffee, who was adopted by a Mexican American mother and Jewish father and didn’t discover his Mexican Navajo heritage until he was 25.

Maybe his roots in both worlds explains his cross-cultural appeal.

“Non-natives are really supportive,” he says. “The Native perspective is so original. We don’t do it with maliciousness. We show we can laugh at each other and realize that whatever happened in the past, we remember, but from that pain there is humor about it.”

Yaffee is playing again tonight in San Antonio. If you can’t see him there, enjoy the video above.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Mike Gates, a member of the Seneca Nation and former Big Island resident, returns to Hawaii in the role of Head Dancer for this year's Hilo Inter-Tribal PowWow on Memorial Day weekend. (Courtesy photo to Big Island Weekly)

Mike Gates, a member of the Seneca Nation and former Big Island resident, returns to Hawaii in the role of Head Dancer for this year's Hilo Inter-Tribal PowWow on Memorial Day weekend. (Courtesy photo to Big Island Weekly)

People on Hawaii’s big island can mark Memorial Day weekend by going to the Hilo Inter-Tribal PowWow, now in its fifth year.

Terrie Henderson of the Big Island Weekly writes here that the event is organized by Liz and Troy De Roche, and emphasizes connections between Native American and Hawaiian peoples and cultures.

    Troy De Roche will be cooking up the wildly popular fry bread and pleasing the crowd with his traditional flute playing. Troy, whose been known to play the flute with flour on his shirt from baking the bread, told Big Island Weekly last year that the recipe he uses for the fry bread is handed down from his grandmother. The Indian tacos are also always a big hit, according to the De Roche family.

This year’s event also will feature the return of Seneca Nation member and former Big Island resident Mike Gates. Gates will be the head dance and Fredricka “Freddie” Hunter, who is Blackfeet from Montana, is head woman dancer.

The host drum for the powwow will be The Wildhorse Singers from Torrance, Calif., cormprising drummers and singers from the Navajo, Apache, Tohono O’Odham and Cherokee nations.

Gwen Florio

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,